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Visions of Apocalypse

Representations of the End in French Literature and Culture

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Leona Archer and Alex Stuart

Picturing the end of the world is one of the most enduring of cultural practices. The ways in which people of different historical periods conceive of this endpoint reveals a great deal about their imagination and philosophical horizons. This groundbreaking collection of essays offers an overview of the Apocalyptic imagination as it presents itself in French literature and culture from the thirteenth century to the present day. The contributors analyse material as diverse as medieval French biblical commentaries and twenty-first-century science fiction, taking in established canonical authors alongside contemporary figures and less well-known writers. The book also considers a vast range of other subject matter, including horror films, absurdist drama, critical theory, medieval manuscript illuminations and seventeenth-century theology. Moving from the sacred to the profane, the sublime to the obscene, the divine to the post-human, the volume opens up more than 750 years of French Apocalypticism to critical scrutiny.

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Part 1 Pre-1800

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Daron Burrows ‘Vers la fin croistra la religion’: The End of the World According to the Medieval French Prose Apocalypse Apocalypsis Joannis tot habet sacramenta, quot verba. Parum dixi pro merito voluminis. Laus omnis inferior est: in verbis singulis multiplices latent intelligentiae.1 Anybody who has read the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of St John can only agree with this assessment, famously of fered by St Jerome in a letter of 394. Faced with this enigmatic text, with its manifold and perplexing layers of allegory, he responded, like other Latin scholars of his time such as Victorinus, Lactantius, Tyconius and Augustine, by composing a commen- tary, and thus was spawned a vast exegetical tradition which f lourished in Western Europe into the Middle Ages.2 1 ‘The apocalypse of John has as many mysteries as words. In saying this I have said less than the book deserves. All praise of it is inadequate; manifold meanings lie hid in its every word’. St Jerome, letter to Bishop Paulinus of Nola, in Jacques-Paul Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina, 221 vols (Paris: Migne, 1844–1864) [henceforth PL], xxii, 548–9; trans. William Henry Fremantle, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, 14 vols (Oxford and London: Parker, 1893), vi: St Jerome, Letters and Select Works, 102. This and the following two sentences from Jerome’s letter often appear as a prologue in Latin Apocalypse manuscripts: cf. e.g. Nigel J. Morgan and Michelle Brown, The Lambeth Apocalypse: Manuscript 209 in Lambeth Palace...

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