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The Ecstasy of Catastrophe

A Study of Apocalyptic Narrative from Langland to Milton

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Howard V. Hendrix

The original meaning of apocalypse was «to uncover», particularly through the ecstasy of dream and vision. This first meaning has long been obscured by a second and derived meaning, one which emphasizes global destruction occasioned by end-time catastrophe. The Ecstasy of Catastrophe untangles apocalypse back into its elements of ecstasy on the one hand and catastrophe on the other for ten important Medieval and Renaissance texts: Piers Plowman, Pearl, Malory's Sankgreal and Morte, Spenser's Faerie Queene Book I and two Cantos of Mutability, as well as Milton's increasingly post-apocalyptic Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. In the process of uncovering again the original meaning of the word, this study provides important insights into the nature of time, faith, salvation, and eternity as described in these ten texts.