The Appeal of the Apocalypse

  • Stephen Joyce


This chapter explores the strange appeal of apocalyptic narratives that predict the world’s destruction. First, Joyce approaches the question from a sociological and psychological perspective, showing how apocalyptic narratives appeal primarily to oppressed groups. The chapter then explains why white American evangelicals see themselves as being oppressed and how their religious beliefs have contributed to the rise in apocalyptic discourses. The chapter then examines the rhetorical structure of apocalyptic narratives, arguing that their appeal lies in providing insight into history’s direction, certainty about the roles and identities of subjects, a binary division between good and evil, and the promise that evil will be destroyed.


Apocalyptic Narrative Apocalyptic Discourse Apocalyptic Rhetoric Coming Apocalypse Post-apocalyptic Genre 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Archer, Dale. 2013. White, Middle-Aged Suicide in America Skyrockets. Psychology Today, May 6.Google Scholar
  2. Auden, W.H. 2002. The Complete Works of W.H. Auden. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Austin, John. 2015. Rare ‘Blood Moon’ Overnight ‘Will Bring Huge Earth-Destroying Earthquakes.’ The Express, September 27.Google Scholar
  4. Begley, Paul. 2016. The Coming Apocalypse Blood Moon Prophecy. YouTube, January 3.Google Scholar
  5. Benz, Ernst. 1983. The Mystical Sources of German Rationalist Philosophy. Pittsburgh: Wipf and Stock.Google Scholar
  6. Blitz, Mark. 2014. Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs. Washington, DC: WND Books.Google Scholar
  7. Boer, Ronald. 2010. Marxism and Eschatology Reconsidered. Mediations 25 (1): 39–60.Google Scholar
  8. Boone, Kathleen C. 1989. The Bible Tells Them so: The Discourse of Protestant Fundamentalism. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bruckner, Pascal. 2013. The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings. Trans. Steven Rendall. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  10. Case, Anne, and Angus Deaton. 2015. Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112 (49): December 8.Google Scholar
  11. Court, John M. 2008. Approaching the Apocalypse: A Short History of Christian Millenarianism. London: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  12. Eschatology. Marxists Internet Archive. Accessed 8 Apr 2018.
  13. Hagee, John. 2013. Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. Franklin: Worthy Books.Google Scholar
  14. Homer-Dixon, T. 2007. Terror in the Weather Forecast. The New York Times, April 24.Google Scholar
  15. Hulme, Mike. 2009. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Janssen, David, and Edward Whitelock. 2009. Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music. New York: Soft Skull.Google Scholar
  17. Johnson, Todd M., and Brian Grim. 2011. International Religious Demography: An Overview of Sources and Methodology. In The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion, ed. Rachel M. McCleary, 365–382. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kermode, Frank. 1968. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Kolakowski, Leszek. 1981. Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origins, Growth, and Dissolution. Trans. P.S. Falla. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  20. McGinn, Bernard. 1979. Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Menzie, Nicola. 2015. Four Blood Moons Book by Pastor John Hagee Gets Big-Screen Treatment. Christian Post, February 4.Google Scholar
  22. Moo, Jonathan. 2015. Climate Change and the Apocalyptic Imagination: Science, Faith, and Ecological Responsibility. Zygon 50 (4): 937–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Leary, Stephen D. 1993. A Dramatistic Theory of Apocalyptic Rhetoric. Quarterly Journal of Speech 79: 385–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. ———. 1998. Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Olney, James. 1972. Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Pagels, Elaine. 2011. The Book of Revelation: Prophecy and Politics Edge Masterclass., July 17.
  27. Palmer, James T. 2014. The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pew Research. 2015. The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground. Pew Research Center, December 9.Google Scholar
  29. ———. 2016. Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the US. Pew Research Center, March 31.Google Scholar
  30. Pilkington, Ed. 2008. Obama Angers Midwest Voters with Guns and Religion Remark. The Guardian, April 14.Google Scholar
  31. Pinker, Steven. 2011. Q&A: The Book of Revelation: Prophecy and Politics Edge Masterclass., July 17.Google Scholar
  32. Russell, Bertrand. 1945. A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  33. Spengemann, William C. 1980. The Forms of Autobiography: Episodes in the History of a Literary Genre. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Stone, Chad, et al. 2015. A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, October 26.Google Scholar
  35. Tuveson, Ernest L. 1984. The Millennarian Structure of the Communist Manifesto. In The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature: Patterns, Antecedents, and Repercussions, ed. Joseph Anthony Wittreich and C.A. Patrides, 323–341. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Joyce
    • 1
  1. 1.Aarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

Personalised recommendations