Apocalypse has been handed down to us as total devastation, obliteration of all living things, the end of the world. Along this definitional line of thinking, Isaac Newton predicted the apocalypse would occur in 2060. We have trusted his theories on classical mechanics, laws of motion and universal gravitation—so should we worry? Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism each tell eschatological stories of doom, where good will ultimately reign supreme, but not before the earth is utterly destroyed. The Mayan calendar was advertised as predicting our end on December 21, 2012 – yet here we are. Our own culture is fixated on the apocalypse, as evidenced by the huge popularity of literature and films with doomsday story lines. But in Ancient Greek, apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis, from ἀπό and καλύπτω) meant an un-covering, to reveal, translated literally to mean a disclosure of knowledge. Wouldn’t it be much more pleasant to reinterpret the meaning of the apocalypse as finding truth or new knowledge rather than as the end of the world?
William Greg Thalmann
William Greg Thalmann is professor of classics & comparative literature at USC. His research interests include Greek epic and drama. In particular, using anthropological and other theories, he studies the ways in which performances of ancient texts were the occasion for the convergence of class and gender discourses and the role of these texts within contemporary social and political processes, especially at times of great social change. He is currently writing a book on geography and the production of space in the Argonautika of Apollonius of Rhodes, treating the poem as an imaginative projection of questions about cultural identity that the Greeks faced in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. Truly polymathically minded, his teaching interests take him beyond Greece to Dante's Divine Comedy and to the streets of LA crime fiction.