History as Apocalypse

By Thomas J. J. Altizer

Subjects: Religion
Paperback : 9780887060144, 265 pages, June 1985
Hardcover : 9780887060137, 265 pages, June 1985

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



One. The Birth of Vision

Two. Destiny, Deity, and Death

Three. Israel and the Birth of Scripture

Four. Paul and the Birth of Self-Consciousness

Five. Augustine and the Foundation of Western Christendom

Six. Dante and the Gothic Revolution

Seven. Milton and the English Revolution

Eight. Blake and the French Revolution

Nine. Joyce and the End of History



History as Apocalypse is a reenactment of the history of the Western consciousness from the Homeric and Biblica revolutions through Finnegans Wake. This occurs through a historical, literary, and theological analysis of the Christian epic tradition. While attention is focused primarily upon Dante, Milton, Blake, and Joyce, the Classical and Biblical foundations of the Christian epic are explored with the intention of discovering an organic unity in the evolution of the Western consciousness. Our primary epics are identified as revolutionary breakthroughs, not only as transformations of consciousness but also records of social revolutions. The Christian epic is both a consequence and a primary embodiment of the decisive historical revolutions, revolutions culminating with the ending of our historical evolution.

Thomas J.J. Altizer is the author of The Descent into Hell, The Gospel of Christian Atheism, The Self-Embodiment of God, Total Presence and several other books. Dr. Altizer is Professor of English and was the first chairman of an interdisciplinary program in Religious Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.


"This is a magnificent work; it, alone, justifies a life. Altizer's oeuvre has always been historically grounded. This book shows ineluctably how rich that grounding is."—Ray L. Hart

"Altizer's intellectual range is extraordinary. What is most impressive about the book is Altizer's ability to bring together literary, theological, philosophical, and historical materials."—Mark Taylor

"Altizer reads the epic literature with a freshness that challenges commonly accepted understandings of Western culture. A complex and difficult literature gains lucidity in the theory of the emergence of new cultural forms. The major themes of Altizer's earlier books are here rooted in history and literature so that his theological vision can be understood in its fullest implications. Dante, Milton, Blake, and Joyce cannot be read in the same way after being read in the deep context of theological reflection by Altizer."—Charles E. Winquist

"The author's words embody the very presence they invoke—a circumstance founded, no doubt, in the author's (unspoken) experience of total presence!"—D.G. Leahy