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2018/19 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

THEO5330M Religion, Politics and the Future: From Apocalypse to Utopia

30 creditsClass Size: 20

Module manager: Dr. Stefan Skrimshire

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module is a detailed, interdisciplinary exploration of the ways in which religious ideas about the future and the end continue to inspire, motivate and terrify our political landscape. It analyses the theological, philosophical and political roots of end-time belief, from religious apocalypses through to contemporary disaster narratives. It will thereby critically assess the creative interrelationship between those sources. How have concepts of apocalypse and eschatology shaped the way we think about - and act upon - the future, today? Is a contemporary interest in 'end times' a recurrent theme in western thought or a recent phenomenon? How does an interest in the 'messianic' influence political and philosophical discourses today?If the module recruits three or fewer students, it will be delivered via 3 hours of supervision with the module leader (instead of the format specified below).


Students will pursue an advanced and interdisciplinary study of the religious roots of key concepts in poltical thought, in particular end-time belief in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. By the end of the course students will have in-depth knowledge of the religious, philosophical and political matrix of ideas at the heart of notions of apocalypse and eschatology. Further, students will be able to assess the continued interaction of these ideas in relation to contemporary concepts of historicism, teleology and ‘secularised’ political ideologies of the future. In addition to studying core texts in philosophy, systematic theology and cultural analysis, they will also be able to understand the relevance and importance of recent continental thinkers on themes of the 'messianic' and the 'to come' in political and philosophical discourse.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the course, students will have:
- In-depth knowledge of the complex relationship between religious and political ideas in western thought.
- A critical survey of relevant developments in contemporary political cultures, from the ‘war on terror’ to popular uprisings.
- An ability to locate, and critically engage with, complex theological and philosophical sources in the study of apocalypse and eschatology.
- An appreciation of the relationship between eschatological doctrine and wider philosophies of history.
- An ability to assess current debates in political theology.
- In-depth knowledge of philosophical texts that are key to understanding ‘religion in public life’

Skills outcomes
-Develop critical analytical skills in discerning the relationship between religious, political and philosophical sources.
-Contribute critical analysis to an interdisciplinary methodological approach to the study of religion and theology.
-Develop key skills in reading complex philosophical and theological texts
-Communicate and articulate the role of religious and philosophical ideas in in contemporary political and social life.
-Be able to comment incisively on current debates in political theology.


The module will include the study of themes such as the secularisation thesis; historicism; teleological narrative; apocalypse; eschatology; providence and progress; Marxism; revolution; utopia and hope; Frankfurt school; messianism; millennialism. In addition, the module will look at the link between these themes and contemporary narratives of crisis; collapse; utopia and dystopia; end of history; politics of fear.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours279.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

5 hours doing background reading following on from each lecture (55 hours)
5 hours per seminar preparation (55 hours)
169 hours essay / presentation preparation

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

seminar catch-up on essay progress / reflection on presentations
Blog VLE postings

Presentation to rest of group + discussion
Assessed Essay (6,000 words)

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Oral PresentationPresentation to group & discussion, based on the topic of a chosen seminar, but drawing upon contemporary reflections, media sources or public discourses. Students will give an input / resources and then lead a group discussion.15.00
Essay6,000 word essay85.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

In the case of resitting the whole module, a resit of the presentation (one on one with tutor) will be required if this is possible. If it is not possible (for logistical / timetabling reasons) then in place of the presentation would be a reflective piece of writing / report of 1,000 words presenting findings similar to those required for the presentation: based on the topic of a chosen seminar, but drawing upon contemporary reflections, media sources or public discourses.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 30/04/2018


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