Apocalypse and myth

This is a great quote from Lois Parkinson Zamora’s, Writing the Apocalypse that I found while reading Mike Broderick’s excellent essay “The Rupture of Rapture: Recent Film Narratives of Apocalypse”:

Revelation is … as much about the capacity of language to conceal as to reveal… The apocalyptist’s strategies of concealment attest to the sanctified status conceded to the narrative by both author and audience. The tendency to make texts obscure when an elevated degree of truth is desired is familiar in religious ceremonial language, oracular and poetic utterance, specialized academic and professional discourse. In such contexts as these, the perceived significance of the text may grow as the text’s accessible language meaning is suppressed, as translation or interpretation is required. As the coded images and numerical patterns of apocalyptic narration proliferate, so too does the weight of their significance for those who are initiated into their secrets. Apocalypse thus presents not only a model of historical desire but also of linguistic desire: The apocalyptist’s language strains to embody his fiction of historical fulfilment.

This immediately made me think of Barthes on myth and the concealing/revealing dynamic that he ascribes to myth as a genre. But also reminded me of an article that I have just read by Cynthia Burack: “Getting what ‘we’ deserve: Terrorism, Tolerance, Sexuality and the Christian Right” (New Political Science 25/3 September 2003). Burack argues that the Christian right skilfully use parallel discourses, one aimed at the public and one aimed at the faithful. This is particularly the case when they are discussing contentious issues such as sexuality. Writing about Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson’s assertions post 9/11 that gays, feminists and abortionists were to blame, Burack puts it this way:

The fact that Falwell’s and Robertson’s claims about the linkage between terrorism and tolerance of sinfulness are intended for an audience of born again, Bible-believing Christians and not for others does not diminish their political significance. Christian Right leaders actively strive to have their political beliefs misidentified by the broad public. Unfortunately, mainstream media and political commentators often collude in this strategy by delivering news reports of new Christian Right religious issues that are “superficial and lacking in context”. Commentators both fail to trace the precedents of controversial comments and overlook the multiple modes of address favoured by Christian Right leaders. (p.332-3)

Taken together these ideas provide some theoretical and practical hints on the “why study apocalypse?” question that keeps lurking at the gate of this thesis.

And another quote from Zamora:

Apocalypse is historicized myth, a myth about history. It is both synchronic and diachronic, mediating and resolving the conflicting claims of real historical anguish and the imaginative transcendence of that anguish.

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