Greek for revelation, The Apocalypse of John, is the name given to the final book of the Christian bible, (also called The Book of Revelation) a highly symbolic end time narrative which predicts a cataclysmic final battle between the forces of good and evil.
Berger (2000:388) has argued that the twentieth century has been “thoroughly marked, perhaps even defined by, apocalyptic impulses, fears representations and events.” He outlines four principle areas of post-war apocalyptic representation: “The first is nuclear war, the second is the Holocaust, the third is the apocalypses of liberation (feminist, African American, postcolonial) and the fourth is what is loosely called 'postmodernity'.” (390). To these could be added a fifth significant area: the ecological crisis (Buell 2003).
For Berger and for other theorists of the apocalypse, these stories are not merely catastrophic they are in some way revelatory. In nuclear narratives “accident and telos are intertwined” (390). For many writers and artists the holocaust “has come to occupy a central place in late twentieth century European and American moral consciousness…[it] is portrayed as the revelatory, traumatic, apocalyptic fulcrum of the twentieth century” (391); and much postmodern fiction is driven by “some revelatory catastrophe whose traumatic force reshapes all that preceded it and all that follows” (392).
To many watching television on September 11 2001 the notion of the apocalyptic as a revelatory catastrophe took on sudden new meaning.