Apocalypse Now? The Lure of Nostradamus in Modern Times

An Illustrated Lecture with Stéphane Gerson, Associate Professor of French Studies at NYU

Date: Thursday, December 13th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $10
Presented by Phantasmaphile

All of us are familiar with the name Nostradamus, but who was he really? Why did his predictions become so influential in the Renaissance and then persist for nearly five centuries? And what does Nostradamus’ endurance in the West say about us and our own world?  Alone among French prophets and astrologers, Nostradamus and his puzzling quatrains have resurfaced in one historical crisis after another.  Whenever we seem to enter a new era, whenever the premises of our worldview are questioned or imperiled, they offer certainty and solace.

NYU historian Stéphane Gerson grew interested in Nostradamus in the wake of 9/11 and then undertook extensive research in Europe and the U.S.  In this talk, he will situate Michel de Nostredame in his world and then trace the singular posterity of his prophecies until they became our modern Gospel of Doom.  He will explain why so many people have gravitated toward his quatrains and suggest that we reconsider Nostradamus as a creature of the modern West rather than some antidilluvian relic.  Ultimately, the Nostradamus phenomenon tells us more about our past and our present than it does about the future.

Stéphane Gerson is a cultural historian of modern France and the author of Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom (St. Martin’s Press, 2012).  He is also the editor of a new edition of Nostradamus’s Prophecies for Penguin Classics. An associate professor of French Studies at NYU, Gerson has won several awards, including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies. Gerson lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY, with his family.

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