Writing the Rapture (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
In Writing the Rapture, Crawford Gribben offers a serious examination of a recent literary phenomenon largely dismissed by academics, as well as by much of the reading public: novels that take as their central event or setting the Rapture, in which (in the evangelical interpretation) the righteous are taken bodily into Heaven and the rest of humanity is left behind on Earth. The evangelical novels in Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s Left Behind series enjoyed enormous popularity in the 1990’s, dominating best-seller lists and leading to highly lucrative media and merchandise franchising. The series inspired a number of derivative novels, novel series, spoofs, and commentaries and led some general publishing houses to embrace prophecy novels as a new marketing genre. In the 1990’s, the series’ remarkable success appeared to reflect the cultural mainstreaming of evangelical Christianity within the United States, where evangelical movements had been seen as occupying a fringe status during much of the preceding century.
Among the reading public, the general impression has prevailed that the Left Behind series, which began with Left Behind (1995), was offering a new kind of entertainment. Gribben responds to that misapprehension by documenting the early appearance and even popularity of prophecy novels in the years before World War I. Gribben notes that most early prophecy novels seem to have been written by Americans, including...
(The entire section is 1724 words.)
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