Apocalypse Now? The Lure of Nostradamus in Modern Times
Observatory (543 Union St., Brooklyn)
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.