Literature Seminars: To Hell and Back

Where is Hell?

Does Hell have a purpose?

For Dante it was a space of punishment and suffering, while Milton’s Satan formulated Hell as the absence of God. Much later, Sartre famously writes that “Hell is other people.” Hell is a malleable construct that changes over time and can be molded to express and perhaps even contain humanity’s greatest fears and most deplorable demons. In this course we will interrogate what makes Hell and how the qualities, contents, and denizens of Hell shift over time.

This course seeks answers to many questions: What happens when the devil and demons walk among humanity? How does Hell serve as a vehicle for authors to discuss social anxieties about class, race, gender, and other issues? Can the concept of Hell contain and ameliorate these societal anxieties? Can Hell exist without its virtuous antithesis in Heaven? This course will grapple with these and other questions, ultimately asking you to formulate what Hell is and what is its purpose in various cultures and authors’ works.


Students who wish to enroll in this seminar should participate in online preregistration, December 7 at 9:00 a.m. - January 9 at 5:00 p.m.

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MW 2:30pm-3:45pm
WR, Hu