We begin. In this section of the course, we will look at three different images of Hell, world war, the Holocaust, and existentialist Angst. My goal is two-fold. I want to acquaint you with some compelling experiences that we associate with Hell. Because this is a social science seminar, I also want to think about a complex term which, at first glance, doesn’t seem like it should be complex at all: description. What do we mean when we describe something?
From this point onward, I want you to devour all of the readings on this syllabus. In addition to the required books, please remember to bring each of the assigned readings marked “print” to each class.
1. Tuesday, August 25:
Discussion Topic: Why is Hell a significant part of our daily lives?
Today, I will elaborate on my goals in this course; I will outline the structure of the course. I will also conduct a class survey.
Assignment for Thursday, complete the following phrase in one brilliantly crafted sentence: According to Remarque, war is hell because . . .”
Your sentence should be typed and, if relevant, double spaced. All of your assignments in this seminar should adhere to these rules.
WORLD WAR I: “WAR IS HELL . . .”
2. Thursday, August 27:
DiscussionTopic: What is Hell? It depends on whom you ask. Can the Catholic Church and Erich Maria Remarque expect to get along?
The goal today is to start familiarizing ourselves with the terrain of Hell. Everything that we do now will relate to what we do in later parts of the course. Imagine yourself as a collector, picking up two versions of Hell and trying to discern what they are about. Remarque presents us with the first image of Hell in the Twentieth Century—World War I. What is war and what does it do to us?
“Hell” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: PRINT AND READ
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (chapters 1-6)
Recurrent Semester Theme: “The Significance of the Break-up of the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, and ISIS, as well as the coming wars over Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia”
READ: “Editorial: War is Hell“
Assignment for Tuesday: Please write a four sentence paragraph on the topic: “Remarque’s argument is . . .” Your first sentence should grab me and not let me go!
3. Tuesday, September 1:
Finish reading Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
Lewis Milestone, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I will show a short segment of the film in class. I will use the scene in which Paul Baümer finds himself face-to-face with his “enemy” in the trench. Prepare for this Oscar Award-winning film by reading HERE
4. Thursday, September 3:
No Class: I will be in San Francisco for the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.
5. Tuesday, September 8.
Discussion: Great Writing, Persuasive Criticism
George Orwell is one of the best stylists in the English language. His works are deceptively easy to read. Most people cannot write like this. I want you to try.
Readings from George Orwell
“Why I write” PRINT AND READ
George Orwell writes: Facsimile of p. 1 of Brave New World (handout)
Mystery Facsimile (handout)
“Politics and the English Language” PRINT AND READ
6. Thursday, September 10:
An Excursus into the past. From the Twentieth Century to the Fourteenth Century and back. Our goal in today’s meeting is to understand how different depictions of Hell reflect the period and the circumstances in which they are created.
We will meet in the Special Collections Room of Hesburgh Library. Notre Dame is a powerhouse in Italian studies and has one of the finest collections of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Tracy Bergstrom, the library’s expert on this collection, will introduce us to visual depictions of Dante’s Inferno.
Before we meet, read the following three Cantos closely. The better you understand these Cantos, the easier it will be for you to interpret the artistic depictions we see. For background, read through the short section from Turner’s History of Hell and browse the Dante site.
Canto 1 (PRINT AND READ); Canto 28 (PRINT AND READ); and Canto 33 (PRINT AND READ)
Background Reading: Alice Turner, The History of Hell: READ
One of many illuminating Dante sites: BROWSE
THE HOLOCAUST: “A LIVING HELL . . .
7. Tuesday, September 15:
Discussion: What is Wiesel’s depiction of Hell? And how does his portrayal of the Holocaust differ from those of Remarque and Dante?
Read the first half of Elie Wiesel, Night
Recurrent Semester Theme: “The Significance of ISIS”
8. Thursday, September 17:
Discussion: Based upon your reading of Nightand the Nobel Lecture below, how would Wiesel expect us to respond to manifestations of Hell on Earth?
Complete your reading of Elie Wiesel, Night
Elie Wiesel, “Hope, Despair, and Memory,” Nobel Prize Lecture, December 11, 1986 PRINT AND READ
9. Tuesday, September 22:
First Great Debate:
TOPIC: “We have a moral obligation to combat evil wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head!”
At the beginning of class, each side will have 10 minutes to prepare its case. Then the class will meet in full. The side in defense of the proposition (“pro”) goes first. It has 10 minutes. Then, “con” rebuts the proposition. It has 10 minutes.
Both sides will have 8 minutes to prepare their rebuttals.
The class will then reassemble in full. “Pro” will have 8 minutes to restate its case. “Con” will then get 5 minutes, or perhaps less depending on “pro’s” ability to restrain itself.
Everyone must participate!
Everyone must listen!
Take notes to identify your opponents’ positions!
Argue. Disagree. Show emotion. Be electric!
Note: This is a debate! Not a tea party. Here is an example of a debate: “Notre Dame Give up Football? Ha!”
Be prepared to fight and win, but please leave your weapons at the door!
10. Thursday, September 24:
Discussion: More on Great Writing
In-class Film: Selections from Leni Riefenstahl’s phantasmagoria, “Triumph of the Will” READ
Side note: I am going to Poland after class, but assuming all goes well, I will be back in class on Tuesday.
LIFE ITSELF: “LIFE IS HELL . . .”
11. Tuesday, September 29:
Existentialism, Version I: “A World Without God”
Jean-Paul Sartre, “The Wall” (HAND-OUT)
12. Thursday, October 1 :
Existentialism, Version II: “A World With God”
Flannery O’Connor, “The Lame Shall Enter First” (HAND-OUT)
Your first essay assignment is HERE