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The Twentieth Century was a century of pure Hell — two world wars; countless civil wars; revolutions; falling empires; economic depression; fascist and communist dictatorships; foreign invasions; mass genocide; nuclear meltdowns; racist xenophobia; populist hysteria; assassinations; class violence; entrenched poverty; terrorism; and torture.  It’s amazing the world survived!

I define the Twentieth Century as the period between the outbreak of World War I on July 28, 1914 and the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001.  We will explore this troubled century of Hell by focusing on four themes:

To address these themes, we will draw upon ten widely recognized images of Hell.  These are World War I; the Holocaust; existentialist Angst; tyranny and madness; totalitarianism; technological dystopia; moral bankruptcy; nihilism; poverty; and torture.

I have three goals for this seminar. We will pursue them simultaneously in each class.

  • To introduce you to a fascinating period in the history and politics of the modern world
  • To familiarize you with four key concepts in the study of politics and society—description, explanation, analysis, and prescription
  • To develop your reading, writing, and speaking skills.  And above all, to teach you how to persuade.  I  believe all Notre Dame students should become leaders.  Leadership is nothing more than the art of persuasion.

I have designed this seminar to be demanding, both in terms of your time and your demands of yourself.  To avoid being left behind, you must keep up with all of your assignments.  I expect each of you to participate fully in everything we do.  This includes speaking in class, communicating with your classmates over Sakai, and daring to think for yourself.

You are now looking at the authoritative syllabus for the seminar.  I do not use a paper syllabus.  That would be soooo 1990s.

The great feature of an electronic site is that I can modify our schedule and assignments as we move along.  For this reason, it is your responsibility to consult these pages regularly throughout the semester.  You never  know what I will decide to change or when I will decide to do it . . . .


NOTEPlease leave your technology at home.  This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindles, video cameras, video games, or other personal digital devices.