Feed on

Welcome to my seminar!

For several years, I have taught a seminar on Hell in the Twentieth Century.  It was never difficult to find ten images (and more!):  World War I, the Holocaust, totalitarianism, and on and on.  The Twenty-first Century, however, has already set a new record.  In a mere 18 years, manifestations of Hell abound: war, terrorism, climate change, populist authoritarianism, and the misery of migration.  Thanks to my pedagogical good fortune, which is unfortunately our mutual misfortune as residents of this solitary planet, I have created this new course.

I define our Twenty-First  Century as the period between the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2011 and the current day.

In this seminar, we will explore our already troubled century of Hell by focusing on four themes:

  • The experience of Hell

    Banksy, “Near Bethlehem” 2005

  • The causes of causes of Hell
  • The consequences of Hell, and finally,
  • The obligation to act on Hell

To addres these themes, we will turn to ten widely-recognized contemporary images of Hell.  These are:  US involvement in the Iraq war; genocide; existentialist Angst (in a world without God, and a world with with God); tyranny; technological dystopia; moral bankruptcy; poverty; the misery immigrants, the destruction of our natural environment.

By the end of the semester, you will see that this course is about much more than than our century. It is about you:  your lives and the billions more in a world as unstable as it has ever been before.

I have four equally important goals for this seminar.  We will pursue them both simultaneously and consecutively.

  • To introduce you to some major issues of our times
  • To familiarize you with four key concepts in the study of politics and society—description, explanation, analysis, and prescription. It is crucial that we agree about these concepts in a country where the definition of a “fact,” the scientific method, and common standards of decency and moral behavior are under assault.
  • To develop your reading, writing, and speaking skills.
  • Above all, I want to teach you how to persuade.  I am committed to the idea that all Notre Dame students should become leaders.  Leadership is all about persuasion.  Good leadership is all about decency and kindness.

I have designed this seminar to be demanding.  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 Google Docs, and most importantly—daring to think for yourself.

You are now looking at the authoritative syllabus for the seminar.  I do not use paper syllabi.  That would be soooo old world.

Throughout our seminar, I will modify our schedule and assignments on a regular basis.  I will add some items and delete others.  You never know what surprises you will find on this syllabus.  Thus, you are responsible for consulting these pages routinely throughout the semester.


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

Above all, this is a no-tweet zone.  Some things are just not dignified!

Comments are closed.