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Author: A. James McAdams
Syllabus for the course, "Ten Images of Hell in the Twentieth Century - University Seminar" in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

Course Description

This is a seminar about Hell.

The Twentieth Century was a century of pure Hell — two world wars; civil wars; fascist and communist dictatorships; genocide; racist xenophobia; populist hysteria; assassinations; class violence; entrenched poverty; and terrorism.  Who knows whether the Twenty-first century will be any better.

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; existentialism; tyranny and madness; totalitarianism; technological imperialism; moral confusion; nihilism; poverty; and terrorism.

Course Objectives

I have four goals in this seminar.  If we achieve them, I will be pleased.

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

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

Required Textbook

Other Reading

In addition to these books, we will also read excerpts from the works of other great writers, such as Dante Alighieri, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hannah Arendt, Milovan Djilas, and Jean-Paul Sartre.


It is a special privilege to take a seminar. You should treat our seminar accordingly. Seminars are small and they allow for intimate and lively discussions. They also provide me with the pleasant opportunity to work closely with each of you as individuals.

My aspirations are modest. I merely want to teach you to speak, read, write, and think critically. If I can do this, I will be pleased.  These objectives are reflected in the breakdown of my grading standard.

Component Percentage
Participation 30%
Discussions and Short Assignments
Reflective Essay 1 15%
Reflective Essay2 15%
Semester Essay 30%
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