History | The History of Hell in the West
W300 | 13055 | Koke

Above class open to undergraduate and EDUC MA's only

Have you ever thought, or worried, about going to Hell?  Have you
ever wondered what other people think it is like, or why some
representations of Hell have a Satan character and other do not?

The idea of an eternal place of torment is quite old in human
history, and the currently popular Christian description of Hell as
a fiery domain of punishment lorded over by Satan is a relatively
young formulation of this ancient idea.  This class will examine the
idea of punishment in the afterlife, using primary sources to note
specifically how the idea has been presented in different cultures
and how the idea has changed over time.  We will examine many
different cultural myths of Hell: Hellenistic, Babylonian, Egyptian,
Native American, and Norse to name a few.  We will examine many
different religious views of Hell: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and
Zoroastrian for example.  After sampling various mythologies of
eternal punishment we will pay close attention to the Biblical
description of Hell, noting specifically how human interpretation of
the text has changed over the centuries.  Our primary sources will
include viewing art, listening to a sermon, and reading poetry,
theological treatises, and holy books.  The class will conclude with
an examination of the various uses of the idea of hell in American
history, for example WWI trench warfare, WWII genocide, and cold war
nuclear propaganda.