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First-Year Writing Seminar: Underworld Journeys in the Renaissance and Beyond

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number FIRST-UG414
Section 001
Instructor Shannon McHugh
Days TR
Time 8:00 AM - 9:15 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


Since antiquity—in classical epic and myth, in the Bible and apocryphal lore—mortals have wandered the beyond and the deceased have roamed the earth. Often these journeys are of critical importance to those left alive, instrumental steps to founding empire or earning salvation. This course explores literary, artistic, theatrical, and cinematic representations of otherworlds infernal and paradisal. We visit the realms of the afterlife, as well as edenic or dystopic spaces in the land of the living. Our focus is how these imagined lands reflect, critique, and animate the real world. Because the desire to know the beyond cuts across geography and time, the topic also affords us the opportunity to conduct comparative explorations of various national traditions and periods, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages and Renaissance to modernity. Texts may include excerpts from Virgil’s Orpheus myth and his Aeneid, the books of Genesis and Revelation, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Columbus's journals, art by Botticelli and Bosch, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Primo Levi’s Auschwitz memoir, and contemporary science fiction in literature and film. Through reading responses, a creative writing project, and argumentative papers, students will develop and practice skills of critical thinking and persuasive written communication.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Writing Seminars (FIRST-UG)