Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Kevin D. Marti

Second Advisor

Dr. Doreen Piano

Third Advisor

Kenneth John Rayes

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lisa R. Verner


Dante's Inferno defined hell in Western literature for centuries; it was a physical place for sinners, they were subjected to physical torments, and it was in the afterlife. Dante’s depiction was firmly rooted in Christian theology. However, as fears and morals change, ideas of hell evolve as well. With the popularity of the zombie and other apocalypse narratives, these ideas return to the notion of physical torment and earthly places. In poetry, novels, theater, television, and film, writers examine different interpretations of hell, punishment, and redemption as metaphors for modern sins. In Sartre’s Huis clos, hell is a windowless room, and the tortures are inflicted psychologically by other people. In Romero’s Living Dead films, hell comes to earth, and the torments are both physical and psychological. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer shows how hellish the common experiences of high school and growing up can be. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road examines hell as a lack of place, a relentless journey without end. In these and other works, the concept of hell is reinvented and replaced by new ideas, but the influence of the past iterations shapes the new landscapes.


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