Please read our student and staff community guidance on COVID-19
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

IP304 - Posthumous Geographies I: Underworlds

  • Module code: IP304
  • Module name: Posthumous Geographies I: Underworlds
  • Department: Liberal Arts
  • Credit: 15

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

This transdisciplinary module examines conceptions of the underworld from the classical period to present day, using Dante’s Divine Comedy as a pedagogical guide. The module employs a combination of approaches from cultural criticism, anthropology, intellectual history, literary studies, philosophy, marketing, religious studies, and spatial poetics to explore problems such as how specific constructions of underworlds may critique the social, cultural, religious, and political values of a particular society; how ideas of profane and sacred spaces shape popular perceptions of ethical behaviour; and how imagined geographies of underworlds and hellscapes can shape architecture and urban planning. In other words, this module examines the following broad issue from a variety of complementary perspectives: ‘How do cultural anxieties about the afterlife—embodied in imagined spaces of underworlds—shape moral and intellectual values, social realities, and built environments (and how, in turn, do imagined underworlds serve as a form of cultural critique)’? We will consider the foundational tropes that underlie and generate such spaces—what Michael Rifaterre terms a ‘hypogram’—from their Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman roots, through medieval, renaissance, Victorian and contemporary reconfigurations. We will also consider how such ideas continue to be articulated today and underlie contemporary approaches to problems such as substance abuse, intersubjectivity, and political discord. Such exploration will allow students to develop and refine their multidisciplinary analytical skills by engaging with complex problems that resist simple solutions.

Principal learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to: Identify the central narratives of underworld journeys (katabases) in Western culture and their reception from the classical world to present day. Critically analyse the dynamic between how such narratives have been inherited, reconfigured, and reshaped according to changing cultural concerns and how they, in turn, influence and often justify such cultural values. Discuss key theories of spatial poetics, applying these to underworld geographies. Engage in weekly critical reflection on how narratives of underworlds are articulated and marketed today as part of the ‘experience economy’. Apply advanced cognitive skills to build transdisciplinary knowledge that fosters transformative dialogue between the humanities, the social sciences, and business studies. Implement meta-cognitive skills in approaching complex contemporary problems. Collaboratively create their own culturally-conscious versions of contemporary underworlds.

Timetabled teaching activities

10 x 2 hr weekly workshops in Term 1 2 film screenings in Term 1

Departmental link

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
15 CATS (Module code: IP304-15)
A1 (Assessed work only) Reflection diary 20%
  Take-home test 20%
  Group creative project & presentation 15%
  3000 word research essay 45%
VA (Visiting students only) 100% assessed (visiting/exchange students) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core