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Theatre of the African Diaspora explores the effects of the cultural landscape on dramatic literature throughout the diaspora and vise-versa. We will examine plays, essays, articles and other media that deal with issues of race and class, beauty aesthetics, masculinity, power, feminism, queer identity and post-colonialism with the goal of finding their contemporary resonance.
For many students, exposure to medieval drama is limited to morality plays like the frequently anthologized Everyman, whose one-dimensional characters and heavy religious allegory seem indeed to belong to a remote and primitive dramatic tradition. By contrast, the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries represent for the literary canon the pinnacle of western drama—the flourishing of an art form that appears to have little in common with its medieval precursors. Consequently, we seldom study medieval and Renaissance drama as part of a developmental continuum. This course takes a different approach. Through our reading of a range of medieval and Renaissance texts, we will think about how plots, characters, and motifs of medieval religious literature are adapted for the secular genres of the Renaissance stage. We will consider not only how religious literature is transformed into genres like romance and domestic comedy but why early modern playwrights turned to medieval dramatic and religious structures to explore ostensibly secular themes. Our reading selections will focus on the moral extremes described by medieval literature—the saint, the martyr, the virgin, the whore, the torturer, the pagan, the devil—and how Renaissance plays exploit the simplicity of these categories at the same time that they complicate and challenge them. Texts include readings in cultural theory and anthropology; medieval passion plays, miracle plays, and saints’ tales (including Chaucer); Marlowe’s Dr. Faustas and The Jew of Malta; and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Pericles, and The Winter’s Tale. Assignments include an online discussion forum, a term paper, and a creative term project.
Collective memory has become an important interdisciplinary area of humanities and social science scholarship. In contrast to history, understood as the reconstruction of the past itself from its traces, or individual memory, understood as the cognitive images we have of past personal experiences, collective memory refers to the shared practices through which a collective makes the past meaningful for the present. Taking a communication perspective, this course will engage contemporary examples of memorial practices to explore the role of remembering and forgetting in creating and maintaining a shared, meaningful world. In doing so, we will focus on a number of critical questions: How is the memory of collectives created, maintained and changed? What can the memorial and ritual practices associated with collective memory tell us about those who enact them? What role do media play in the practice of collective memory? How does collective memory shape identity? And how do these practices mitigate or encourage acts of social injustice?
As one of Islam’s most recognized symbols, the veil has been regarded in the western world as one of the religion’s most pernicious misogynist practices. Muslim women have thus been regarded by westerners as oppressed creatures with little ability to escape their religion, their societies, and most problematically, Muslim men. Rather than presenting the veil as a religious “thing” imposed upon Muslim women by Muslim men, this course alternatively understands the veil as a lens through which we can learn about Muslim women’s lived realities. Beginning with the sacred texts of Islam, then moving through diverse historical settings based largely in the Middle East (and to some extent the United States in more contemporary times), this course examines the multi-varied and multi-sited purposes of veiling and unveiling, revealing it to be a much more complex identity marker than the typical western stereotype suggests.
By undertaking close readings of primary and secondary sources, we will study how (un)veiling practices from different historical contexts have been shaped by women’s own ideas of womanhood as well as their religious, cultural, historical, political, geographical, and economic settings. Therefore, we will focus on women’s experiences of veiling and unveiling as a way to uncover the complex ways that women embody their social identities as Muslim women while also exposing how their bodies have become a battleground upon which national, regional, and even global conflicts have been and continue to be fought.
Have you ever stopped to think about what your body is? How would you describe the relationship between your self and your body? What role does your body play in your relationships with other persons? And how about faith: does body matter at all in religion, or is faith a purely spiritual event of the soul? How do religions draw on the body as a medium of relationship with the divine? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this course.
We will begin by questioning some common-sense assumptions about what a body is and critiquing the dualistic view of the human being to open up new ways of talking about body in a religious context. We will then investigate the relationship of body and self and the role of body in our relationship with others and the world in order to prepare the ground for thinking about how humans as embodied beings relate to and know God. The main part of the course will focus on the discussion of how bodies matter in religion (primarily Christianity, with references to other religions) through the reflection of theological issues (creation, incarnation, resurrection), body-related religious practices (asceticism, sacraments) and body matters that are controversial in many religious communities (sexuality, women’s bodies). This will enable you to think critically about views of the body as they are proposed both in contemporary culture and in religious communities, and to develop your own ideas on the role of body in your life, your relationships, and your faith.
This course also includes an optional service-learning component in which you will be able to experience diverse ways of relating to the world as embodied beings and to become aware of the body as a dynamic, changing part of who we are.
This Honors course probes the ideas of biological evolution for the impact they have had on modern views about God, atheism, the natural world, and humanity. It explores the traditional theological notions on the dignity of the human being, the doctrine of God, and the natural world as a Creation alongside Darwin’s own religious history and his evolutionary perspective on nature’s considerable violence and death. Does ‘survival of the fittest’ diminish Christian belief in a personal God or does God work through evolution? An historical component will address the subsequent controversies surrounding Darwin’s ideas particularly in the United States, from the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 to the Dover Pa. Board of Education trial of 2004, and elsewhere, with political experiments in social Darwinism. More broadly, the course is concerned with the intelligent interplay between Science and Religion, including various options of New and older Atheism, in the writings of Nietzsche, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. How has evolution impacted atheism and changed its key arguments since the 19th century? What is ‘new’ in New Atheism and will it last? Will belief in God? Are animals and the environment more important to theology today as a result of Darwin’s ideas?
This seminar will examine American culture through the lens of its national pastime - baseball. We will explore the politics of race, citizenship, gender, labor, public and private space, popular culture and advertising, among others, as we ask what baseball represents, what it should represent, and how it relates to justice. How might baseball and the ideals of the American dream correlate? How do they fall short? What does baseball reveal about our national identity? Our values? Our ethics? Through literature, film, and essays, we will examine baseball as an agent of socialization, a source of economics, a construction of masculinity, a powerful generational connection, and as a transmitter of rhetoric and culture. In critiquing its failings and celebrating its efficacy, we will investigate how baseball continues to be an important component of American society.