Instructor: Amy Erickson, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible and Director of the MTS Program
The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.
― David W. Orr, “What Is Education For?”
'The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.' – camus…documenting my liberation
Credit: UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Eli Leon Bequest.
Goals of this course
-To understand the limits and problems built into the disciplines of religious studies and theology (the ‘colonial matrix of power’ [Mignolo, 2007]) so as to begin to decolonize our work and ourselves, our methods and our epistemologies (ways of knowing)
-To see, hear, and feel ‘religion’ (what some might call implicit religion or embedded religion) differently, in ways that are lively, curious, and engaging
-To adopt creative approaches to the study of things religious or spiritual in nature in ways that emphasize the crossing of boundaries, embodiment, the sensoria, relationality, and/or attachment to places (land, flora, fauna)
-To depict ‘religion’ differently through writing or through visual or aural expressions or through the development of rituals or practices
To these ends, we’ll be reading, viewing, and listening to a variety of writers, artists, and scholars, some of whom work in the field of religion and many of whom do not. The question before us will be, how might we more deeply engage and re-enliven the study, experience, and practice of what we have traditionally called religion, theology, spirituality, etc.
Over the course of the quarter, we’ll spend some time on the history of the problem baked into the discipline of religious studies and the related disciplines (theology, biblical studies). In other words, we’ll be thinking about the fields’ key assumptions -- the ways that the study of religion and the discipline of theology grew up within colonization and so, even as attempts are made at redress, working within these disciplines requires a healthy degree of skepticism and concerted efforts to create a different approach. Practicing the discipline (being disciplined by the discipline) in traditional ways leads to the re-inscription of the assumptions, hierarchies, and habits that are killing us. That said, our focus will be constructive or generative rather than deconstructive or critical. By reading poetry, delving into good literature, looking at powerful works of art, and seeing our own world differently, we will engage the study of religion and theology in ways that largely ignore the traditional disciplinary boundaries that have defined the field. We’ll talk about how to encounter and analyze religion in the world in more open ways, how to think about and study what interests us (traditionally called methods and approaches or theories and methods), and how to express ourselves in ways that are compelling and accessible to audiences and communities beyond ourselves.
In our search for religion outside houses of worship, we might embrace the sentiment expressed in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost -- “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” she asks, quoting a speaker in Plato’s dialogue, Meno . The answer, Solnit writes, is to practice getting lost; to submit to a kind of “voluptuous surrender.”
Please purchase or borrow:
1. James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain
2. Mark Doty, The Art of Description or William Zinsser, On Writing Well or Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
3. One novel. Choose from the following list:
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko; Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon ; The Overstory by Richard Powers, House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday, K-Ming Chang, Bestiary ; Alexis Wright, Carpentaria ; James McBride, The Good Lord Bird ; Louise Erdrich, Tracks ; Lydia Millet, A Children’s Bible; Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing ; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
You'll be doing a short presentation on your chosen novel in Week 7.
I'll be posting most of the readings in PDF form or in embedded links. However, there are books you might want to purchase if they grab you (see the list of highlights below). I'll be assigning a lot of different readings and asking you to read short sections of a number of books, but I'll also be encouraging you to follow your own 'desire lines' and to read more deeply in texts that you find engaging.
Karen Bray, Grave Attending
Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure
Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life
Ashon T. Crawley, The Lonely Letters
Liz Lerman, Hiking the Horizontal
No late posts. Posting is for conversation, so please don't work to catch up if you miss a forum (ie don't post before Thursday midnight-ish). Just move on and work any missed posts into your participation self evaluation.
Zoom Check-In Sessions
Tues 4:00-5:15p Weeks 2, 5, 8
33.3% -- Participation (Self Evaluated with Input of Instructor)
33.3% -- Novel Project
33.3% -- Final Project
|Jan 05, 2021||Tue||On the forums||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 08, 2021||Fri||Introductions||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 12, 2021||Tue||On teaching, learning, and unlearning||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 12, 2021||Tue||Zoom Session||due by 11:00PM|
|Jan 15, 2021||Fri||Forum 2||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 19, 2021||Tue||On looking... because religion is not a thing||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 22, 2021||Fri||Forum 3||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 26, 2021||Tue||On thinking, failing, queering, rebelling||due by 06:59AM|
|Jan 29, 2021||Fri||Forum 4||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 02, 2021||Tue||On resisting, relating, feeling||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 02, 2021||Tue||Zoom Meetings||due by 10:00PM|
|Feb 05, 2021||Fri||Forum 5||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 09, 2021||Tue||On being embodied: race and religion||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 12, 2021||Fri||Forum 6||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 18, 2021||Thu||Encountering implicit religion in literature||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 19, 2021||Fri||Encountering implicit religion in literature. Forum||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 23, 2021||Tue||On being inter- or even anti-disciplinary||due by 06:59AM|
|Feb 23, 2021||Tue||Zoom Check In Meeting (Tues at 4 MST)||due by 10:59PM|
|Feb 26, 2021||Fri||Forum 7||due by 06:59AM|
|Mar 02, 2021||Tue||On writing||due by 06:59AM|
|Mar 05, 2021||Fri||Forum 8||due by 06:59AM|
|Mar 12, 2021||Fri||Final projects or papers||due by 06:59AM|
|Mar 13, 2021||Sat||Participation self evaluation||due by 06:59AM|