Imagining Community After Chaos


Dr. Micah Saxton and Dr. Katherine Turpin

Communication Preferences:

Because this course is team-taught, please direct all communication to both instructors at AND rather than just contacting one of us so that we can all be up to date with any issues or information that is shared. The Canvas messaging function is a less helpful way to reach your instructors, and we may be slower to respond to those messages, but we will eventually see them. If you start with our Iliff emails, we are happy to set up a phone call or Zoom conversation or other means of connection if that is preferable.

Course Synopsis:

As a first year interdisciplinary class, this course explores the ways in which humans throughout history have re-imagined community after a disorienting experience of cultural crisis. From post-exilic literature in the Hebrew Bible to contemporary expressions of afro-futurism, we will explore religious, educational, and literary visions of community that emerged in response to devastating experiences of cultural disruption.

For this class, we are asking everyone to purchase (or borrow from your local library):

Octavia E. Butler. Parable of the Sower. (Any edition is fine, except the graphic novel).

Note: Because this novel explores a dystopian future, it includes explicit representation of violence, particularly sexual and domestic violence (child abuse), as well as descriptions of poverty, slavery, and other disturbing struggles within the world of the novel. None of this is gratuitous; it is all part of the critique of the direction that Butler felt the United States was heading when she wrote the novel. If these are triggers for you, we want you to have the awareness that this is part of this story that you will encounter, so you can prepare yourself and not be caught off guard as you read.

We will be discussing the novel in two of the synchronous class meetings on Zoom. Chapters 1-12 will be for our October 20th meeting, and the rest of the novel for November 3rd.

All other readings will be either posted in Canvas or selected individually for your final research project.

Course Overview

Weekly Rhythm

Friday: Intro/Orientation video for the topic and work of the following week

Monday: Major reading assignment, generally including one or more primary sources as well as a secondary source

Tuesday: Discussion/Interactive Activity or Synchronous/Low Stakes Writing Assignment

Wednesday: Reflections/ application 

Thursday: Research, Writing, and Study Skills Videos 

Friday: Outro/Summary video for the week, as well as what we have learned during this topic about imagining community in the midst of/after chaos

Course Objectives

Learning Goals

  1. Students identify and describe characteristic approaches to the academic study of religion related to at least four of the six curricular areas identified in the core curriculum.
  2. Students demonstrate critical reading skills, such as the capacity to identify the thesis of a text, its methodology, the contextual situation of the author’s argument in a larger discourse, the contours of its argument, and the implications of its constructive work.
  3. Students demonstrate the capacity to write a brief, thesis-driven paper drawing on textual resources with appropriate academic citation and a writing style appropriate to the genre.
  4. Students are able to identify appropriate academic resources through library research in order to address a research question of significance to them.
  5. Students engage in critical, respectful, and constructive academic dialogue and reflection in a diverse cultural setting (the classroom).
  6. Student motivation, curiosity, and commitment to the engaged academic study of religion and theology increases.  

The sorting of all assignments can be found under the Assignments tab to the left of this page. Your final grade in the class will be calculated based on the following percentages:

Daily Participation (25%):

This portion of your grade includes all written discussion forums, synchronous sessions, and a variety of logistical/planning tasks that crop up along the way in the course.  Assignments in this category tend to be graded on an incomplete/complete scale with conversational feedback from an instructor, and they will constitute your participation grade in the course. These posts may be submitted after the deadline for half credit, but the idea is that if you keep up with the rhythm of the course you should get full credit in this category.

Low Stakes Assignments (25%):

These assignments require slightly more polish than the daily participation assignments, and are designed to hone skills necessary for success in graduate theological education in reading, research, and analysis of texts.

Final Project and Components (50%):

The final project is built over the second half of the course in collaboration with your research group. Each member of the class will write their own final paper, but these papers are meant to work together to cover a period in history in a way that invites others to understand its challenges and the proposals for community that arose from it.  This includes not only the final paper, but several preparatory assignments such as an annotated bibliography, a thesis/outline proposal, a first draft and peer review cycle, and the final product.


Each low-stakes and final project assignment in the course will have a rubric posted with the assignment guidelines that will help you understand the criteria by which the project will be evaluated.  We will do our best to provide feedback in a timely fashion to contribute to your constructive learning process. We share the grading in the class, so you will generally receive feedback from one of the instructors on any given assignment.


Policies and Services

Sep 15, 2020TueCourse Orientationdue by 05:59AM
Sep 16, 2020WedIntroduce Yourself!due by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2020ThuWhat is Biblical Studies?due by 05:59AM
Sep 22, 2020TueFirst Zoom Meetingdue by 03:00PM
Sep 24, 2020ThuWhat is History?due by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2020ThuPracticing Exegetical Analysis of Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2020ThuExploring the Rule of St. Benedictdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2020ThuWhat is Theology?due by 05:59AM
Oct 03, 2020SatWeek Three Outrodue by 05:59AM
Oct 03, 2020SatIntroduction to the Black Death and Christian Responses in Europedue by 05:59AM
Oct 06, 2020TueReadings on the Black Death and Christian Responses in Europedue by 05:59AM
Oct 06, 2020TueSecond Zoom Meetingdue by 03:00PM
Oct 08, 2020ThuDiscussion of the Black Death and Responses in Europedue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2020ThuWhat is Social and Contextual Analysis and Theology and Religious Practice?due by 05:59AM
Oct 09, 2020FriResearch Skills: Using Reference Works and Encyclopediasdue by 05:59AM
Oct 10, 2020SatWeek 4 Outrodue by 05:59AM
Oct 10, 2020SatIntroducing Collaborative Research and Final Projects: What we will be doing for the rest of the course!due by 05:59AM
Oct 13, 2020TueBuilding Collaborative Research Teamsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 13, 2020TueExploring the Areas of Potential Engagementdue by 05:59AM
Oct 14, 2020WedGetting to Know Your Research Teammatesdue by 05:59AM
Oct 15, 2020ThuResearching Your Era Collaborativelydue by 05:59AM
Oct 16, 2020FriWriting Skills: Zotero and Citing Your Sourcesdue by 05:59AM
Oct 17, 2020SatWeek 5 Outrodue by 05:59AM
Oct 17, 2020SatWeek 6 Intro to Afrofuturism (in prep for our discussion of Parable of the Sower)due by 05:59AM
Oct 20, 2020TueIdentifying Key Contextual Elements of your Eradue by 05:59AM
Oct 20, 2020TueThird Zoom Meetingdue by 03:00PM
Oct 22, 2020ThuWriting Skills: What is a thesis, and why do I need one?due by 05:59AM
Oct 24, 2020SatResearch Teams Introducing Their Contextsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 24, 2020SatWeek 6 Outrodue by 05:59AM
Oct 24, 2020SatIntro to Finding Your Research Topicdue by 05:59AM
Oct 27, 2020TueFrom Topics to Questionsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 28, 2020WedRefining Questionsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 29, 2020ThuTopic/Question/Significance/Audiencedue by 05:59AM
Oct 30, 2020FriWriting Skills: Peer Review and Reverse Outliningdue by 05:59AM
Oct 31, 2020SatWeek 7 Outrodue by 05:59AM
Oct 31, 2020SatIntro Week 8due by 05:59AM
Nov 03, 2020TueReading: Parable of the Sowerdue by 06:59AM
Nov 03, 2020TueFourth Zoom Meetingdue by 04:00PM
Nov 05, 2020ThuAnnotated Bibliography, Thesis, and Outlinedue by 06:59AM
Nov 07, 2020SatWeek 8 Outrodue by 06:59AM
Nov 10, 2020TueWeek 9 Introdue by 06:59AM
Nov 12, 2020ThuRough Draftdue by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2020FriWriting Skills: Revisiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 14, 2020SatWeek 9 Outrodue by 06:59AM
Nov 14, 2020SatWeek 10 Introdue by 06:59AM
Nov 14, 2020SatPeer Review Guidelinesdue by 06:59AM
Nov 17, 2020TueOur Earthseed-esque Musingsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 18, 2020WedFinal Zoom Meetingdue by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2020SatWeek 10 Outrodue by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2020SatFinal Paperdue by 06:59AM