Georgia State University SPRING 2009
RELS 4260 / ENGL 4260 – RELIGION AND LITERATURE
Location: Classroom South 510
Class times: Tues/Thurs 11:00-12:15
Office hours: Mon/Wed 1:30-2:30 pm, Tues/Thurs 9:30-10:30 am
Office: room #1147 11th floor of34 Peachtree Street
Motto: “You don’t have to believe anything, but you must know everything.”
“Religion and Literature is a discipline that was developed at the Universityof Chicagoin the 1940’s and 1950’s. The desire of these scholars is to examine the problematic of religion in the modern world. We explore basic human questions, such as those of identity, community, ethical action, and spirituality and how those have been expressed in literature. The language of such an exploration is sometimes specifically Christian; sometimes it interprets Christian language in a new way; sometimes, it is in deep disagreement with Western tradition and seeks a new way, but often, the religious meanings are developing and hybrid, using a number of traditions in syncretic ways.” -Dr. Carolyn Medine
Description of course: We will examine how religious institutions, beliefs, and values have been presented in and challenged within novels. Readings include selected novels and short stories as well as theoretical work done by scholars working in the field of religion and literature. Topics will include the Enlightenment, religious and literary reactions to the Enlightenment, Colonialism and confinement literature, literal and theoretical pilgrimage and rite of passage, as well as, various cultural definitions of manhood.
Primary learning objectives:
By the end of this course, students will be well-versed in the Western tradition’s methods of construction of the “self,” be it through religious designation, cognition (Descartes), narration (autobiography), or via the “self/other” dichotomy.
*Students are required to complete ALL assignments by the due date.*
*Students must come to class well-prepared to be actively engaged on the topic of the day. This requires students to read all materials assigned.*
*Students must bring their textbook and course copy packet with them to class each day.*
Section I- Religion and Science/ Gods and Monsters– Western religion is still reeling from the overwhelming effects of the 18th century Enlightenment. The Age of Reason brought with it not only advancements in philosophy, science, and medicine, it also shed light on many superstitions. Unfortunately, Religion also came under attack. Frankenstein asks fundamental questions about the advances of science and the ethical implications of these advancements. Dracula also addresses the clash between Old World superstition and The Age of Reason. Both novels navigate the borders between divinity and humanity, as well as bounds of monstrosity.
Section II- The Hero Journey and Rite of Passage – First, we will address rite of passage’s movement “underground,” from, solely, the realm of Religion spreading into multiple cultural expressions, such as Literature. Looking at the structure of rite of passage and the hero journey will assist us in recognizing these patterns in certain pieces of literature. Using Joseph Campbell’s monomyth concept, we will gain a richer insight into the ritual movement in The Alchemist.
The primary movement of a rite of passage, as illustrated by cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, is one from innocence, as initiate, to experience, as re-incorporated society member. The initiate moves from a state of innocence through a trial or trials, in which he or she is marked, and re-enters the community transformed. This ritual movement manifests itself in certain literary texts, such as the novel we will examine, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Section III- Manhood and Courage- What makes a man a man? Despite the obvious physical demarcations which separate male and female, cultures also assign certain personality traits, skills, and actions as “natural” for men and women. American culture is no different, often assigning courage as a masculine attribute. We will explore the relationship between manhood and courage in two remarkable novels, Montana 1948 and A Lesson Before Dying.
REQUIRED TEXTS- The following are the required texts for this course. It is your job to have them, read them, and BRING THEM TO CLASS, as we will be working with them each day. Books are located at the GSU bookstore… you can also find them online.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Signet Classics, 2000, 978-0-451-52771-4
Dracula by Bram Stoker, Bantam Classics, 1983, 0-0553-21271-0
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, HarperPerennial, 1998, 0-06-250218-2
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Warner Books, 1960, 0-446-31078-6
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson, Washington SquarePress, Pocket Books, 1993, 0-671-50703-6
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993, 0-679-45561-2
Course copy packet from The Print Shop (you will need the CRN #) http://www.theprintshopatlanta.com/
100 %= A+ 99-96%= A 90-95%= A-
86-89%= B+ 83-85%= B 80-82%= B-
76-79%= C+ 73-75%=C 70-72%=C-
60-69%= D 59% or below= F
Test 1: 25%
Test 2: 25%
Final exam: 30% (in-class essay exam)
Papers: All papers written for this class must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, and between 5-7 pages in length. ALL SOURCES MUST BE DOCUMENTED and listed on a WORKS CITED PAGE at the end of your paper. Please use MLA documentation style.
Attendance policy: Students should attend class regularly. You will not receive an attendance grade. However, a word of caution, there is a direct correlation between students who come to class and those who do well in this class.
Make-up examination and late papers: Emergency cases only: Should a student miss an exam due to an emergency, they must provide official documentation explaining why they missed the exam: for example: a doctor’s note, a tow-truck slip, a note from another academic or government office. Make-up exams must be completed within 1 week of the original exam date. All make-up exams will be different from the original exam. One letter grade will automatically be deducted from all papers turned in late. Papers turned in more than one week late will not be accepted.
ONLINE: Summary: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html
ONLINE: Romanticism- a reaction to the Enlightenment-http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/rom.html
ONLINE: Read the myth of Prometheus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus
ONLINE: Read summary of Rime of the Ancient Mariner: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rime_of_the_Ancient_Mariner
Joseph Campbell- Hero Journey Diagramhttp://monomyth.org/index.php?module=article&view=7&MMN_position=12:2
Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth http://monomyth.org/index.php?module=article&view=10&MMN_position=2:2