|Instructor Info:||Alan Hodder|
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Meditation, vision, conversion, mysticism, devotion, ecstasy, prayer: these are just some of the forms through which people of faith around the world have conceived of religious or spiritual meaning. The purpose of this tutorial is to introduce students to the study of world religions through a consideration of several modalities of religious experience as represented in texts variously drawn from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Native American sources. Adopting for our methodological framework a typology of religious psychology suggested by William James, we will examine each of these writings in their respective religious, historical, and literary contexts. Our basic concern will be to understand the problems of representing private, interior, or ineffable experiences in written forms. What can we understand of religious experience from its literary representations? What, for example, is the relationship between religious conversion and an allegory of faith? Is poetry better equipped than narrative for the expression or recreation of meditative experience? In addition to James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, our reading will include Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Jayadeva's Gitagovinda, Black Elk Speaks, Elie Wiesel's Souls on Fire, the Buddhacarita, the Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of a Pilgrim, and Basho's The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
The tutorial outlined below has several objectives: (1) to introduce tutorial participants to a range of religious classics drawn from several of the world's religious and literary traditions, so as to provide a foundation for further comparative study; (2) to consider several modes of religious experience and problems associated with their expression, analysis, and evaluation through a careful reading of relevant primary and secondary materials; (3) to explore the resources and limitations provided by various modes and genres of writing, at different times and in different places, for the expression, representation, or transmission of such experiences; and (4) to consider questions of interpretation raised by efforts to reconstruct, elucidate, or evaluate such experiences through the forms and rhetoric of the written word.
To receive a final evaluation each student must complete all four of the requirements indicated below on time: (1) three short papers (2-3 pages each on the days indicated above); (2) the final research project (8-10 pages in length, due in my mailbox in EDH on Dec. 12 by 4 pm); (3) participation in one class presentation; and (4) full participation in our weekly discussions. Please Note: Anyone with more than three unexcused absences during the semester will not receive a final evaluation for this tutorial.
This class satisfies the following three learning goals established for the first-year program at Hampshire College: writing and research, independent work, and the multiple cultures expectation.
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