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Course Information

Instructor Info:Alan Hodder
Office Extension x5354
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 106
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 106

No issue in the comparative history of religion dramatizes the challenges of cross-cultural study of religious mysticism." Is the mystic a kind of lone ranger of the soul whose experience reveals and confirms the transcendental unity of all religions, or are the experiences of mystics entirely predetermined by the mystics' respective contexts of history, tradition, language, and culture? What is the relation between the mystic's "interior" experiences and what he or she writes about them? In this course we will undertake a comparative study of "mystical" and scriptural texts representing Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions within the framework of modern and contemporary critical contributions to the history, psychology, and philosophy of mysticism. Among the mystics and texts considered are: The Cloud of Unknowing, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, selected Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Mirabai, Ramakrishna, Milarepa, and Dogen. Prerequisite: at least one course in the study of religion or philosophy. Instructor Permission required.

Course Objectives:

This seminar has three over-arching objectives. The first is to introduce students to a range of primary religious texts, in translation, from three of the world's most developed contemplative traditions.  Secondly, we will explore various methodological, interpretive, and evaluative questions raised by the academic study of mysticism through analysis and discussion of the work of several influential modern thinkers in the field. Finally, the course will serve as an introduction to the complex of relations between mystical experiences, however conceived, and their respective cultural contexts of tradition, doctrine, scripture, language, and literature. The approach of the seminar will be openly collaborative and exploratory. Through projects, essays, and short oral presentations, each student will have the opportunity to develop in some depth his or her own interests in the study of mysticism.

Evaluation Criteria:

To receive a final evaluation for this course each student must complete the following four requirements on time:


            (1) Two oral class presentations of about 10 minutes each

            (2) Mid-term paper (3-4 pages, due in class on February 18)

            (3) Final research project (8-12 pages, due in my mailbox Monday, May 5 by 4 pm)

(4) Full participation in seminar discussions.  Please note: Students with more than three unexcused absences will not receive an evaluation for this course.