Special Topics in Religion I:
Religion and Literature
Winter 2011 (Wed. and Fri. 13:05-14:25)
Office: TBD, Birks Building, 3520 University Street
Religion and literature share a long and complex history.
One of the more significant
features of this history has been the relegation of ‘religion’ and ‘literature’ to their
respective cultural spheres in modern Western societies.
This development has resulted
in a curious paradox.
On the one hand, modern literature and poetry have come to
define, in the eyes of some observers, the liberation of language from dogmatic and
theological imperatives, and hence to carry the news of the ‘death of God’.
On the other
hand, modern literary and poetic language has continued to pose the question of the
possibility of religious experience and, indeed, to affirm in an ever new manner the
necessity of a spiritual search.
The purpose of this course is to address this eccentric
situation by bringing together a number of seminal authors and critics.
discussions, and critical reflections, the class will present an opportunity for students to
consider a variety of ways in which literary and religious concerns run parallel to one
another and bear witness to both the sense of spiritual exile and the longing for spiritual
answers that define modern Western culture.
To examine the development and character of some predominant religious themes in
modern Western literature.
To critically consider the relationship between religious and literary concerns in
modern Western culture.
To bring into dialogue the writings of pivotal novelists, poets, critics, and
philosophers interested in questions that are at once literary and religious in nature.
To reflect on the manner in which modern religious and literary texts have
transformed our understanding of language, knowledge, and subjectivity.
This course places special emphasis on the process of critical reading, attentive to the
character of the themes, concepts, and questions encountered in a particular text,
to the character and transformations of its language.
Lectures are designed to
facilitate such reading both on an individual level and in the context of the classroom
Critical analyses during class will therefore be accompanied by readings
and discussions, allowing students to share their experiences of the texts, raise
questions, and exchange ideas.