Syllabus for Exploring Religion

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This is a syllabus for an introduction to religion course (Exploring Religion).


<p>Exploring Religion (REL 153-04, Fall 2012)</p> <p>Wister Hall 304</p> <p>[MWF 11:00am - 11:50am] Instructor: Dr. Anthony Paul Smith ( McShain Hall Room 211 773-931-9570 (cell) Office hours: MWF 3:00-4:00pm or by appointment</p> <p>Course Description Ive never really had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest Ive ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap. Rap music is my religion. Killer Mike Religion has become a serious issue in todays world. What goes under this name includes some of our most deeply held beliefs and values as well as what scares us most about our neighbors. Though most of us have interacted with religion in some way, in many ways we dont fully understand what it means to talk about it. Do we mean Christianity? Do we mean what those folks do over there? Do we mean institutional forms of religion only? Does the football fan performing some elaborate ritual to try and help his team win constitute religion? Why or why not? In this class you will be given some of the tools to deal intellectually with religious phenomena, what we call the study of religion. We will spend half of the course learning methods and theories for studying religion and then apply those to the religious experiences present in a novel and two autobiographies of famous religious people (St. Augustine and Malcolm X). By the end of the course you should have a stronger understanding not only of your own faith or lack of faith, but on the category of religion in general and how religious experience functions more generally. Learning Outcomes Upon completing the course the student should be able to: engage with a variety of religious discourses and practices; understand and use different methods in the study of religion; identify and explain the different ethical and social positions arising out of various forms of religious experience; be able to identify the central themes and arguments of the texts and state them in a clear and sympathetic way in class discussion; be able to formulate criticisms in a way that is attentive to the original authors intent and argumentation. Grade Summary There will be two tests (comprised of short-answer questions and essay questions), discussions, a field trip organized by yourself to a religious meeting outside your own tradition, and a final paper (10-pages, double-spaced). Each test will count for 20% (for a total of 40%) of your final grade, the report and reflection on your field trip will count for 20%, the final paper will count for 30%, and finally 10% for class participation (which includes attendance). It is important that you do not miss a class and especially an exam. Any make-up for the in-class exams will only be given due to extreme situations, and this is done very rarely. You must have prior permission from the instructor to take a make-up.</p> <p>1</p> <p>The paper is due via Blackboard (information on how to submit will be given later in the semester) by the end of the day (11:59PM) on Friday, December 14th. The paper is to be submitted electronically only. I prefer that the paper be a PDF. Details concerning the paper (its format and content) will be passed out after the first exam. Late papers will not be accepted. Cheating/plagiarism will be dealt with as the serious infractions that they are, possibly leading to failure; see the Academic Integrity Policy for details (available on the portal). The grade scale is as follows: 100-95 = A, 94-90 = A-, 89-87 = B+, 86-84 = B, 83-80 = B-, 79-77 = C+, 76-74 = C, 73-70 = C-, 69-67 = D+, 66-64 = D, 63-60 D-, 59 and below = F Cell Phone, Laptop and Tablet Policy While I understand the addiction to cell phones, especially smart phones, the material we are studying is very difficult and therefore requires your undivided attention. If you are caught using your phone during a lecture you will be given one warning (either verbally or by email). If you are caught a second time or more you will face a reduction of five points for each offense from your highest scoring piece of coursework. Please turn all cell phones off during the lecture. If I can do it, so can you. Laptops and tablets are acceptable in the class, but for note taking only. If you appear not to be paying attention because youre distracted by something non-lecture related on your laptop then I will ask you to read the last line of notes you have just written. If you cant then you will be given a warning (either verbally or by email). If you are caught a second time or more you will face a reduction of five points for each offense from your highest scoring piece of coursework. Blackboard Please make sure that you check the email attached to your Blackboard profile. I will be sending emails to that address. All course documents, powerpoints, audio of lectures, and other helpful links will be available on the Blackboard course page. Remarks on Lectures, Readings, Films, and Classroom Discussions We are dealing with adult themes and a range of different belief systems in this class. You will be exposed to different ways of thinking both in the readings, the lectures, and discussions in class. At times you may find yourself offended by one or more of the ideas presented and when you are not offended a fellow classmate may well be. This is ok! While of course verbal or physical abuse (name calling, use of hate speech directed at another student, etc.) is strictly not tolerated, we have to give each other permission to be offensive (within the bounds of respectful discourse) and to be offended. By remaining in this course you are agreeing to have respectful conversations about a wide range of different beliefs which may sometimes become heated. This goes especially for the films and clips we will watch in class. At times I have chosen material that may be offensive to some. Some films will be rated-R and some clips from TV shows will be rated TV-MA. By remaining enrolled in this class after the first session you are entering into a non-verbal agreement that you understand and accept you will be asked to watch these films and clips. Required Texts (All texts are available from the bookstore, though sometimes may be cheaper to buy them online. Please check to make sure you are buying the correct edition.) Course reader (found on Blackboard) Georges Bataille, Theory of Religion (Zone) Kurt Vonnegut, Cats Cradle (Delta) Bradley L. Herling, A Beginners Guide to the Study of Religion (Continuum)</p> <p>2</p> <p> St. Augustine, Confessions (Oxford) Malcolm X, Autobiography of Malcolm X Outline of Course and Reading Schedule Readings listed are to be read for that class period. If the reading is listed under September 14th, it is to be read prior to the September 14th session of class. The schedule and procedures for this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances; changes will be announced in class. Each class will consist of lecture and organized group discussion of the text. August 27th Introduction Methods and Theory August 29th Herling, pp. 1-20. August 31st September 3rd September 5th September 7th September 10th September 12th September 14th September 17th September 19th September 21st September 24th September 26th September 28th October 1st October 3rd October 5th October 8th October 10th October 12th Herling, pp. 22-34 (no class) Herling, pp. 34-46 Herling, pp. 47-58 Herling, pp. 59-71 Herling, pp. 73-86 Herling, pp. 86-102 Herling, pp. 105-121 Seminar Bataille, pp. 9-25 Bataille, pp. 27-42 Bataille, pp. 43-61 Bataille, pp. 65-77 Religious Field Trip Report and Reflection Due Bataille, pp. 79-94 Bataille, pp. 94-113 Seminar Test #1 Vonnegut, pp. 1-73 Vonnegut, pp. 73-144</p> <p>3</p> <p>October 15th October 17th October 19th October 22nd October 24th October 26th October 29th October 31st November 2nd November 5th November 7th November 9th November 12th November 14th November 16th November 19th</p> <p>(no class) Vonnegut, pp. 144-215 Vonnegut, pp. 216-287 Augustine, pp. 3-34 Augustine, pp. 35-71 Augustine, pp. 72-110 Augustine, pp. 110-142 Augustine, pp. 142-178 Augustine, pp. 179-210 Augustine, pp. 210-245 Augustine, pp. 246-272 Augustine, pp. 273-305 X, pp. 1-58 X, pp. 59-110 Film TBA (use these days to get ahead on your reading as well) Film TBA</p> <p>November 21st 25th Holidays November 26th November 28th November 30th December 3rd December 5th December 7th December 10th December 15th X, pp. 111-171 X, pp. 172-226 X, pp. 226-270 X, pp. 271-324 X, pp. 325-389 Seminar and Review Test #2 Final Paper due (by midnight)</p> <p>4</p>