REL 293
Religion, Play, and Fantasy Spring 2018
Division II
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Class Details

Religion is sometimes described as separate from everyday life, a source of transcendence, offering practices that allow you to lose yourself and be absorbed into another level of consciousness, or a realm of supernatural forces. These could also be descriptions of “play.” In this course we will explore the play element in culture and how it relates to what we usually describe as “religious.” We will investigate video games, fantasy novels and films, Live Action Role-Playing, war reenactment, pop culture fandom, BDSM, festivals like Mardi Gras, and places that are “set apart” for play like Las Vegas. How do the ways that we play involve religious ideas like sin, redemption, supernatural forces of good and evil, canonization, countercultural community, tradition, submission, and purgation? Is play at the core of what we usually deem religious? What, for instance, is the play element in ritual, myth, and the devotional interpretation of texts? How important is play? Should we accept the conventional assumption that religion is more important than play? Is playing, perhaps, what we most want to do? Is playing what we would do if all of our practical needs were already met and we didn’t have to do anything at all? In addition to exploring particular kinds of play, we will read theorists of play from a variety of disciplines, including: Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, Brian Sutton-Smith, Victor Turner, Donald Winnicott, Bernard Suits, Sam Gill, Robert Bellah, and Wendy Doniger. In a final paper, each student will have an opportunity to investigate in depth and interpret a particular form or instance of play that they choose.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 30
Expected: 30
Class#: 3356
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: three short papers (3-5pages) and one final research paper or project
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Religion majors
Distributions: Division II

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