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Mysticism: Vision, Writing, History
/ REL 374
/ COMP 352
The promise of God’s real presence in the world lies at the heart of Christianity as a messianic and scriptural faith. But mystics, who seek out and bear witness to their own experiences of the divine, have often been viewed with suspicion by church and state authorities. At stake in these confrontations between orthodoxy and the individual witness are questions of knowledge and power. To whom does God speak, who speaks for God, and how can anyone, whether mystic or priest, be certain? We will learn how these questions have inflected certain passages in the history of Christian belief and practice: the flourishing culture of mystical writing by medieval women, the efforts of some Protestant sects to distribute authority more horizontally, and early modern philosophers’ criticisms of prophecy and fanaticism. But our deepest concerns will be literary and aesthetic. What modes of writing did mystics use to express what was, in fact, inexpressible? What role did visual art play in visionary experience? And how has mysticism influenced the work two of the twentieth century’s most significant theorists of language, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Derrida?
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
biweekly 5-page papers, biweekly 2-page response papers, thoughtful participation in class discussions
a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
English majors and those intending to major in English
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
This course will develop students' writing skills through biweekly 5-page analytical papers and biweekly 2-page response papers. Written feedback will be provided by the instructor and by the tutorial partner. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
ENGL Literary Histories A