REL 275
Martyrdom Then and Now: Christianity, Violence, and Identity Fall 2023
Division II

Class Details

This course explores the complex legacy of Christian traditions of martyrdom. The idea of suffering or death as a subversive “witness” was not a uniquely Christian phenomenon in the Mediterranean cultures of late antiquity in which Christianity emerged, as texts such as Socrates’ Apology or the Jewish 4 Maccabees demonstrate. In what senses might martyrdom nonetheless be considered a distinctly Christian invention? What is the particular political context within which ideals and practices of martyrdom emerge and flourish? To what or whom are martyrs said to give witness? What is the distinctive relationship of martyrdom to identity? Finally, is the fateful linking of truth, faithfulness, and creativity with violence, testing, and suffering a holy or an unholy heritage for Christians and others who are called to give witness in current contexts? While most of the course will address these questions through close readings of texts deriving from the formative period of martyrdom’s history, we shall also keep contemporary contexts in our sights. The last segment of the course will turn to consider the role of martyrdom in resistance to violence against BIPOC and LGBTQIA people, with special focus on the critique of martyrdom generated within the Black Lives Matter movement, as it also potentially applies more broadly.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1753
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: The requirements for this course include participation in discussion (10%), weekly reflection papers (ca. 300 words each) (20%), three essays (ca. 1500 each) (20% each, or 60% total), one oral report (5%), and one art report posted online (5%).
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Religion majors
Distributions: Division II

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