ENGL 239
Zen and the Art of American Literature
Last Offered Spring 2023
Division I
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

Just one hundred years ago, few Americans knew the first thing about Buddhism. But these days, who hasn’t heard of (or even tried) mindfulness or meditation? Buddhist ideas and practices now seem ubiquitous, available even in the form of smartphone apps like Headspace and Calm. In this class, we’ll explore how Buddhism came to be the profoundly important cultural force in American life that it is today. We’ll read some Buddhist American literary texts, like Ruth Ozeki’s wondrous novel, A Tale for the Time Being. And we’ll range far beyond the world of literature into other cultural domains in which Buddhism has had a deep impact, like psychotherapy, environmentalism, Western attitudes towards death and dying, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice. And we’ll engage in an experiential investigation of the benefits of incorporating contemplative practices like meditation into the classroom: students in the course will learn a variety of meditation techniques, and we’ll spend time each class practicing and reflecting upon those practices. Students will be expected to meditate outside of class as well (2-3 times per week). No prior experience with meditation is necessary. Just an open mind.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 50
Expected: 50
Class#: 3807
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Since this is an experiential course, presence is essential and will be strictly required (so after two allowed absences, each subsequent absence will lower a student's final course grade by 1/3 of a letter grade: A- to B+, for example). Other requirements: short reading responses and free-writing exercises for each class meeting, a 3-4 page midterm essay, and an 8-10 page final essay.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Enrollment preference will go to seniors. Students who preregister are required to fill out the expression of interest form at http://tinyurl.com/Engl239Spring2025 by the end of pre-registration.
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C
EXPE Experiential Education Courses

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