REL 228
Zen and the Art of American Literature Fall 2021
Division II
Cross-listed ENGL 239 / REL 228 / AMST 238

Class Details

Just one hundred years ago, few Americans knew the first thing about Buddhism. But in 2021, 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 Ten Percent Happier. 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 environmentalism, psychotherapy, and Western attitudes towards death and dying. We’ll also give special attention to the role that Buddhism is playing in the struggle for racial justice (from bell hooks to Black Lives Matter). 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 some 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) and keep a meditation journal. No prior experience with meditation is necessary. Just an open mind.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 50
Expected: 50
Class#: 1911
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: a weekly meditation journal, various informal in-class and take-home writing assignments, and a final 8- to 10-page essay.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Students who preregister should fill out an expression of interest form at www.tinyurl.com/Engl239Fall2021 by May 20 (day after pre-reg closes). Preference will go to juniors and seniors, with a few seats saved for sophomores (10 max); no first years.
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 239 Division I REL 228 Division II AMST 238 Division II
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C
EXPE Experiential Education Courses

Class Grid

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