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In the Face of Death: Worship, Music, Art
T 1:30pm - 3:20pm
The course is designed as a team-taught seminar, meeting once a week. Given the breadth of the subject matter, the course will attend to a broad spectrum of themes related to ritual, music, and art “In the Face of Death,” yet will have to do so quite selectively. Readings of historical sources (textual and non-textual), scholarly research into past practices surrounding dying and death, and analysis of contemporary practices will form the core materials. The course will be shaped by three foci of inquiry in the realm of ritual, music, and art, namely as these relate to 1) those who have died, 2) those who are dying, i.e., facing imminent death, and 3) confrontations with one’s own finitude, mortality, and dying. The Christian tradition holds rich resources and insights for all three of these subject-matters. The course will create space for a nuanced reflection on this tradition, as both backdrop and resource for contemporary engagement.
Since much of the work in this course will center on the close reading and interpretation of “texts” (in the broadest sense, including both verbal and non-verbal materials), the weight of evaluation will fall on a student’s sustained engagement with these texts, as evidenced in class presentations, discussions, and written reflections on the readings. Well-prepared, attentive, and engaged participation in all sessions is a basic expectation. Beyond that, each student will submit a written review and critique of one of the assigned weekly readings during the semester. This short paper (2-3 pp., double-spaced) will be the basis for the student’s presentation in one of the class discussions. A 12-15 pp. final paper will be at the end of the course.
Final grades for the course will be determined according to the following formula: participation: 20%; class presentation: 30%; final paper: 50%. There will be no exams.