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Finding Spirituality in Modern America
TTH 9:00am -10:20am
This course explores how the evolution of religious identity, expression and practice in American Christianity during the twentieth century reflected modern attempts for self-actualization within and just beyond institutional forms of religion. We will consider whether and in what ways spirituality can be a meaningful category to study modern US religious cultures and examine how the language of spirituality has coincided with efforts to define religious experience and reconfigure the character of religious community in modern America.
Attendance and active, informed participation in classroom discussion is expected. Beginning with the second week, students will write a short response essay (200 words) on the assigned reading, to be posted online in classes *v2 n the evening before the first date of a given section. Students will not have to participate in the online discussion when they take on seminar leadership responsibilities. Students can choose any two additional sections when they will not participate in the online discussion. Classroom participation is always expected regardless of one’s participation online. Overall participation is worth twenty (20) percent of the total grade.
2. There will be a forty five minute in-class exam after the fifth week of the term that focuses on the uneasy Protestant consensus that served as the principal backdrop for the development of spirituality as a form of religious expression and identity in the early decades of the twentieth century. It will be worth twenty (20) percent of the total grade.
3. Students in numbers of two or three will give group presentations and submit a brief four to five page written essay that analyzes the primary readings or scholarly monographs assigned. In both the oral presentation and the written essay students will work to contextualize the primary texts, link elements within the primary texts to larger themes discussed in class and the secondary readings, and pose questions that will help guide classroom discussion during the section. Together, the oral presentation and the written essay will comprise twenty (20) percent of the total class grade. The oral presentation will receive a group grade and the written essay will receive an individual mark. Student groups should meet the instructor to discuss the basic contours of the presentation the week before it is due. They should also submit an outline to the instructor by e-mail on the Monday (afternoon) before their presentation and upload the outline to the classes*v2 site as well. The written paper is due on the day the presentation is given. Late written papers will be penalized 10 percent of the total presentation grade for each day late.
4. Students will produce a brief paper (of around fifteen double spaced pages) that seeks to interpret a specific Christian or “post-Christian” figure or organization using primary texts against the backdrop of the themes we have discussed in class. Students should be prepared topresent their central arguments orally before the class by the last week of the term. Students will choose topics in consultation with the instructor. The paper is worth forty (40) percent of the overall grade. Papers are due on the last day of the term.
As an alternative, students can do two critical book reviews of historical or sociological scholarly monographs on religious subjects in modern America (i.e., the United States after the Reconstruction period.) Students will discuss and critique the scholarly approach adopted and consider the subjects studied against the backdrop of the themes we have discussed in class. The reviews should be around seven double-spaced pages each. No unexcused late papers
will be accepted.