Spiritual Topographies in Modern Poetry and Fiction

Spring 2018
T 6:00-8:00pm
Area V
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This course will examine the role of place, and physical space, as both setting and trope in modern/postmodern poetry and fiction. Beginning with notions of sacred space(s) from Scripture, we will examine works of poetry by a range of modern and contemporary poets that explore natural, domestic, and sacred spaces (including Native American poetry) and the novels Home by Marilynne Robinson, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and the urban maze of Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. Through close readings of these works, we will consider how meaning is conveyed through the author’s development of physical locations and spaces as images of spiritual longing, journey and presence, as well as windows into the human condition. Themes of the sacred and the profane, the material and the transcendent, good and evil, home and homelessness, identity and transformation, are among the theologically important questions that arise from this study.

Background Expected: 

No particular background is expected, although some training in literary studies would be an advantage.

Course Requirements: 


Weekly reading of the assigned texts with some supplemental critical work by the author or about the work.


Each student will write one shorter, 4-6 page paper due by the mid-term break on one of the texts

studied, and one longer, 10-12 page paper comparing and contrasting at least two works studied due by the end of the term.

Other Written Work:

Each student will create a Reader’s Journal consisting of two pages of reflections on each author, including the primary as well as the secondary material. These will be checked twice/semester, once the week before mid-term break and then at the end of the semester. 

Class Participation:

Students will be expected to participate in all of the discussions having read the assigned material for each session. 

Basis of Evaluation: 

Paper 1: 30%

Paper 2: 50%

Reader’s Journal: 15%

In-class Participation: 5%