24 August 2014

UNI101 Section B1 (Mead, MWF 8:00-8:50AMyesAM)

UNI101                                                                                               Professor Mead
Fall 2014                                            
From a Closed, Intentional Community
to an Unplanned, Global Community
UNI101 is an introductory class to the Saint Martin’s University experience.  It is designed to familiarize students with the core skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, critical thinking, and information literacy.  Further, UNI101 brings to the forefront the distinct Saint Martin’s values of hospitality, community, and the spiritual dimension that appears most obviously in the members of the Abbey.  This section of UNI101 is composed entirely of Benedictine Scholars, so that Cohort III can bond not only as members of the Benedictine Scholars Program (BPS), but also bond academically as thinkers, learners, and readers.
Acts of Faith was chosen as a text common to all sections of UNI101; to this common text I have added Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Mark Salzman’s Lying Awake, and The Desert Fathers.  Together, these books will allow us to explore the theme denoted in the course’s title:  “From a closed, intentional community to an unplanned global community.”  The idea here is to learn what we can from the Benedictine model and to see how we can transform that model into the non-religious, non-monastic, non-traditional global village of the twenty-first century.  I have no idea where this query will take us, but I am excited to be making the journey with you.
UNI101 is also educates students about non-classroom issues, and so you will note there are several presentations every First Year student is required to attend.  We also need to decide on a class project.  Traditionally, these projects have involved 15-20 hours and included some kind of community outreach.  I have a list of possible projects, but I want the class to have a chance to choose, or even make up, its own project, rather than having one assigned.
My Office is OM312b.  Please come and visit me to talk about the class, school, assignments—anything you might like.  Students who visit their professors out of class always do better than those who do not.  Tel. 438-4336. smead@stmartin.edu.  You can email or voice mail me, but I cannot always promise to respond before the next class meeting.
Also, visit my blog at http://stephenxmead.blogspot.com/ This blog has the syllabus, useful class materials, helpful links, AND my class policies (under “policies” label) on attendance, plagiarism, and, you know, other stuff.
Students with special needs must contact the instructor within the first two weeks of the semester, and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
First Four Papers:        15% each         60%
Final Paper or Project: 20%                 25%
Participation in classroom:                  15%
You will notice a lot of days with no particular task at hand; these are days in which we will have broad ranging discussions of your first-semester experiences.  We will also use the time to catch up, perhaps going into more detail about the readings.  Finally, we will use the days to plan our projects and edit our papers.

                                                Syllabus (subject to revision)
25        M         Introduction—Listening
27        W         Tour of Learning Center.  Meet at the O’Grady Library.
28        R         Mass of the Holy Spirit:  10:45 Abbey Church     
29        F          Brenda Burns:  Study Abroad
1          M         NO CLASSES
3          W         Ann Adams:  Career Development. Sex Signals: 4PM or 8PM NWCC
5          F          Lodge Retreat Prep. Friday to Sunday Morning:  Retreat at Lambert Lodge.
                        Bring Acts of Faith with you. (leave electronics at home)
7          S          1PM-4PM Benedictine Scholars Meeting on Campus
8          M         Acts of Faith
10        W         Acts of Faith
12        F          Acts of Faith
15        M         EDIT SESSION
17        W         Paper #1 Due.             Alcohol:  6PM or 7:30 PM Baran Hall Great Room
19        F          Lodge Retreat Prep. Friday to Sunday morning Retreat at Lambert Lodge
22        M         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 1
24        W         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 2
26        F          Consolation of Philosophy, Book 3
29        M         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 4
1          W         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 5
3          F          EDIT SESSION
5          S          1PM-4PM Benedictine Scholars Meeting on Campus
6          M         Paper #2 Due
8          W         5th Paper or Project Proposal Due.
10        F         
13        M         NO CLASSES
15        W        
17        F          NO CLASS
20        M         Lying Awake
22        W         Lying Awake
24        F          Lying Awake
27        M         Lying Awake
29        W         EDIT SESSION
31        F          Paper #3 Due.
3          M         The Desert Fathers
5          W         The Desert Fathers
7          F          The Desert Fathers
9          S          1PM-4PM Benedictine Scholars Meeting on Campus
10        M         The Desert Fathers
12        W         EDIT SESSION
14        F          Paper #4 Due.
17        M        
19        W        
21        F         
24        M         NO CLASS (probably)
26        W         5th Paper or Project
28        F          NO CLASSES
1          M         5th Paper or Project
3          W         (maybe) NO CLASS
7          S          1PM-4PM Benedictine Scholars Meeting on Campus

Required Texts:
The Desert Fathers, Helen Waddell (trans.). Loreto P, 2011.
Acts of Faith:  The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul
Of a Generation, Eboo Patel, Beacon P, 2007.
Lying Awake, Mark Salzman. Vintage Books, 2000.
Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius. David R. Slavitt (trans.). Harvard UP: 2008
Recommended Texts:
The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Timothy Fry (ed.) Liturgical P, 1982
The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition Oxford UP, 2005.

21 August 2014

Literature & Theology, Autumn 2014

Literature and Theology
Fall 2014                                                                                             Professor Mead

Theology, at its root, is the engagement with logic, religious texts, nature, psychology, and language to suggest a transcendent order, a position that essentially says, “things ultimately make sense.” The foundational work of Western theology is, of course, the Bible, which is a collection of many authors writing over a broad span of time in many different genres (history, wisdom, poetry, chronicles, fables, laws, myths, personifications, etc.).  But to come to a conclusion that “things make sense,” the theologian must first ask questions and those who read theology must also ask questions.  In this class, we must ask questions as well.  Our questions must be both theological (e.g. “Does this author base his work on scripture, authority, tradition, revelation?”) and literary (e.g. “How does a close reading of the passage both deepen and complicate the literal level of meaning?”).
These three works are giants of the Western canon.  Each constructs a physical universe that is parallel to its spiritual, ethical, and theological co-dimensions.  Boethius, Dante, and Milton represent three distinct but connected (later works are influenced by earlier works) strains of pre-modern theological literature:  classical, medieval Catholic, Renaissance Protestant.
Your task as a student in the class is to read each section of each work carefully; to take copious notes and to jot down as many questions as occur to you; to come to class ready to engage proactively in our joint process of deepening our understanding of the works both in and of themselves and in relation to one another; and to write and revise thoughtful, thesis-driven papers that use the readings and class discussions as a launching pad for original thought and research.
In short, our job is to find out what are the key questions to ask and to begin to respond to those questions in a critical conversation.  As instructor, I will play the role of question asker; discussion facilitator, occasional literary/theological/historical authority; and paper reader/assessor.  Your role, partially noted above, is the real engine of the class.  The collective character of each student’s contribution to the class will create the class experience.  If the class is a smashing, exciting success, you will only have yourselves to praise.

Please use only these editions and translations:
The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius, translated by David R. Slavitt.
            Harvard UP: 2008
The Divine Comedy:  Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, Dante, translated by Robin
            Kirkpatrick. Penguin 2012.
Paradise Lost, John Milton, edited by David Scott Kastan. Hackett, 2005.
The syllabus below indicates our discussion schedule; your reading schedule should be well in advance of the discussion.  Please have the sections for discussion read at least twice before class.  Mark up your books with underlinings, notes, and questions.  Keep a separate notebook for your reading responses and your notes made in the classroom.  Which means, take notes in the classroom, not just what the instructor says, but what your colleagues say, what occurs to you; in short, make an intellectual history of the class.
Please be sure to be in class before the hour starts with your book, your notebook, and your mind open.  You are allowed three free absences during the semester.  After three, you final grade will drop one decrement per day absent.  Tardiness is not acceptable.
Papers must be at least 1500 words (about five pages), typed, with a Notes page and a Works Cited page (MLA format).  To avoid any vague resemblance to plagiarism, include at least two early drafts of the paper that illustrate the development of your thesis.  Introductory paragraphs must include the following:  your thesis, why your thesis is important, your methodology, your areas of support.  It should also include a clear statement of the counter-argument.  Each topic sentence (first sentence in body paragraphs) should explicitly connect the paper’s thesis with the paragraph’s topic. 
What question is your paper asking?
Why is this question  important?
How will you attempt to answer the question? Why is that a good way to do it?
How will you employ secondary sources?
How does your contribution add to or fit in with the larger readerly conversation?
Re-asking the question again and again instead of answering it
Arguing by plot alone
Ignoring textual details
Ignoring the counter-argument
Overstating your claim
Broad sweeping historical characterizations
Prose Stuff:  Avoid overuse of to be verbs and other weak verbs (have, do, make, manifest, demonstrate, act, become, reside, seem, appear, show, prove, impact, affect, achieve, learn, means, etc.). There is always a better, more precise, more active verb than the one you first choose.
As often as possible, put your subjects and predicates together.
Work under the assumption that punctuation—and the lack thereof—creates meaning.
Paper grades will constitute 75% of your final grade (15% per paper).
Class participation will constitute 25% of your final grade.
Everyone will select (with instructor approval) 20+ lines of Paradise Lost to memorize and recite in front of the class.  If you make fewer than five errors, your final grade will be bumped up one increment.
Students with special needs must inform the instructor at the beginning of the semester and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
Please visit my blog http://stephenxmead.blogspot.com/ for important policies on plagiarism, attendance, participation, reading, and papers.  This blog also has useful links, edit sheets, handouts, class materials, and other goodies that you won’t be sorry you found.
Office:  Please visit me!  OM 312b tel. 438-4336 smead@stmartin.edu. You may email me, but I cannot promise to respond before the next class meeting.

                                                Syllabus (subject to revision)
25        M         Introduction
27        W         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 1
29        F          Consolation of Philosophy, Book 2
1          M         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 3
3          W         Consolation of Philosophy, Book 4
5          F          Consolation of Philosophy, Book 5
8          M         Inferno, Cantos 1-4
10        W         Inferno, Cantos 5-8
12        F          Inferno, Cantos 9-12. Paper #1 Due.
15        M         Inferno, Cantos 13-16
17        W         Inferno, Cantos 17-20
19        F          Inferno, Cantos 21-24
22        M         Inferno, Cantos 25-28
24        W         Inferno, Cantos 29-34
26        F          Purgatorio, Cantos 1-4
29        M         Purgatorio, Cantos 5-8
1          W         Purgatorio, Cantos 9-12. Paper #2 Due.
3          F          Purgatorio, Cantos 13-16
6          M         Purgatorio, Cantos 17-20

8          W         Purgatorio, Cantos 21-24
10        F          Purgatorio, Cantos 25-28
13        M         NO CLASSES
15        W         Purgatorio, Cantos 29-33
17        F          NO CLASS
20        M         Paradiso, Cantos 1-4
22        W         Paradiso, Cantos 5-8

24        F          Paradiso, Cantos 9-12. Paper #3 Due.
27        M         Paradiso, Cantos 13-16
29        W         Paradiso, Cantos 17-20
31        F          Paradiso, Cantos 21-24

3          M         Paradiso, Cantos 25-28
5          W         Paradiso, Cantos 29-33
7          F          Paradise Lost, Book 1
10        M         Paradise Lost, Books 2-3
12        W         Paradise Lost, Books 4
14        F          Paradise Lost, Book 5-6. Paper #4 Due.
17        M         Paradise Lost, Books 7-8
19        W         Paradise Lost, Book 9
21        F          Paradise Lost, Book 10
24        M         NO CLASS (probably)
26        W         Paradise Lost, Books 11-12
28        F          NO CLASSES
1          M         Speeches. Recite 20+ lines of Paradise Lost with less than 5 errors.
3          W         (maybe) NO CLASS
8          M         Paper #5 Due.

12 January 2014

RLS306 Spiritual Quest Spring 2014

Spiritual Quest                                                                 RLS306
Spring 2014                                                                                                     Prof. Mead

13        M         Introduction
15        W         The Cloud of Unknowing, ix-27
17        F          Practicing Silence
20        M         NO CLASSES
22        W         NO CLASS
24        F          The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 6-24
27        M         The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 25-58
29        W         The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapters 59-75
31        F          Meeting Your Sacred Word
 3         M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, xxxvii-19
 5         W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters IV-X
 7         F          Prayer
10        M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XI-XV
12        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XVI-XXI
14        F          Prayer
17        M         NO CLASSES
19        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXII-XXV
21        F          Prayer
24        M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXVI-XXIX
26        W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, XXX-XXXIV
28        F          Prayer
 3         M         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXXV-XXXVII
 5         W         Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Chapters XXXVIII-XL
 7         F          Prayer
10        M         SPRING BREAK
12        W         SPRING BREAK
14        F          SPRING BREAK
17        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, pp.1-12
19        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 2
21        F          NO CLASSES
24        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, pp. 71-
26        W         NO CLASS
28        F          NO CLASS
31        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 3
 2         W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 4
 4         F          Prayer
 7         M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 5
 9         W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 6
11        F          Prayer
14        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 7
16        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 8
18        F          NO CLASSES
21        M         NO CLASSES
23        W         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 9
25        F          Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 10
28        M         Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 11
30        F          Open Mind, Open Heart, Chapter 12.  Evaluations.

What we’re doing in the course
The (somewhat outdated) description of RLS306 reads, “Introduction to the basic history, theories, and practices of Christian spiritual life.  Concentration on Lawrence of the Resurrection, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux.  Focus on contemporary application of spiritual practice in daily life.” From this description, I have taken the following elements:  an introductory manner; inclusion of historical and theoretical texts, ideas, and practices; Teresa of Avila; and a contemporary application of a spiritual practice in daily life.
This class is an introduction to Centering Prayer, an ancient Christian practice that effectively went into hiding during the Reformation and which in the past thirty years or so has found its way back into daily prayer of a growing number of people, clerical and lay.  Centering Prayer has its roots in the ideas of “Negative Theology,” which basically states that it is impossible for human beings to make true affirmative statements about God in our language, because God is a) unknowable and b) unable to be defined in words.  Although there are many kinds of prayer, Centering Prayer is completely (I could even say actively) passive:  the person “makes a space,” in time, in purpose, in consciousness, to invite God into the soul.
How we’re doing this course
Because this is an academic class as well as a practicum, we will read two monumental works, one from the late middle ages (English) and one from the Counter-Reformation (Spanish, where else?).  Both works outline a kind of prayer practice that we will be working toward on our Friday meetings.  These works are probably going to seem foreign to you—because they ARE foreign!  They are from other countries, other languages, other sensibilities.  My best advice is to read through them diligently.  Do not worry about understanding everything; take what you can from them and do not sweat the small stuff.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will ask each of you to come to class with three questions or comments on the reading for that day; our class time will be used to get us all to the same place in regard to the readings, that’s all. The last book, by Thomas Keating, you will find much more useful and comprehensible,
The whole point of assignments (presentations, tests, papers, etc.) is two-fold:  to augment or supplement student learning and to give the instructor something to evaluate.  There is also quite often a third reason: to bond the class into a tighter community.  I want us to reach towards all of these goals, and to that end, we have a number of different assignments.
First, each student will keep a prayer journal; this should contain not WHAT happens during your prayer periods, but rather what you think about when you reflect on the growth of your knowledge and practice of this prayer method.  I will collect the journals a few times during the semester.
Second, each student will write an academic paper.  This paper can be almost anything relevant.  Perhaps a study of the medieval images of prayer, perhaps a scholarly work on one of the historical books we’re reading.  Perhaps a comparative study of Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
Third, each student—either alone or in a group—will complete a Prayer Project.  This is meant to be a creative expression that moves out from the individual to the Saint Martin’s community.  Images, icons, prayer rugs, labyrinths, stations, prayer spaces—all of these ideas and more are possibilities. 
Participation:  Comes to each class on time and prepared, takes notes, initiates and maintains discussion, demonstrates familiarity with texts and reflection of reading, listens to and responds to other students, good cheer, considerate, asking questions, risking answers. 25%
Paper:  College-level research, prose, and argumentation; 6-10 pages, MLA format; topic sentences, evidence of multiple revisions, originality, depth, risk, deep research texts. 25%
Journal: Evidence of clearly taking the assignment seriously; evidence of thinking and re-thinking ideas; development of a sense of self and the process, verbiage. 25%
Project:  Amazes the instructor, changes the campus, challenges the lukewarm, raises the bar of originality and complexity, shows evidence of 20-40 hours of work. 25%.
The Cloud of Unknowing, Penguin
Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, trans. Peers, Dover
Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating
Office Hours
OM312b          tel.438-4336
MWF 9-10, 11-12                    TR 8:30-9:30 AND BY APPOINTMENT
Students with special needs must contact the instructor in the first week of classes and he will make all reasonable accommodations.

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