08 January 2016

Literature and Theology Spring 2016

Literature & Theology RLS320/ENG395

Ours will be a very small class, which condition gives it the opportunity of a vigorous and exciting exchange between (and among) students and the professor. The goals of this class center on looking at literature through a lens of theology; in others words, we will read three rather monumental Western works and consider how these texts reflect/argue, posit/complicate, popularize/criticize specific strains of Western Christian theology A.D. 400-1670. Secondary skills developed are critical, active reading; greater facility of integration of library research; familiarity with some of the Big Ideas out there and some of their Big Thinkers; improved writing skills; and improvement of the essential professional soft skills such as the courtesy of listening and speaking, the habit of consistent preparedness, and the ability to work punctually and under time constraints.
Specifically, we will consider historical treatments of time/eternity, space/infinity, divine grace/human will, and God as a character. We will try to look at each author as a whole voice in his own right, but also compare authors in their treatments of similar themes. Paper #1 requires you to treat either one concept or one book of the Confessions and to construct a theological treatise that draws upon concepts Augustine gets from the Gospels and the Psalms; Paper #2 will ask you to explore an element of time or space in Dante as these elements intersect with mortal characters. Paper #3, which may be a continuation of your second paper, will consider how La Commedia treats his Afterworldly geography in light of Book 11 of Confessions; finally, Paper #4 is a grand opus type of paper that can address any aspect of these works—including ideas you have already begun to develop in earlier papers—so long as at least half the paper concentrates on Paradise Lost.

Class Schedule (subject to change)
12 T Introduction
14 R Confessions, Books 1-3
19 T Confessions, Books 4-6
21 R Confessions, Books 7-9
26 T Confessions, Books 10-11
28 R Inferno, Cantos 1-7
Feb. 2 T Inferno, Cantos 8-14. Augustine Paper Due (3-4 pp)
4 R Inferno, Cantos 15-22
9 T Inferno, Cantos 23-28
11 R Inferno, Cantos 29-34
16 T Purgatorio, Cantos, 1-7
18 R Purgatorio, Cantos 8-14
23 T Purgatorio, Cantos 15-22
25 R Purgatorio, Cantos 23-28
Mar. 1 T Purgatorio, Cantos 29-33 Dante Time & Space Paper Due (6-8 pp)
3 R Paradiso, Cantos 1-7
15 T Paradiso, Cantos 8-14
22 T Paradiso, Cantos 15-22
24 R Paradiso, Cantos 23-28
29 T Paradiso, Cantos 29-33
31 R NO CLASS (RSA Boston)
Apr. 5 T Paradise Lost, Books 1-2 Dante & Augustine Paper Due (6-8 pp)
7 R Paradise Lost, Books 3-4
12 T Paradise Lost, Books 5-6
14 R Paradise Lost, Books 7-8
19 T Paradise Lost, Books 9-10
21 R Paradise Lost, Books 11-12
28 R Evaluations. Speeches
Finals Week: Literature & Theology Paper Due (8-12 pp).

Required Texts: Confessions, Saint Augustine. Penguin Classics, R. S. Pine-Coffin trans.
Inferno, Dante. Oxford, Robert M. Durling trans.
Purgatorio, Dante. Oxford, Durling trans.
Paradiso, Dante. Oxford, Durling trans.
Paradise Lost, John Milton. Oxford, Stephen Orgel ed.

Grading: Augustine Paper 10%
Dante Time & Space 20%
Dante & Augustine 25%
Lit & Theo (M) 30%
Participation 15%

Attendance: Required. More than three absences will lower your final grade by one decrement per day. Tardiness is counted as an absence. There are no “excused” or unexcused” absences.
Students with special needs must inform the professor in the first week of classes and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
Late papers will be down-graded one full later per day late. You must complete all assignments to pass the class.
Please see labels “Essential,” “Very Useful Stuff” at my blog stephenxmead.blogspot.com for important class policies. A copy of the syllabus and class policies will be there too under the “Syllabi” label.
Office: OM312b 438-4336 smead@stmartin.edu
MWF 10-11, 12-1. TR 8:30-9:30, 11-1.

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