Religion 198. Experimental Courses
Love in theory and practice
What does it mean to love? Is love an individual feeling, or part of a community practice? Can love be reasonable, or is it opposed to human rationality? This course explores prominent religious and non-religious perspectives that shape how we think about and practice the different things we call “love”. Topics include the conflict between earthly and transcendent love, the nature of friendship and romance, the relation between self-love and politically efficacious love, love of nature, and the ethics of self-sacrifice.
Dead Bodies and Living Memories: Immortality in the Ancient World
According to Egyptologist Jan Assmann, “All culture is a struggle against oblivion.” How, then, might different cultures respond to the potential oblivion caused by death–the loss of personhood, the deterioration of the body, and the fading memories of those who have died? What rituals and ideologies preserve memories of the dead among the living? Is this commemoration a kind of immortality? In this course, we will explore such questions and critically examine the nature of memory as it relates to ancient conceptions of death and afterlife. Through close analysis of epic narratives, ritual texts, and material culture, we will compare traditions from different regions, including Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, in order to better appreciate the rich diversity of human responses to death in the ancient world.