Spring 2008

Religion in Contemporary Fiction

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-15


Jody A. Shapiro (Section 01)


Religion has always been grounded in storytelling. As myth, as folktale, as allegory, as parable, as speculation, the story form allows writer and reader to draw persuasive connections-and distinctions-between internal experience, the social world, the natural world, and a moral or cosmic order. As both religion and culture evolve, story remains fertile ground for setting and contesting their foundations. This course will examine how a range of contemporary novelists speak to and through religion to engage the deep and incendiary matters of our times: cross-cultural tensions; science and health; sex and gender relations; global and local politics; war and the weapons of war; modernity vs. traditionalism; the fate of the earth; and of course the meaning of life and death. Works to be read address a variety of traditions and perspectives, including Roman Catholicism in America, Islam in Egypt, American Protestant fundamentalism, Buddhism and folk religion in Japan, Hindu traditions, Judaism, the Latter-Day Saints, and American neopagans. Coursework will include scholarly material from the traditions themselves, as well as attention to the uses and constraints of ethnography and personal narrative as literary and religious/devotional genres. Second semester. Visiting Lecturer Shapiro.