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Three essay questions. I will upload the course material also which you need for the assignment. One essay question should be about a page and a half.
Respond to one of each of the following pairs of questions. In other words: choose 1 or 2 from Pair A; 1 or 2 from Pair B; and 1 or 2 from Pair C for a total of three responses, one from each pair.
Pair A: Be the Filmmaker
1. Imagine that Teresa Brennan and Émile Durkheim go on an expedition together to Saddle Creek, West Virginia to film a remake of the classic 1967 documentary Holy Ghost People. (I realize this is impossible, as they lived at different times; just run with it). Your mission is to write the voiceover for the documentary. What kind of text would Brennan and Durkheim agree on? What would they highlight about this religious gathering? Your response should use technical terms from both Brennan and Durkheim. While it should be narrative in form, talking us through what happens in this religious gathering, it should also make a clear argument. Tell the viewer why these events matter and why these religious practitioners are having such intense experiences. Humor is also a possibility in this assignment; the documentary can include an argument between the filmmakers, Brennan and Durkheim.
2. Imagine that Clifford Geertz has been hired to do a voiceover commentary for the first episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. You are the intern hired to post key extracts from his voiceover on Professor Geertz’s website. Your mission, in other words, is to figure out what Geertz would say about Sabrina. Your voiceover should avoid undue plot summary (the viewer can see what’s happening, after all). Instead, it should make clear arguments. Is the Church of Night a religion? What other scholars does Geertz mention while chattering? Humor is a possibility in this assignment. Professor Geertz can misspeak or say fusty old person things about this teen show.
Pair B: Dilemmas
1. In Week 6, we experienced Peter Shaffer’s Equus. It is now your turn to inhabit Dysart’s dilemma. What would you do if you were Dysart? Would you try to cure Alan of his worship of horses, or would you allow him to remain as he is? In crafting your answer to this question, please include quotations from the play but avoid plot summary (I’ve read Equus and don’t need you to tell me what happens in it). The best responses will also incorporate select ideas from other course readings.
2. In Week 7, we encountered two different approaches to thinking about religious conversion. Where William James sees conversion as a profoundly inward, individual experience, Gauri Viswanathan sees it as profoundly embedded in and restricted by social structures. You now have to decide which of these approaches is better for analyzing the religious experiences of Kateri Tekakwitha, as represented by Diane Glancy. Does James or Viswanathan make a better lens for understanding Tekakwitha’s experiences? Can her inward experience of Christianity be separated from institutional structures?
Pair C: Syntheses
1. Many of the theorists we’ve read this semester put forward reductionist accounts of religion. There are costs and benefits to reductionism, and this assignment will force you to grapple with both. Imagine that you’re trying to persuade a religious relative or friend why they should be interested in reductionist theories of religion. They’ll be resistant. Your job is to persuade them that these theories are good to think with, even they reject reductionism. How would you go about doing this? What would you say to your friend? Be as specific as possible with examples.
2. For a person to be religiously literate, do they need to be able to analyze the relationship between religion and popular culture? Should they be able to think about religion beyond just the major “world religions”? If so, why? If not, why not? Please use as many specific examples from theorists and other course materials as possible.