Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Fall 2011 Course Load

It is finally here: my first semester as a doctoral student in theology. Perhaps the feelings will wear off as quickly as the first class session (scheduled for tomorrow), but I'm something of a Pollyanna Susie Derkins at the moment: one great bundle of gratitude and excitement. As I have the habit of doing, I thought I'd share the courses I'm taking this semester, which are an especially intriguing cross-section of theology, religious studies, philosophy, and sociology. No doubt themes and quotes and questions from the following will find their way onto the blog in the coming months.

I should also note that the course descriptions below are taken from the professors' syllabi, and so are not in "my" voice but rather in theirs.

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Theology Doctoral Seminar (Kathryn Tanner)

This is the required seminar for all doctoral students in theology. In keeping with the usual agendas for this required seminar, this year’s course is designed (1) to familiarize doctoral students with a faculty member’s current research—specifically, her methodology, rationale for research, and conclusions—and (2) to offer a broad overview of the contemporary theological landscape on selected themes, issues, and approaches of importance to theology today. The course this year will involve a close reading of Kathryn Tanner's most recent book, Christ the Key. One chapter of the book will be assigned each session, with supplementary readings to include (a) major historical sources in theology that inform her constructive work; and (b) contemporary theologies treating the same issues in theological anthropology, Christology, pneumatology, nature and grace, trinitarian theology, and atonement theory.

  • Gustav Aulen, Christus Victor
  • Basil the Great, On the Human Condition (ed. Verna Harrison)
  • Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society
  • Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology
  • Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians: Chapters 1-4
  • Tuomo Mannermaa, Christ Present in Faith
  • John Milbank, The Suspended Middle
  • Janet Soskice, The Kindness of God
  • Dumitru Staniloae, Theology and the Church
  • Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key
  • Michael Welker, God the Spirit
  • Delores Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness
The Life and Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Denys Turner)

This course is intended for those who would like to explore the reasons both why Thomas is a great theologian and why he is a saint, and is particularly addressed to those who would not be entirely surprised to discover that the reasons for the one are much the same as the reasons for the other. It is not a survey course covering his theology as a whole. It is a course designed to get to the place in Thomas’s mind and soul where theology and prayer, Dominican poverty and Dominican preaching, university professor and pastor priest, intersect so as to result in not only his best known work of systematic theology, the Summa Theologiae, but also in his Reportatio on the Gospel of John, in many ways his theological masterpiece. Something is canonized in 1323, and it is not a book. Nor is it a martyr. Nor is it a great preacher. Just a rather fat and balding theologian. There is hope for us all.

  • Thomas Aquinas, Reportatio (Commentary on the Gospel of John)

  • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (selections)
  • G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Herbert McCabe, God Matters

  • Josef Pieper, The Silence of St. Thomas

  • Josef Pieper, Guide to Thomas Aquinas
  • Denys Turner, The Life and Thought of Thomas Aquinas (draft monograph)

Theories in the Study of Religion (Dale Martin)

This course offers an introduction designed for doctoral students in religious studies to modern theories of religion from mainly the 20th century. The course includes study of major figures in anthropological, social-scientific, historical, comparative, and theoretical approaches to the newly created discipline of the academic and secular study of religion, which led in the latter part of the 20th century to “religious studies” and the creation during the past 50 years of departments of religious studies in American universities. That development will be traced as we also explore major intellectual and philosophical issues raised by its history.

  • Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy
  • Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
  • David Chidester, Savage Systems

  • Jacques Derrida, Dissemination
  • Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger
  • Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

  • Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
  • Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures
  • Edward Said, Orientalism

  • Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion
Secularism: From the Enlightenment to the Present (Elli Stern)

Secular worldviews are said to have emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the result of an attempt to find a lowest common denominator between various warring Christian denominations. Recent political events and social developments have brought historians, political theorists, and anthropologists to reexamine the nature of and relationship between secular and religious (or more broadly “traditional”) worldviews. This course examines the way secularism has been constructed and also the way it has shaped how we understand groups and ideas identified as traditional or religious. Specifically, it will understand the way contemporary scholars define, conceptualize, and in some instances critique “secular” notions of time, space, knowledge and self.

  • Talal Assad, Formations of the Secular
  • Jose Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World
  • Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative
  • Marcel Grouchet, The Disenchantment of the World
  • Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
  • Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past
  • Marc Lilla, The Stillborn God
  • John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
  • Saba Mahmood, The Politics of Piety
  • Charles Taylor, A Secular Age

  • Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
  • Claude Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century

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