This seminar considers the origins and grounds of the purported secularity of some of the preeminent modern institutions: literature, law, and the university. Focal points of the seminar will include:
- relation between modernity, secularity, and European hegemony considered in a broader historical perspective
- place of religion in the university, considered in light of its medieval beginnings (and its early modern doldrums)
- secularization of the Bible — its transformation from religious books to literary masterpiece, cultural archive, socio-semantic code, etc.
- secularization of space and time: impact of newly emerging sciences — anthropology, philology, Biblical criticism, archaeology — on the chronotopic order of European episteme
- law over/above religion? — how American courts and British parliament have accommodated, excluded, and regulated religion since the 19th century, with what consequences to the learned professions
- literature and criticism as art, science, and profession
- a case study: psychoanalysis as a neo-, para-, or pseudo- science (or religion?)
Each seminar participant is urged to identify a specific moment pertinent to his/her research interest — in any historical, geographical, linguistic domain or genre — that would directly engage, extend, and enrich the range of interest and concerns represented by these discussion topics and the core readings of the seminar, and to write a concise seminar paper (3000-5000 words) by the end of the academic term.
The following list of books is meant as a guide for mapping the general territories and topics to be covered in the seminar. We will selectively read from some of these — and possibly other — titles.
- Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Simon & Schuster, Touchstone, 2002)
- Northrop Frye, The Great Code: the Bible and Literature (University of Toronto Press, 2006; originally published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1982)
- Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Harvard University Press, 1927)
- Christopher Herbert, Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 1991)
- Thomas Albert Howard, Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (Oxford University Press, 2005)
- Stephen D. Moore and Yvonne Sherwood, The Invention of the Biblical Scholar: A Critical Manifesto (Fortress Press, 2011)
- Joan Wallach Scott, Politics of the Veil (Princeton University Press, 2007)
- Jonathan Sheehan, The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture (Princeton University Press, 2005)
- Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Robert A. Yelle, Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, eds., After Secular Law (Stanford University Press, 2011)
- James Turner, Religion Enters the Academy: the Origins of the Scholarly Study of Religion in America (University of Georgia Press, 2012
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