COMPLIT 751 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Section: 001 Secularisms in Comparison
Term: WN 2014
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

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

Course Requirements:

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Intended Audience:

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Class Format:


COMPLIT 751 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
Tu 6:00PM - 9:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780800697747
The invention of the biblical scholar : a critical manifesto, Author: Stephen D. Moore and Yvonne Sherwood., Publisher: Fortress Press
ISBN: 0226474089
Introduction to legal reasoning., Author: Edward H. Levi., Publisher: Univ Of Chicago Press [22. Dr.]. 1999
ISBN: 0226327396
Culture and anomie : ethnographic imagination in the nineteenth century., Author: Christopher Herbert., Publisher: University of Chicago Press 1991
ISBN: 9780199554478
Protestant theology and the making of the modern German university, Author: Thomas Albert Howard., Publisher: Oxford University Press 2009
ISBN: 9780226653129
Secularization and cultural criticism : religion, nation, and modernity, Author: Vincent P. Pecora., Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press 2006
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