Thursday, April 2, 2015

Greece: Democracy and Identity from the Classical to the Modern Era

I am pleased to announce that Paul Fuller, from the Sociology Department at Illinois College, and I will be leading a travel course (called "Breakaways" at Illinois College) to Greece in May/June 2016.  We are both very excited to return to Greece.  It has been way too long for me.

If you are an Illinois College student (returning or incoming), and you have stumbled upon this website, you may want to consider this.

While there is still much planning and editing of the itinerary, here is a preliminary peek at our (unedited) description:

Greece: the birthplace of democracy, history, philosophy, theater, and the Olympics.  It is the land of Socrates, Plato, and Pericles.  St. Paul traveled here.  Its history is etched into the ruins and archaeological sites that dot the landscape.  It is also the strongly tied to the modern developments, inspiring modern forms of democratic governance, participating in rapid urbanization and nationalization, and playing major role in the Euro Crisis.  How does its past relate to its present?  What does ancient Athens have to do with the modern nation?  How does its ancient democracy compare to its modern politics? 

In this BreakAway, we will explore several important ancient and modern Greek locations for their impact on religion and society, always keeping in mind how representations of the (ancient) past relate to contemporary circumstances.  We will explore the ancient ruins and ideas of Athens including a daytrip to the ancient religious center of Delphi to consider how its antiquity has been used to craft a modern nationalist Greek identity, and how Greek nationalism relates to the EU and austerity.  From there, we will turn to the island of Spetsis, a site of modern Greek feminist action centered around Laskarina Bouboulina who fought for Greek independence.  Next we turn to Corinth, Nafplio, Epidauros, and Mycenae, exploring sites associated with St. Paul, the first modern Greek government, ancient healing and theater, and the Iliad, respectively.  Finally, we will visit Greece’s second major city, Thessaloniki, which has an unbroken history from Alexander the Great to the present day as a thriving metropolis.  It is a place brimming with ancient, medieval, and modern significance, a place where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side-by-side under Byzantine and Ottoman rule.  It is an intersection between Greece, the Balkans, and Turkey with multiple cross-cultural influences from religion to cuisine.

Religion Classes at Illinois College (Fall 2015)

Since one of our faculty members - Caryn Riswold - is on sabbatical next year, we will only have six courses per semester offered next year in our little department at Illinois College.  If you are a current or future student and have stumbled upon this blog, keep these courses in mind!  If you are an academic and have questions about a particular course, let me know.

For those students who have been interested in RE 216 - Religion and Film - please note I will be offering it again next Spring (2016).  

My Courses:
RE 104: Questions of Christianity
Who is God? How is Jesus the Christ? What is sin? Where did we come from? This course examines questions like these to introduce students to foundational concepts of Christian faith and their development in the life of the Church. 

I am inheriting this course from Caryn Riswold for the year, and will be developing this course in a different way than it has been previously taught, focusing on how these questions can be used to discuss the different forms of Christianity that have emerged around the world in Asia, Africa, N. and S. America, Europe, Pacific Islands, etc. - basically, Global Christianity!  

RE 111: Introduction to Hebrew Bible
My personal description differs a little bit from the official description (in letter, but not necessarily in spirit): here's my take.

The Bible has been one of the most influential collections of literature on religion, other literature, politics, society, and culture.  The stories of Abraham and Moses and the words of Jeremiah and Isaiah have had a profound impact on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures from popular films to politics.  Despite this apparent familiarity, the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a., the Old Testament) can often be very strange and disorienting for modern readers.  In this class we will recover Hebrew Bible’s strangeness by reading it anew in its ancient Near Eastern context.  To do this we will critically examine the biblical books’ transmission, development, historical contexts, and literary aspects. 

RE 197: Religion and Sports
This is a new course I am developing!  

The relationship between athletic competition and religious worship is as old as the Olympics in ancient Greece.  Why do some religions encourage athletic competition, while others see playing or even watching sports as incompatible with religious life?  How do specific religious commitments conflict with athletic competition?  How and why do some religions borrow athletic imagery to describe the religious life?  How do sports borrow religious imagery?  In this class, we will look at the role of sports in several religions from antiquity to the present, from ancient Greece to contemporary America.  We will look at Jews, Christians, Muslims, among others, examining the relationship between their religious commitments and athletics.  Finally, we will think of how athletics and religion often take on each other’s qualities to the point that sports can be analyzed as a form of religion.

Paul Spalding's Offerings:
RE 101: Introduction to Biblical Studies
A study of the contents, historical contexts, themes, development, and transmission of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and New Testament. 

RE 188: Religious Traditions of South and East Asia
A survey of globally important religious traditions that have emerged from South and East Asia, including those commonly called Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. 

RE 322 / HI 322: China: History and Religion
A historical study of Chinese religions in their classical and modern forms. This course offers an introduction to Chinese history and culture. 

So please come and join us in the Religion Department next fall!