Making of Modern Christianity: Medieval Europe Syllabus

As I’ve mentioned earlier this year, I’m teaching the medieval half of a course on Medieval and Reformation Europe this year. We’ve now finally finished the syllabus and module handbook for the course, which started this week (PDF of my half of the module handbook). Thanks to everyone who offered comments on suggestions when I was planning the course; I’ve rewritten it pretty drastically from the version that was taught by my predecessor and I’m somewhere between excited and terrified to actually start teaching it.

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My syllabi for this semester

Shimer’s spring semester begins on Wednesday. This term, I will be teaching two sections of the Social Sciences capstone, entitled “Social Perspectives and Social Action” (PDF syllabus), and an elective entitled “Reading the Qur’an” (PDF syllabus).

What about you, dear readers? What are you teaching (or taking) this semester?

Draft syllabus: Intro to Islamic Thought

I have completed a draft syllabus for the Introduction to Islamic Thought elective I’ll be teaching at Shimer this fall. While I still have time to tinker — and I am most open to suggestions on the selections from the Qur’an — I am basically “locked in” on the books I’m using and don’t have the space to add anything into an already crowded syllabus. I hope to offer the course again soon as a way of solidifying my own knowledge, though, so I’d keep any suggestions in mind for future iterations.

One challenge of offering this course at Shimer is the fact that our primary source-only, no-lecture format made it very difficult to work in the necessary background information. Hence I lean on ibn Khaldun to give me background on Bedouin life and on the Caliphate (the excerpts at the beginning and middle of the syllabus, respectively), in addition to treating him as an important thinker in his own right at the end of the course. I am also using extracts from ibn Ishaq’s Life of Muhammad, supplemented by a simple timeline to help them get the overall flow of the narrative. At times I sneak the editor or translator’s introductions into the reading assignment as well.

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to the various advice threads I’ve posted. You may be hearing from me again in the fall, as I’m planning to propose an elective for the spring semester on the Qur’an. It’s long past time for me to seriously engage with Islam — and even if it didn’t exactly fit with my plans for the summer to develop a course on the topic, I’m glad that Shimer gave me the necessary kick in the pants by assigning me to do it.

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Two requests for suggestions

Last year’s instructors of Humanities 1 (Art and Music) developed a new format for the class that is loosely organized around Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a text that has inspired a lot of art and music and is also in large part about human creativity. There were, however, a couple things that didn’t fit as well into that framework, including Svetlana Alpers’ The Vexation of Art: Velasquez and Others. The goal was to provide some art criticism from a woman in a class where it is otherwise difficult to find women’s work to include — and so I ask you, dear readers, if anyone by chance knows of another work of art criticism by a woman that has more direct overlap with art inspired by Ovid. (I know this is a weirdly specific request and probably something of a long-shot.)

In addition, for my elective over Being and Time, I have tentatively decided to begin with a couple days each on phenomenology and hermeneutics, then work through The Concept of Time (i.e., the unpublished book review that is billed as “the first draft of Being and Time,” not the lecture series with a similar title). Given that we’ll be reading through Being and Time in painstaking detail, I thought using his shorter “first draft” would be a good way to get an overview of the project as a whole without biasing them toward any particular scholar’s interpretation of it. A colleague of mine has a good text of Husserl’s in mind, and another has recommended some passages from Gadamer — but I would prefer to use Dilthey if possible, given that that’s who Heidegger is directly discussing. Does anyone know of a good essay or chunk that we could spend a day or two on?

Please note: I am not planning to use any secondary sources for the Heidegger course, so I would prefer that you not make any recommendations of that kind. (And just to make sure: yes, I am aware of Simon Critchley’s online introduction to Being and Time.)

I Am Larry David: Are You Qualified to Teach Edition

Following the comments on Adam’s recent post, “Relationship Learning,” I felt compelled to tell this story.

I long while back, shortly after I began my Ph.D. program at Drew, I had a student formally challenge my ability to teach an introduction course to the adminstration of Laughable Community College, mainly because the student was caught plagiarizing twice in my course.  The dean took this complaint from the student quite seriously–I have stories about this dean to share another time–and she went through my file.  As it happens, no one asked me to provide transcripts to prove that I in fact have a master’s degree from the University of Chicago.  So she summoned me to her office and acted as if I was in big trouble, and they were going to withhold my pay for the summer course I was then teaching until I could provide an official graduate transcript.  She assured me that this had nothing to do with quality of instruction, but “we must take concerns about the faculty’s reputation seriously.”

Fair enough, I don’t have a problem sending transcripts.

So the transcripts came a week or two later, and I was again requested to meet to her office. Read the rest of this entry »

Shimer Syllabi

Classes start on Tuesday, so I thought I’d post my Shimer syllabi thus far, with a little commentary. Read the rest of this entry »

Philosophy of Religion syllabus

I have posted the syllabus for my Philosophy of Religion course on Scribd. This is the last course I’ll be designing for Kalamazoo College, and it is also (somewhat strangely) my first time actually teaching philosophy.

Certain commenters will probably be gratified to see that I’m finally teaching Mary Daly, albeit not in the Feminist Theologies course — she does say, after all, that Beyond God the Father is an attempt at feminist philosophy.


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