|Writing Faith: Religious Biography and Autobiography|
|Religious Studies 400A/500A
Fall Semester 2003
Writing Faith: Religious Biography and Autobiography is an elective course designed for graduate students with Religious Studies either as their coordinating or co-discipline. Although it is restricted neither to Religious Studies students nor to graduate students, it is an advanced seminar, and as such does assume a certain measure of theoretical familiarity and background of study. The course is designed to highlight issues related to the various ways in which prominent (and not so prominent) religious figures have written about their own spiritual lives, and how they have been interpreted by others.
204C Haag Hall
|Office Hours:||6:00 - 7:00 Thursday, or by appointment|
|Class Location:||Royall Hall 202|
|Time:||7:00 - 9:45 Thursday|
Required Reading | Class Schedule | Coursework and Evaluation | Academic Honesty | Important Note
There are thirteen required texts for this class. Textbooks for the class may be purchased from the UMKC bookstore, or other outlets at the student's convenience. Note that this is not the order in which these texts will be read. Required texts for the class are:
Alexander. Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father.
Augustine. Confessions. (Any unabridged edition will do.)
Bharati, Agehananda. The Ochre Robe: An Autobiography. (This book is out-of-print, but there are several library editions available through Merlin and Moebius, as well as numerous used editions available through a variety of Internet sources.)
Boyd, Doug. Mad Bear: Spirit, Healing, and the Sacred in the Life of a Native American Medicine Man.
Brodie, Fawn M. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Josephy Smith, the Mormon Prophet.
Curott, Phyllis. Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess.
Day, Dorothy. The Long Loneliness.
Lew, Alan. One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi.
MacKenzie, Vickie. Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment.
Merton, Thomas. The Seven Storey Mountain.
Moin, Baqer. Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah.
Polner, Murray, and Jim O'Grady. Disarmed and Dangerous: The Radical Life and Times of Daniel and Philip Berrigan.
Yogahananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi.
There will be one assigned text per week. Students will be expected to have read the entire text carefully, and to come to class well prepared to discuss issues raised by the author(s). This class will be conducted in seminar format; the readings for each week will be introduced by student presentations. Rather than simply a précis of the work, students will be expected to discuss intelligently the issues and questions raised in the work by the author(s). This includes: (a) the major issues addressed by the author(s) and conclusions reached; (b) the theory and method(s) employed in the study; (c) a critical evaluation of the strengths and limitations of the work; and (d) the significant questions or issues which are raised by the study
|August 28, 2003||Introduction to the course|
|September 4, 2003||
|September 11, 2003||
Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness.
|September 18, 2003||
Alexander, Father Arseny, 1893-1973.
|September 25, 2003||
Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi.
|October 2, 2003||
Agehananda Bharati, The Ochre Robe.
|October 9, 2003||
Vickie MacKenzie, Cave in the Snow.
|October 16, 2003||
Alan Lew, One God Clapping.
|October 23, 2003||
Doug Boyd, Mad Bear.
|October 30, 2003||
Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows.
|November 6, 2003||
Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History.
|November 13, 2003||
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain.
|November 20, 2003||
Murray Polner and Jim O'Grady, Disarmed and Dangerous.
|December 4, 2003||
Baqer Moin, Khomeini: Life of the Ayatollah.
|December 11, 2003||Class presentations of research.|
Coursework and Evaluation
Students will be evaluated on (a) class participation, (b) their presentation(s) of weekly readings, and (c) an original research essay on a topic of their choice, but within the purview of the course. Class attendance is mandatory, and only excused absences arranged in advance with Prof. Cowan will be permitted.
|A note about using the Internet: students are permitted to use the Internet to conduct secondary research only under the following two conditions: (1) secondary print corroborative sources are used in the presentation and the research paper; or (b) sources are Internet-based and only available online. Failure to abide by these conditions will seriously affect the student's evaluation.|
Essays by graduate students should be between 6000-7000 words, and written to conform to the style of a particular academic journal, to which such an essay might be submitted for consideration for publication. As part of the research project, students will be expected to identify which journal would be an appropriate venue for their paper and to employ that journal's length, documentation, research, and discourse protocols in the preparation of their papers.
Essays by undergraduate students should be between 2500-3000 words, and include proper citation and documentation. Click for examples of possible documentation styles.
Final research papers are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, December 12, 2003. Since the only opportunity I have to offer feedback occurs if students turn in research drafts, I require that all students do so. There is a three-step process for this: (a) you must clear your topic with me by the third week of class; (b) first drafts are due in class on October 30. You may email me these drafts, or give them to me in hard copy. And (c), final papers are to be submitted in hard copy; email submissions will be returned to the student unread.
|Rather than a traditional research paper, in keeping with the content matter of this course each student will choose a religious figure, and write his or her paper about some aspect of that person's life. Students may not choose anyone covered in class sessions. However, students are encouraged to concentrate on particular aspects of a person's biography as these relate to the development of religious traditions, spirituality, or theological evolution. Thus, papers may be literary biographies, theological biographies, or social history. Simple biographies that describe in narrative form when a person lived and where, what that person is remembered (or not) for, and when he or she died are not acceptable. In their papers, students are expected to wrestle with the meaning of a person's life, not simply the details of their existence.|
Note well that class participation is not the same as class attendance. In seminar courses such as this, simply reading the class material accounts for only a small percentage of the learning that takes place. Rather, the majority of learning occurs in the midst of class interaction, discussion, and often disgreement---with each other, with the text under consideration, and with the instructor. At the Ph.D. level, this interaction is particularly important, and the crucial thing to remember is this: You don't have to be right all the time, but you do have to step up and at least risk being wrong.
Click here to see my grading scale, and here to see a written presentation rubric on which assessment is based.
Please note that Prof. Cowan has a zero tolerance policy for plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Consequences can range from course failure (for undergraduate students) to dismissal from the academic program in which a student is enrolled (for graduate students). If you are unclear about what constitutes plagiarism, click here. Click here to see under what conditions Prof. Cowan will exhibit leniency towards plagiarism.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City