Faith in Literature (LIT2562.01)

Nicolette Polek

In his book The Secular Age, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor writes about what he describes as a “widespread sense of loss … if not always of God, then at least of meaning.” This contemporary crisis of meaning has been well-considered by social scientists, journalists, and artists. In the wake of this, some wonder whether we are entering a “post-secular” age, with a renewed interest in religious themes and symbols. Is faith something opposed to reason, or a precondition for it? Is faith arbitrarily restrictive, or abundantly creative? How can one live a meaningful life amidst uncertainty and suffering?

One place these themes get explored is in fiction, and in particular, the novel. This literature course will delve into the profound interplay between fiction, faith, culture, and meaning. We will chart culture’s move from enchantment to disenchantment, and to the question of reenchantment today, through the close reading of fiction by Graham Greene, James Baldwin, Clarice Lispector, Marilynne Robinson, Sheila Heti, and more. This course encourages critical thinking and interdisciplinary dialogue on the sacred, the transcendent, and how narratives evoke wonder, disillusionment, and the possibility of reenchantment, while also questioning the presumed dichotomy between “sacred” and “secular” art. Students will be required to complete reading responses, and write two papers, one of which can be creative with a critical introduction.


Learning Outcomes:
1. To gain a familiarity with close reading of literary texts in multiple genres, especially fiction.
2. To build a greater facility with the language of literary criticism and analysis.
3. To write frequent responses using prompts and other support.
4. To navigate freely between "sacred" and "secular" methods of understanding.
5. To propose, research and write a critical paper with a clear methodology.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 2000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature
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