Religious Studies | Religion and Sex in America (previous # R391)
C355 | 30895 | S. Johnson


COLL S&H distribution & Area C-The Americas for major and minor.

Sex has been a primary category for imagining American religion.
Pueblo religion employed meanings about sex to demarcate boundaries
of sacred order and to explain cosmic origins.  Puritan settlements
emphasized rigorous discipline over the body through discourse about
sex.  Utopian societies of the Shakers and Oneida defined religious
identity through regulating sexual practices.  Movements of
religious renewal among Jews, Africanists, Goddess spiritualists,
and the Christian Right in twentieth-century America have
demonstrated the sheer variety of complex means whereby Americans
have discovered ‘authentic’ roots, origins, and tradition by
appealing to purity laws, polygamous marriage, abstinence, and
sexual freedom.  How did sex come to serve such a productive
function in Americans’ invention and maintenance of religious
identities?  What is the history of marriage in America?  Is
marriage a religious institution?  Is it secular? Why is religion in
America so deeply wed to a love-hate relationship with sex?  How
have religion and sex become intertwined in the American exercise of
ideological and political power?  And why does the U.S. secular
state invest in religious authority in order to regulate sex and
marriage but not other cultural domains like banking and
healthcare?  It is in rejoinder to such problems that this course
will examine the cultural history of sex as a central means of
imagining and performing American religion.  This course of study
will equip students with a rigorous knowledge of the history of
American religion and sex while cultivating keen analytical skills
to enable their understanding of the complex relationship between
the forceful issues of religion and sex in contemporary American
society. The course will follow a chronological sequence to examine
the cultural history of American religion and sex from the early
modern era to the present.  The course emphasizes readings in
critical historiography and cultural theory examining American
religion and sex.  Students will also read primary texts in the form
of early and contemporary literature, missionary documents,
theological tracts, and legal documents from early and contemporary
periods concerning the regulation of marriage and sex. In addition,
this course requires students to undertake a major research project,
for which students will be encouraged to utilize the archives of the
Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Credit given for either C355 or R391.