Religious Studies | Majors Seminar in Religion: Religious Asceticism
R389 | 11826 | D. Brakke


Why do people give up sex, food, sleep, and other features of a "normal" life for religion?
What do such people hope to accomplish through such acts?  Are they true saints or just
neurotics?  How do scholars of religious studies understand the meaning and value of
"asceticism," a life of disciplined renunciation for God?  We will explore these questions by
looking at some classic examples of ascetic behavior by Christian monks and nuns and Hindu
renouncers, and we will read some theoretical interpretations of religious asceticism.  Among
the authors we will consider are Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, Michel Foucault, and Gavin
Flood.  Lots of discussion, a short paper or two, and a longer essay on a topic developed by
the student with the instructor.