Religious Studies | Self and Society in Religious Autobiography
R202 | 4615 | Graham


R202 Self and Society in Religious Autobiography (Graham) (3 credits)
Daily, 10:30-11:20 SY 200

In this course we will read several religious autobiographies.  One
(Augustine's Confessions) is an early Christian classic that has for many
readers defined the genre of religious autobiography.  The others are
twentieth century, mostly American, and represent a variety of religious
traditions and relationships to religions.  They will be chosen from the
following list (not all of these will be included): Thomas Merton, The
Seven Story Mountain; Malcolm X, Autobiography; Mary Crow Dog, Lakota
Woman; Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table; Mary
McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood; Ayya Khema, I Give You My Life:
the Autobiography of a Western Buddhist Nun; Ann Lamott, Traveling
Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.  We may also do a little reading of
secondary literature on religious autobiography, but the main focus will
be on the autobiographies themselves.

The author's religious life or relationship to a religious tradition
figures prominently in the life narrative presented to the reader in each
of these books.  These stories offer many themes to talk and write about,
including: (1) the process of gaining self-understanding or personal
identity; (2) the relationship of this search to the individual's with and
understanding of her or his family, community, and society; (3) the
purposes of these narratives in presenting them to the public; (4)
questions of truth or accuracy in these narratives.

This course will be conducted primarily as a discussion-oriented seminar
or reading group, with enough background presented by the instructor to
help make sense of the author's life and situation as presented in the
autobiography.  Students will be graded on attendance and participation,
and completion of three papers (approximately 5 pages each).  Questions?
Contact Mark Graham (email: mwgraham@indiana.edu).