This course rotates around the shifting notion of the divine in Western Civilization, focusing on theology, philosophy, literature, and music. Students explore the development of the three major prophetic religions as well as some of the mystical movements they fostered. Discussions rotate around the King James Bible, Augustine’s Confessions, the Koran, Maimonides’ The Guide for the Perplexed, the Zohar, and Spinoza’s work as a cornerstone to the Enlightenment. Secularism in modern culture is contemplated and the contemporary atheist movement of Dawkins and Hitchens is analyzed. Music explorations range from Johann Sebastian Bach to John Cage; in science, from Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking; and in film, from Ingmar Bergman to Woody Allen. Readings include parts of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Kafka’s The Castle, Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, Borges’ “The Secret Miracle” and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Stavans.