HNR 240 – How Religion Makes Bodies: Saints, Cyborgs, Monsters
Bowne Hall 304C
*Class times and locations are subject to change.
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HNR Hum, Collaboration, Interdisciplinary
Class #: 13550 Section: M001 # Credits: 3
Human bodies are shaped by their environments. Variations in climate, diet, and neighboring organisms all impact how and what a human body can be. Human environments are also impacted by human activity – from the changes we make to the ecosystem to the production of images and ideas. These social and cultural environments shape bodies just as the ecosystem does. For example, the drive to be a better athlete may cause you to train your body differently than the drive to be a better dancer. Living in Syracuse in February will change your body in ways that living in Australia in February wouldn’t. Being gendered female or male allows and prohibits access to certain places. Gender, sexuality, race, age, nationality, are some of the concepts that structure and restructure human bodies. Religious practices and ideas shape and are shaped by these structures as well, and in turn shape and re-shape human bodies.
What can a body do? is a central question to religious thinking: What does it mean to be human? To be non-human? What is a human body? Where are its limits? What can a religious body do differently? This question of the body is one way to begin an inquiry into what it means to be human, and religion is one way to think about the limits of embodiment. For example, how is the body of a monk who meditates and eats very little shaped differently than the body of a yogi? How is a Muslim female body seen differently than my male body? This course will use fiction, e.g. Frankenstein, film, and philosophy to look through historical, theological, anthropological, scientific and literary lenses as it raises questions about human embodiment in relation to religious ideas and practices.
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