The seminar focuses on the formation of “spirituality” in American culture from the Transcendentalist world of Ralph Waldo Emerson on through more recent expressions of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” sensibility. How did “spirituality” come to be seen as something positively distinct from “organized religion”? What are the main contours of spiritual seeking in American culture, especially among those who claim no specific religious affiliation? The course also explores the social, political, and cultural consequences of this turn to the spiritual over the religious: for example, the consecration of liberal individualism, the relationship of religious exploration to both environmentalism and consumerism, the politics of cultural appropriation, the negotiation of religious pluralism, and the pursuit of the spiritual in art.
- Fall 2016: taught by Prof. Leigh Eric Schmidt
- Fall 2018: taught by Prof. Leigh Eric Schmidt
This is probably the best class I have taken since I started college. If you are interested by spiritual biography, you have to take this class.
— Fall 2018
I'm really glad I got to read some of the books we read in this class; I likely would not have read them otherwise and they really did teach me a lot about different perspectives in American spirituality.
— Fall 2018