L57 RelPol 209

Scriptures and Cultural Traditions: Texts & Traditions

Fall 2019, M/W 10:00–11:20AM

This course will work to define the concept of “Scriptures” and their treatment in U.S. society and culture.

line drawing of three people teaching superimposed on each other

Certain books, “sacred scriptures,” shape U.S. society and culture in powerful and complex ways. Many religious communities believe that Scriptures are ancient texts that are ever­ flowing sources of timeless truths. Some religious movements, of which Mormonism has been the most successful example, have claimed to have uncovered or revealed new scriptures as a means of explaining their cultural authority. This course will, first, work to define the concept of “Scriptures” with particular attention to the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament. Second, we will attend to how varying motifs within them informed and were altered by the very creation of the American nation. Third, we will explore the enduring interest in extending scripture through the discovery or creation of new sacred texts, such as the Book of Mormon and later scriptural texts such as those associated with Christian Science. Fourth, we will examine the appropriation of the Bible in American political and public life up to the present.

Course history

  • Spring 2016: taught by Prof. Laurie Maffly-Kipp and Prof. Mark Valeri