105T | CCN: 31420

Rhetoric of Religious Discourse

Conversion, Conscience, and Communion

Instructor: Rebecca Wiseman

4 Units

This course explores a pivotal period in English history and religious thought, beginning in 1534, when King Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy severed England’s ties to the Catholic Church and established the Church of England, and ending in 1660, the year the English monarchy was reinstated after the English Civil Wars. Borrowing methodological approaches from the sociology of religion, we will think about how politics, faith, and culture intersect: how subjectivity can be constructed and constrained by rhetorics of religious orthodoxy; how political institutions set the parameters for religious practice and establish the consequences for dissent; how notions of conscience, self-expression, and political speech evolved out of contentious struggles about religious expression and identity; and how ordinary men and women managed conflicts between spiritual obligation and political mandate. We will read a variety of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts, including devotional poems, religious meditations, plays, news accounts, scientific treatises, and philosophical tracts, as we examine religious change as a political, social, and cultural phenomenon. Critical readings will include works by Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Eamon Duffy, Sarah Beckwith, Stephen Greenblatt, and more.