RELI 235: Religion and Literature

RELI 235-004: Religion and Literature
(Spring 2023)

12:00 PM to 01:15 PM MW

Blue Ridge Hall 129

Section Information for Spring 2023

RELI 235 - 004: Religion and Literature

Referred to by some as “the Bible of the ancient Maya,” the Popol Wuj (or Popol Vuh, “Book of the Council”) is the oldest and most complete collection of religious epics and creation stories written by any Native American group in either North or South America. Compiled and edited into a single volume by Maya elites in the 1550s, this set of Maya myths and pre-Hispanic history has become an increasingly influential text since its rediscovery in the 1850s. Archeologists use it as a lens to interpret scenes depicted on ancient murals and pottery. Ethnohistorians (historians interested in Native accounts of the Americas prior to and immediately during the arrival of Europeans) comb it for Indigenous understandings of society, time, and the cosmos. Latin American authors—namely in modernism and magical realism—were inspired by its non-linear and fantastical narratives. Post-colonial theorists cite it as evidence of Native resistance to Spanish and Catholic hegemony since the sixteenth century. And present-day Maya and other Native American activists—many within the Catholic and Protestant churches—make it a core of religious and social movements that in 1992 critiqued the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage and the subsequent “doctrine of discovery.”

The first portion of this course will center on a close reading of the Popol Wuj in light of the wider literary (particularly poetic) and religious traditions of the Highland Maya of Guatemala, especially until and during the initial period of contact with Hispano-Catholicism in the early sixteenth century. From this understanding, in the latter portion of the course, three other ancient Indigenous religious texts will be comparatively studied – that of the Mexica (aka Aztec) of central Mexico, and the Hopi and Diné (aka Navajo) of the U.S. Southwest.

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Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Explores the relationship between religion and literature in different times and cultures, the influence of religion on literary works, and how literature expresses major religious themes such as death and immortality, divine will and justice, suffering and human destiny, and religion and state. Limited to three attempts.
Mason Core: Literature
Schedule Type: Lecture
This course is graded on the Undergraduate Regular scale.

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