German Lessons on Religious Studies
First lesson - 16.03.2017 - Prof.Dr. Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universität Berlin)
: "Narrating Narcissus, reflecting cognition: Illusion, disillusion, 'self-cognition' and 'love as passion' in Ovid and beyond"
Since Ovid's version of the Narcissus narrative, numerous readings and re-narrations have emerged across the globe that are related to the ancient myth of the beautiful youth who unwittingly sees himself in a pool of water and eventually dies staring at the insubstantial image. Generating a wide spectrum of reinterpretations of values, ideas, and aesthetic aspects inherent in the ancient narrative, its reception history has continued to elicit some of the most diverse intellectual responses to Greek and Roman mythology, each of them reflecting the cultural context in which they were produced. The present article is devoted to this issue, providing introductory perspectives on the Ovidian narrative and its ramifications by giving particular examples, especially of works taking up central themes of Ovid's version such as reflection and deception, illusion and (self-)cognition, passionate love for another and the incurable desire for oneself. Sensitive to the cultural contexts out of which the examples emerge, the paper conceptually frames the topics of narrative and narcissism and contextualizes them by drawing on insights from several theoretical strands and academic disciplines.
Second lesson - 25.05.2017 - Prof.Dr. Alexandra Grieser (Trinity College Dublin)
: "Aesthetics of Religion: what it is, and what it is good for?"
Studying religion has long been dominated by focussing on texts, doctrines and beliefs. However, to get a full picture of the power of religious "ways of worldmaking" (N. Goodman) it is important to understand that, to a large extent, this power builds on aesthetic forms - images and imagination, artefacts and architecture and body practices that design experiences of other-than-everyday realities. In the study of culture, several approaches have responded to this insight: visual, spatial and material culture, media studies, the anthropology of the senses and cognitive psychology as well.
In close relationship with these developments, during the 1990s an Aesthetics of Religion emerged as a distinct approach that examines religion from the angle of sensory perception, and the question of how humans make sense of their world through their senses. Referring to the Greek notion of aisthesis rather than the 18th century tradition of a philosophy of art and beauty, an Aesthetics of Religion, firstly, studies how the senses are cultivated, restricted and governed within religious traditions, and how religions - just as a "total work of art" (Gesamtkunstwerk) - form communities and selves by engaging sight, sound, smell, and taste as much as emotions and the moving and sensing body. Secondly, an Aesthetics of Religion examines how religious ways of cultivating the body and the senses are interlinked with the "perceptual orders" of the larger societies they are embedded in. Using examples from diverse traditions and eras, it will be explored how studying religion as an embodied practice can help to shed light on underexposed phenomena; to renew comparative methods; and to grasp the difficult relationship between the aesthetic and the political in a religious and secular world. See for the current state of the project: AESToR.net
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