Why study the humanities?

The study of the humanities provides students with invaluable resources for later life, regardless of their future career. Classes that require careful reading and effective communication allow students to develop practices of reflective attention that are broadly useful and profoundly enriching.

My courses reflect my interest in contemporary theory and Christian thought, with a particular focus on the way in which religious and political concepts influence each other. For instance:


The Politics of Hope

Hope is a crucial point of contact between religion and politics. Because Judaism and Christianity are oriented by divine promises that remain unfulfilled, they have developed sophisticated traditions of reflection on hope. For similar reasons, from Immanuel Kant to Barack Obama, many modern have appealed to hope in order to promote political change. In both cases, hope constitutes an ethical discipline that endures uncertainty, but in both cases hope sometimes goes wrong. This class examines the relation between religious and political hopes in order to clarify what hope is, why it matters, and how it is dangerous.

Religion and Culture

For thousands of years, the Bible has been a source of inspiration for Jews, Christians, atheists, and others. People of faith have drawn on the Bible in order to reflect on how to think, how to pray, and how to live, but the book has also influenced artists, philosophers, and musicians who don't identify as religious at all. The dizzying variety of biblical interpretation offers a kaleidoscopic lens on the ways that religion and culture influence each other. More broadly, because the Bible has been interpreted in such diverse times and places, its unpredictable history raises fundamental questions about the nature and importance of interpretation.

Spirituality and Power

It can be difficult for resistance to find a foothold at a time in which rebellion has become a way to sell cars and clothing. It is for this reason, some say, that spirituality is so important, for it inspires imagination of radically changed ways of being. This course begins with readings from Michel Foucault that characterize the dominant modern forms of power and describe their relation to a spirituality of self-care. Against this background, we compare the diverse ways in which thinkers from Martin Luther King to Latin American liberation movements articulate a spirituality of resistance, and we analyze the relationship between spirituality and commodification in contemporary political movements.