Topics for Paper 3, REL 253 Religion, Love, and Death

Due Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012 in class.


1. Love in the The Color Purple
Eros is the partial, relative love among human beings: of family, friends, lovers. Agape is divine love that is impartial and infinite, like God that loves all creation, including the color purple. In The Color Purple, describe two instances or episodes where eros conflicts with agape, and two instances or episodes where eros is transformed into, or forms a bridge, to agape. Spend one or two paragraphs reflecting on the role of the body in eros and agape.
2. Death in the Zhuangzi and in Jacob's Ladder
What are two similarities and two differences in the views of death expressed in the Zhuangzi and in Jacob's Ladder? As part of your examination, discuss how their views of the larger reality of life and death factor into these similarities and differences. (Hint: Zhuangzi, it could be argued, sees death as part of nature (p. 115), and nature is an unfolding of the Dao, or Way, beyond words. Is the reality of death in Jacob's Ladder an infinite light beyond all distinctions? Or, is it an escape from a real hell to a real heaven?)
3. Zhuangzi's Butterfly and Jacob's Ladder
The butterfly episode from the Zhuangzi (p. 44) can be interpreted as calling into question any identity based on the finite, relative world of appearances ("butterfly," "human being"), dissolving the boundaries between diverse perspectives to disclose the boundless Dao, or Way, beyond words. In what ways is this similar to the progression between different "realities" in Jacob's Ladder? (Hint: The themes may differ, with, for example, Zhuangzi a peaceful scene of nature. Or, depending on how one interprets Jacob's Ladder, it may be seen as expressing "heaven" as the ultimate realm sharply contrasted with "hell.")
4. Celie in The Color Purple and Zhuangzi
Create an imaginary dialogue between Celie and Zhuangzi discussing the nature of love, nature, and spirit. Think about what the divine spirit is for Celie, and what the spirit of the Dao is for Zhuangzi. Use the first person voice in creating this dialogue, as if writing a play. Be sure to include specific references or page numbers from the course materials.

5. Freud and Augustine on Jacob's Ladder
Create an imaginary dialogue in which Freud and Augustine discuss the relation between human love, sexuality, and religion in Jacob's Ladder. Incorporate ideas of super-ego, id (source of libido - eros and thanatos), and repression from Freud; and confession and faith from Augustine. Use the first person voice in creating this dialogue, as if writing a play. Be sure to include specific references or page numbers from the course materials. You may refer to online lecture notes as well as course readings for specific references.
6. The Storied Self in Jacob's Ladder
Using ideas from two of the following thinkers - Brockelman, Bruner, and Foucault - discuss the nature of storied self as expressed in the character of Jacob Singer in Jacob's Ladder. Is there one true timeline, one true story of the self for Jacob in the film? Is his memory of the past a moving target that is never grounded in a unified reality? Are there many selves, interrelated but fragmented?

7. Influence of Course Readings
Describe how two of the readings from the course thus far have changed or influenced your view of religion, love, and death. At least one of those sources must be from Week 5 onwards. If you selected this topic for Paper 2, do not overlap sources. BE SURE TO INCLUDE PAGE REFERENCES FROM THE READINGS.