Suggested Topics for Final Paper, WGS 352 Women's Religious Narratives E/W

Due Monday, March 9, in class.

I also strongly encourage you to read the essays on my "Writing Papers" web pages, especially "Four Keys to Writing in the Humanities," "Paper Writing Guidelines," "Checklist for Papers," and "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness."

Joan Frances Casey, The Flock

The Flock is the account of a woman with multiple personalities, with a condition known clinically as diassociative identity disorder. It is the one account that we read for this course in which the main figure does not claim any explicit religious identity. Yet, it may be possible to say that her journey is a spiritual one.

1. Compare and contrast Joan Frances Casey's story with that of one of the other women we read about in the course and discuss why or why not her journey might be regarded as spiritual in nature.

2. Compose a dialogue between Joan Frances Casey and one of the other women read about for the course in which they discuss the nature of a religious journey, and the differences and similarities between their stories in this regard.


Alice Walker, The Color Purple

3. What is the view of spirituality articulated by Walker in The Color Purple through the eyes of the main character Celie? Either a) add one to three pages of commentary by one of the Buddhist authors from the course at the end of the discussion, or b) devote a section of your paper to a comparison with the Buddhist views of one of the authors from the course.

4. Discuss the spiritual lives of two characters, Celie and Shug. How do they differ at the beginning, what are the different kinds of love they share, and what understanding do they develop of one another as the story progresses?


Additional Topics

5. Take any one author and discuss the balance of passion and compassion in her life and thought. How is her passion for justice tempered by her compassion? How is her erotic passion related to her compassion? Is there a moment in which her passion for justice, erotic passion, and compassion come together in a seamless whole? If so, how do they come together. If not, how might they eventually be brought together. Or will their always be some tension between the three? If so, why?

6. Analyze the life of one of the figures we studied as if it were a piece of music: a symphony, concerto, jazz improvisation. Identify themes, variations, silences and climax (spiritual experiences) , movements, and primary melodies and secondary harmonies. Devote one page at the end describing how this musical analogy helps one to understand the significance of mystical experiences in relation to the problem of death, love, and meaning. You may want to choose a specific musical composition as the matrix for your account, such as Beethoven's Appassionata or Miles Davis' So What.

7. Choose any two authors we read and compare their understandings of the relationship between spirituality, sexuality, and oppression/bias based on gender. In doing so, identify the common concerns they share, the significant differences in their method and understanding, and the possible ways in which their differences in similarity illuminate one another. Some themes you might examine in pursuing this topic are the relationships between: immanence and transcendence, adaptation and confrontation, self-transformation and social transformation, experience and ideology.

8. Select any one author and examine the levels of understanding operative in her discourse: intellectual, intuitive, affective, and somatic. How might these levels be related to one another? Is there a hierarchy of understanding? Do they move in and out of one another fluidly? Are there progressive stages of development as seen, for example, in such figures as Maura O'Halloran and Celie in The Color Purple?