Topics for Paper I, REL253 Religion, Love, & Death: East & West

Due Monday, October 15, 2012, in class.

Topics: Select just one topic from below:

Topics on the Narrative Self: Self as Story

1. Compare and contrast the view of the narrative self (self-as-story), as presented by any two of the authors we have examined from Week I (Brockelman, Bruner, Foucault). Discuss at least two points of similarities, and two possible points of difference. Conclude with a discussion of whether their views are ultimately reconcilable, or whether their views are ultimately incompatible, and give the reasons why you find that to be the case. Giving an example may also be helpful.

2. In examining the role and nature of secrecy in the religious lives of English women in seventeenth-century England, Elspeth Graham describes the need for and power of secrecy in their lives. Hilde Nelson, in Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair, discusses why private stories of damaged identities need to be brought out in public to change the master narrative of the dominant culture, and also so that the personal or private stories of individuals can be repaired. Are Graham's views of secrecy, and Nelson's view of publicly challenging master narratives, compatible or incompatible? And why? Giving an illustration may be helpful.

3. In "Naomi: Dancer from the Dance," Robert Akeret presents the case of a woman who 'changes her story' from Naomi to Isabella and then back to Naomi again (but a different Naomi). Discuss two of the other authors we have read so far in class (for example, Bruner and Campbell), and why the story of Naomi/Isabella serves to illustrate their theories. Spend at least two paragraphs taking into account possible objections to the idea that her story fits their ideas.

4. In "Naomi: Dancer from the Dance," Robert Akeret presents the case of a woman who 'changes her story' from Naomi to Isabella back to Naomi (but a different Naomi). Use two other readings from the course to examine her story (stories), one to show how effectively she creates her story-self, the other to question whether she created a successful story (stories) after all. (For example, would Nelson agree or disagree that Naomi represents a case of successful narrative repair or not?)

5. Use one of the theories of self-as-story from week one (Brockelman, Bruner, Foucault) to examine the life of one of the women presented by Elspeth Graham in "Pondering All These Things in Her Heart." Beyond what Graham provides, what does the use of this theory add to our understanding of the woman's life?

6. Show how Adele's performance of "Someone Like You" at the Royal Albert Hall illustrates at least one idea of the narrative self (story-as-self) from each of three sources we have read for the course so far. Give a brief discussion of how at least one of these ideas has influenced your viewing of this performance. The video can be found at:

If this link does not work, you can do a search for: "Adele Someone Like You includes speech"

Topics on Religion, Love, and Death

7. Discuss how ideas from sources so far in the course have influenced or thinking about themes of religion, love, and death as they unfold in narratives or stories of the self. Use at least two sources. As part of your discussion, discuss one critical question or possible problem with one of the readings.

8. Discuss specifically the following, citing appropriate passages from the readings: How does Foucault see death related to authorship? How does Brockelman see faith as necessary to the narrative self (self-as-story)? How does Nelson see caring relationships with others (loving relationships) as integral to narrative repair (repairing the identity and agency of self-as-story)? At the end briefly discuss (one or two paragraphs) how these ideas about faith, love, and death may or may not be compatible with one another.

9. Elspeth Graham, in "Pondering All These Things in Her Heart," discusses the role of faith and the supernatural in the stories of Anne Wentworth and Elizabeth Delaval. Discuss how the introduction of these religious elements affects the structure or functioning of the narrative self (self-as-story) in a way that differs from the introduction of other elements or motifs. Provide some reflection on whether these narratives of faith and/or the supernatural are ultimately effective or harmful in these women's abilities to live a life that is fulfilling. (You may substitute the stories of some of the other women discussed by Graham for those of Wentworth and Delaval.)

10. Discuss how Nelson's theory of counterstory can be seen at work in Adele's performance of "Someone Like You" at the Royal Albert Hall. How does counterstory help us to understand Adele's experience of love: How does it help to repair her narrative; how does it help to counter the dominant narrative; how, if at all, does it help to repair Adele's infiltrated consciousness? As part of this, examine how Adele can own the story of her broken love yet not fall victim to the sense of being abandoned (Hint: How does she create a story of rising above her sense of brokenness? This may be more complex than it first appears. For example, there might be a significant difference between Adele's song, "Someone Like You," and a hypoethical song, "Someone Better Than You.") The video can be found at:

If this link does not work, you can do a search for: "Adele Someone Like You includes speech"