Topics for Paper II, REL 353 Dark Self

Due Monday, January 31, 12:00 noon: Submit to Canvas.

TOPICS A (Select one of the following topics)

1. In the Bhagavad Gita, the God Krishna teaches Arjuna that the path to liberation (transcendence) involves duty to this world carried out without attachment, even if it means killing one's relatives. In Fear and Trembling, Johannes de Silentio (Kierkegaard) writes that the Knight of Faith resigns himself from (transcends) this world and thereby regains the world. As an example, he takes up God's command to Abraham to kill his son Isaac, calling Abraham the father of faith. Discuss similarities and differences between Arjuna's path of nonattachment as a warrior and Abraham's Knight of Faith.

2. In Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard defines the self as a relation between: finitude and infinite; necessity and possibility; and so on.
Option A: Discuss how Frankl would view/criticize Kierkegaard's model of the relational self.
Option B: Discuss how Jacques Lusseyran would view/criticize Kierkegaard's model of the relational self.
(You may write this paper in the first person voice of Frankl or Lusseyran  if that makes it easier. No matter what format you adopt, you must still document your ideas with page references/quotations.)

3. In A Trans Christian Minister Came Out in a Sermon, author Emily VanDerWerff relates how the trans minister Junia Joplin expanded upon the Abraham-Isaac episode that is at the center of Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling. Discuss how this discussion might or might not affect the view that Kierkegaard presents of Abraham as the Knight of Faith.

4. Frankl seeks to resist the evil of his times even while seemingly helpless in the concentration camp. Discuss two episodes in which he finds ways to resist the infiltration of the Nazi attempt to break prisoner's spirits by finding meaning internally (ex. vision of his love for his wife) and one episode in which he finds meaning by acting outwardly, by, for example, helping a fellow prisoner. Also, discuss why he would not accept the idea that the Capo (Nazi collaborators among the campmates) are finding meaning by helping the Nazis.

5. Would Kierkegaard, as author of Sickness Unto Death, see Viktor Frankl as sinful or as free from sin? Why or why not? (Hint: This is a subtle topic.)

6. Select one episode from Frankl's account in Man's Search for Meaning and one episode from Cheryl Strayed's Wild and compare how they find inner strength from within. If Frankl finds meaning, what does Strayed find? Does she find meaning, or something that is infinite, beyond meaning? You can draw on other passages from their works to expand on your thoughts.

7. Although Cheryl Strayed journey in Wild is not explicitly religious, one might argue that she is on a kind of spiritual journey, a pilgrimage of sorts, even concluding her journey at the "Bridge of the Gods." Discuss two or three episodes in her journey in which she faces issues of life and death or profound loss and overcomes them as part of her spiritual journey. Discuss at least at least one of the following themes: a) Physical struggle leads to dealing with deep emotional and spiritual issues, b) spirituality is embodied, c) there is a sacred power in nature that enables emotional and spiritual healing.

8. Relate what you wrote about in your first paper to one or two texts/thinkers we have read in the course so far. Discuss how these texts/thinkers have changed or affected the views and/or experiences expressed in the first paper. What are some points in these texts/thinkers that you disagree with or that trouble you? If you choose to write on this topic relating your first essay to the readings, then please resubmit your first essay along with your second paper.


TOPIC B (In selecting this topic, you can build on your story throughout the course, adding new sections to your story each time.)

RELATE TO YOUR FIRST PAPER. You are not required but may use your first paper as inspiration.

You will create a character - fiction or non-fiction, one you create or someone you know, or even yourself - and write a brief story. You can write about this person in the FIRST PERSON OR THIRD PERSON (your own voice, the character's own voice, or the narrator's third-person description). This character is facing darkness on two fronts, externally and internally. For example, they may be facing externally: a natural disaster, illness, loss of relationship, violence or abuse; they may be facing internally: emotional turmoil, shame, guilt, anger, depression, loss of meaning, confusion. You will create the beginning of a story in which you incorporate 2 or 3 of the ideas below:

1) Suzy Hansen/James Waller's in "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Evil": How ordinary people can become involved with profound evil when society or community is in the grips of an evil leader or movement.
2) Hilde Nelson's notion of "counterstory" and how the self either fails to or is able to overcome "denial of opportunity" and "infiltrated consciousness" (gaslighting)
3) One of Kierkegaard's ideas from Sickness Unto Death, such as despair caused by clinging to something finite or become lost in infinite imagination. You can also select an idea from Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling such as 'infinite resignation,' the sense of letting go of any finite source of happiness.
4) The story of Abraham and Isaac as reflecting the dark side of Biblical religion.
5) Trans minister Junia Joplin's views regarding the story of Abraham and Isaac and her understanding of God (CP4a).
6) From the Bhagavad Gita: the idea that by becoming non-attached as one acts in a world of conflict, one become more fully aware of karmic circumstances, including the emotional impact of one's actions.
7) From the Bhagavad Gita: how devotion to the divine might be (mis)interpreted to justify violence or war.
8) The psychologist Jung's idea of confronting the Shadow within, or the idea of being retraumatized by a psychological complex as internalized trauma.
9) The escape into substance abuse or sexual promiscuity to deal with tragic loss or death described by Cheryl Strayed.
10) The healing power of a vivid experience of oneness with nature such as described by Henry Shukman and/or Cheryl Strayed.
11) Henry Shukman's idea of awakening to an experience of cosmic oneness as helping to cast light on previously hidden wounds and opening new possibilities for one's future story
12) Appealing to the vertical dimension of inneer depth or transcendence to find new sources for inspiration beyond the horizontal dimension of society, as found in any of the readings from Kierkegaard onwards.

To show your understanding of the readings, you can incorporate direct quotations into your story and/or provide parenthetical page references in your story, or provide a bibliography at the end or provide a bibliography at the end with some quotations from the works you cite that correspond to the ideas in your story.