Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Relevant Links

Below are links to current stories and articles pertinent to our course focus on God and anti-God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kay Perry on Lady Gaga

For the Lady Gaga admirers in the class, the following from the Hufingtonpost previews Kay Perry's upcoming Rolling Stone cover and her comments on blasphemy & L.GG.
She also talks about her religious upbringing and her 'blasphemy' comment about Lady Gaga. "I am sensitive to Russell English celebrity Brand] taking the Lord’s name in vain and to Lady Gaga putting a rosary in her mouth. I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen. Yes, I said I kissed a girl. But I didn’t say I kissed a girl while f-ing a crucifix.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dawkins & Hitchens Contrasted

From classfellow M.J.:
I thought you might enjoy this opinion article from the New York Times as I think it ties in nicely with our Dawkins - Eagleton essay pair.
A useful comparison between Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens qua atheist.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Islam and Superheroes

From classfellow F.P., this TED video on Islam and superheroes.
Relating to what we have been talking about in class. I have found this video talking about Islam/other religions and superheroes. The beginning of the presentation feels exactly like your lecture. I hope you find it interesting.
I enjoy TED in general, and except for its repetition of the canard about the swasika being a broken crucifix, this was quite good.
  • (TED = a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.)

Final Examination Data

Our Final Examination is Tuesday August 17th 15:30-18:30 in Room B9201.

I'll ask your preference in lecture upcoming for closed book or open book format.
Relax and enjoy....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reflection on "Kingdom Come"

From classfellow J.L, the following interesting reflections;
(Nb. (1.) My lecture claim is that Superman and Captain Marvel, in Kingdom Come, are formed together as a duality that amounts to a Christ-type. (2.) "Orion" is a son of "Darkseid" from the Silver-Age classic New Gods.)
Have you seen Italian sculptor Adrian Tranquilli's series on Superheroes? I find it very interesting how he decided to depict them as vulnerable beings when they're so commonly known as 'super'. I've also noticed that Superman's body language is quite Jesus-like, similar to the visual representation in Kingdom Come you pointed out in lecture.

.... a few questions regarding religion in Kingdom Come:

I know Superman is a representation of Jesus, but is it possible that the four groups (the Justice League, Batman's new league, the Mankind Liberation Front, and the meta-humans) each represent a different religion? They all have very different views on how to do things, and Superman even uses the word "converts".

Connecting back to Hey Nostradamus! and the states of mind (heaven, purgatory, limbo, hell), is there something like this present in Kingdom Come too? When I first read it, I immediately associated Apokolips with hell, but started questioning myself when I realized how calm and seemingly understanding Orion is.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Douglas Coupland on CBC

One recent and one slightly less recent video interview on the CBC website with Douglas Coupland, ahead of his delivery of this year's Massey Lectures.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reminder: Essay Revision

The essay revision is due, as you know, in lecture this Wendesday, and a quick not to make sure all are aware that the essay is graded on the quality of revision in light of the marker's comments and analysis on the original, not simply on the quality of the second essay itself. Be sure to attach your original essay to your revised essay when submitted.

"Kingdom Come" and Current Events

The dialogue that Norman McCay as he walks the streets at the start of Kingdom Come between opposing attitudes to 'superhuman' power has, if one takes the superhero concept as a parable of government, pertinency to present responses to economic circumstances in the West, with the United States of America moving toward an increase in government involvement in society (e.g. State health care; State control of major automotive companies; etc.) and the United Kingdom, on the other side, moving in the opposite direction by (as this Guardian article explains) returning national government power to local authorities.
Cameron promises power for the 'man and woman on the street.'
Prime minister says 'big society' plans will create communities with 'oomph' and denies programme is a mask for public sector cuts.
So, once again, a dialogical representation allows us, the readers, to look at both alternatives and make up our own minds.

Christopher Hitchens' Cancer

A very useful--because of its dialectical character--article on our "New Atheist" exemplar Christopher Hitchens and religious responses to his recent unfortunate discovery that he is suffering from cancer.

The comments are likewise a dialectical trove.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Instructor's Copy-Editing Symbols

Follow this link, as well as this other link, for a legend of the standard copy-editing symbols.

Some of the more frequently-used are the following.
  • SYN: faulty syntax
  • GR: faulty grammar
  • AWK: awkward wording or awkward expression of idea.
  • SP: spelling error
  • PRON: missing or faulty pronoun.
  • AGR: faulty agreement (grammar.)
  • T: incorrect tense (grammar.)
  • M: incorrect mood (grammar.)
  • //: lack of correct parallelism
  • ¶ : faulty paragraph structure
  • CAP: capitalise
  • MM: mixed metaphor
  • NO CAP: don't capitalise
  • CAP: capitalise.
  • WDY: excessive, roundabout or unhelpful wording that obscures the argument.
  • ARG: argument required.
  • STET: ignore comment & leave as was.
  • DEV: faulty or missing development of the argument.
  • TRANS: weak or missing transition.
  • D: faulty diction (e.g. use of jargon or informal idiom.)
  • PASS: passive (usually adjectival rather than adverbial) form
  • WC: faulty word choice
  • WW: wrong word
  • M: choice of grammatical mood.
  • RELEV: irrelevant remark.
  • PETITIO: a petitio principii ('begging the question')—assuming as a conclusion that which needs to be established as a premis. Often in essay argument, a statement delivered as a proof which itself is as yet unproven.
  • UNCL: unclear expression of an idea
  • REP: repetitive wording or repetition of a previously-presented idea.
  • REL: faulty relation of idea or no clear relation to surrounding idea.
  • TRUISM: statement of the obvious: unnecessary.
  • P: faulty punctuation.
  • PL: pluralisation error.
  • ITAL: italicise this text.
  • DEL: delete text
  • PLEON: pleonasm
  • REPORT: book report--i.e. absence of argument. 
  • CIT: missing citation
  • DANGL: dangling modifier.
  • STR: faulty or missing argument structure.
  • R-O: run-on sentence(s).
  • FRAG: sentence fragment
  • CS: comma splice
  • THESIS: misplaced thesis-level sentence
  • X: false statement.
  • INROD: faulty introduction of character, idea, etc.
  • SS: faulty sentence structure
  • INDIR: indirect expression of idea--often by weak or padded syntax.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Can a Man Die? Ay, As the Sun Doth Set."

From classfellow I.K., this literary analysis of Hey Nostradaus! vid. Beddoes' apothegm.
In response to the "Can a man die?" question, I thought mostly of written legacy. 

 Aside from the Earth/Body pulling away from the Sun/Soul, I also considered the emphasis on written document in Hey Nostradamus!.
 Coupland makes constant references to the medium of writing:
 Cheryl "scribbles what becomes her last will and testament on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria..." (back of the book). This "God is nowhere/God is now here" phrase lingers throughout the entire book and her act of writing it down is an additional element which makes her the immortal yearbook picture on the news.
 Jason's story/perspective is told almost entirely via the pink slips of paper, as he madly writes in his work car or on-the-go (at the beach, etc). These slips of paper are enforced as crucially important, both as the sole truth which is to be passed on to his sons, and as the treasured (and ziploc-sealed) manner in which he continues to live for, and give peace to, Heather: "I drove home and put Jason's list of instructions inside a jumbo freezer-size zip-top bag in order to protect his pencilings from rubbing away completely. I removed my shoes and belt and fell into bed, holding an edge of the bag up to my face, and sleep came easily" (228).
 Speaking of Heather, her release comes from the writing she sneakily starts to do while at work (as a court stenographer). Her story is written in this borderline-forbidden manner, and by writing it all out, she immortalizes it for whoever comes across it one day.
Finally, regardless of the mistakes that Reg has made in his life (through his blind and unquestioning faith), he finds hope and solace through the letters that he disperses for Jason. Even if Reg's old age takes the better of his body, or if death defeats him, his changed and bettered self is also immortalized for Jason/whoever else to see one day. His written document of truth and hope will most likely outlive him and therefore assist him on his road to redemption.
 Also notable: Cheryl's parents' and brother's letters to Jason. Did these help them? Were they really that changed? Or did they purposely send these out as a last effort in communication to clear their consciences?
As always, do send these along by e-mail: don't hide your light under a bushel....

Wrath as Love Perverted

À propos the Purgatory section of Hey Nostradamus!, an excellent (and convincing) attempt from classfellow N.C. to explain wrath as Love, perverted.
...[H]ow wrath could be love perverted.
I believe that wrath is brought about when a person has an excessive need for justice, regarding a heinous act or event upon someone or something a person holds dearly to, but couldn't satisfy this need. Thus their need of justice becomes the need for revenge bringing about rage & wrath.
Please keep them coming....

Lady Gaga: A Big Gun Fires

The redoubtable Camille Paglia has a editorial in the New York Times this week on sexual failure and white middle-class prosperity -- "No Sex Please, We’re Middle Class" -- which contains an obiter dicum on Lady Gaga.

Followers of the England tabloid press will have noticed them taking the mick out of the professional sensationalist last week for falling off her footware ....

The American press likewise.

This, recall, by way of illustrating the shallows of popular culture and Douglas Coupland's attempt to find some humanity there (as we did in lecture using Paris Hilton as an exemplary case.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"The Plato Code" Cracked

UPDATE: excellent explanation of this here.

Science historian cracks "the Plato code"

A truly astonishing discovery has just broken on the intellectual world: one whose significance can hardly be overstated. Delightfully -- almost providentially -- it occurs for us during our course, and from a figure who has helped us in our growing understanding of the literature we are studying.

From the article itself:
A science historian at The University of Manchester has cracked “The Plato Code” – the long disputed secret messages hidden in the great philosopher’s writings.... Dr Jay Kennedy’s findings are set to revolutionise the history of the origins of Western thought....The hidden codes show that Plato anticipated the Scientific Revolution 2,000 years before Isaac Newton, discovering its most important idea – the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. The decoded messages also open up a surprising way to unite science and religion. The awe and beauty we feel in nature, Plato says, shows that it is divine; discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Queen's English

Here is a Public Service Announcement on the Queen's English.

The Importance of Paris (Hilton)

Have a read of this (by Christopher Hitchens), and this as well, for tomorrow's introduction to Douglas Coupland. The more time goes by, the more Paris Hilton seems to me like the patron saint of contemporary North American culture....

In the Hitchens polemic, take especial notice of this:
The supposedly "broad-minded" culture turns out to be as prurient and salacious as the elders in The Scarlet Letter. Hilton is legally an adult but the treatment she is receiving stinks—indeed it reeks—of whatever horrible, buried, vicarious impulse underlies kiddie porn and child abuse.

On Douglas Coupland

Classfellow J.L. sends along an interesting Coupland tidbit. (I can't help but add that the Time magazine writer certainly does nothing here to elevate the intellectual standard of popular journalism by his self-aggrandising application, and peurile understanding, of Wittgenstein on language. This, of course, is no reflection on the pertinancy of the article for our purposes.....)

"This is a Time article detailing McDonald's' effort to alter the OED definition of the word 'McJob', coined by Douglas Coupland over twenty years ago.
The late Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that the meaning of a word was derived from the way it is used in language. Not according to McDonald's. The fast-food giant is currently lobbying dictionary publishers to change the meaning of the word McJob — or remove it altogether — on the grounds that it denigrates the company's employees.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Academic English Study Method

An overview of the study method in academic English, along with a breakdown of the University teaching model from general to particular, and a look at Cicero's sexpartite essay arrangement model, is online, here.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Dan Brown’s 20 Worst Sentences

Via classfellow M.J., here are "Dan Brown’s 20 Worst Sentences"--well worth reading the full article.
"And be sure to read some of the comments. They’re funnier than the article. For example:"
Author Dan Brown strode through the brass lobby of a bar and ordered a beer, his eyes white as something white. The bartender had eyes too.
“What’ll it be?” asked the bartender with his mouth. He raised the tone of his voice towards the end of the statement to express that he was asking a question ‘cos when someone speaks to you you can’t see question marks. “What’ll what be?” replied author Dan Brown, answering a question with a question and putting the emphasis on the what part of the reply, showing that the question he just asked is related to the question he was just asked.
The bartender shifted his eyes. A little too shiftily, thought the author (Dan Brown); was it a challenge? Did he recognise me? Was he expecting me? Was I expecting this? Of course I was, I’m Dan Brown. trust no-one Dan. Disassemble him with your brains.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mid-Term Topics

Following the Mid-Term essay criteria posted on the course website, here are the topics from which you chose one.
  1. A dialogic novel is contradistinct to the polemical or didactic novel: a dialogic text avoids a single strong moral position and instead presents two or more opposing positions in dialogue with each other. In a polemic novel, the favoured position is decided by the author; in a dialogic novel, the reader makes his or her own decision. (The difference here is also described as being between polyphonic --'many-sounded'--and monologic--'one-speech'--texts.) Explain whether in your critical judgement Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! is a dialogic or a polemical novel.
  2. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana antithetically represent Christianity in relation to what Brown terms "the Sacred Feminine." Using an analysis of the text on that subject alone, and avoiding any polemic of your own in your essay, argue which one best meets and which one fails to meet Plato's requirement for Truth.
  3. Examine the differing degrees to which the first balanced pair of course essays--A.C. Grayling's versus A.N. Wilson--use argumentum ad populam in their opposing arguments on religion. Make clear your awareness of the fact detailed in lecture that fallacies are flaws in logic but often values in polemical effectiveness. Note that this topic is a very effective means of ensuring that your own essay work in this course (including on the Final Exam) is soundly formed rhetorically and dialectically.

Ayaan Hirst Ali on the CBC

In advance of our study of Monica Ali's Brick Lane, I notice that controversial and under-death-threat writer Ayaan Hirst Ali is in Canada promoting her latest book Nomad: here, in a segment of CBC 's "Q" programme. The CBC article is online here.

I see that the Nomad page on amazon.ca contains blurbs from some of the heavy-hitters among the 'New Atheists.' Here is our anti-Catholic exemplar Christopher Hitchens':
“....the story of a young African woman, born into Islam, who was given every possible occasion to feel grievance, resentment and humiliation yet who has employed her own life as an example of internationalism, tolerance, multiculturalism and the redemption of others. Her humor and irony and fortitude constitute the finest counterpoint to the surly cult of death that presses itself against us. For me, the three most beautiful words in the emerging language of secular resistance to tyranny are Ayaan Hirsi Ali.”
A previous interview on CBC (On the Map with Avi Lewis, 2007) has become notorious: a good example of her controverisal self-positioning.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Religion Humour, from tutorial

TA Jennifer Nahrgang sends alone the following, well worth sharing:

I showed this clip to my class first day. The ingenious Sasha Baron Cohen playing Ali G and interviewing a (quite stern) Roman Catholic Priest, a representative from the Atheist Society, a Jewish Rabbi, and a university professor. It contains some pretty stupid humour [No surprise. Prof.], but I thought it served as a good example of a pretty accepting dialectic round table. ( And a few laughs .....)
I like this Ali G best...

And from classfellow M.P., this:
[Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1] .... is full of jokes against religion, but here are some links to the main points. I hope you enjoy them.

And of course, supreme is Monty Python's Life of Brian.

And here, courtesy of classfellow J.L., is a harsh and vulgar attack on religion: now that's polemic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Misinformation on Final Examation.

It was reported to me today that someone claiming to have been a student in a former iteration of this course was outside tutorial rooms today giving what was presented as intelligence about the Final Examination--specifically, that knowledge of page numbers and text will be tested. This is a falsehood.

The facts of the matter are these. I ask each class with a Final Examination component whether they want an Open Book or a Closed Book examination. Classes that choose Closed Book have no need to cite page numbers in answers.

For classes that choose Open Book, the essay portion of the Final has a requirement that any quotations from course texts that the student uses in their essay be accompanied by page number and course text that they being quoted from. This is for the benefit of the TAs marking the Exams, so that they do not have to search through all the course texts page-by-page, on fifty Final Examination booklets, to verify the integrity, or even the very existence, of each quotation.

Draw your own (obvious) moral from this....

Note-Taking for University

"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch (AD 46-120) Greek Biographer & Philosopher.
The Student Learning Commons at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has an exceptionally helpful on-line guide to effective note-taking at university lecture. (It is a trifle disconcerting reading for the Lecturers themselves, because it implies--indeed, all-but declares--that many of us are dull, confused, inarticulate, habituated and otherwise deficient in our craft.)

The guide is available online in .pdf format at this hotlink.

The Student Learning Commons additionally has an entire page of links to on-line resources to improve the student's "Listening & Note-Taking" at this hotlink.

Note-taking in lecture is one of the skills that one learns at university with broad applicability in life. Arguably, learning how to take written notes from oral delivery is one of the most practically valuable benefits of a university education.

These resources linked here are very valuable: especially as it is increasingly common for undergraduates to confuse note-taking with copying down PowerPoint slides. It is rule worth learning that PowerPoint is not the Lecture: lectures are what happen when you are distracted by copying down PowerPoint slides....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monday Guest Speaker

This upcoming Monday lecture we will have a visiting speaker from the SFU Sceptics Club. The subject of the talk will be (to use the language of The Da Vinci Code) the anti-God propaganda campaign the Club is currently running on campus. There will some time for question & answer as well.

The Club website is at http://sfuskeptics.ca/

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Example of Dialectical Attitude to Religion

I came across this delightful example of the dialectical spirit in action vis-à-vis religion. Magician Penn Jillette, an Atheist, describes in the clip (from his blog) an encounter he had with a Christian at a 'Penn & Teller' show.

The dialectical result presented in the clip is not agreement, or conversion, but respect & understanding--and these are glory enough compared to the malevolence and antogonism common in polemics.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Five Per-Cent Punctuality Bonus

"Punctuality is the stern virtue of men of business, and the graceful courtesy of princes."
Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Punctuality is that nearly-unique quality which is both an essential attribute of a moral being and a do-or-die necessity in professional life. To help develop, and emphasise the importance of, punctuality, a five percent grade bonus will be given for punctuality and attendance at lecture, as measured by the Lecturer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lecture Slides

UPDATE: terminally easy-going, the Lecturer is now posting lecture slides periodically. Fair warning however: this is some making a rod for their own backs ....
Lecture slides are useful for review, but no substitute for faithful attendance to lecture and proper note-taking technique.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has sections for years 2009 and 2007 in addition to 2010. Links for our Summer 2010 course are under the "2010" section. The 2007 and 2009 archive is for previous iterations of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information
Be up-to-date with the following reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture.
Nb 1.] This is a schedule for student readings; not a schedule of lecture material.
Nb 2.] Lecture is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow the developing class interests and course dynamic; all material will, sublimely, be covered by course end.

Reading Schedule

Week 1: Brown, The da Vinci Code
Week 2: Brown, The da Vinci Code
Week 3: Assigned Essays #1: Grayling & Wilson.
Week 4: Rice, The Road to Cana
Week 5: Rice, The Road to Cana
Week 6: Coupland, Hey Nostradamus!
Week 7: Coupland, Hey Nostradamus!
Week 8: Assigned Essays #2: Wilson & Chesterton
Week 9: Waid & Ross, Kingdom Come
Week 10: Waid & Ross, Kingdom Come
Week 11: Assigned Essays #3: Dawkins & Eagleton
Week 12: Ali, Brick Lane
Week 13: Ali, Brick Lane

Assignment Deadlines.
Nb: There is a ten percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For any matter effecting deadlines, consult with the TA in person and before the assignment period.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates.
(Assignments coded by colour. See separate assignment posts for details.)

May 17th or 19th, Group Project members set: in tutorial.
May 31st or June 2nd, Group Project proposal due: in tutorial.
June 9th, Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
June 23rd, Mid-Term Essay due: in lecture.
July 7th Mid-Term Essay returned graded: in lecture.
July 21st Mid Term Revision due: in lecture.
Aug 4th, Mid-Term Revision returned graded: in lecture.
Aug 9th or 11th, Group Project due: in tutorial.
August 17th, Final Examination, Tuesday 3:30-6:30 am, Room TBA.

Nb: “Participation (10% of course grade) requires participation, and punctuality in seminar and punctual attendance at lecture."

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Monday 1:30-3:00. E-mail to ogden@sfu.ca. 778-782-5820

Course Approach:

"[Neither Christianity nor Atheism but] an equally ancient faith .... rooted in the Socratic dialogues. It is the faith that human beings, reasoning together in a disciplined way, are capable of reaching shared understandings that are not merely intelligent, but also practicable and spiritually uplifting. This form of rationalism uses both rigorous scholarship and discursive analysis, i.e. dialectic, to seek out the conceptual basis for action. This rationalism was bequeathed to the world by Socrates himself, and has been reaffirmed by the greatest modern thinkers. My faith is that the deepest magic of our civilisation has arisen from Socratic rationalism, and that this can happen again now.
Socratic rationalism holds that most people are capable are capable of seeing the highest truths and of acting well when they do."
Bruce K. Alexander, The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :

  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student, and TA and student, is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer or TAs is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

How to Write Proposals for Creative Assignments

Proposals for Creative Assignments can be helpfully constructed as failure standards. Failure standards are a real-world use of the falsification concept from experimental science, where a theory becomes ranked as scientific only when it is capable of being falsified in a replicable experiment.

So, for your assignment proposals, if you chose to adopt this valuable format, you would list (in either essay or point form) the full set of criteria by which your project can be gauged to have failed. for example "Our project will have failed if:"
  • the project does not advance an academic thesis.
  • the project does not have [some measurable degree of] quality
  • the project does not identifiably incorporate material from relevent scholarship
  • the project fails to relate directly to some number of the primary course texts
  • the project fails to represent and demonstrate advanced understanding of the central ideas of the course
  • &c, &c.
This effectively prevents creativity from being substituted by open license.

Additionally, proposals are accompanied by a concise justification of the academic validity of the project being proposed.

An effective proposal describes (nb. look up the etymology of this word in the OED) three components of a project:
  1. Area
  2. Range
  3. Structure
The Area is the specific subject of your project: e-mail writing, for instance. Range delimits the specific aspect of your subject: courtesy and professional manner in e-mail, say. And Structure outlines the manner in which the project will formed.

Two pages is a reasonable length for a proposal of this type, four pages at most.

Group Polemical Project Criteria

The group project will consist of a polemical engagement with the topic of Religion in Culture. Use the understanding of "polemical" given in the opening lecture.

Your project will use some written or creative form (a blog, a filmed presentation, a pamphlet or squib, etc.) to make a polemical statement either for or against Religion (or, perhaps, taking both sides.)

Look through popular culture for examples: some of the recent anti-God movies; atheist publicity stunts; Christian rock groups; and much more beside are good sources of ideas.

  1. Groups of five or six will be set in tutorial on course week two.
  2. A written proposal, two pages maximum, is due in tutorial course week four: May 31st or amp; June 2nd.
  3. Information on how to write a proper proposal is available on the course website, at this address.
  4. Project grading will include the amount of effort put into the project. This is expected to be 20% of the course effort multiplied by the number of members in the group.
  5. The project is due in tutorial the August 9th or 11th.

Course Outline

[Writing Intensive]
Religion: The Prose and Cons

“Quarter of Canadians don't believe in any god, poll says” trumpets a recent headline in that vendor of popular culture, the Toronto Globe and Mail. The inverse, of course, is equally true, yet the headline was not written to show that “Three-Quarter of Canadians believe in a God, poll says!” Newspapers, rather like Mary Poppins, fly the way the wind is blowing, and the negative emphasis in the actual headline indicates that the present cultural climate is experiencing gusts of hot air in an anti-God direction. And this is indeed the case, with a canny crowd of Atheistical writers making small fortunes in the capitalist marketplace from a Being in Whom they disbelieve. Though true, irony this perverse is too implausible for fiction, as this course will demonstrate, using a selection of contemporary novels which have, each in their different way, effected a change in the cultural configuration of religion. At the level of mass fiction, books by two bestselling authors, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Road to Cana by Anne Rice, represent opposing stances on Christianity. At a higher literary level, Douglas Coupland’s Hey Nostradamus! revisions evangelical Protestantism using the Lower Mainland as its setting, while Monica Ali’s transgressive Brick Lane bravely and beautifully portrays matriarchy and a Muslim immigrant community in present-day London. And the extended comic book, or graphic novel, Kingdom Come frames modern culture and the superhero cultus within the Biblical Apocrypha. A selection of short online essays dealing with religion -for and against - at the cultural level will be made available both to contextualise the course novels and improve your own religious arguments and understanding.

Coupland, Douglas: Hey Nostradamus!
Rice, Anne: Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana
Waid, Mark: Kingdom Come
Brown, Dan: The Da Vinci Code
Ali, Monica: Brick Lane
Prose Essays: Online and reserved selection.

10% Productive participation
20% Mid-term essay (2000 words)
15% Mid-term essay revision
20% Group polemical project
35% Final examination

To receive credit for this course you must complete all requirements.

Assigned Essays

Here are the three pairs of polemical essays on the reading list scheduled on the course Syllabus.
  1. A.C. Grayling: "The Empty Name of God" —vs— A.N. Wilson: "Why I Believe Again."
  2. Edward O. Wilson: "Intelligent Evolution" —vs— G.K. Chesterton: "The Man in the Cave."
  3. Richard Dawkins: "Atheists for Jesus" —vs— Terry Eagleton: "Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching."

Background articles for "The da Vinci Code"

  • Ron Howard: Vatican obstructed 'Angels & Demons'. [yahoo.com] "Director Ron Howard claimed Sunday that the Vatican interfered with efforts to get permits to shoot certain scenes of his "Angels & Demons" religious thriller in Rome — a charge the Vatican said was purely a publicity stunt."
  • Catholics attack Dan Brown film Angels and Demons. [Telegraph .co.uk] "Catholic leaders have attacked the film sequel to The Da Vinci Code for its "gratuitously outlandish" portrayal of the Church."
  • Christopher Hitchens. "Mommie Dearest: The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud."
  • OpusDei.org. The Da Vinci Code, the Catholic Church and Opus Dei. "Many people are intrigued by the claims about Christian history and theology presented in The Da Vinci Code. We would like to remind them that The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction, and it is not a reliable source of information on these matters. "

Monday, May 10, 2010

Course Years Divider

Posts above this are for English 101W in Summer 2010.

Post below this point are from previous iterations of this course. They may, or may not, be useful to you.