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Belief in the Age of the Urban Cosmopolite

ENGL 359.301
TR 12-1:30

"Belief in the Age of the Enlightened Cosmopolite"

In Forster’s Passage to India, The Englishman Fielding explaints to his Indian friend Dr. Aziz that most "’educated, thoughtful people’" in the West are atheists or at least "’the West doesn't bother much over belief and disbelief.’" 

This course examines a problem for moderns who consider themselves educated in a sophisticated way and who are also religious. That problem is that once their education teaches them what sophisticated people “bother about,” in the words of Forster’s Fielding, they wisely –or at least prudently—keep their spiritual lives to themselves . 

This course will first focus on the Enlightenment principles that forced religion into the private life. It will explore the Enlightenment redefinition of reason from a faculty that enables a wise choice of goals to a technique of thinking. It will explore the reflections of different authors on the place of religion and spiritual thinking in the modern world. 

Readings start with philosophy and then move on to literature. Readings will include Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses, Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady and The Spoils of Poynton, E. M. Forster’sRoom With a View and Passage to India, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and other essays and poems.

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