REL 278(F) Asceticism and the Body

Asceticism can be seen as a complex of self-renunciatory and contemplative beliefs and practices. Rather than constituting a single phenomenon, it will be viewed as a cluster of micropatterns that vary with historical and cultural contexts. Are these beliefs and practices a subordinate part of larger religious systems or are they "the operating systems" of every religion and culture? How do recent modern and postmodern analyses of body, love, desire, gender, pleasure and pain, contribute to our understanding of asceticism? How are asceticism and mysticism related? Are ascetic patterns exhibited in other cultural practices such as sport and dance? Can asceticism be related to such phenomena as anorexia and torture? Do some analyses of the metaphysical and psychological foundations of asceticism themselves reflect covert attachments to ascetic ideals? First-person accounts and writings describing the lives of selected Christian, Upanisadic and Buddhist sages, saints and mystics as well as the literature of dance and athletics will be considered. Modern and postmodern works such as those of Freud, Nietzsche, Weber, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Kristeva and Irigaray as they bear upon questions associated with asceticism will also be analyzed. Lecture/discussion. Requirements: active participation in class, three essays (5-7 pages). Enrollment limit: 30 (expected 15).