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Grant number: AQ-228744-15

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Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR 97219-7879)
Jessica Starling (Project Director: September 2014 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on Self-Discipline and Asceticism

The development and teaching of a new undergraduate course on asceticism.

What good is self-discipline? This introductory-level religious studies course on asceticism asks what is at stake in disciplining the self, focusing on the tenuous line between virtuous acts of self-discipline and forms of self-denial that cross over into self-violence. The course explores both private and public meanings of ascetic acts, surveying a variety of explanations of the goal of ascetic practice, including the liberation of the spirit from the flesh, attaining a mystical union with the divine, or the transformation of society. Drawing from multiple disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, students examine phenomena such as fasting and eating disorders from a variety of perspectives. Readings include short stories, memoirs, popular news articles, ethnographies, and the writings of Greek philosophers, Jain saints, Buddhist sages, and Christian mystics. The class will visit a Trappist monastery, during which students will conduct ethnographic fieldwork.

Project fields:
Comparative Religion; Cultural Anthropology; Ethics

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$22,000 (approved)
$19,397 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2015 – 5/31/2018