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LibrlSt722: Special Topics in Contemporary Culture
Peter Paik, Assistant Professor, Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature

Theology and Religion

Course Description
What is the relationship of Christian theology to politics? Should the believer ever engage in violence for the sake of achieving a more just social order? If so, what are the proper conditions for militant or military action? If one interprets the Gospels as rejecting violence and advocating pacifism, does that mean that the actions of Moses during the wandering of the Israelites in the desert (when he resorted to executions to prevent violations of the Law) are to be rejected? And if so, where does that leave the problem of an unjust and oppressive society?

Starting with classic works of theology by Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, we will be examining the debates over the problem of revolution and war-what are the justifications for violent action, whether defensive or revolutionary? Does pacifism constitute the authentic message of the Gospels, or does it ultimately serve to leave intact conditions of injustice and oppression? We will look to works of theologians and philosophers such as Simone Weil, Reinhold Niebuhr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas, the theologians of liberation, Catherine Pickstock, and John Milbank (who will be visiting UWM in December) in exploring these questions. We will pay special attention to the challenge posed by Nazi Germany to the pacifism of most of these thinkers, and examine the response of one (Bonhoeffer) who took part in the plot against Hitler.

The seminar will also look at works of fiction, both literary and cinematic, that raise these issues and often suggest unexpected interpretations. Films to be viewed include The Animatrix (2003), La Jete (directed by Chris Marker, France, 1962), and The Legend of Rita (directed by Volker Schlindorff, Germany, 2000). Fictional works may include narratives by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, graphic novelist Alan Moore, and G.K. Chesterton.

Books available at Woodland Pattern, 720 E. Locust Street, 263-5001.

Professor Paik's areas of research include world cinema, science fiction, theology, and political philosophy. He is currently at work on a book Utopia to Apocalypse, which deals with the transformation of the social order as explored by speculative narratives in film and fiction.

Thursday, 6:30-9:10pm
Curtin Hall 939

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