Shaye J. D. Cohen (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
Freshman Seminar 62U 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment: Limited to 12
Virtually all the cultures and religions of the world, from ancient to contemporary times, have teachings and rituals about death. In this seminar we will deal with a subset of this very large topic, namely, the relationship of the living and the dead. The dead are often depicted as still living in some way and still in communication with us and our world. Are they friendly or hostile? Beneficent or malevolent? Think "undead" and "zombie" versus "saint" and "angel." In this seminar we will look at some of the myriad ways that religions and cultures conceive of the relationship of the living with the dead. We the living care for the dying and the dead, and hope that the dead will care for us, but how this works exactly is the subject of much speculation. American secular culture, at least in its cinematic expression, has a vigorous belief in the afterlife, especially in having denizens of the afterlife, in the form of zombies, ghosts, and poltergeists, intrude on the world of the living. In our seminar we will survey this rich set of themes as expressed in literature, art, music, cinema, and philosophy.