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Week 14 - Faith and Modernity

It's essay season, so this week in seminar we will be focusing on essay skills and techniques.

Please still read the essays by Peter Berger and Walter Schluchter, both found in J. Alexander and S. Seidman, eds., Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). I also want you to look at Richard Lacayo's Time magazine piece, entitled 'When Memory Fails' (13 January 2004) and think about how the issues in this article have changed since its publication.

Field Trip!

We live in an enviornment touched deeply both by religion and by modernity. Nevertheless, local communities can seem invisible to us here in the Warwick bubble. To help you contextualise this week's readings in the local context (thinking of Prof John Laband meant when he said 'all history is someone's local history'), I would like you to do the following:

  1. You are to take the number 11 bus into Coventry's city centre (single fares are £2.20 and an all day ticket is £4.00; pay with exact change or contactless on the bus; you can also take a taxi or use Uber) and go to the Cathedral Church of St. Michael (ask the driver to let you off at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum -- also a great place to stop if you have the time -- and walk down Earl Street towards the ruined Cathedral; or you can get off at Pool Meadow Bus Station), viewing both the ruined medieval church and Sir Basil Spence's modern cathedral (they sometimes charge admission, so make sure you have a fiver on you; you can also climb the tower, too, if it's a nice day).
  2. Once you are done that, I want you to walk slightly to the west and visit Holy Trinity Chruch. Go inside and compare the interior uses of the building to what is left of the fabric of the ruined church and the re-envisioning of a Christian space of worship in the 20th century building (also, pay attention to the restored last judgement fresco at the transept).
  3. From the main doors of Holy Trinity go right (when you're facing Primark), through the lychgate and across to the ruins of St. Mary's Cathedral. The Priory Visitors Centre is located across the bridge. It's free admission, but opening hours vary so check before you come. Pay particular attention to how sacred space has been used/abused/changed/lost/forgotten/found over the last 1000 years. If the vistor's centre is closed, have a look around anyway
  4. Walk to Pool Meadow bus station and take the number 11 or 12 to Lynchgate Road (by the big University of Warwick sign and walk to the Cannon Park shopping centre. Directly across from the shops (find the entrance by the gym) is the church of St. Joseph the Worker. Have a look around (and go in, if it's open) and think about how environment, architecture, and community affect not only how buildings are used but how their appearance and location influence how we perceive their value.

Please do this even if you have visited one of these locations before. Feel free to go as a group/groups if you'd like (they offer a multi-person day ticket on the buses) and don't be afraid to talk about what you've seen and how it has (or has not) impacted on you. Finally, please take a photo of yourself next to the Cathedral and email it to me so that I know you've been there (ha!). However you choose to go please make sure you stay safe and let people know where you are and when you plan to be back. This field trip is optional so please don't feel pressured to complete it if you are unable.

Any questions? Please email me.

Remember: your second essay is due by 12 noon on Wednesday next week (week five).

Music By Which to Read

Music dealing with spirituality and/or religion must out strip even (non-platonic) love songs in sheer numbers. There is evidence of musical components to nearly every organised religion. For this week's playlist, I have chosen to focus on Christianity, the faith tradition with which I have most direct experience. To explore the tie ins with modernity, I have put together a list of Christian rock/popular music, a genre that has grown considerably since the 1970s. Some is quite mainstream sounding, but other tracks draw in musical experiences that may seem somewhat at odds with the standard view of Christianity. I finish the list with Britten's Saint Nicholas, a challenging choral and orchestral piece that re-examines the life and legacy of one of Christianity's most revered personalities. I encourage you all, however, to delve into faith music from across the world. The text version is here.