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February 26, 2009

Week #8 Reading Reflection Assignment

After doing the assigned reading (see Week #8 Reading Discussion Questions for details), use the prompts below in writing your Week #8 Reading Reflection. Due date for full credit: March 5. Final "grace period" due date for reduced credit: March 19 (remember March 12 is Spring Break week).

After careful reading of the introduction and four articles (see Week #8 Reading Discussion Questions), write responding to the following prompts:
-- Discuss unique or distinctive features of the religious experiences of women of color represented by each of these writers. What do you believe accounts for these unique perspectives?
-- Discuss any concerns or perspectives discussed in these four articles that are continuous with the concerns and perspectives voiced in earlier articles written by white women.
-- What can be gained building alliances between groups of women with different experiences and backgrounds? What are some difficulties women face in trying to do this?

Week #8 Reading Discussion Questions

Reading Discussion Questions for WTV 3: Self in Relation

Focus your reading on the articles referred to in the questions below (we will only be discussing the intro and four articles.). Read Umansky, Daly, Harrison, Goldenberg, and Keller if you have interest or as time permits. You can also look at them to see if possible paper topics arise for your final paper (more on that to come). Read Goldenberg particularly if you choose a topic or writers from a Jungian or archetypal psychology perspective.

1. Introduction: (173) Contrast the relational, changeable, embodied self of feminist thought to the disembodied, unchanging self of traditional Western thought.

2. Womanist Theology: (179-180) What is a ‘womanist’? Why is there a need for a distinctive African-American understanding of women’s issues?
-- (180-183) What are some particular dimensions/specifics of ‘womanist’ thinking?
-- What method of doing theology arises from a womanist perspective? (183-186)

3. Uses of the Erotic: (208) For Audre Lorde, what is ‘the erotic’ and how is it contrasted to ‘the pornographic’?
-- How is the erotic connected to women’s spirituality and power?
-- (209 bottom +) How does ‘the system’ stifle the erotic?
-- (210 bottom +) What are some of the roles of the erotic for Lorde?
-- (211 +) Why is the erotic feared?
-- (212 +) How will being in touch with the erotic bring change?

4. Women’s Leadership in Haitian Voudou: (226) In what ways is Vodou a woman-friendly tradition, according to Brown?
-- (226 +) How has women’s experience and perspectives shaped Vodou?
-- 227 +) The official belief is that the person in a trance is not conscious of the actions of the visiting diety/spirit. How does Brown interpret what is going on?
-- (229 +) What is the importance of dancing/movement in response to African drumming? (230 +) How does the principle of participation play out in Vodou ritual?
-- 233 +) What is the social purpose of having many ruling spirits in Vodou? How does Vodou practice contribute to self in community?

5. On Mirrors, Mists, and Murmurs: (235 +) After reading this article, go back and think about which issues from this article seem common to other writers on women’s religion you have read.
-- Which issues seem unique to Asian or Asian-American women, as Brock articulates them?
-- Given Brock’s background in Japanese culture, are there commonalities that may cut across Asian women’s experience, or might individuals from other Asian backgrounds feel she is making generalizations? (This speaks to women’s writing about ‘women’s experience’ - to what degree is experience shared, and to what extent is it individual.)
-- (238 +) Pay attention to Brock’s discussion of the impact of Buddhism on Asian women, even for those who are Christians. What do you take from this discussion about Buddhism? What questions about Buddhism does this discussion raise in your mind?
-- (240 +) Why does Brock feel that Asian-American women hold the value of community especially high?
-- (241 +) How does the underlying historic tradition of shamanism provide a resource for Asian-American women?

Week #7 Discussion Café - Extra Credit

Use this comments link to post responses to Week #7 Reading Reflections from other classmates, or to post anything you want to say about the Week #7 readings (Weaving the Vision Part 2: Naming the Sacred ) that you didn't include in your Week #7 Reading Reflection assignment. If you are behind in your Discussion Café postings (online class members), I'll give you some extra credit for posting here. This link will stay live for two weeks. Week #5 Reading Café will stay open through the weekend; Week #6 Reading Café will stay open at least through next Thursday, in case you need to do some catching up.

February 19, 2009

Responses to Marija Gimbutas video

Responses to "Signs Out of Time: the story of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas"

(For more information, there's an article by Gimbutas in Weaving the Visions, Part I.)

Amazing, fascinating woman – the period of time when she she left Lithuania and came to America was the same time Joseph Campbell was working on mythology – also fascinating that Lithuania has not forgotten the Goddess – in folklore and folk arts – and that humans were not always warlike.

Interesting how she was able to track interrelatedness of societies over a wide area – the width and breadth of her studies was impressive – the sheer number of artifacts that she found – she brought great insight into her interpretations.

She really had a wealth of knowledge and dealt with a lot of integrity – took a long time and saw patterns – also impressive that she was able to get so much training and education when that was uncommon for women at that time.

Impressed by the holistic approach of how she did her work – as a youth, interested in folk culture, and later on tied that in to interpreting the archeological symbols and what they meant – she saw the interconnectedness between her time all the way back – and that understanding came about through all these different methods.

She has an impressive resume with all her accomplishments and discoveries – the excavation sites, putting Old Europe on the map, interpreting it as a female-centered culture – inspirational work for many people today – she had a strong ambition and purpose in her work and didn’t deviate even when she was criticized.

Impressed by the depth she went to learn: reading texts in original languages to really understand it – used her previous studies in her later work – it was important for her to go back to Lithuania, back to her roots – and how the Lithuanian people honored her.

She had a strong persistence – all of the things that could have dragged her down, from family past, to schools, and war – she kept on persisting.

Week #6 Discussion Café

Use this Discussion Café posting to respond to class members Week #6 postings (Weaving The Visions Part 1: Our Heritage Is Our Power).
-- Online folks: be sure to respond to at least one class member's posting for group learning credit.
-- Everyone: feel free to respond to anything in the reading or class members' responses to the Week #6 materials.

This Café will be open for two weeks.

Week #7 Reading Reflection Assignment

Instructions: After doing all of the reading for this week (using the discussion questions to help you do critical reading), respond in writing to the prompt below. Write your response in Word (or an equivalent word processing program), do spell-checking and proofreading, and then copy-paste it into a comment (below).

Writing Prompts - Please respond with specific references to articles in responding to these prompts:
-- This section revisits the interest feminist scholars of religion have had in re-imagining the divine, finding new metaphors for the divine, and experimenting with new language to speak of the divine.
-- Reflecting back on articles exploring new images or language for the divine in WomanSpirit Rising, what approaches or arguments in these Weaving the Vision articles seem new to you? What is new?
-- Which of these articles present views that are helpful or compelling for you? Why?
-- Which of these articles present views that you have problems with? Why?
-- To the extent that you are comfortable sharing this, how do gendered (female or male) images or gendered language figure in your own understanding of or connection to the divine?

Week #7 Reading Discussion Questions

Weaving the Vision Part 2: Naming the Sacred

Read the articles associated with the questions below. Read Griffin and Falk as time permits. Use these questions to guide your reading and thinking.

1. Introduction: (95+) What are some problems associated with an 'androcentric' (male-centered) way of imagining God?
-- How are some feminist understandings of God different?

2. Walker: What is Shug's God like?
-- What does Shug's God expect of human beings? How do we find God?
-- What is Shug's understanding of the Bible?
-- What can Celie let go of with this new approach to understanding God?

3. Morton: Why is it important to invite an experience of Goddess images for the Divine into our spiritual lives?
-- How did Morton's experiences of Goddess metaphors change her understanding of self and of the Divine?
-- What is involved in experiencing - rather than just conceptualizing - the Divine in feminine metaphors? (Summed up 115+.)
-- How did the Goddess as spider image (an experience that occurred spontaneously in Morton's meditation) allow her to connect meaningfully with indigenous spirituality? (116-117).

4. Downing: For Downing, why do we need to reconnect to myths for our own spiritual development, especially those with feminine images of the Divine?
-- How did Downing come to identify with Artemis? What did this connection open up to her?

5. McFague: For Sallie McFague, why is it important for Christians to include God as mother in our imagery for God (not replacing God as Father, but adding a new dimension)?
-- What theological understandings does this new model for God open up to us?

6. Ruether: What does Ruether claim are the problems with 'male monotheism' (imaging God only in male terms)?
-- How does this imagery support and shape social structures and the wider culture in ways that she finds problematic? (150+)
-- Where in Jewish and Christian Biblical history can we find the hidden legacy of earlier feminine imagery for God? (152+)
-- Is it enough to recover the androgynous (both sexes) nature of God images? If not, why not? (154+)
-- Where in Jewish and Christian tradition can women find liberating images or understandings of God? (155+)
-- Beyond reconstruction, how can feminists open up new ways of talking about or imagining God? (158+)
-- Why are males hostile to this renaming - and how does Ruether respond to their fears? (160+)

February 12, 2009

Responses to Full Circle

Comments on the video Full Circle

Healing touch – that they were just showing women doing that – and the closeness of women coming together to heal themselves and others – and these sorts of spiritual healing approaches are coming up now in nursing – primarily a woman’s profession (though not entirely)

Struck in a positive way by the pagan ceremonies that they were having – watching the ceremonies was different from reading about them – the ceremony with the couple being bound together by ribbons (hand-fasting) was more appealing than traditional weddings (being given away by the father and so on). These rituals seemed more positive and open than the impression gotten from the reading.

Interesting that everything is spiritual and connected – Goddess is earth – all the trees and natural things connected – balance and harmony.

The story of First Mother in the beginning – woman but also nature (moss for hair) – also connected to memories of going out in nature with the family – and notes that old people seem drawn to gardening – maybe you realize more of the beauty of nature and basic values as you age – also there's an appreciation and respect for age in the pagan religions that is now missing – another thing was that the music in the video was attractive – very natural use of voices and instruments – compared to some popular music.

Issue today where bank systems are getting rid of male CEOs and getting females instead – also some of the women were talking about how things in the past in native traditions were lost – talking to native people now, they say that all people used to have a native background with more respect for things around them than they do today (Norway, Europe)

Struck by the healing touch – thinking of how powerful the last minutes of touch were at the end of life – liked the quotes about how the earth’s survival depends on diversity, which is tolerance – liked the metaphor of the “spider mother�? spinning destinies – and how we all stand “on common ground – the planet earth�?

What stood out the most was “make yourself whole, and make the earth whole�? – disagreed with some of what Anne Cameron about not needing the Goddess as such – we can go back to our culture to find the Goddess, a sense of the history and where we came from. Interested in seeing the pagan rituals.

Week #6 Reading Reflection Assignment

Week #6 Reading Reflection

Write your Reading Reflection to these prompts:

Respond to the myths and images in Paula Gunn Allen’s article, “Grandmother of the Sun." What do these images and myths make imaginable in our society?

Respond to Fiorenza and Plaskow in terms of reclaiming women’s lost history and reinterpreting texts of the Bible. Why do they feel it is important to do this work? What do you think about this work? What new insights, if any, did you gain from these articles about scriptural texts?

Reading Discussion Questions Week #6

Reading Discussion Questions Weaving the Visions #1

Use these questions to guide your reading.

Read with special care the preface and introduction to the book, the introduction to the section “Our Heritage Is Our Power" and the articles listed with questions. Use these questions to read critically and prepare for discussion. Then, as your time permits, read or skim the additional articles, looking for ways they tie in with course themes or present research possibilities you would like to explore.

1. Preface and introduction to book: In the Preface, how has the long-term friendship and collaboration of the editors changed over time?
** In the Introduction, what are the primary themes the editors identify that were present in their earlier collection and are still central to feminist study of religion? (1)
** How are some of the themes broadened and redefined in this new collection? (2-4)
** (Methodology) – What forms of expression beyond academic discourse are now included in feminist study of religion? How does this opening up forms of expression supply a corrective to pure academic writing? (4-6)
** What are some of the risks of choosing non-academic forms of writing? (6)
** What problems do the editors now see, in hindsight, with the ‘revolutionary/reformist’ dichotomy they used in their first book? What are other differences and divisions they now recognize? (7)
** How have academic institutions contributed to divisions among feminist scholars of religion? Why do you think this has happened? (8)
** How should feminist scholars treat each other? (Or perhaps, ALL scholars treat each other.) (8)
** How are writers in this volume expanding the understanding of heritage, the nature of the divine, and issues of selfhood? (9-10)
** How can feminists achieve solidarity across difference? (12)

2. Intro to “Our Heritage Is Our Power"
** What are the range of heritages and histories included in this section? What methods are employed? (17)
** What can Native and non-Native women alike gain from recovering histories of Native American women? (18)
** What are some assumptions in Fiorenza’s feminist critical approach to Christian history and Biblical texts? How does Plaskow apply this same approach to the history of Jewish women? (18-19)
** What archeological evidence supports Gimbutas’s view that, previous to recorded history, men and women lived as equals? (20)

3. “Grandmother of the Sun"
** Paula Gunn Allen claims that the oldest layer of myth in some Native American traditions has a female creator/primary deity. How do you respond to the images and myths she includes in this article? Are any images surprising to you – and why? (23+)
** What are the implications for human society and human-nonhuman relations of this underlying female divinity? (25+)

4. “In Search of Women’s Heritage"
** Following from Mark (the earliest-written Gospel, upon which others were based), how was the story of the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus changed and made less strong in later Gospels? (29)
** Why does Fiorenza believe the original story reveals a more important role for this earlier follower of Jesus – as well as other women followers of Jesus - than ended up in the Biblical text?
** Why is it important to reclaim women’s lost history of Biblical times? (30+)
** Given the historical loss of women’s presence in the Biblical texts, where can the lost history be found? What is the fundamental assumption of historical biblical criticism? (30-31)
** Why does Fiorenza think restoring women’s history to the Christian community should be central, not marginal, in Biblical scholarship? How does this work challenge the myth of objectivity? (32)
** How does Fiorenza respond to feminist critics who want to reject the Biblical heritage entirely? What do these feminist critics miss? (33)
** What can be gained by women reclaiming their history? (34-35)
** How does this inclusion of women in Christian history potentially transform the discipline of biblical historical scholarship? (36) In the end, what is the purpose of feminist Biblical scholarship and community it affects? (37)

5. “Jewish Memory from a Feminist Perspective"
** How does the language Plaskow cites from Torah (scripture) turn women into objects rather than full participants in the covenant? (39)
** Why does Plaskow believe women need to reclaim their past, rather than rejecting the past as patriarchal, and just moving forward into the future? (40-41)
** What are the special problems that Jewish feminists face in reconstructing history? What view of Torah do feminists need to adopt? (41-43)
** What are the tensions and the commonalities between feminist and traditional approaches to Jewish history? (44-45)
** What is ‘midrash’ and how is it a particularly good way for feminists to reclaim women’s history and ensure its survival? (46-47)
** Why is creating ritual important for women in Judaism? (47-48)

6. Read at least the first page of “My Sister, My Spouse." (51) What were some advantages for women in entering into monastic life in the medieval period?

Week #5 Discussion Café

We've finished the book WomanSpirit Rising with articles about new traditions. There are some pretty interesting ideas out there in the Reading Reflection postings. Now that you've worked through the readings (and the book), what's on your mind?
-- On-line students: post a response to someone's Week #5 Reading Reflection for group learning credit.
-- Everyone: feel free to put your "last words" about WomanSpirit Rising here.

February 8, 2009

Week #4 Discussion Café

After reading about reformers within structured religion, and reading other class members' comments, what do you have to add or respond?
-- Online folks: make sure you respond to at least one other class member's Reading Reflections.
-- Everyone: post comments on anything that adds to the discussion.

February 5, 2009

First Short Paper Assignment: Foremothers

First Short Paper Assignment
Foremothers, Movers and Shakers: The Life & Work of One
Influential American Woman in American Religious History


From the list below choose one significant woman to investigate about her life and work and where she fits into American religious history. Using a variety of sources (encyclopedias, biographical references, books, internet), create a brief biographical portrait to send in to be posted as a resource on the class web site.

Each class member will have a different subject so that we can cover more women and religious backgrounds. By midnight of February 28, e-mail me a copy (either as an attachment in Microsoft Word or RTF format, or pasted into the body of an e-mail message to Mary.Shaw@metrostate.edu).

Focus on two goals: (1) to provide biographical information about the person you have chosen, and (2) to present your understanding of why this person is significant in understanding women’s religious history.

Your paper should be a minimum of 3 pages, double spaced. I prefer Times New Roman font and 12 point type.

The content of the essay should include basic biography (parents, birth, where born & raised, education, religious upbringing) and some highlights of the woman’s religious life and contributions (religious institutional participation or experience, spiritual awakenings, religious leadership and creativity) and a summary assessment as to why this woman deserves to be remembered.

Your essay should include a short BIBLIOGRAPHY. MLA style works well; you can find numerous examples through google. Works cited within the text can generally take the form of (author, p._) after the quotation or paraphrased information. Here’s more information and examples of in-text citations:

Here’s a good on-line site for citing your sources at the end:

Questions you might consider as you read about this person:
- Are there any contradictions between how this woman was viewed during her own lifetime and what we know about her now?
- Is this woman someone you’d want to know personally? Why, or why not?
- Is there anything unique about this person that can help you articulate what her significant contribution has been?

Some of the women on the list have excellent autobiographies. Most have biographies. However, you don’t need to read a book-length piece, as there should have information available via encyclopedias and biographical references for most (especially the early women, who are largely at the front of the list). Let me know if you have trouble finding sources or want to propose a different foremother. The starred (**) names would be especially nice to have someone cover. NOTE: you MUST have some references from printed sources (or the electronic equivalent available through Metro’s library services); doing this research completely on-line through Web-based sources will not be acceptable.

Woman and Religion Notables:
- Sarah and Angelina Grimke -
- Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz - Jeannie
- Jane Addams - Jessica
- **Anne Hutchinson—banished for heresy - Tyrk
- Margaret Sanger - Christine G
- Anne Lee—co-founder of the Shakers - Hellen O
- Emma Goldman -
- Ellen White—co-founder of Seventh Day Adventists - Mike
- Margaret Mead - Natasha W
- **Susan B. Anthony - Adam
- Mary Baker Eddy – founder Church Christ, Scientist - Wendy
- Dorothy Day - Dylan
- Madame Blavatsky – founder of Theosophy
- **Lucretia Mott - Terri
- **Elizabeth Cady Stanton - Tiffany
- Helen Cohn Schucman -- "channeled" author of the A Course in Miracles
- Aimee Semple McPherson—founder of Church of Foursquare Gospel - Krystal
- Elizabeth Ann Seaton – Catholic Saint - Natalie
- Rosemary Radford Ruether --theologian
- Barbara Harris--first Episcopal female bishop
- Pema Chodron - Tenzin
- Antoinette Brown Blackwell – first woman to be ordained & to have her own congregation
- Marjorie Matthews – first woman bishop, United Methodist Church
- Sally Priesand – first woman to be ordained as rabbi (Reform) - Elena
- Marija Gimbutas
- Luisa Teish
- Mary Daly
- Paula Gunn Allen
- Audre Lorde
- Judy Chicago - Cassondra
- Dhyani Ywahoo
- Starhawk - Stephanie
- Katie G. Cannon
- Mary McLeod Bethune
- Rabbi Laura Geller
- Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
- Carter Heyward—Episcopal priest
- Charlotte Joko Beck
- Elizabeth Dodson Gray –Harvard theologian
- Sojourner Truth - Neka
- Winona LaDuke - Dean

February 4, 2009

Week #5 Reading Discussion Questions

Creating New Traditions Questions (skip or skim Daly, Budapest and the first Carol Christ article on Martha Quest)

*** What are some important themes in women's spirituality mentioned in the introduction?
*** Why did some early feminists find positive value in earth-based religious practice? Why did some of them choose to call themselves "witches"?

*** Plaskow records an experience very early in the women's movement rising out of women’s group "consciousness raising." Have you had any such experiences?
*** Do you think an experience of transformative and mutually affirming group intimacy like the one described could include both women and men together?
*** How did you respond to the new Lilith story? Does it still seem relevant to women's experience?
Goldenberg: From this reading, how can Jungian practices be helpful for women in redefining their sense of self and of the sacred?
*** What do you make of the fact that Goldenberg's original dream figure was male?

*** From your experience and this reading, what are some of the major transitions in women's lives?
*** Why is it important to mark them with ritual?
*** What is lost if these transitions go by without celebration and communal validation?


*** Please read the footnote on p. 268 right away (connects to page 260). What do you make of the "invented" nature of witchcraft/Wicca? What problems could arise by having a remembered/invented tradition?
*** What aspects of this emerging tradition as described here feel positive to you? Are there any that feel uncomfortable to you? If so, why?
*** What are some of the ways Starhawk argues that "the craft" is useful to women?

Christ (Why Women Need the Goddess):
*** According to Christ, why do women need new religious practices to achieve personal and social change?
*** What were some of the resources she identified for women (at the time of the article) to use in creating new forms?
*** What are some specific ways that women can benefit from Goddess spirituality, especially related to body experience and women’s community?
*** How might Christ answer the objection that a female Goddess will lead to reverse discrimination, or a woman-ascendant hierarchy?
*** In the discussion of Goddess spirituality and will, how is "will" or "willfulness" portrayed in traditional Biblical faiths? Why does Christ argue that it is important to affirm women’s will in Goddess spirituality?

Week #5 Reading Reflection Assignment

Week #5 Reading Reflection Prompt

After reading the articles and reflecting on the discussion questions, write your Reading Response using these prompts, and post it as a comment below.
-- what are the reasons that these writers give that women need to create rituals and traditions?
-- discuss some examples of new rituals or traditions that you found interesting in these articles - what was interesting about them for you?
-- are there activities in your own life that function as spiritually renewing rituals outside conventional religious structures in the ways that these articles describe women creating for themselves?