Women and Religion Major Project
UPDATED: Due May 3 (by midnight; paper attachment to e-mail).
You have a choice for this final project: (1) analyze a spiritual memoir/autobiography written by a woman, OR (2) do a research paper. Either choice will require both research and reflection. Pick a topic that deepens your inquiry in an area of interest related to the course, or allows you to explore something new that connects to the themes of the course. Some possible research topics are suggested below. There is also a list of possible memoir/autobiographies for you to consider. In both cases, alternatives will need to be approved. Your topic should be one that can be done in a 7-8 page essay form, and one where there are ample resources available.
RESEARCH PAPER OPTION: You will need to spend some time on the internet and at the library. Some topics may also lend themselves to doing primary research (interviews) for part of your information. I will help you find sources for topics where I have some expertise. Use resources listed on the course website, including a bibliography that I will post. End product: 7-8 page essay. 5-6 sources. (Note: if one of your major sources is a significant single book, such as the memoir/autobiography, consult with me on the extent of appropriate supporting sources.)
Sample Topics for Research Paper (don’t be constrained by this list):
• Women and the Problem of Evil / Theology of Sin / in Christianity
• Reclaiming Foremothers in Hebrew & Christian Scripture (Elizabeth Fiorenza is good on New Testament; Elizabeth Watson has written imaginative stories on Bible women)
• Women’s Emerging Ritual (in Wicca or Christian/Jewish/other tradition)
• Women and the Goddess
• Lesbian Voices in the Church Today
• Feminist Scholarship about Mary Magdalene, or Mary (Jesus’s mother)
• Women and Islam (or any other major world religion)
• American Indian Women and Feminism (good source is Paula Gunn Allen)
• Alice Walker’s Theology (including some fiction), or more broadly, Womanist theology
• Feminist theology and career of Ruether – McFague – Christ – or other major theologian
• Exploring Non-Sexist Language in Talking to God
• Spiritually based Peace and Justice work (WAMM, McDonald Sisters)
• Ecofeminism and Earth-based Theologies (Sallie McFague is a good source)
• Dealing with Patriarchy in Non-Western Religions (pick one)
• African American Buddhists (Jan Willlis, bell hooks, Tina Turner)
• African American Women’s Spirituality – writings, community leadership (including 19th Century recovered texts) – see My Soul Is A Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality, Gloria Wade-Gayles, Ed.
• Re-Imagining Movement
• Woman Church
• Rosh Hodesh Groups
• Theology and Women’s roles in Gnostic Christianity (first three centuries C.E.)
• ______________: An American Religious Thinker, (primary texts by the woman, with at least a couple of short additional secondary sources for background)
• __________________: A Significant Female Religious Leader (can be based primarily on a major book-length biography, with at least a couple of additional secondary sources for background)
MEMOIR/AUTOBIOGRAPHY OPTION - **RECOMMENDED**: Once you pick your book, you will need to find at least two secondary sources about the author or about the book (good scholarly book reviews are especially helpful). End product: 7-8 page essay.
Some Women’s Spiritual Memoir/Autobiography Books
(read quick reviews on Amazon.com to get a sense of these books)
Adler, Margot: Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit & Revolution
Armstrong, Karen The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
Armstrong, Karen Through the Narrow Gate (much earlier - do both?)
Bolen, Jean Shinoda Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Crisis
Christ, Carol Oddyssey with the Goddess and/or the earlier one below
Christ, Carol Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess
Day, Dorothy The Long Loneliness
Downing, Christine Journey through Menopause: A Personal Rite of Passage
Ehrlich, Gretel Questions of Heaven: Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist
Feld, Merle A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist
Flinders, Carol Lee At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst
Galland, China Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna
Goodall, Jane A Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey
Halifax, Joan The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth
Hampl, Patricia Virgin Time
Houston, Jean A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story
Hurston, Zora Neale Dust Tracks on a Road
Kelly, Lorna The Camel Knows the Way
Kidd, Sue Monk The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine
Lamott, Annie Traveling Mercies (wonderful and funny!)
Linnea, Ann Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife
Lorde, Audre Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Luke, Helen Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: The Autobiography and Journals of Helen M. Luke
Mackenzi, Vickie Cave in the Snow
Mankiller, Wilma Mankiller : A Chief and Her People (more political than spiritual)
Norris, Kathleen Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (could also do
The Cloister Walk)
O'Reilley, Mary Rose The Barn At the End of the World: A Year in the Life of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Teish, Luisah Jambalaya (early 1990’s Black woman’s spiritual journey)
Tickle, Phylllis The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape
Williams, Terry Tempest Refuge (also a later book, Leap)
Willis, Jan Dreaming Me: Baptist to Buddhist,
Woodman, Marion Bone: Dying Into Life – or a project on Woodman’s work and other writings.
Expectations for Final Research Project – Women and Religion
Now that you have an idea about the topic you want to write about (either a research paper or memoir/autobiography topic), you will want to know how to approach this assignment to get a good grade. Keep in mind that this project is not primarily a summary of information, but an opportunity for you to do analysis by digging deeper into issues connected with women and religion as we have encountered them in reading and discussion.
For the purpose of this project, your writing should be primarily academic rather than personal. Discuss in a well-reasoned way how the topic or the primary text you are writing about connects to course themes. Of course, not all topics connect with all course themes, but you should identify at a minimum at least three or four significant course themes that you can relate your topic/text to and comment on these.
Your discussion should also make connections where appropriate to the reading we have done together in the course, showing connections between your materials and the arguments and issues that the article and book authors have presented. Use citations when referring to specific readings from the texts.
Here is a list of some of the course themes from the syllabus and reading/discussions:
• Reclaiming women’s (sometimes hidden) history in historical religions and the Bible
• Reforming religious traditions
• Creating new religious traditions
• Religious language: naming the sacred in new ways
• Self in relation (community, relationships)
• Transforming the world
• Special insights from women converting to Buddhism
• Women as religious thinkers and creators
• The ordinary and the sacred.
• Women’s strategies for acceptance, healing, and hope.
• Spiritual Seeking, pilgrimage, teachers
• Questions of inner empowerment, authority
• Women's community building, relationships with other women
• Women’s experience of and power to define “feminine” values
• Women’s use of ritual (including physical journeys/pilgrimages);
• The spiral through life stages
• The both-and nature of spiritual experience (transcendent AND immanent)
• Women's leadership roles in different religions – or limited access to leadership roles in different religious communities
• Women’s self-empowerment through study of or reinterpretation of sacred texts
• Feminine images of the divine (both inside traditional religions and in the creation of new Goddess-centered religions)
• The authority of experience rather than institutional doctrine, etc.
• Issues of backlash: religious conservatism and anti-feminist actions