Religion in

The Politics of Religious Authenticity

"We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile."

- George Orwell, c. 1949

: Wed 3:00-5:40 Location: Manly 210


Dr. Russell McCutcheon
Office: Manly 211
Office Hour: W 10:00-11:00

Ms. Vaia Touna
Office: Manly 315
Office Hour: M 3:00-4:00


Karen Armstrong on Religious Fundamentalism

John Esposito on the Struggles of Islam

About Online Readings

You can only access PDF readings (Portable Document Format) posted on this course page with the free Adobe Reader.

Select Final
Essay Resources

Andy Warhol Authentication Board, Inc.

Andy Warhol Denied (BBC Documentary, 7 parts, on

My Andy Warhol

"What is an Andy Warhol?" (NY Review of Books, October 22, 2009)

"What is an Andy Warhol?" An Exchange, (NY Review of Books, November 19, 2009)

Click the cover to read Karen Armstrong's Time "Viewpoint" essay, "The True, Peaceful Face of Islam," published on October 1, 2001 (PDF)


Resources for Bill Arnal's The Symbolic Jesus

From Jesus to Christ (PBS's Frontline, 1998)

The Real Face of Jesus? (The History Channel, 2010)

The Real Face of Jesus? (ABC News Report, 2010)




This upper-level seminar examines the ways in which some cultural representations are based on the assumption that they are more authentic, traditional, original, and thus authoritative, than others. The course will consider authenticity as being a judgment that operates on a sliding scale--a scale that has everything to do with with the social interests of those making the judgments and not about the features of the items about which those judgments are made. The course focuses, then, on competing discourses on authenticity as found at specific sites--and the various social worlds made possible by means of these discourses--rather than on any supposed authenticity itself.

The course has a group page on facebook where class discussion will be posted and continued, with the involvement of people at other schools.


Spring 2010



William Arnal, The Symbolic Jesus

Euripides, Hippolytos

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 1

Aaron Hughes, Situating Islam


Online Readings

Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"

Karen Armstrong, Preface from Islam: A Short History

Bill Arnal, "Definition" from The Guide to the Study of Religion

Bill Arnal, "The Segregation of Social Desire: 'Religion' and Disney World"

Talal Asad, "The Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category"

Paul Bové, "Discourse"

Seamus Deane, "Imperialism/Nationalism"

Anthony Elliott, Concepts of the Self Introduction, "Self, Society, and Everyday Life", and "The Repression of the Self"

John Esposito, Preface from Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam

André-Jean Festugière, "Two Currents in Personal Religion"

Stanley Fish, "Rhetoric"

Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System"

Stephen Greenblatt, "Culture"

Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions"

James Kavanagh, "Ideology"

Gary Lease, "Ideology"

Russell McCutcheon, "'As it Was in the Beginning...': The Modern Problem of the Authentic Self"

Russell McCutcheon, "The Jargon of Authenticity and the Study of Religion"

Russell McCutcheon, "'Religion' and the Governable Self"

Bill McKibben, "The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong"

J. Hillis Miller, "Narrative"

W. J. T. Mitchell, "Representation"

Annabel Patterson, "Intention"

Donald Pease, "Author"

John Carlos Rowe, "Structure"

Robert Shedinger, "A Post-9/11 Journey"

Brian Spooner, "Weavers and Dealers: The Authenticity of an Oriental Carpet"

Vaia Touna, "The Manageable Self in the Early Hellenistic Era"

Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland"