Lectures and Films and Blogs, Oh My…

powerrangermaryREL 360 is the course number that we’re now using for a new, 1 credit hour course (repeatable for up to a total of 3 semesters/credit hours), beginning in the Fall of 2014, on what happens when the Humanities bumps into popular culture.

Offered each semester, it is the outgrowth of the past two years of informal movie nights with our student association — although they were successful events they lacked the opportunity of delving into the issues of the films in more detail or linking them explicitly to topics already being examined in other classes. “Popular Culture/Public Humanities” requires students to attend four films each semester (once a month, from 6:00-9:00 pm, room and films to be announced) along with either the Day Lecture (in the Fall) or the Aronov Lecture (in the Spring), and then to write a small number of brief commentaries on these events/issues, some of which (after working through drafts with a faculty member) will be posted here, on our Student Blog.

In the Fall 2014 semester, REL 360 will meet:

Tues Aug 26
Tues Sept 23
Tues Oct 21
Tues Nov 18

In order to earn credit students must attend all events and complete the assignments.

Coordinated by Prof. Finnegan, REL 360 will also involve a variety of other REL faculty, all demonstrating the relevance of the Humanities for studying popular culture by introducing each film and then leading a discussion after, all of which provides a springboard into each student’s commentary on the issues the film or the lecture allows us to examine in more detail.

Speak to Prof. Finnegan for permission to enroll.

While the films will be advertised and remain open to other students, only those enrolling in REL 360 and completing its assignments will earn credit for the course.

Grand Theft Auto Anyone?

By Seth Cox

Seth Cox is double majoring in Religious Studies and Philosophy. He is interested in the interactions between practitioners of historically Asian religions and the rest of the world. This post originally appeared at Monks and Nones, the blog of REL 371.

Controversy. It doesn’t matter which side of a controversy you are on, if the controversy is big enough it will catch public attention. Grand Theft Auto V (or GTAV) is the fastest game to reach 1 billion dollar in sales revenue ever. GTAV is a violent video game (it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it THE violent video game) that thrives on bad news reviews claiming it is a proponent to school shootings and good gaming reviews that say it is merely an outlet for stress. Regardless of your opinions on this game it does have some clever satirical moments and themes, some of which even apply to our class.

The game has its own radio stations in-game, and no radio station is complete without its own commercials. One of these commercials was for a Yoga studio that claimed to finally have “authentic” American Yoga. Unfortunately, this brand of American Yoga apparently has blood and violence and is about as peaceful as a monster truck rally (if the announcer’s tone of voice was any indication). The history of Yoga in the West is quite interesting and, needless to say, what most Americans now know as Yoga is only a small facet of what Yoga actually has been historically. The Theosophists of the late 19th century had a huge impact on contemporary Yoga. Originally the craze was all meditation Yoga, only later did it become into the physical exercise it is today. If you take the opinions of GTA developers seriously, then a qualification of being an authentic American activity involves violence, which is pretty interesting in and of itself. I think that the creators of GTA were spoofing the development of Yoga in their portrayal of it being violent. Yoga developed from an “Eastern” activity that primarily focused on meditation and breathing into a more “Western” activity that centers primarily on physical activity. The next step, according to GTA, is for it to become progressively more violent. The idea is that a Westernized Eastern tradition such as Yoga becomes American only when it becomes violent is something to think about.