RELS 601 Text and Context

This graduate course examines the role of textual discoveries for understanding the context of canonical texts in the academic study of religion. The classic texts of world civilization transmit some of the most profound insights on the human condition. They often serve as authoritative sources for cosmology, morality, and self-transformation. But these works were not created in a vacuum, and the narratives conveyed in them have not been transmitted unchanged through time: they have contexts and are read in various ways. In this course we will look at some textual discoveries and analyses that have changed our understanding of some traditional religious narratives. Our survey will include discoveries of manuscripts of received texts containing interesting variora, new texts that add heretofore unknown context to the received tradition, and new analyses of old texts that have yielded interesting results. People (and their interpretations) come and go, but the words of great literature are immortal. Or are they?

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