May 21, 2024  
College Catalog 2021-2022 
College Catalog 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

RELI 226 - Martyrdom Then and Now

From Socrates to suicide bombers, martyrs have been forced to give up their lives, or chosen to risk them and even to die, rather than renounce their beliefs or practices. Of course, we know their stories only second hand. This course explores how narratives about martyrs (“martyrologies”) relate to the formation of religious identities and communities. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze martyrologies from the early Christian and Jewish periods, the beginnings of Islam, the sixteenth century, and modernity. We will pay special attention to the social and political contexts with which martyrs often found themselves at odds (including the Roman Empire in the ancient past, and the U.S./Middle East conflicts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries). In class discussions, readings, and written work, you will have the opportunity to reflect on the following questions (among others): How do the stories we tell about martyrs shape the way we understand religious practices and beliefs? How do narratives of bearing witness, suffering, and death help to illumine relationships between religious and political domains? How might our current understanding of martyrdom be informed for better and for worse by a study of history? (4 Credits)