Interrogating faith: Using literature to teach religion and nature

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Environmental issues are typically analyzed by the natural sciences and economics, with literary and religious handlings of those issues viewed as supplemental at best. But literary writing, I argue, expands the scope of reflection, restoring the complexity of the world to the reader’s awareness. This chapter describes the use of Terry Tempest Williams’s Leap-a book that recounts Williams’ seven-year fascination with a Hieronymus Bosch painting-in the environmental humanities classroom. Students readily engage with this personal narrative as Williams interrogates her Mormon upbringing and the environmental positions held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To support integrative thinking on sustainability-a type of intellectual work commonly prioritized in college-wide curricula-I describe pedagogical activities that help students draw connections from specific passages in the book to various academic perspectives: the humanities, the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the creative arts. Of particular value to the field of religion and ecology, Leap integrates religious and scientific perspectives. The pedagogical activities described in this chapter are designed to help students think creatively and critically about religious and scientific claims about the natural world and, more generally, to integrate the many dimensions of their lives.

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Teaching Religion and Literature

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