Theological Aesthetics

STH TT 924

Why is the retrieval of beauty essential in an age of terror? Grace Jantzen suggests that a displacement of beauty in western consciousness can be directly correlated with the increase of violence in post/modernity. Following Jantzen’s call for a theology of beauty, we will explore the significance of aesthetics in the current religious landscape. Using Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics as a lens for exploring the relationship between beauty and the divine, we will examine key works in western thought in which beauty plays a significant role (Plato, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, John Damascene, Bonaventure, Kierkegaard). In the second half of the course, we will survey recent discussions of aesthetics in continental philosophy, literature, and ethics as they intersect with the study of religion (using Continental Aesthetics Reader). In these latter sessions, we will focus on specialized topics: sacred space, sacred dance, sacred bodies and advertising, and sacred writing in order to see how the theory engaged in the first part of the course informs contemporary issues. What impact does this theological retrieval have on contemporary discussions of justice, trauma, conflict, and terror? What role could theological aesthetics play in a heavily visual culture? Although we will trace beauty predominantly through Christian thought, students are encouraged to pursue projects in which they explore the aesthetic dimensions of other religions.

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