Jerusalem: City of Gods (RELG/JWST) Professor Lesleigh Cushing
- Associate Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies
Jerusalem—the Holy Land, al-Quds, city of God, birthplace of Solomon, place where Jesus taught, home of the Temple—is a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In this introduction to the three Abrahamic religions that hold this city dear, we will learn about their respective scriptures and interpretation, feasts and fasts, pilgrimages, sanctuaries and sacred spaces, rituals and worship services. We will also investigate the ways that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have understood themselves in relation to this sacred city and how their perceptions of sacredness have shaped the city. While the primary focus of this course will be the religions of Jerusalem, students will also become acquainted with the city’s history (the major periods in its growth and development, its place in international contexts) and geography (the natural landscape, layout of the ancient and modern cities, contemporary neighborhoods, and significant architecture), and (inevitably) the politics that come of the city’s being a sacred center for three major religions.
The course will culminate in a one-week trip to Jerusalem, so students will be able to explore the sacred geography themselves (as well as experience the contemporary city and its culinary traditions). We will see some of her most sacred sites—the City of David, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Al Quds, Mt. Zion, the Garden of Gethsemane; approach the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock; walk the Stations of the Cross. Throughout the fall, students will have researched thoroughly the history, architecture, religious significance of one of the sites we will visit in Jerusalem. Students will produce a guide to their site and—as newly minted experts—be responsible for leading the group on a tour of it.
While in Jerusalem, in addition to visiting ancient sites from our three religions, we will also visit at least one church, mosque and synagogue to see how the three religions are lived today. In the spring semester, we will continue our conversation by exploring how the religions are lived in our neighborhood. We will visit central New York sites like the Utica Court Street mosque, a Syracuse synagogue, the Jordanville Russian Orthodox Monastery, as well as visit sites like the Oneida Perfectionist Community and Hill Cumorah to explore local communities that pushed the boundaries of the Abrahamic faiths.
In Professor Lesleigh Cushing's Own Words
View Cushing's comments at a recent information session.
As an undergraduate at McGill University, I majored in English Literature. The professors were all very good, but the classes were big and I never really had a sense of intellectual community. In my third year, I started taking religion courses – particularly courses on the Bible – because I thought they would deepen my knowledge of literature. Soon, though, I was taking all my courses in religion and Jewish Studies: two smaller departments with a strong sense of community that really provided me an intellectual home.
One of the things I’ve loved at Colgate is being able to provide students with a real sense of home: I teach first year seminars regularly and love introducing students to Colgate and what it is to be a college student; I see my teaching in Core 151 as a way of helping first year and sophomore students create a foundation for their liberal arts education; and I love bringing students into the religion department and Jewish Studies program, where they get a lot of faculty attention.
Teaching this sophomore seminar is another way for me to work closely with a group of students, to get to know them really well, and to build a community of learners and friends. My course is an introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that uses Jerusalem as a central site for thinking about the three religions. A person could do a course like this in Spain, or Turkey, or even in the US, if the goal were simply to look at the ways these three religions are lived in the world today. But since Jerusalem is a holy city to all three traditions, it made sense to set the city at the center of the course. The framing of the course is Jerusalem, city of Gods, rather than a political history of the city.
I’m very excited about the course: I spent a year in Jerusalem between my master’s and PhD program and absolutely fell in love with the city. So much of my scholarship deals with the ancient city of Jerusalem, I felt I knew the city well before I’d ever been there, but of course the city I know academically is not the city one travels to. It was eye opening to be in such a beautiful, complicated place, and to come to love and know it. It’s been almost fifteen years since then, so I am excited to discover how the city has grown and changed over the years.
I’m also excited to focus on Christianity and Islam in Jerusalem. Most of my scholarly work is in Jewish studies, but the past few years I’ve been teaching Introduction to the Study of Religion in the Religion department which has given me an opportunity to explore other religions in depth. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Christianity and Islam and I am really looking forward to seeing Jerusalem through the lens of those religions.
The course will be focused on religion, but of course it will be impossible not to deal with related fields – geography, politics, history, and archaeology. We’ll also be looking at the culinary traditions of Jerusalem, which is a special interest of mine. Over the semester, we’ll be reading (yes, reading!) the new cookbook, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi – and we’re going to cook from it together, too! Cooking and eating together are not just ways of getting to know the cultures we are studying: they are ways of having the students come to know one another much better. Commensality is incredibly important for creating social, religious, and personal bonds.
Coffee and Cigarettes (HIST) Professor Robert Nemes
- Associate Professor of History
How did Arabian coffee and American tobacco become global vices? How has the use and meaning of these everyday products changed over time? Why are so many people drawn to caffeine and nicotine – and why do they have such a hard time quitting them? In this class, we will trace the history of coffee and cigarettes from the 1500s to the present. Our readings and discussions will range from sixteenth-century Turkish coffeehouses to twenty-first century Starbucks, and from the prohibition by King James I on tobacco to contemporary debates on second-hand smoke.
The fall semester will also prepare us of a weeklong trip to Costa Rica in January, when the coffee harvest is in full swing. We’ll pick coffee berries and talk with growers, laborers, and traders. By visiting big plantations as well as eco-friendly family farms, we’ll learn about the production of an everyday good we take for granted. A larger goal of the trip is to see what globalization looks like through Costa Rican eyes.
In the spring semester, we will continue our conversations, placing an emphasis on meaningful discussions and on intellectual engagement. Our conversations will touch on coffee consumption, sustainable agriculture, and global fairness, and we’ll think about what these issues might mean for Colgate and for the surrounding region. Students will embark on a range of projects, including the creation of short videos, posters, or web-pages. View Nemes's comments at a recent information session. APPLY NOW
Existentialism (PHIL) Professor David Dudrick
- Associate Professor of Philosophy
Who am I? How should I live? For what may I hope? In this course, we will confront these fundamental questions in our investigation of the philosophical movement known as existentialism. Existentialism came of age in 1940s Paris with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus, but its roots extend at least to Pascal, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard in the 17th through 19th centuries. While they insist on rigor, these authors are no friends of abstraction: for them, philosophy must reflect our actual, concrete, everyday lives. As a result, they make use of literary forms uncommon in philosophy, including plays, novels, and short stories. Whatever means they employ, however, their goal is always to challenge readers to confront these questions for themselves, a challenge that we will seek to meet – individually and collectively – in this course.
Over the winter break, we will travel as a group to Paris, France, in an effort to better understand existentialism concretely. Doing so will take us to Lycée Henri IV and the École normale supérieure, where Sartre studied philosophy, and to the Cimetière de Montparnasse, where Sartre and Beauvoir were laid to rest. We’ll consider on the importance of the experience of the French Resistance to existentialism and visit sites celebrating its fallen heroes. We’ll think through existentialist themes in works housed at the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. And we’ll journal our reflections while sitting in the cafés where so much existentialist work was produced.
Upon returning from Paris, we’ll use the spring semester to broaden and deepen our understanding of existentialism by considering its relevance in contemporary life. We’ll examine current work being done in philosophy, read recent novels, and see films new and old that explore and/ or challenge the assumptions of existentialist thought. Students will pursue projects that they will present to their peers in a salon.
In Professor David Dudrick's Own Words
View Dudrick's comments at a recent information session.
I love philosophy – it’s both my vocation and my joy. Philosophy poses some of the biggest questions human beings can ask: does God exist? Are we free? Is morality objective? Because there are no settled answers to these questions, one might think that philosophy makes no progress. In a certain respect, this is true. There is no “instructor version” of the text with the answers in the back, no database that you can access to discover what philosophers know. If the discipline doesn’t make progress, though, individuals who practice it certainly do: by reading and thinking about these issues, our answers come to be supported by reasons. And because these reasons are our own, the beliefs in question become our own as well. Philosophy isn’t a body of knowledge, it’s an activity – it’s something you do. Doing it allows you to take hold of your beliefs and, in doing so, your self. It allows you, in Nietzsche’s words, “to become who you are.”
But if philosophy is deeply personal in this way, it is also fundamentally communal. How do we assess whether there are good reasons to think that God exists or that we’re free? We can do so only by putting them into conversation, by talking through them. Our conversation partners span time and space – we engage with thinkers from Socrates to Sartre to see whether their ideas are worth taking seriously and let them respond through their texts. Most importantly, though, we talk with each other – our class is like a lab where these big ideas get put to the test. And here’s the thing: we won’t agree! But one of the purposes of a liberal arts education is to come to see that you can regard another’s position as reasonable and wrong at the same time. Philosophy is one way that the liberal arts train us not to agree all the time, but to disagree well.
It’s because I think of philosophy in this way that I’m so excited about teaching Existentialism in the SRS program. The existentialists aren’t simply interested in changing your mind – their interested in changing your life. Better put: they offer you the chance to your life. For them, philosophy is far from a disinterested pursuit of the truth: these issues matter.
I remember being disappointed as an undergraduate that the exciting ideas I was thinking through in class didn’t translate into the rest of college life. I wanted to be in a community where conversations didn’t stop at the classroom door, where the people I was hanging out with were also the people who I wanted to think with. That’s just what this program generally and this class specifically is designed to do: to allow you to be in a community where you don’t just learn the liberal arts, you live them.
Part of living the liberal arts – and of living existentialism more specifically – will involve traveling in Paris in January of 2014. When I directed the St. Andrews Study Group a couple years ago, students reported that as much as they loved being in St. Andrews, they valued the community they formed there just as much as any travel experience. We will have had a semester of living and learning together before we embark on our Parisian excursion. This will not be a sightseeing trip; we’ll be engaged in the project of trying to determine the effect this city and its culture had on existentialist thought and whether such thought is relevant, especially germane, or even possible there today. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation in a .25 credit class in the spring semester.
I think the SRS program will be an amazing way to do philosophy and, more importantly, to be part of a community that lives and learns together. I hope you’ll consider joining us. SRSly.