HC221H: Encounters with God

Professor: Lisa Wolverton

4.00 credits

  • CRN 21036: Monday & Wednesday, 0830-0950 @ CHA 201
  • CRN 21041: Tuesday & Thursday, 0830-0950 @ CHA 201

What does it mean to be human?  For at least one thousand years, Christians answered this question in relation to a transcendent supreme being: God.  From the last centuries of the Roman Empire to the last decades of the European Middle Ages, humanity was understood inseparably from its divine Creator.  This followed the official Christian teaching—inherited and adapted from Jewish doctrine—that humans were made by God in his image and expected to follow his precepts in life in order to be reunited with him in the afterlife.  But how did such beliefs translate to individual experience, to people’s perception of themselves as persons, of the purpose of their lives, or of their place in the world and relationship to others?  And how did the answers to such questions evolve over centuries, as the world in which women and men passed their daily lives changed?

This course is an interdisciplinary engagement with how Christians variously encountered the God they understood had created them and was, from beyond the world and time, omnipresent on earth.  Its anchors will be two autobiographies composed a millennium apart:  the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo, an intellectual giant of the fourth century, and the Book of Margery Kempe, a formerly obscure text by an English woman in the fifteenth century.  We will explore other modes of experiencing the divine over the course of the intervening centuries—through asceticism, music, art and architecture, in community and alone.