RELI 315 - Saints and Superheroes

This course is a study of religion, mythology, and popular culture in North American culture, with a focus on the role of saints in the Catholic tradition, on the one hand, and the role of the hero in ancient Greco-Roman traditions, as well as contemporary Marvel and DC universes. Admired and revered in their respective cultures, the saint and the superhero are otherworldly figures for their devotees, capable of miraculous, amazing, and superhuman feats. Neither the laws of nature nor the conventions and norms of society circumscribe the actions and powers of such figures; they overturn common standards of reason and science, and operate in a region of reality that is filled with wonder and marvel, a deeper and more expansive universe than meets the eye. Both figures, too, are capable of extraordinary acts of selflessness and compassion, acts that exceed everyday ethical norms. In addition to exploring the points of contact between the two, this class will consider the phenomena and traits that are distinctive to each one, with the saint belonging to a Christian universe and the hero to Greco-Roman and non-Christian worlds. Ultimately, the class is interested in what the saint and superhero can tell us about fundamental existential questions: What does it mean to be human? What can we know about the universe? What ethical principles should we live by, and why should we embrace ethics in the first place? How does the figure of saint or superhero articulate, address, and respond to perceived injustices and wrongs in the world? How does the representation of the superheroes' gender, class, and race influence the identity and purpose of the superhero? Can the examples of saints and superheroes inspire or thwart human development? How is God, and the Gods, understood in these traditions?

Grade Basis
Regular Grades
Course Attributes
Writing Emphasis