Dr. Jens’ main area of research is 19th-century Russian literature – especially the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky – with a focus on the relationship between literature, discourse, and Eastern Orthodoxy. He also has research interests in Eastern European cinema, science fiction, and cultural ties between the Western Balkans and Russia. Dr. Jens is also the director of the Arizona in Russia study abroad program in Moscow, Russia.
This course focuses on the history and doctrine of Eastern Christianity from its origins in the early Church through today, emphasizing the cultural manifestations of Orthodox doctrine: liturgy, iconography, pious practice. We will compare Eastern Orthodoxy to Western Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), and will examine various different national Churches within Eastern Orthodoxy (i.e., Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian, Modern Greek, the older "Oriental" Churches, etc.), with a primary focus on Russia. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is often perceived as being one of the more 'mystical' of Christian traditions, and we will explore the Orthodox vision of 'the mystical life', examining its basis in history and contemporary experience. We will also ask about the significance of Church doctrine and practice for the development of culture as a whole in the areas of the world in which Eastern Christianity predominates, and the ways in which that culture both differs from and relates to what we (perhaps inaccurately) call "Western" civilization. In general, Orthodox practice relies heavily on the senses, and the course is designed to be experiential. To that end, we will make at least one field trip to a local Orthodox Church during the course of the semester.