I'm not sure what would be useful to you, but this is what I have to report. perhaps Chester Gillis mentioned how the department has looked into using the "Mission and Interreligious Dialogue" as a rational for shaping either the undergraduate or a potential graduate program. The idea was to address the question of what is Jesuit or Catholic about our programs while going in the direction of comparative studies. Our discussion of our undergraduate curriculum was suspended last spring because of the departmental self-study, which required an explosion of committee work, but we are have been more actively engaged in the exploration of a graduate program, either in comparative ethics or Christianity and interreligious dialogue. This semester, Diane Yeager and I are team teaching a course on comparative Buddhist and Christina ethics on the theme of reverence for life, which might a way of looking into how a comparative program of any kind might be structured.
It's hard for me to say at this moment how I see myself (and my work) participating in either graduate program initiatives. I have thought quite a bit about the issue of comparison, of course, and therefore have something to contribute, but my fear is that both programs will center primarily on Christianity and will lack the resources to ensure any real in depth study of comparative traditions. I also suspect that the methods will be primarily theological rather than the focus on history and culture that I favor.
That's the state of the department. As for my own work, my focus right now is on Buddhist poetry, and the way this category challenges the distinction between religious practice and aesthetics, which seem quite blurred in East Asian Buddhist history. This research aligns with my general tendency to bleed "religion" into culture without worrying about sustaining the integrity/autonomy of the former. This seems to have great comparative possibilities, particularly considering the apparent secularity of contemporary society.
I don't know if these things are at all relevant to you, but they are what is going on, in any case.
Take care, Fran
Created: October 16, 2000 Updated: October 16, 2000