University of Notre Dame

Russia seeks God: Theology, Literature and the Arts

Course Number: RU 13186-1
Instructor: Thomas Marullo

What happens when, in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, a country turns away from more than seven hundred years of an intensely religious culture and embraces secularization, socialism, and science? How does it adapt medieval ideals to modern political, social, and economic structures? How does it err in false messianism, men-gods and cults? How is it called back to religious tradition and truth by indigenous writers, particularly in images and ideas of the Evil One (physical, social, supernatural, psychological, theological, and existential; romantic, modern, and most-modern)? Finally, how does it resurrect religious consciousness after nearly seventy-years of socio-political atheism?

“Russia Seeks God: Theology, Literature and the Arts” is an interdisciplinary, multi-media course on the national spiritual tradition from medieval to modern times.

Topics to be discussed are the Russian idea of God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the angels and saints; the understanding of Satan and devils; the nature of dvoeverie or “dual” meld of Christian and folk beliefs; the workings of religious prophets and communities (genuine and false); the dynamics of wandering and pilgrimage (internal and external); the appeal to myth (Christian and pagan) and to other faith-systems (Judaism, Buddhism); the tie between church and state: and the expression of faith and spirituality in literature, art, architecture, music, liturgy, and ritual.

The course is designed to sharpen students’ aesthetic and analytical capabilities, improve their reading comprehension, and strengthen their written and oral skills.