This course explores the concept and the social and intellectual phenomenon of “orthodoxy” (literally: “true opinion” or “straitened belief”). Orthodoxy is commonly defined as “truth or sound belief according to an authoritative norm” (Encyclopaedia of Religion). The aim of the course is, in the first instance, to stimulate students to think deeply about how truth-claims come to be established in community as authoritative, normative and natural; that is, as “the truth” – exemplified in the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. It is further to stimulate students to think about the social and discursive consequences of truth – how society behaves with truth, and how truth ‘behaves’ in society. The relationship between truth and authority will be treated through a close reading of relevant theory and case studies drawn from different fields (including history, philosophy, literary criticism, cultural studies, sociology, psychology, religion, history of science, media studies, and jurisprudence) with particular attention to the influence of social, institutional, political and discursive formations. Students should emerge from the course with an informed understanding of the processes by which truth is effected, affected and invested, and with a developed ability to interrogate and deconstruct that which is presented as being true, normative and just.
Note: This course will meet every other Tuesday for the full year, beginning September 9 for the fall and January 27 for the spring term.