REL/JS 210R: INTERPRETING RELIGIOUS TEXTS:

 

INTERPRETING PSALMS*

 

Spring 2011

 

Blumenthal   (reldrb@emory.edu; 404-634-3833)

TTh    1:30 -2:15                                                                    

Candler 212

 

Content:

The Book of Psalms   remains one of the central documents of western culture and religion. Each generation reads the psalms in the light of traditions received from previous generations and of current experience. This course will bring to the student various interpretations of the psalms and will demand that students do their own interpretation of these great classic texts.

 

Texts:

Bible,  any translation; best: Tanakh,  Jewish Publication Society.

D. Blumenthal, Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest.

 

Reserve:

C. S. Lewis,  Reflections on the Psalms.

A. Feuer, Tehillim.

 

Particulars:

We will read the texts very closely and consider the questions: What religious experiences lie behind the text of psalms?  What experience does the text evoke in us? This is a very writing- and reflection-intensive class. Very active class participation is expected. One final project.

 

 

SYLLABUS

 

 

Introduction

 

1/13                 Introducing ourselves 

Types of Interpretation -- discussion

                        Looking at Ps. 19

 

Learning to Read the Psalms

 

Psalms of Praise

1/18                 Psalm 23

1/20                 Psalm 114

1/25                 Psalm 117-18

 

Psalms of Danger

1/27                 Psalm 121

2/1                   Psalm 91

 

Psalms of Prayer

2/3                   Psalm 27

divide it, write two commentaries

2/8                   Psalm 30

divide it, write two commentaries

 

Psalms of Anger

2/10                 Psalm 44

                        Facing, 86-110.

2/15                 Psalm 109.

                        Facing, 112-156.

 

Acrostic Psalms

2/17                 Psalm 145

                        “Ashrei” on my website

                        (C. S. Lewis)  

 

Giving Voice to the Psalm

 

Please choose a psalm we have studied, divide it into voices using margins, write two commentaries on it, prepare copies for the class, and then lead a class discussion.

 

2/22

2/24

3/1

3/3

(3/8, 10            no classes; spring break)

3/15

3/17

3/22

 

Choose Your Own Psalm

 

Please choose a psalm of their own, divide it into voices using margins, write two commentaries on it, prepare copies for the class, and then lead a class discussion.

 

3/24

3/29

3/31

4/5

4/7

4/12

4/14

(4/19, 21          no classes; Passover)

4/28                 Conclusions

 

 

FINAL PROJECT AND GRADING

 

 

Prepare your portfolio:

 

Please prepare the following two files:

 

(1)  Psalm 27: text, explicatory commentary, and inner-voice commentary

(2)  Your chosen psalm: text, explicatory commentary, and inner-voice commentary

 

If you wish, you may include your Psalm 91: text, explicatory commentary, and inner-voice commentary.

 

Please edit these files so that they represent your best work – in clarity of presentation and strength.

 

Answer both questions:

 

Please answer the following two questions

 

(1) What happened in this course that you were not expecting? How did this affect you? How did this course help you grow as a person?

 

(2)  How has your understanding of the Psalms changed? Give your initial understanding, your new one, and account for the development.

 

When you are finished, please send both the files and the answers to me by email. It is your responsibility to get the material to me; not mine to chase you for it. Also, please send them as “(name) Ps. 27” “(name) Ps. ??” and “(name) Q&A.”

 

I will use your portfolio and answers to the two questions, combined with my record of your previous submissions and class participation, to formulate your grade. Some grades are marginal so, if your GPA is important, please include it at the end of the sheet with the answers to the questions.

 

Optional project:

 

There is no downside to this; that is, if you try this and it is not successful, it cannot lower your grade. However, if it is good, it can raise your grade. Also, if you decide not to do this, that too cannot lower your grade.

 

The ultimate goal of this course is to help you to develop your own voice in interpreting psalms. If you feel up to it – and I encourage you to do it – please choose either a psalm we have studied together or one of your own choosing and prepare the text with margins for the voices plus an inner-voice commentary with yourself as the “character.” I know this is difficult but it is worth it. Any material submitted to me is completely confidential.

 

Alternately, you can “re-text” a psalm by choosing a psalm we have studied or one of your own, changing the fundamental images of the psalm, and then writing your own version of the psalm. This, too, is difficult but it is worth the effort. Again, any material submitted to me is completely confidential.

 

Not everyone is emotionally ready to do this; I understand that. But this is an opportunity for you, as a person, to do something for yourself, to put yourself on paper. I recommend this, but do not insist on it.

 

I am willing to see drafts of this effort.

 

 

ALL FINAL MATERIALS MUST BE IN MY EMAIL BOX BY MAY 3RD, 7:00 PM.

 

SENIORS BEWARE !  I MUST HAVE GRADES IN BY THE DATE ASSIGNED BY THE REGISTRAR IN ORDER FOR YOU TO GRADUATE.

 



*  The distribution of psalms among the days varies with each class. Some classes need more time; others are more responsive and I can proceed faster. Some classes are bigger and need more student presentation time.