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2020
Friday, April 24th

A Full View of Sin in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Jacob Stiling, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: Leslie Bickford, Ph.D.

Within literature, a favorable theme, element, and motif is sin. However, as often as sin appears in literature, it is just as common for sin to be portrayed in a shallow form when compared to hamartiology. Hamartiology is the study of sin in theology and philosophy. It is common for literature to focus on a singular concept or facet of sin; thus, sin portrayed in literature is unbiblical or non-theological. However, when criticized from a structural lens, it can be seen that Tolstoy’s use of sin is both biblical and theological from a hamartiological view. The portrayal of sin in Anna Karenina is both realistic and genuine. Among its characters and relationships, readers can see the progression, acts, consequences, and guilt of sin. Moreover, there is a parallel to these acts that clearly reflect and copy the progression, acts, consequences, and guilt of sin of characters in the Bible. The characters specifically being analyzed are Anna and Vronsky. It is in these characters that sin is fully fleshed out and developed. In doing so, Tolstoy creates a story with characters that are remarkably relatable and realistic to the human struggle and existence.

An Analysis of Two Perspectives of Queer Christianity

Sydney Strother, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: M. Gregory Oakes, Ph.D.

Queer theology is the process of unsettling the common effort to reduce the experience of God and Christianity into simple heteronormative categories and dismantling binary thinking about gender. Queer theology contains two main perspectives: (1) reparative, which states that queer theology is an active theology that uses the processes of queer(ing) and trans(ing) the sacred and biblical texts to disrupt cishetnormative Christianity, and (2) aboriginal, which is the recognition that the sacred and biblical texts are already queer(ed) and trans(ed) and what makes them appear cishetnormative are cultural and societal influences throughout history. Theologian P.S. Cheng explains in his book, Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology, that queering is an active process, that one extracts the queer translations from a text or chooses to experience God as a queer God. Theologian Austen Hartke makes the argument for the reparative perspective that the book of Genesis should be read with the removal of binary gender. To contrast, Teresa Hornsby and Ken Stone make the primary argument for the aboriginal view in their book, Bible Trouble, that queerness originates in Christianity from the chaos of creation. Additionally, Elizabeth Edman, in Queer Virtue, argues that Jesus is the queer(er) at the historical origin of Christianity. Both viewpoints on the nature of the queerness of Christianity provide insight into the topic, but the aboriginal view provides a better argument overall.

Nietzsche’s Death of God and the Slave-Revolt in Morality

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Ryan Haarer, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: M. Gregory Oakes, Ph.D.

None of Nietzsche’s theses stands out quite as much as his “Death of God” thesis. An argument can be made that the death of God is the result of the changes that the slave-revolt within morality bring about. Drawing on the observations that Nietzsche and scholars have made about the slaves and Christians, it is plausible that certain activities that the groups engaged in led to the unbelievability, or death, of God. The activities that will be given attention within this essay are the slave’s and Christian’s desire for progress and truth, which have negative and unintentional effects on other aspects of life, namely faith in God. The principal negative effects of progress and truth-seeking, being the death and decay of ideas and values, can be held responsible for decreasing levels of faith in God, while simultaneously being responsible for the increase of faith in science. This switching of faith, then, would be an explanation of how God’s existence has become unbelievable, ultimately resulting in what Nietzsche describes as his death.

Personalizing Religion: "New Age" Spirituality and Authenticity Online

Mattin Avalon, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: Michael Sickels, Ph.D.

Traditionally, spirituality has been understood through uniform religious communities, fixed beliefs, and face-to-face worship in physical spaces. As social media sites begin to rise as a platform for both information and conversation, spiritual identity becomes an individual pursuit and virtual performance. “New age” spirituality comes to the forefront of transcendental conversation as religious practitioners are increasingly encouraged to explore, blend, and pick different beliefs to find their own unique expressions of religious and spiritual selves. This research project explores that pursuit. Three “new age” Reddit communities, oriented around spirituality and religion, are captured in this ethnographic media analysis. 600 threads of conversation were analyzed to explore the processes of identity construction within these communities, what warrants spiritual authenticity in a virtual space, and how one’s individual spiritual endeavors personalize the religious experience. The results of this project find a common thread through three different communities: an emphasis on the personal construction of sacred spaces, communication, and a spiritually powerful self. The broader implications of this project lie in the postmodern suggestions of a continuous fracturing of identity and empowerment of the individual that permeates all areas of social life—including the new and virtual.

Satan and Ahab: Milton's Influence on Melville's Greatest Work

Cameron Davis, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: Matthew Fike, Ph.D.

Herman Melville’s annotations of Paradise Lost reveal an underlying theme that Ahab shares with Satan – a tendency to tie their misfortunes to the concept of fate. Whereas John Parke and Robin Sandra Grey deal with the theme of Providence and Satan/Ahab as tragic figures, the present essay develops the theme of Providence and examines Satan’s attempt to place blame on God with Ahab’s consistent anger at the universe. Not only did Milton inspire Melville’s character, but Melville also applied Milton’s idea of predestination to Ahab’s mistaken belief that fate is the same as Providence. Many of the lines Melville comments on in his volumes of Paradise Lost are reflected in Moby Dick through major symbols connected to Captain Ahab, such as his lightning-shaped scar and its similarity to Satan’s scars from the battle in Heaven. Ahab’s journey from the loss of his leg to the sinking of the Pequod parallels Satan’s role in his own demise – by corrupting the garden, he brings about his own transformation into a snake and ultimately Christ’s mission to redeem mankind. In the end, Ahab refuses to acknowledge his own failures, and arrogance leads him to fall into the depths of the sea in much the same way as Satan falls from Heaven. Ahab’s error in judgment is to confuse fate with Providence, which suggests that Melville shares Milton’s theological beliefs and explains the allusions to Paradise Lost throughout his novel.

The Literal Interpretation of Genesis Reevaluated

Kathryn Priddy, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor: M. Gregory Oakes, Ph.D.

Whether the theory of evolution can be accepted alongside the belief of an inerrant Bible has been a point of contention in the public sphere for nearly a century. While it might be common for some Christians to assume a literal interpretation of the Bible in terms of morality, spirituality, history, and science, this was not always the case throughout history. The principles of non-literal interpretation are held by both ancient and modern writers. Furthermore, Christians have always held that it is important to believe in truth, whether it is natural or not, so if evolution is true, it is better for the Christian to believe in evolution rather than any other theory.