Beyond Disenchantment

Max Weber famously wrote about “the disenchantment of the world,” but historians and theorists from Charles Taylor to Jason Josephson-Storm have shown that the world never stays disenchanted, that we oscillate between a world drained of magic and a world full of it. Is there a way out of this oscillation? There are perhaps three: the “technological sublime” (when technology becomes “magical”); a reabsorption of the human into “Nature”; and what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “this-worldly Christianity.” The purpose of this course is to explore these three alternatives for our future. We will explore the possibilities through reading fiction, theology, and philosophy.


Follow the links to the PDFs and print them out and bring them to class on the days that we’re studying them. It is important for many reasons (some of which I will explain to you) that you use paper texts rather than reading on screens.



How We Got Here

1.14: Introduction to course and its prequel

1.16: More introductory comments

One: Technology and Sublimity

1.21: Shelley, Frankenstein Volume I

1.23: Frankenstein Volume II

1.28: Frankenstein Volume III

1.30: All essays about Frankenstein in our edition

2.4: Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Part I

2.6: Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Part II

2.11: Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Part III

Two: Back to Nature

2.13: The Dark Mountain Manifesto

2.18: MacDonald, H Is for Hawk, Part I

2.20: H Is for Hawk, Part II; First exam due 2.21

At this point things get rather complicated because Always Coming Home is a very strange book and cannot properly be read in the way that other texts for this class may be read. I will therefore be making rather general suggestions. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with the entire book, though you need not (and perhaps should not) read everything in order.

2.25: Le Guin, Always Coming Home, focusing on the introductory passages, the poems, and the appendices

2.27: Always Coming Home, focusing on Stone Telling’s story (all three parts)

3.3: Always Coming Home, focusing on Pandora

3.5: Always Coming Home concluded


Three: This-Worldly Christianity and the New Creation

3.17: Reed, “The King’s Two Bodies”

3.19: Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Prologue and Parts I and II

3.24: Bonhoeffer, Part III

3.26: Bonhoeffer, Part IV

3.31: Lewis, Miracles, Chapters 1-10

4.2: Lewis, Miracles, Chapters 11-17

4.7: Wright, “Jesus is Coming — Plant a Tree!”; Second exam due 4.8

4.9: Auden, “Memorial for the City,” “In Praise of Limestone,” “Friday’s Child”

4.14: Auden, “Horae Canonicae

4.16: Continued discussion of “Horae Canonicae

4.21: Diadeloso

4.23: Robinson, Gilead

4.28: Continued discussion of Gilead

4.30: Concluding the course

5.7: Third exam due