Syllabus--Winter 2007




Professor David Buchman                                                   Professor Melissa Eden

Office: FOB 305                                                                    Office: CLA 111

Office phone:  7369                                                              Office phone: 7203

Email: buchman                                                                    Email: edenm

Discussion: 135A3--CL 115                                                            Discussion:  135A1--CL 201                                                          

Professor Frank Luttmer

Office: CLA 113

Office phone: 7205

Email: luttmer

Discussion: 135A2--CL 114




This course is designed to introduce students to great works of mysticism--the experience of spiritual union with ultimate reality--selected from the world's great religions.  The objectives are to analyze mystical texts carefully, to interpret them within the context of their own spiritual traditions, to compare them with each other, and to consider the insight they bring to our understanding of human beings and human spirituality.



Corless, Roger J.  The Vision of Buddhism. Paragon House.

Hacker, Diane. Rules for Writers. 5th ed.  St Martin’s.

Lao Tzu.  Tao Te Ching. D. C. Lau, trans. Penguin

Merton, Thomas.  The Way of Chuang Tzu.  Shambhala.

Shattuck, Cybelle. Hinduism. Prentice Hall.

Stoler Miller, Barbara, trans. The Bhagavad-Gita. Bantam.

Various handouts





First and foremost, this is your class.  It will alternate between discussion and lectures, but will function largely in a discussion format, and one of our main jobs will be to make sure that discussions are engaging and productive. Your job will be to pay attention, to read carefully, and to participate actively.  Participation counts in your final grade, so get used to speaking up, asking questions, challenging others in a friendly way, and most of all, commenting constructively on others’ writing, and presentations. 


Attendance:  Regular class attendance is essential if you want to get the most out of this course and if you want to pass it.  We therefore allow you a total of three absences from class (excused or unexcused, it makes no difference).  Save absences for emergencies, as each absence after the third will drop your grade by one step.  Remember that accidents, illnesses, and broken hearts may still come to pass in November or December, so don't miss class unnecessarily in September.  If you miss a test because of unexcused absence you may not make it up, and your grade for that test will be recorded as an F.


            Please notice that college vacations begin at the end of the class day before the free days and no earlier.  You are required to be in all of your classes on the day before and the day after vacations.  Tell you parents NOW not to schedule family vacations or plan travel schedules that will require you to miss class.


We reserve the right to fail any student who misses over four classes.


Late papers:  As a courtesy to us and to your classmates we ask that you turn papers in on time.  Each paper is due at the beginning of class on the day it is assigned.  Unless you get approval from your section leader in advance, he or she will penalize late papers by reducing your grade by 1/3 of a letter for every day late.  No paper may be submitted more than a week late. Please remember that if you do have an unforeseen emergency you should contact your section leader as well as the registrar’s office. They will inform your other faculty members on the nature of your emergency and estimated time of absence.


We also ask that, out of respect for the class, you make sure to prepare your class presentations on time and to lead discussion on the day assigned to you. Re-scheduling presentations takes away from valuable class time. If you need to reschedule due to an emergency, you will need to contact you section leader ahead of time.  We reserve the right to penalize late presentations or failure to lead discussion on the appropriate date with a failed grade.



We'll base your final grade on an average of your essay grades, your in-class writing and homework, presentations, class discussion, and your exam.  Other factors that can bump your grade up or down significantly are late papers, absences, and plagiarism.   Your final grade will be weighted as follows:


Formal writing assignments # 1 & 2                                                                      15% each

Formal writing assignment #3                                                                               20%   

Class participation                                                                                        10%

Presentation                                                                                                  10%                                                                           

Exams                                                                                                                        15% each                                                       




All assigned essays must be typed, double-spaced, stapled, and titled.  They are to follow standard essay form (with an introduction, a thesis sentence, paragraphs with evidence, a conclusion, and a Works Cited page).  You do not need a separate title page, but you must be sure that your name is on the first page and that the pages are numbered. Hacker in Rules for Writers presents a model essay; your paper should look like that.  Before you hand in your paper, place it in a cardboard folder with pockets (not a plastic binder) along with all your drafts and prewriting.  Please collect all copies of formal essays in a pocket folder and keep them for the whole year.


Each paper may be longer than what is suggested, but none may be shorter, so an essay assigned as 2 to 3 pages may be slightly longer, but it may not be any shorter than 2 pages without incurring a penalty.  Do not adjust your paper's font, spacing, or margins to attempt to disguise its true length.


            Each paper is due at the beginning of class on the day it is assigned. 



GRADING GUIDELINES--Essays and other written materials:

Grading papers fairly is one of the most difficult things teachers do.  There are so many elements of writing to consider when grading; I find myself doing a tight-rope walk through considerations of grammar, spelling, style, organization, thesis work, and, of course, ideas.  Like most English teachers I want my final grade to reflect a balance between these elements.  However, given the nature of any particular assignment, I might emphasize some of these elements more than others when I grade. To help you understand this difficult process I've put together some of my guidelines for grading.  These guidelines should help you see why your essay falls into the grade range that it does, and they should help you think about what you can do to improve if you are dissatisfied with your grade.



An excellent essay is one with very few or no grammar and spelling errors.  From there on in I establish in my own mind a rough system for considering grammar and spelling.  A good paper will still have few errors, and none of these errors will show serious grammar trouble.  A paper with numerous errors, none of which reflect a real lack of grammatical knowledge, would fall in the fair to poor ranges.  I might feel that a paper with an overload of non-serious errors, one that looks rushed or sloppy, one that contains loads of spelling errors, comma mistakes, verb agreement problems, and the like, deserves to be marked down dramatically. The most serious grammar errors, to my mind, are sentence-level errors, such as fragments, comma splices, and run-ons, or errors on grammar essentials such as verb forms.  If I see these kinds of errors, I reduce the paper grade significantly. 



Can I understand the student's argument? Are her sentences garbled or clear?  Do the paragraphs flow; are they cohesive; are there good transitions between sentences, between paragraphs?  Does the student rely too heavily on passive voice and sentences with no agent?  Does he rely on rhetorical questions?  Is her prose so wordy that I feel I need a machete to cut through it?  Is his prose so clear and elegant I wish I had written it myself?



A well-organized paper moves carefully from one thought to the next.  It presents its thesis first.  Then, in the following paragraphs, it presents its proof.  Each paragraph has its own topic, introduced by a clear topic sentence, and no unrelated ideas (ideas that should appear elsewhere in the paper, or ideas that shouldn't be in the paper at all) pop up in any paragraph.  The paragraphs flow logically from one to the next, and the reader never gets the idea that an idea or a proof should have appeared sooner or should have been reserved for later.  A well-organized essay always ends with a conclusion.


That all-important THESIS: 

Here are several ways to think about a thesis.  Choose whichever one works for you:

v     A good thesis announces the paper's topic and gives the writer's assertion about that topic.  Topic + assertion = thesis.

v     A good thesis answers the "so what?" question.  It tells the reader why this particular topic is important and why the reader should care about it.

v     A good thesis crystallizes the argument of the paper.  It tells what subject the writer is writing about and what the writer's particular argument about that subject is.

v     A good thesis presents the central idea of the essay and tells the writer's point of view about that idea.

v     A good thesis is argumentative in some sense; it is not a statement of fact.



There's so much else to consider it's often hard to remember you should be thinking when you write!   Nevertheless, you should be, and I consider the quality of your thought along with everything else. 




To be a student is to be a scholar, one who seeks to learn and to understand, one who seeks wisdom.  Honesty is one of the aspects of wisdom, and the educated person is assumed to be honest.  Academic honesty is expected of all members of any academic community.  Scholars would no more appropriate as their own the words or ideas of others than they would pick their pockets.


            Do not, then, ever use another's words or ideas as though they were your own.  All work you submit is to be entirely your own.  You must always give credit to those whose words or ideas you quote. The college statement on use of sources is to be applied to everything you write or present while you are a student here.  Use of another's words or ideas without acknowledgment, in however short a portion of any paper or presentation, will result in an F grade for that paper or presentation, a course grade lower by one level than what you would otherwise receive with that F and in any case no higher than C, and automatic report to the College Academic Rules Board.  This rule applies, by the way, to assistance from friends and relatives: do not let your mother, father, brother, or friend, revise your paper for you, because that too will result in an F.  Familiarize yourself with Hacker Section 52, “Avoiding plagiarism.”


            Remember that you are welcome to quote other writers or to take advantage of ideas or suggestions that come to you from other people.  Just provide a note acknowledgment, footnotes, textual references, quotation marks, and works cited pages where they are appropriate.





Hindu Mysticism: The Bhagavad-Gita

Mon., Jan. 8: Lec.—Hinduism (Buchman)

Wed., Jan. 10: Disc.--Shattuck read to p.34

Fri., Jan. 12: Disc. Cla.102—Shattuck to p. 63


Mon., Jan. 15: Lec.—Hindu Art (Eden); Shattuck to p. 88

Wed., Jan. 17: Disc.—Shattuck to p. 118

Fri., Jan. 19:  Lec./disc.-- (Eden? Luttmer?  Just a little intro to the Gita, I was thinking. I have one already worked up from Eurasia; that’s why I put myself there as a possibility ) Gita, Introduction and “The First Teaching”


Mon., Jan. 22: Disc.--Gita to p. 63

Wed., Jan. 24: Disc.--Gita to p. 108

Fri., Jan. 26: Disc. Cla. 102--Gita to p. 146; first paper due


Mon., Jan. 29: Disc. Cla. 102--poetry of Kabir (handout)

Wed., Jan. 31: Disc.—Kabir continued, plus poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, excerpts from the Gitanjali (handout)

Fri., Feb. 2: Disc. Cla. 102—Tagore continued



Mon., Feb. 5: Lec.—Buddhism (Buchman); read VOB (Vision of Buddhism) Introduction  through p. 26

Wed., Feb. 7: Disc.—VOB Chapts. 1 & 2

Fri., Feb. 9: Disc. Cla. 102—VOB Chapts. 3 & 4


Mon., Feb. 12: Disc.--VOB Chapts. 5 & 6

Wed., Feb. 14: Disc.—VOB Chapts. 7 & 8

Fri., Feb. 16: Disc. Cla. 102—VOB Chapts. 9 & 10 & Appendix


Mon., Feb. 19: Lec.—Buddhist Art (Eden)

Wed., Feb. 21: Disc. Cla. 102—Buddhist Art

Fri., Feb. 23: EXAM


Feb. 26 - Mar. 2—no class—Winter Break


Mon., Mar. 5: (Japanese Buddhism book)

Wed., Mar. 7:

Fri., Mar. 9:  research prospectus due



Mon., Mar. 12: Lec.—Taoism (Buchman? Eden? I have one written if you don’t, David)

Wed., Mar. 14: Disc.--TTC (Tao Te Ching), read Introduction through p.  32

Fri., Mar. 16: Disc.--TTC to p. 59


Mon., Mar. 19: Disc. Cla. 102—TTC to p. 88

Wed., Mar. 21: Disc.—Merton, xi – xvi, 1 - 28, 31 - 50

Fri., Mar. 23: Disc.—Merton to p. 94


Mon., Mar. 26: Disc.—Merton to p. 140

Wed., Mar. 28: Disc. Cla. 102--Merton to p. 181

Fri., Mar. 30: Presentation day


Mon., Apr. 2: Lec: Chinese Art (Eden)

Wed., Apr. 4: Disc.--Chinese poetry (handout)

Fri., Apr. 6: Lec.—Mysticism and the New Age Movement (Luttmer); Tolle to p.  101


(Note: Somewhere in this week we will set up showings of a film on artist Andy Goldsworthy entitled Rivers and Tides)

Mon., Apr. 9: Disc. Cla. 102—Tolle to p. 200

Wed., Apr. 11:  Disc. Cla. 102.—Tolle to end

Fri., Apr. 13:  Lec.—The Art of Andy Goldsworthy (Eden); research paper due


Final Exam:  TBA