F&ES 808b/Law xxxxx/Div xxx / 2013-2014

A Communion of Subjects: Law, Environment, and Religion

Credits: 2

Spring 2014: Time and location TBA


Thomas Berry once wrote, “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” One might also insist that the university is a communion of subjects, not a collection of disciplines. Perhaps no subject better illustrates this point than the environment, for to understand and appreciate the environment requires expertise from multiple intellectual traditions, including history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, economics, political science, and legal studies.
This course will focus on the scholarship and practice of leading figures working at the intersection of law, environment, and religion. These figures will be brought to campus to participate in a discussion series that will form the core of the course. In preparation for the speakers’ visits, teams of students will be assigned to study deeply the writing and actions of a designated speaker. Class sessions during this preparatory phase will resemble a traditional graduate seminar, with readings and discussion designed to stimulate engagement with the most challenging and vital questions facing the “communion” of law, environment, and religion.
During the core phase of the course, speakers will be brought to campus to interact with students in multiple ways. The central activity during the visit will consist of an in-depth interview led by members of the student team assigned to a designated speaker. Questions will draw on the student’s close reading and preparation. The aim will be to stimulate conversation that both summarizes the speaker’s body of work to date and forces the speaker to confront limitations and imagine next stages.
As an additional engagement opportunity, other students will conduct a podcast interview with the speaker at Yale’s audio recording studio, which will become part of Yale’s Itunes University offerings. This interview will not duplicate the video session but will instead engage the speaker in a more personal conversation about their life history, values, and worldviews. One of the conceits of the academy is often that such subjective elements have little bearing on one’s intellectual work. As a result, too little attention is paid within the university to the role of family, community, religion, and other critical biographical factors in shaping one’s ideas. 

Limited to 24