Semester at Sea

May Enrichment Voyage (2013)

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From April 26 through June 16, 2013, I will join the “Coastal Cultures of the West,” the May Enrichment Voyage sponsored by Semester at Sea.  This fifty-day voyage, which will travel to eighteen countries on two continents, consists of three segments: 1) the Western Mediterranean and North Africa, 2) the Low Countries, United Kingdom, and Ireland, and 3) Scandinavia, Russia, and the Baltic region.  The trip is designed to provide participants with a historical, artistic, and cultural appreciation for these regions.  Below you will find the titles and abstracts of my nine lectures as well as photo albums from each of the segments.  I have also created another blog specifically devoted to sharing my experiences on this trip.

Segment I

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Semester at Sea: Segment I

Images from Segment I of the May Enrichment Voyage (2013).
Balcony conversation (Cadiz)

1. “Saints and Sinners in Medieval France” (Monaco port)

In medieval Europe, saints, pilgrims, mystics, and heretics all dotted the religious landscape in search of authentic encounters with the divine.  This lecture will chart the growth of the cult of saints and heretical Christianities, two forms of religious expression particularly prevalent in medieval France, and examine the Catholic Church’s response to this devotionalism.

2. “Art, Patronage, and Religion in Renaissance Florence” (Florence port)

The Renaissance represents a stunning period of intellectual creativity, and scholars routinely identify Florence as the period’s most important cultural center.  Why did the great minds of this age choose Florence?  This lecture will show how the rise of the Medici family and the flowering of a humanistic spirit combined to make this city a destination for artists and a source of anxiety for the religiously minded.

3. “La Convivencia: Coexistence and Conflict in Medieval and Renaissance Spain” (Cadiz port)

Medieval Spain was Europe’s Golden Age, a period of enlightened religious tolerance and multicultural harmony.  Or was it?  This lecture will explore the “coexistence” between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Iberian Peninsula from the eighth through fifteenth centuries, dispelling the myth of a Judeo-Christo-Islamic utopia while taking a closer look at the intellectual achievements that did occur during this period.

4. “Revelation, Book, Community: The Emergence and Spread of the Islamic Faith” (Casablanca port)

Islam, a religion centered on the submission to God, appeared in the seventh century within a small tribe in Arabia, yet less than two hundred years later its territory stretched from Persia to Spain.  This lecture will examine the life of Muhammad, the content of his revelations found in the Qur’an, and the main features of Islamic community life, past and present.

Segment II

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Semester at Sea: Segment II

Images from Segment II of the May Enrichment Voyage (2013).
Rodin, The Kiss (Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh)

5. “Piety, Humanism, and Reformation: Religious Crosscurrents in the Low Countries” (Antwerp port)

The transition of European civilization from medieval to early modern patterns of life owes much to the region of the Low Countries.  This lecture will analyze how social, political, and economic life influenced the development of new expressions of religious devotionalism, advanced the principles of Christian humanism, and acted as a forum for the articulation of Reformation ideals.

6. “Missionaries and Monastics: The Origins and Character of Early Irish Christianity” (Dublin port)

The spread of Christianity in late antiquity suggests that the followers of this faith took seriously the New Testament command to disseminate the gospel throughout the world.  This lecture will survey the early missionary efforts to Ireland, survey the distinctive brand of Christianity that developed on the island, and track its influence in continental Europe in the early medieval period.

Segment III

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Semester at Sea: Segment III

Images from Segment III of the May Enrichment Voyage (2013).
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg)

7. “‘An Age of Axes, Swords, and Shields’: Scandinavian Myth and Religion” (Oslo port)

When Christian missionaries arrived in Scandinavia, they encountered a civilization with a highly developed mythic and religious system.  This lecture will examine how these groups constructed the cosmos and its gods and explore the major religious beliefs and practices that characterized this pre-Christian society.

8. “The Word as Image: Icons and Spirituality in Orthodox Christianity” (St. Petersburg port)

The Christian tradition has viewed images with ambivalence: while many Western theologians have expressed reservations about or expressly condemned their role in church life, Eastern Orthodox churches have insisted that images are central to Christian liturgical life.  This lecture will outline the arguments of this debate and show how Orthodox communities employ the veneration of icons as a mechanism to reflect upon the teachings of their faith.

9. “Religion and Secularism in Contemporary Europe” (Copenhagen port)

The contemporary world has witnessed the movement of peoples on an unprecedented scale.  As a result, the racial, ethnic, and religious borders of old have been permanently dismantled, and globalism and multiculturalism are now the rule rather than the exception.  How has Western Europe managed to negotiate these changes?  This lecture will examine the collision of secular and religious values in European societies through an examination of recent controversies over headscarves, films, and cartoons.