Spring 2012 - Graduate Course Descriptions

Riccio, Thomas
Discipline and Number
HUAS 7340 Section 001
F Time 1:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Course Title

Description of Course:


The course will examine the form and function of ritual from a cultural, social, historical, and performance perspective. The first part of the course will examine ritual action and intention as a vector of human transition, communication, and evolution. Birth, puberty, marriage, death, and a multiplicity of life’s social transitions, are, in all cultures, marked by ritual, which may differ in detail but not function. Comparative and structural examination of ritual will identify origins, processes and evolution of ritual and its function in defining and maintaining social and cultural order and continuity.

The course will examine how ritual informs and shapes various cultural manifestations and structures that lay beneath daily human and animal activity. Using specific examples from indigenous Siberia, Africa, Alaska, China, and Korea, the course will identify and explore the common attributes of ritual and how various expressions have been shaped by practical need, place and deep ecology, and the imagination. The course will conclude with an exploration of how ritual—its expressions, techniques, symbols, and mythologies—vividly thrives in the contemporary world, just beneath the popular culture surrounding us. Consumerism, media manifestations, web browsing and computer/video gaming, will be examined as ritual expressions.

Required Texts:

Rites of Passage, by Arnold Van Gennep

A General Theory of Magic, Marcel Mauss

Pattern in Comparative Religion, by Mircea Eliade

Readings in Ritual Studies, Ronald Grimes, (ed.)

Purity and Danger, by Mary Douglas

Ritual, by Maldoma Patrice Somé

Rituals and Ceremonies in Popular Culture, Ray Browne (ed.)

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Completion of reading assignments prior to class discussion

Four typed, double spaced, 3 page response/analysis papers (topics to be assigned)

One 25 page (minimum) research project on an approved subject

15 Minute, end of the semester, in-class presentation of research

Class participation & Attendance

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