Dr. Rom Maczka
Carthage College
Religion 260

Gendering God
Syllabus Abstract

Course Description

Most religious traditions speak of some ultimate Reality which transcends ordinary, anecdotal human experience. Sometimes this ultimate Reality is conceived of as an impersonal force or as a value or ethic, but most often it is conceived of as deity, and deities usually have both personhood and gender.

"Gendering God" explores the pantheon of gods and goddesses among religious traditions to determine what the religious communities may be saying about maleness and femaleness when they conceive of their deities in these terms, and what the maleness or femaleness of the deities may be saying about gender to the communities.

This course of study may be undertaken on its own, or it may be studied as a specialized application of the methodologies of Women and Gender Studies 110 (Woman as Cultural Symbol) and the content of Psychology 330 (Sexual Dimorphism).

Course Objectives

1. Explore religious and philosophical issues involved in applying both apophatic and cataphatic descriptors to deity, especially gender descriptors.

2. Survey theological, psychological and feminist literature addressing the question of gender and deity.

3. Inventory and analyze a pantheon of selected goddess figures along with their related myth and the votive practices of their devotees.

4. Reflect upon personal, social and political implications of the tenets presented in the literature as well as of the propriety and utility of includ- ing gender in conceptualizing deity.


Required reading:

Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. A deep and capable exploration of the feminine dimension of God in the Hebrew and Christian traditions.

David Kinsley, The Goddesses' Mirror. A valuable and engaging survey of ten modern and ancient goddess figures and their followings.

Useful collateral reading:

Jean Bolen, Goddesses in Every Women: A New Psychology of Women. Psychiatrist explores the clinical application of Jungian archetypal therapy using goddess images.

Joan Chamberlain Englesman, The Feminine Dimension of the Divine. A theoretical investigation of Jungian archetypes found in goddess myth.

Robert Faricy, The Lord's Dealing: The Primacy of the Feminine in Christian Spirituality. An inquiry into the feminine dimension of the Christian God from the perspective of modern theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Miriam Robbins Dexter, Whence the Goddess: A Source Book. Postulates the emergence of a single goddess concept over time and provides copious use- ful references to primary leadership dealing with feminine deity.

Elinor W. Gadon, Once and Future Goddess: A Symbol for Our Time. Large text-book style survey of goddess centered religion throughout the human experience.

David Leeming and Jake Page, Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine. Compendium of seventy five feminine deities and their stories drawn from world literature. These are arranged loosely in six "archetypes," all contained in fewer than two hundred pages.

Asphodel Long, In a Chariot Drawn by Lions: The Search for the Female in Deity. Scrutinizes ancient Hebrew literature for traces of goddess worship.

Sara Mitter, Dharma's Daughters: Contemporary Indian Women and Hindu Culture. Very revealing look at the lives of Indian women living in societies in which goddess worship predominates.

Alix Pirani, The Absent Mother: Restoring the Goddess to Judaism and Christianity. Anthology collected around the theme of a fertility religion in Judaism prior to the religion of Yahweh.

Eleanor Rae and Bernice Marie-Daly, Created in Her Image: Models of the Feminine Divine. Assertion of the feminine character of the divine and hence sacred nature of womanhood.

Carl Raschke and Susan Doughty Raschke, The Engendering God: Male and Female Faces of God. Exposition of "Sophian" theology as liberation theology within the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. Staunchly feminist reconstruction of human religious history emphasizing the primacy of the feminine principle throughout.

John Woodroffe, Hymns to the Goddess. This older work provides English translations of over thirty lengthy hymns and prayers drawn from the Hindu tradition and addressed to "the Mother aspect of God."