Weeping in the Religious Imagination | Harvard University

Weeping in the Religious Imagination | Harvard University
This is a comparative course on the theme of weeping and lamentation in religious experience. One of the earliest human expressions of distress, tears remain a profound existential signifier at all stages of life, especially in response to fear, loss, frustration, or despair, as well to joy, triumph, or relief. Ritual often centers collective tears as a response to what has impacted a religious community in the distant past; myth shows how tears of surrender to what seems inexorable can affect its transformation. Emblems of powerlessness, tears paradoxically conjure power, productive fertility, and wholeness, softening the harsh decrees of God or the gods by watering them. Traditions studied include ancient and modern Greek, classical Aztec, Islamic, Yoruba, early and medieval Japanese, Hindu, Hassidic, and Eastern Christian. We also read selected theological and theoretical works on weeping.

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