Images of Mary Magdalene

in Religion, Literature, and the Arts

Religion 301a, Haverford College

Prof. Anne McGuire, Fall 2005 


This is the entry page for Religion 301a, the Reigion Department's Seminar in Religious Traditions in Cultural Context [Area A] for 2005. The Area A seminar is designed to cover religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop and to engage in critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins, and ideas. The topic for Fall 2005 is Mary Magdalene in Religion, Literature, and the Arts.

The full course syllabus for this course is available only through Blackboard and within the Tri-College network at Students should check the full syllabus in preparation for every class and follow the links to any additional assigned or recommended materials.

Course Description

Course Description: Mary Magdalene in Religion, Literature, and the Arts. This seminar will focus on a critical examination of the varied representations of Mary Magdalene in religion, literature, and the arts. The central question of the seminar is not "Who was Mary Magdalene," but rather how can we read the images of the Magdalene as reflections of varying religious, social, & cultural norms? The figure of the Magdalene will serve as a lens through which to examine various issues and themes, including sexuality, gender, spirituality, the body, authority, sin, and salvation.

Readings in the course will focus on primary textual sources from antiquity, literary and artistic representations from the history of Christianity, and contemporary images of Mary Magdalene. Sources will include representations of Mary Magdalene in: the New Testament and non-canonical gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip; post-New Testament legends, sermons, and stories about the Magdalene; artistic representations in medieval and Renaissance art; and images of Mary Magdalene in contemporary literature and film. The final selection of materials will depend in part on the material covered in our major secondary source, Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor and in part on student interest.

Required Readings

These books are available for purchase in Haverford College Bookstore unless otherwise noted

Syllabus of Readings

W 9/1 Introduction to the Course: Images of Mary Magdalene and The Earliest Sources

W 9/8 Mary Magdalene in New Testament and Other Early Christian Sources

For further reading assignments, see the full syllabus within the Tri-Co network at: [under construction].

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