MWF 1:25 pm – 2:15 pm
Course # 28262
Fulfills COLL Social & Historical
Statistics gathered by Gallop Poll together with a variety of other scientific and public opinion surveys indicate that an extremely large percentage of the American and Canadian population not only believe in the supernatural, but in fact, believe that they themselves have had a supernatural or paranormal experience. While most social science disciplines consider supernatural belief to be either historical or marginal, it would seem that a substantial proportion of the North American population, of all ages and social classes, share in these traditions. If this is the case, two questions become enormously important. First, why is it that traditions predicted to decline as scientific rationalism arose, have not? Secondly, why has the extent of belief in the supernatural gone unrecognized and underestimated by the academy for so long? By examining patterns of belief and the features of supernatural folklore, this course will attempt to understand the nature of surviving and declining tradition. The course will focus on the phenomenological features of supernatural traditions; explanatory frameworks and their internal logic; means of developing and maintaining belief; functions and structures of belief traditions; and relationships between genres of belief. The general approach of the course will be ethnographic, focusing on the ethnography of belief systems.