1. Do you agree with the idea of a “universal grammar,” “master formula,” or “problem structure” of storytelling (why or why not)? Can you think of an example of when you used this or recognize an instance where you’ve seen it used? Why is this important to our human experience? Please explain. 2. What do religious texts (such as the Bible) and texts that are not necessarily religious, though they might have religious elements, (such as Cold Mountain poems, Gilgamesh, or some other example you know about) have in common? What do these commonalities tell us about the function of stories and/or the human condition? 3. We’ve read about narrative perception and the seemingly natural tendency for people to tell stories, across cultures and history. Explain why you agree or disagree with the statement that “the human mind is shaped for story, so that we are also shaped by story” (56). What does this statement mean and why is it significant to everyday experience? 4. Religion, in some form, seems to be universal to human societies across time and space. Why do you think we evolved to be religious? Do you think religion helps people more than it harms/causes conflict? Please explain. 5.* The author argues that we tell some stories, “sacred histories,” in order to create a shared mythology of where we come from, to justify our current actions, to understand the past (or construct the past as we would like it to be). However, sometimes these ″sacred histories″ actually function to justify or ignore past wrongs or encourage continued thought and behavior that is unethical. Can you think of another example of a sacred history (one not used in the text) that might actually be harmful or used to justify harm? What function does this sacred history serve? 6.* The communal nature of story began long ago and continues today, though often through different media. Provide an example of a recent story that fulfills its function of binding society (or a smaller community, group, etc.). What ideals and common values does this story reinforce? *For 5 & 6: Some examples of stories/sacred histories that reinforce ideals/create shared values: the “fairytale wedding,” the “American Dream”/rags-to-riches, the Western genre/Manifest Destiny, Columbus ″discovering″ America, – can you think of others? PART II: Next, think more closely about Genesis, the creation story through the flood. Each person should select some of the following issues to address in relation to a few of the stories. Not everyone should comment on every issue below AND not everyone should comment on the same elements/events from Genesis – let′s get some variety. Also, you can obviously branch out and introduce your own questions and ideas for this, especially in relation to the idea of storytelling as a human trait. Choose what interests you and what you think you can analyze more deeply. You can also consider other issues we′ve been thinking about this module such as storytelling and its role in how we should act, what we believe, what we know (or think we know). Gender roles, especially the way women exert agency and power Depictions of faith, obedience, suffering and love The role of covenants, promises, deceptions, the nature of evil, moral responsibility What happens when humans challenge or defy G-d? What depiction of the human condition is made clear in Genesis? How is G-d depicted? How does s/he behave? How would you describe G-d’s relationships with the main characters in the text? What do you think the central message is for the chapter you chose? Which part of the story sticks out to you as still relevant to us today? Why? What connections can you make to our other IH I texts?
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