Changing Signs of Truth: The Influence of Culture on Christianity

Speaker(s): Crystal Downing
Date: July 25-29, 2011
Length: 11h40m
Product ID: RGDL4118S

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Why did people in 16th-century England blacken their teeth with pitch, whereas today they spend millions on teeth-whitening strips? Why did early Christians leave forty-one images of Noah's Ark in the catacombs but fail to sketch a single cross? These questions and many more are addressed in this course which provides an introduction to semiotics, "the science of signs". The course focuses on the way signs of Christianity have changed through the millenia - signs such as celibacy, atonement, and Eucharist - and discusses how semiotics and its heirs (structuralism, deconstruction, and cultural materialism) explain such changes. The course explores the question: resigned to the unalterable truth of salvation through Christ, how do we know when to re-sign Christian doctrine in order to communicate that Jesus is as relevant to someone with a twenty-first century aesthetic as he was to a third-century ascetic? Lectures include:

  • Introduction to the History and Discipline of Semiotics
  • Semiotics (Re)signed: Structuralism and Jesus
  • Change in the Past: Church History and Cultural Materialism
  • Signs of Distinction: Deconstruction and Christianity
  • Charles Sanders Peirce: Trinitarian Signs of Life

See All Audio by Crystal Downing

Crystal Downing is Professor of English and Film Studies, Messiah College. She is the author of Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers, and How Postmodernism Serves (my) Faith.

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