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HSY2035 - Heresy, Persecution, Identity: confronting religious orthodoxies

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr Michael Fagenblat and Dr Nathan Wolski


Not offered in 2007


Religious identity has always been defined by limits; heresies and heretics have actively shaped the religious identity of the very groups that persecuted them. Part One examines the heresy wars waged in the 1st to 3rd centuries between early Christians, rabbinic Jews and a variety of sectarians and Gnostics. Part Two explores the dynamics of heresy at the origins of the modern period and its role in constituting new forms of identity and experience: Galileo and Spinoza, Jansenism and Pietism. Other phenomena to be considered include the role of popular or unlearned heresies, the Maimonidean controversy, the Sabbatean apostasy, and the transformation of heresy in the modern world.


Students successfully completing HSY2035:

  1. Will have acquired detailed knowledge of some of the most important heresies and heretics in the West.
  2. Will acquire broad understanding of the historical contexts in which heresy has emerged and the reasons for its emergence in that particular period.
  3. Will be understand the dynamics of heresy as it relates to authority, sectarianism and communal identity, new forms of knowledge and religious experience.
  4. Will have developed a capacity to work effectively with others and a capacity to express ideas verbally in group situations;
  5. Will have developed considerable facility in bibliographic research, analysis, and written expression.


Secondary Source Exercise (1000 words) 20%; Essay (2050 words) 50%; Examination (one hour) (1000 words) 20%; Class Participation 10%.

Contact hours

One 90-minute lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week.