Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Deborah Whitehead

Second Advisor

Dr. Holly Gayley

Third Advisor

Dr. Scarlet Bowen

Abstract

“‘Your grandfather was in his glory, suffering for his God.’ When my grandmother uttered these words my mental floodgate opened and I recalled my winter days trekking through Orchard Beach: my hands numbing while grasping my camera, the frigid wind bursting through the threads of my jacket, the hail pellets hammering onto me from the clouds above, and the feelings of dejection engulfing me in a chill that surpassed any cold a thermometer could read.”

My memoir and collection of photographs entitled Orchard Beach display the various spaces, objects, and people that I used to orient myself during a particularly tumultuous period of my life. Using Orchard Beach, my grandparents’ Bronx home, an oil painting of a fisherman, and various other elements, I physically mapped my internal woes and personal ambitions as a way to situate myself and ultimately transform. This theme of orientation in space has been of great interest to scholars in the academic study of religion, specifically Mircea Eliade and Jonathan Z. Smith, former colleagues at the University of Chicago. Though both Eliade and Smith agree that humans use space to orient themselves, their foundational understandings of orientation differ sharply, as do their views on scholars and practitioners. This paper will explore their competing perspectives, consider Orchard Beach through each lens, and finally argue that Smith’s interpretation aligns more closely with the experiences detailed in my artwork.

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