Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Bryan Lowe
Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Bryan D. Lowe, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, talks about his teaching philosophy and interests:
My research and teaching address issues related to the religious traditions of Japan and theoretical and methodological problems in the study of religion more broadly. I will be teaching three classes this year: Religions of Japan (RLST 136), Zen Buddhism (RLST 249), and a senior seminar in religious studies (RLST 280W). In Religions of Japan, students look at practices and teachings that do not easily map onto monotheistic traditions to learn to question commonly held assumptions about religion. Students in my Zen Buddhism class explore tensions between religious rhetoric and reality to examine differences in how monks present Zen through texts and mythologies and the way that the tradition has emerged historically, as a lived religion practiced on the ground. In my senior seminar, which serves as a capstone course to religious studies at Vanderbilt, students reflect on the academic study of religion by considering ritual practices, religious experiences, and the position of the scholar relative to his or her object of study. All of these classes share a teaching philosophy centered on exposing students to materials and methods that enable them to conceive of religion in new ways.
“I would like to more effectively incorporate online activities to create chances for collaborative learning. I also want to reflect on techniques for more effectively utilizing assignments such as readings and film screenings. ”
During my time as a Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow, I hope to develop skills and tools for improving student learning outside of the classroom. For one, I would like to more effectively incorporate online activities to create chances for collaborative learning. I also want to reflect on techniques for more effectively utilizing assignments such as readings and film screenings. I also plan to develop a new course that explores the myths and gods that came to comprise Shintō, a tradition often glossed as Japan’s indigenous religion. The course will challenge this characterization by considering how Shintō emerged through contact with Buddhism, Chinese learning, and western science. By the end of the course, students will be able to critique reified binaries such as “indigenous” and “foreign”; they will recognize the multiplicity of voices within an ostensibly singular tradition; and they will understand how religious traditions more generally emerge through historical and often politicized processes. I look forward to improving my teaching practices through dialogue with the other fellows, the faculty at the Center for Teaching, and the wider Vanderbilt community. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow.