. . . March 1994
A Semester of Evil
"Virtually every one of our courses has had long waiting lists," said anthropology Prof. Roy Rappaport, director of the program on Studies in Religion, which is sponsoring the University's Winter Theme Semester on evil.
Rappaport says that interest has been especially keen in Religion 404, "The Theory and Practice of Evil in the 20th and 21st Centuries," which also is the focus of the Visiting Professor of Religious Thought public lecture series.
"The course is standing room only," he says. "Students have to come early to get a seat in an auditorium that holds over 400. We have people standing in the doorways and sitting on the steps."
"Toward the end of the 20th century, we need to look at the subject of evil," Williams says, "because such forces as high tech and mass information have evolved at such a scale that they tend to evade control. Action set in motion has huge and unforeseen consequences that can have an adverse effect on us that is irreversible. This doesn't necessarily relate to an individual, an agent of evil, but to huge systems, institutions or business practices."
In view of the "very considerable fragmentation of moral discourse in society" and the omnipresence of violence, Williams said student and community interest in the course is "both conceptually and potentially pragmatic."
Representatives of the U-M's law school, and the departments of art, anthropology, business administration, American culture, film and video studies, history, physics, psychology, Near Eastern studies, German, Romance languages, Slavic languages, the Residential College, education, music, religion, English and economics are involved, in addition to guest speakers from other universities.
Williams and Rappaport attribute the idea for the Evil Theme Semester to LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg. "It can't be that frequent that a major state and secular university like ours has, in recent years, asked its faculty to address itself concertedly to a moral, social issue," Williams says. "I think it's to Edie's credit that she saw this possibility and then enabled it financially."
For more information about the Evil Theme Semester, call the Program on Studies in Religion, 764-4475.