Joy Brennan joined Kenyon’s faculty in 2014. Her work focuses on Buddhist understandings of how people unconsciously construct identities and worlds of experience, producing personal and interpersonal suffering in the process. She also thinks and writes about related topics including Buddhist liberation practices, the convergence of secularism and Buddhist ideas and practices, and the intersection of Buddhist analyses of interpersonal suffering with contemporary accounts drawn from race and gender studies. Brennan teaches introductory courses in Religious Studies, Buddhist studies and East Asian religions, as well as advanced courses in Buddhist studies, including Modern Buddhism and Zen Buddhism.
Areas of Expertise
Buddhist philosophy and psychology, Yogacara, Zen Buddhism
2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Chicago
2007 — Master of Arts from Indiana University
2002 — Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University, summa cum laude
Courses Recently Taught
Individual studies are offered to those students who are highly motivated in a specific area of inquiry and who are judged responsible and capable enough to work independently. Such courses might be research oriented, but more usually are readings-oriented, allowing students to delve in greater depth into topics that interest them or which overlap or supplement other courses of the philosophy department. Students must seek permission of the instructor and department chair before enrolling. They are urged to do this in the semester prior to the one in which they hope to be enrolled. Individual study is at the discretion of the instructor, and schedules may limit such an addition. An individual study cannot duplicate a course or area being concurrently offered. Exceptions to this rule are at the discretion of the instructor and chair. Individual study is usually considered an advanced course. Required work should be viewed as on a par with a seminar or a 300- or 400-level course. The instructor and student(s) should establish and agree upon the extent and nature of the work expected. The work may take one of the following forms: several short papers, one long paper, one in-depth project, a lengthy general outline and annotated bibliography, public presentation(s), etc. An individual study can apply to the major or to the minor with permission of the department. Individual studies may be taken for either 0.25 or 0.50 credits. This decision must be agreed upon with the instructor. The student(s) and instructor will meet on a regular basis. The frequency of contact hours is to be determined by the instructor in consultation with the student. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.\n
This course includes brief introductions to four or five major religious traditions, while exploring concepts and categories used in the study of religion, such as sacredness, myth, ritual, religious experience and social dimensions of religion. Traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and Native American traditions may be presented through important texts and practices. This counts toward the 100-level introduction to religious studies course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.
Buddhism has been one of the major connective links among the varied cultures of South, Southeast and East Asia for over two millennia, and over the past one hundred years it has established a presence throughout the world. This course surveys the ideas and practices of Buddhism with a focus on Buddhist ideas as they developed in South Asia within the first millennium of Buddhist history. Readings include ancient Buddhist texts, contemporary commentaries and scholarship, and a contemporary memoir. This is an introductory Buddhism tradition course. No prerequisite. Offered every fall.
This course surveys the religions of East Asia, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Christianity, and the shamanic practices of China, Korea and Japan. We will read primary literature in its conceptual and historical contexts and study major themes that cross national and religious boundaries, such as gender, space and landscapes, ritual and political power. This counts toward the introductory East Asian religions course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.
Buddhism has been one of the major connective links among the varied cultures of South, Southeast and East Asia for over two millennia, and it has established a presence throughout the world. This course surveys the ideas and practices of Buddhism with a focus on Buddhist ideas as they developed in South Asia within the first millennium of Buddhist history. Readings include ancient Buddhist texts, contemporary commentaries and scholarship and a contemporary memoir. This counts toward the introductory Buddhism tradition course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered fall.
This course covers the central ideas and practices of Zen Buddhism in China, where it originated and is called Chan; Japan, where it has influenced many aspects of Japanese culture and from where it was exported to the West; and the United States. Readings include primary texts, secondary studies and a memoir. This counts as an advanced Buddhism traditions course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.
This course explores key Buddhist people, concepts and movements around the world from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Topics of study may include: how Buddhism in traditionally Buddhist cultures has been shaped by modern political and social forces; how colonialism and its aftermath have influenced Buddhist institutions and practices; the application of Buddhist ideas to theories of race, gender and sexuality; the intersections of Buddhist practices and concepts (particularly meditative practices) with scientific and psychological discourses; and Engaged Buddhism movements. Our focus will be on primary texts, supplemented by secondary readings. This counts as an advanced Buddhism tradition course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years..
This course examines traditional and innovative forms of monastic or communal religious life and spirituality. We read widely across space and time, studying varying traditions including Christian ascetic communities in third-fourth century North Africa, medieval Zen communities and contemporary Daoist communities in China, Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel and alternative spirituality communities in the Unites States. We also watch documentary films and narrative accounts of the ascetic or communal religious life. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Offered every four years.
This course is designed as a capstone experience in religious studies for majors in the department. Themes of the course will vary according to the instructor. Past themes have included religious autobiography, religion and cinema and new religious movements. Religious studies minors are encouraged to enroll, provided there is space. Non-majors should consult the instructor for permission to register. This is a required course for all senior majors. Offered every fall.
The department reserves individual studies to highly motivated students who are judged responsible and capable enough to work independently. Such courses might entail original research, but usually they are reading-oriented, allowing students to explore in depth topics that interest them or that supplement aspects of the major. Students may pursue individual study only if they have taken all the courses offered by the department in that particular area of the curriculum. An individual study course cannot duplicate a course or topic being concurrently offered. Exceptions to this rule are at the discretion of the instructor and department chair. Students must secure the agreement of an instructor to provide guidance and supervision of the course. The instructor and student agree on the nature of the work expected (e.g., several short papers, one long paper, an in-depth project, a public presentation, a lengthy general outline and annotated bibliography). The level should be advanced, with work on a par with a 300 level course. The student and instructor should meet on a regular basis, with the schedule to be determined by the instructor in consultation with the student. Individual studies may be taken for 0.25 or 0.5 units, at the discretion of the instructor. A maximum of 0.50 units of IS may count towards major or minor requirements in RLST department. A student is permitted to take only one 0.5-unit class of IS in the department (one 0.5-unit course or two 0.25-unit courses). A student must present a petition with compelling reasons in order to obtain special permission to take an additional IS course. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Prerequisite: GPA of at least 3.0. Exceptions (e.g., languages not taught at Kenyon are granted at the discretion of the instructor, with the approval of the department chair.)\n