I understand the study of religion to be a microcosm of the human sciences, an interdisciplinary exploration of a diverse range of responses to some of the most charged moments in the human story—birth, sex, death, violence, love and hatred.
Teaching religious studies requires amplifying the productive tension between the familiar and the unknown, the universal and the unique. And this approach extends beyond the subject matter. In accord with my passion for researching "alternative" expressions of religious thought and practice, I am determined to make the classroom a space where difference is both preserved and bridged. Consequently, I am committed to engaging diversity in terms of material, media, and the needs of my students, as well as connecting course subject matter to larger questions of contemporary relevance.
My approach to instruction balances creativity with criticality and imagination with analysis. I believe that opening up a space for creative thought and active engagement acknowledges the importance of the unique perspectives that students bring to bear on the material and foregrounds the active role that they play in generating course content. I help students find their own voice in the conversation by simultaneously discovering themselves in the story of "the other" and learning how to critically distance themselves from their own presumptions.
I describe my courses to students as sustained and critical conversations among people gathered together for a common goal. (Here I take inspiration from the poet Theodore Roetheke's words: "Those students get the highest grades who take their responsibility of educating me most seriously.") In my experience, students react most enthusiastically when room for personal engagement with the materials is built into the structure of the course—when they are positioned as active participants in the conversation. By fostering the right balance between creativity and criticality, I aim to demonstrate to students that imaginative approaches can be as rigorous as rigorous approaches can be imaginative.
To date, I have developed and taught two undergraduate seminars at Stanford University: "Who am I? ~ The Question of the Self in Religion, Philosophy, Literature, & Art" and "Religion, Counterculture, & the Radical Imagination." Additionally, I have co-taught and lectured numerous times in various courses offered by Stanford's Department of Religion.
Information on my courses can be found here:
Select Student Reviews of "Who Am I?" (2015, 2016)
It was a fierce course.
Great instructor. Even when people in the class wouldn't want to speak, he made the awkward silence seem to disappear.
Really kind and good teacher. Was able to implement creative methods to teaching. Adjusted the syllabus to meet the groups needs.
The class was very helpful in life in general and I enjoyed taking it very much.
Would recommend. Joshua is an approachable and knowledgeable teacher. Very much enjoyed.
It's a super excellent course!!
It's a really fun class. I enjoyed it a lot, the material's very interesting and engaging. The teacher's very good too.
I went from zero to a full arsenal of philosophy knowledge.
Professor Gentzke's philosophy on grading makes the whole class experience very personal and fun. The material that you read is hard to wrap your head around at first, but on talking about the readings in class, they make a lot of sense. Many of the readings are like poetry and are actually really fun to read. This course has helped me grow as an individual and grow as a student.
Select Student Reviews of "Religion, Counterculture, & the Radical Imagination" (2016)
It is a very cool class!
This class helped me gain a better understanding of society as a whole. As ambitious as this sounds, I truly believe that by having taken this class, I've been able to seen in perspectives and in modes of thinking that I've never considered at Stanford. It would be a disservice to say that I've learned a "skill" or "knowledge" - I've learned a way of thinking, which by far is more valuable.
Its so rad just do it!
Joshua is a great lecturer, and the our performance was sick.
I think the beauty of this course is that it touches on so many different things. I came into it with the idea that I (as an atheist) would have a lot to learn from religion, and was curious to see how it could open my eyes in unexpected ways; indeed it did. Studying it is much like studying art: you're basically studying humanity at large, its beliefs, its desires, its philosophies. I loved the philosophical undertones of the class, as well as the frequent referencing to art and music and politics of the time, while always remaining relevant.
Definitely, definitely take it. If you're interested in politics, religion, music, art, societies/social structures, philosophy or psychology, this class is for you.
I'd say keep an open mind, and this class will be a very exciting and fun journey.