Courses

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

RELI0100 - Introduction to Religion      

Introduction to Religion
Religion has always been a significant element in human life and history. Why is this? What roles does religion play in peoples’ lives and societies? Are there deeper commonalities underlying various religious traditions, despite their external differences? And what is religion anyway? We will examine these questions by introducing the basic vocabulary and analytic tools of the academic study of religion—a modern discipline stemming from the ideals of the Enlightenment—and by examining multiple case studies, both Western and Asian. We will also discuss multiple ways, sympathetic or critical, that influential thinkers make sense of religion in modern times. 3 hrs. lect./disc. CMP PHL

Spring 2016, Spring 2017

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RELI0120 - Asian Religious Classics      

Asian Religious Classics
An introduction to the classics of the major religious traditions of Asia: Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Central themes from these traditions will be studied through the selected scriptures and texts of each tradition. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. AAL CMP PHL

Fall 2014, Spring 2017

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RELI0121 - Buddhist Traditions in India      

Buddhist Traditions in India AT
An introduction to the development of Indian Buddhist thought, practice, and institutions. The course will begin with an examination of the life of the Buddha and the formation of the early tradition. It will then explore developments from early Nikaya Buddhism, through the rise of the Mahayana, and culminating in Tantric Buddhism. Attention will be given throughout to parallel evolutions of doctrine, practice, and the path to Nirvana. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015

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RELI0123 - Buddhist Tradition in EastAsia      

The Buddhist Tradition in East Asia AT
An introduction to the development of Buddhism within the East Asian cultural sphere of China, Korea, and Japan. We will consider continuities of thought, institution, and practice with the Indian Buddhist tradition as well as East Asian innovations, particularly the rise of the Chan/Zen and Pure Land schools. (Follows RELI 0121 but may be taken independently) 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2016

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RELI0130 - The Christian Tradition      

The Christian Tradition
We will examine Christian origins in global historical context, beginning with the life of Jesus and then focusing on Paul’s role in doctrine formation. Readings from the Bible and theologians like Augustine will give us insight into the development of regional church leadership, rituals, music, and the use of Scripture and reason. Then we will look at the impact of Catholic and Protestant Reformations on western culture and politics, and in recent times, we will examine the growth of the Roman Catholic Church, Pentecostalism, and Mormonism in the global south, in contrast to secularism in the northern hemisphere. Visits to local churches will promote a deeper understanding of contrasting Christian worldviews. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. CMP HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0132 - The Ten Commandments      

The Ten Commandments
After a grounding in the narratives of Genesis and Exodus (and an examination of those books’ understanding of the Law) we will move on to study the two versions of the Commandments—one in Exodus and one in Deuteronomy. We will then proceed to the history of interpretation of the Commandments, both as a unit unto themselves and as part of the general system of biblical law. Special attention will be paid to the differences between Rabbinic Judaism's understanding of the Decalogue (as the commandments are also known) and the various Christian understandings of the Ten Commandments. We will also look at expressions of the Decalogue in Islamic scripture and tradition. 3 hrs. lect. AAL PHL

Fall 2015

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RELI0140 - Hindu Traditions of India      

Hindu Traditions of India
In this course we will identify and examine key themes and issues in the study of Hindu religious traditions in India, beginning with the defining of the terms Hinduism, religions, and religious. We will primarily focus on the ways Hindu religious traditions—texts, narratives, and practices—are performed, received, and experienced in India. Essential aspects of Hindu religious traditions will be examined, including: key concepts (darsan, dharma, karma and caste), key texts (the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana), and major religious deities (Shiva, Devi and Vishnu). The course will also cover contemporary Hindu-Muslim encounters, and the emerging shape of Hinduism in the American diaspora. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. AAL PHL

Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016

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RELI0150 - The Islamic Tradition      

Introduction to Islam WT
What is Islam? Is it a religion, a way of life, a civilization, or a political ideology? Was Muhammad a political leader, a warrior, or an ascetic? What is the Qur’an? How did it develop as a sacred text and how does it compare to the Bible? This course is designed to provide a platform for us to explore such questions by focusing on historical, social, and intellectual developments in the wide swath of land known as the Muslim world. Special attention will be given to early developments of the Islamic community as well as the later response of different Muslim communities to modernity. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc AAL PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

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RELI0160 - The Jewish Tradition      

The Jewish Tradition
How did monotheism emerge in the ancient Middle East? What did God command the Jews to do? (And when God spoke, were they already Jews?) How did they transform this message into a tradition that has endured over two millennia? In this course we will study the tension between preservation and innovation in the Jewish tradition by exploring ritual, practice, classical texts, and their interpretations: Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, medieval philosophy (Maimonides), poetry (Halevi), and mysticism (Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah). 3 hrs. lect./disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2015

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RELI0161 - Making of Modern Jewish Life      

The Making of Modern Jewish Life
Jewish life in the 21st century is radically transformed from a century ago. We will explore these transformations through the thinkers, movements, and events that have shaped Jewish life in our day: the emergence of religious denominations in Europe and North America (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist), the revival of Kabbalah in our times, the Holocaust as a crisis in religious thought, the eruption of Zionism and founding of the State of Israel, the transformations brought about by the changing role of women, and finally, post-denominationalism and "the un-Jewish Jew." 3 hrs. lect. PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2015

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RELI0165 - Cultures of the Jews      

Cultures of the Jews
Judaism is more than a religion, but how? We will seek to answer this question by studying Jewish life as a global phenomenon encompassing varieties in custom, gender roles, family and communal structure, language, music, literature, and art. We will range across the major divisions of Jewish culture in Europe (Ashkenazic and Sephardic), to Jewish life in the Middle East, and follow the diffusion of these cultures as far as China and India. Readings include translations from a variety of languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino), and genres including memoir, ethnography, poetry, philosophy, and scripture. 3 hrs. lect/disc. CMP PHL

Fall 2014

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RELI0170 - Religion in America      

Religion in America
America often has been defined paradoxically as both the "most religious" and "least religious" of nations. This course, a historical survey of American religious life, will trace the unique story of American religion from colonial times to the present. Guiding our exploration will be the ideas of "contact," "conflict," and "combination." Along the way, we will examine the varieties of religious experiences and traditions that have shaped and been shaped by American culture such as, Native American traditions, Puritan life and thought, evangelicalism, immigration, African-American religious experience, women's movements, and the on-going challenges of religious diversity. Readings include sermons, essays, diaries and fiction, as well as secondary source material. 2 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. HIS NOR PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0180 - Intro to Biblical Literature      

An Introduction to Biblical Literature
This course is a general introduction to biblical history, literature, and interpretation. It aims to acquaint students with the major characters, narratives, and poetry of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, with special emphasis on the ways scripture has been used and interpreted in Western culture. Students interested in more detailed analysis of the material should enroll in RELI 0280 and RELI 0281. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. LIT PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0190 - Ethics & Abrahamic Religion      

Ethics and Abrahamic Religion ET, WT
Ethics is the study of the values and convictions by which individuals and communities determine what is right, wrong, good, and bad. For many, religion is a lens through which to understand those moral values. In this course we will explore the varied contributions that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have made to debates over issues like violence, sex, the environment, human rights, and social justice. In the process of understanding these traditions and their impact on global moral discourse, students also will develop skills in ethical reasoning through class discussion and from the perspective of their own worldviews. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI0208 - Sociology of American Religion      

The Sociology of American Religion AR
The course focuses on classical and contemporary issues in the sociology of religion. We begin with definitional debates about what religion is and the strengths and limitations of a social science of religion. We then consider issues of religious commitment and conversion; the changing role and influence of religion in contemporary society (i.e., secularization theory); change in religious communities; American religious history; women, family, and religious life; and the emergence of new religious movements. Throughout the course we read ethnographic and historical studies of various religious organizations and communities (e.g., American Protestantism, the Amish, Catholicism, Hare Krishna, Shakers, Oneida, Mormons). 3 hrs. lect./disc. NOR PHL SOC

Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

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RELI0209 - Mindfulness and Psychology      

Religion and Science: Mindfulness and Modern Psychology
Mindfulness meditation is now widely embraced as a way to enhance personal wellbeing. To better understand this ancient practice, we will explore its traditional Buddhist background alongside its application and study in modern psychology and neuroscience. We will first study mindfulness in its historical context and examine how a traditionally religious practice was adapted for modern individualistic and therapeutic purposes. We will learn basic neural and psychological foundations of emotion, cognition, social behavior, and psychological disorders and raise theoretical and methodological issues in the scientific study of mindfulness. As an experiential component, students will also receive meditation training throughout the semester. (Open to psychology, religion, and neuroscience majors) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0225 - Chinese Religions      

Chinese Religions
An introduction to the rich religious history of China, with an emphasis on primary sources. Topics will include: the ideas and practices of ancient China, the teachings of Confucius and early Taoist (Daoist) thinkers, the introduction of Buddhism to China and its adaptation to Chinese culture, the complex interaction of Buddhism with the Confucian and Taoist traditions, the role of the state in religion, the "popular" Chinese religion of local gods and festivals, and the religious scene in modern Taiwan and mainland China. 3 hrs. lect. AAL PHL

Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0228 - Japanese Religions      

Japanese Religions AT
We will begin our study of Japanese religions with the ancient mythology that forms the basis of Shinto (the way of the kami, or gods). We will then consider the introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism to Japan and examine how these traditions were accepted, absorbed, and adapted. We will also investigate Japanese reactions to Christianity in the 16th century and the appearance of "new" Japanese religions starting in the 19th century. Throughout, we will ask how and why Japanese have both adhered to tradition and been open to new religions. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI0229 - Religion in Modern China      

Persecution and Revival of Religion in Modern China
In this study of the dramatic recent religious history of China, we will begin with "modern" critics and reformers at the end of the imperial era and then consider the communist suppression of religion and the "cult of Mao." Our focus, however, will be the remarkable revival of religion since Mao's death in 1976. We will investigate the activity itself-ranging from traditional practices to new religious movements to various forms of Christianity—and the complex cultural and political dynamics involved in this "return" to religion. 3 hrs. lect. AAL PHL

Fall 2015

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RELI0232 - Philosophy of Religion      

Philosophy of Religion WT
In the first part of this course we will focus on philosophical reflections on the existence of God, the relation between religion and morality, the existence of evil, arguments for and against religious belief, and religious experience. We will read texts by Pascal, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, William James, and Freud. In the second part we will focus on the place of religion in society, considering what it means to live in a secular society, the relation between secularism and modernity, and the resulting modern forms of religious experience and practice. 3 hrs. lect. PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2015

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RELI0233 - Christianity in Africa      

Christianity in Africa
Christianity has an ancient heritage in Africa and a vibrant presence today, especially in the form of charismatic and Pentecostal movements which emphasize divine healing and prophecy. In this course we will examine the texts, beliefs, and individuals who shaped early Christianity in northern Africa and Ethiopia, with emphasis on monasticism, martyrdom, and the writings of Augustine of Hippo. Then we will examine cross-cultural contact with European Christians, including Roman Catholic and Protestant missionary encounters. We will examine issues of racism, sexism, and cultural superiority past and present, to help us understand the complex role of religion and belief in the supernatural in post-colonial Africa today. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL CMP CW PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0236 - Byzantium & Orthodox Church      

Byzantium & the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church ST, WT
This course is an introduction to Orthodox Christianity as reflected in the Greek, Slavic, and Near Eastern churches. We will examine the origins of the Orthodox tradition in the early Church, its centrality in the Byzantine empire, and the division between East and West. We will study key doctrinal and theological issues such as Christology and Incarnation, the Holy Trinity and the Theotokos (Mother of God), and the divine potential of human nature. We will also look at the liturgical experience that defines Orthodoxy as a living tradition, including the veneration of icons, the role of saints and monasticism, the significance of prayer and the sacraments. Readings include both church Fathers and mystics, as well as modern theologians and philosophers. 3 hrs. lect./disc. EUR PHL

Spring 2014

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RELI0237 - Christians/Early Modern Europe      

Christianity in Early Modern Europe
In this course we will examine the theological ideas and social conditions that transformed European life and thought in the 16th and 17th centuries. Particular attention will be paid to the Protestant Reformation in Germany and England, as well as the Catholic Counter-Reformation and changes within the Roman Catholic Church. We will study theologians like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Teresa of Avila, alongside popular religious practices and music of the period. Finally, we will ask how cultural evolution and religious revolution influenced one another, especially in the emergence of popular English Bibles and in the European colonization of Africa and the Americas. 3 hrs. lect. CMP EUR HIS PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

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RELI0238 - Literature Mystical Experience      

Literature and the Mystical Experience
In this course we will explore how narrative art articulates spiritual perception by examining selected works of 20th century writers such as Miguel De Unamuno, Nikos Kazantzakis, J. D. Salinger, Charles Williams, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Alice Munroe, Marilynne Robinson, and Annie Dillard. Drawing on theology and philosophy as an interpretative mode, we will consider the following questions: How does literature illuminate selfhood and interiority? How do contemplation and ascetic practice guide the self to divine knowledge and cosmic unification? How do language, imagery and symbols shape the unitive experience as a tool for empathy and understanding of the other? 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. LIT NOR PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0242 - Dance & Knowledge India      

Dance & Embodied Knowledge in the Indian Context
In this theory-practice course in religion, dance, and South Asian studies we will analyze the nature of embodied knowledge and the creative power of performance in the Indian context. During two class sessions per week we will contextualize embodied movement with discussions of Hindu mythology, Hindu devotionalism (bhakti), Sanskrit aesthetic theory (rasa), western performance theories, and Indian classical dance history. One class session per week will be devoted to learning basic movements in south Indian classical dance, culminating in an informal performance of one dance piece. We will highlight the difference ways in which the body and dance are perceived in religious mythology, aesthetic theory, historical context, and dance movement. No dance experience required. 2 hrs. lect./disc., 1 hr. dance AAL ART PHL

Fall 2013

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RELI0243 - Hindu Ethics      

Hindu Ethics AT, ET *
What constitutes the good life? How is morality established? Who are the arbiters of virtuous conduct? Such questions will guide us as we probe the complexities of ethics in Hindu religious life. We will identify how such notions as /dharma/, caste, karma, /mokṣa/, purity, and nonviolence have shaped the development of Hindu moral consciousness. We will do so through readings of orthodox Hindu ethical texts (/dharma śastra/), ethnographic explorations of moral identity, considerations of holistic medicine (Ayurveda), theological visions of protecting the environment, and modern reform movements headed by Gandhi and Ambedkar. With increased sensitivity we will more deeply understand Hindu moral identities while considering our own ethical determinations. 3 hrs. lect./disc.
AAL PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0254 - Islam in South Asia      

Islam in South Asia AT
Islam has played a significant role in shaping the culture and politics of South Asia, from the seventh century to the present. In this course we will consider the historical, socio-cultural, religious, and political impact of Islam in South Asia. We will begin with the introduction of Islam into the South Asian landscape, covering a range of historical moments, including the Delhi Sultanate, the rise of Mughal rule, colonial interactions, and the development of new nation states. We will then examine Islam as it is lived, practiced, and experienced in contemporary South Asia, focusing on themes such as mysticism and sainthood; issues of gender; and Hindu-Muslim encounters. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL HIS PHL

Spring 2014, Spring 2017

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RELI0256 - Islam and Judaism      

Islam and Judaism
In this course we will compare and contrast the histories, practices, and beliefs of Islam and Judaism. Our source materials will include scriptural and post-scriptural texts, as well as representative selections from religious polemics of both the pre-modern and modern periods. We will also watch a number of documentary films on the topic. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL CMP

Fall 2016

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RELI0257 - Shi'i Islam      

Shi'i Islam
What is Shi'i Islam? How is it different from Sunni Islam? Is Shi'ism an ideology of revolt or an esoteric cult? What does it even mean to ask such a question? We will delve into the early history of the Muslim community to understand the contested ways in which religious authority, knowledge, and charisma were interpreted by different parties. We will read from classical primary sources about the Shi'i creed and compare and contrast it to the Sunni perspective. Finally, we will explore the many ways in which Shi’ite communities across the Muslim world have responded to the challenge of modernities, nationalisms, and their persecution as minorities. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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RELI0258 - The Qur'an      

The Qur’an and the Feminist Subject WT
How was the Qur’an compiled, and who was involved in that process? What does the Qur’an say about Muhammad and the early community of believers? Why is it so difficult to approach? While considering the answers to these questions, we will explore the socio-cultural context in which the Qur’an was revealed and its similarities and differences with the Bible. We will also discuss major themes and concepts of the Qur’an and the various ways they have been interpreted by different Muslim communities throughout history. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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RELI0262 - The Formation of Judaism      

The Formation of Judaism in Antiquity ST, WT
In 586 BCE, Judah fell to Babylonia; in 638 CE, Byzantine Jerusalem surrendered to the Muslims. Between these two dates Israelite culture transformed into “Judaism.” In this introductory course we will examine the major factors in this transformation, looking first at the Second Temple Period (515 BCE to 70 CE) and then the early Rabbinic Period (70 CE-638). We will read selections from the Bible, Jewish literature from the diaspora, the Mishnah, the Talmuds, and other early Rabbinic literature, as well as secondary literature interpreting these primary texts. The Temple, synagogue, priests, teachers, liturgy and prayers, ethics, women and gender, varieties of Judaism, and relations with “others” are among the topics to be treated. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL HIS PHL

Fall 2013

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RELI0264 - Jewish-Christian Interactions      

Conflict and Identity: Jewish-Christian Interactions
“Urging a Jew to convert to Christianity is like advising a person to move upstairs while demolishing the ground floor.” This quip by Moses Mendelssohn epitomizes Christianity’s conflicted attitude to its Jewish origin, affirming it while rejecting it. Yet the relationship is not symmetrical, for the very reason that Judaism precedes Christianity. In this course we will examine the troubled history of the relationship between Christians and Jews from antiquity to the present. Readings include Church Fathers, rabbinic texts, medieval polemics, law codes regulating Jewish-Christian interactions (particularly governing food and table fellowship) and modern interfaith dialogue. 3 hrs. lect./disc. EUR HIS PHL

Spring 2016

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RELI0272 - African Amer Religious History      

African American Religious History AR
This course offers an introduction to African American religious experiences in the United States. We will look at religious practices "imported" from Africa, slave religion, the growth of independent black denominations, the Back to Africa movement, black “new religious movements” (such as Garveyism and the Nation of Islam), and the religious dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement. As we explore the influence of forced immigration, slavery, gender, segregation and freedom movements on the shape of African Americans' religious experiences, three questions will inform our discussion. What is "African" about African American religions? As a group excluded from many of the freedoms of American society, what is "American" in African American religious experiences? How are notions of religion and religious practice nuanced when applied to these particular cultural contexts? 3 hrs. lect. HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2013

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RELI0276 - Religion in the Borderlands      

Religion in the Borderlands AR
In this course we will survey the religious and cultural history of the U.S./Mexico borderlands. Themes and issues to be covered include: the definition of place, the history of religious iconography, ritual performance and community, transformations in forms of belief, and the effects of linguistic pluralism on cultural and religious creativity. Readings will include: Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera, Alberto Pulido's The Sacred World of the Penitentes, and other historical and literary works. 3 hrs. lect./disc. CMP NOR PHL SOC

Fall 2015

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RELI0277 - The Arabian Nights      

The Arabian Nights—Storytelling, Orientalism, and Islamic Culture
In this course we will study the great medieval classic The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights Entertainment. Compiled in Egypt and Syria in the 14th century and translated into French and other European languages in the 17th and 18th centuries, this “ocean story” has had a profound effect on the development of the literatures of both the Middle East and the West. The incorporation of ‘Arabian Nights’ motifs in European art and orientalist discourse will be central in our enquiry. This course is not open to students who have taken RELI/CMLT 1038. AAL CMP LIT

Spring 2017

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RELI0278 - Protestant or Puritan      

Protestant or Puritan? AR
What is in a name? The community of English Reformers known as "Puritans," some of whom emigrated to New England, were part of the larger Reformation group called "Protestants." The connotations of the two terms are quite different. We will begin by assessing their quest for reform by reading the New Testament, Calvin, and Milton. We will then explore "Puritanism" in America. We will study writings by John Winthrop, Edward Taylor, and Jonathan Edwards, as well as the image of American Puritanism in literature by Hawthorne, Arthur Miller, and Robert Lowell. We will conclude by considering the transformation of "Puritan" ideas in the social thought of Reinhold Niebuhr. 3 hrs. lect./disc. CMP LIT NOR PHL

Spring 2013

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RELI0279 - Bible and American Literature      

The Bible and American Literature AR, WT
In this course we will study American literary responses to the spiritual and social demands of Christianity as expressed in select Biblical passages and narratives. We will examine how writers of different times and regions responded to this tradition, raising and exploring such questions as: How is Christian conduct to be defined in a political democracy? In an increasingly secular society, can a life lived “in imitation of Christ” result in more than victimization? How can a minister, serving a worldly congregation, know the degree to which his words are sacred or profane? Writers will include Stowe, Melville, Eliot, West, Baldwin, and Robinson. 3 hrs. lect. LIT NOR PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

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RELI0280 - Hebrew Bible /Old Testament      

Studies in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament WT
Studies in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is an introductory course that focuses on a major religious text in the Western tradition. We will closely read diverse selections from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings in English translation; no familiarity with the Bible or background is presumed. Special attention will be paid to matters of genre and methods of modern biblical scholarship, as well as Jewish and Christian traditions of interpretation. 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2016

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RELI0281 - Studies in the New Testament      

Studies in the New Testament ST, WT
In this introductory course we will examine the early Christian writings that were eventually collected and canonized as “The New Testament.” In studying these works, we will also read representative books that were not included in the canon, with a view to seeing how the New Testament is situated in the diversity and complexity of the early Christian movement. Among the topics we will explore are the uses of Jewish scriptures in early Christian literature, the formation of early Christian groups (including the roles of women), early Christian beliefs and practices related to Jesus, and relations between Christian groups and the larger Greco-Roman world. 3 hrs. lect./disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2013

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RELI0290 - Women's Religious Life/Thought      

Women's Religious Life and Thought: The Female Pursuit of God in Late Antiquity and Byzantium
This course will explore the female religious experience in Greco-Roman antiquity and Early Christianity. We shall trace the transition from the mystery religions of Demeter and Isis in the Eastern Mediterranean to the cult of Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos) and the worship of female saints. Drawing on a wide range of sources (hymns, saints' Lives, Apocryphal Gospels, Patristic texts, and icons), we shall study the varieties of female devotion and examine the roles available to women in the early Church: deaconesses and desert mothers, monastics and martyrs, poets and rulers. Different theoretical approaches will enable us to ask a series of questions: were women in the early Church considered capable of holiness? To what extent did the female 'gifts of the spirit' challenge church authority? What is distinct about the feminine experience of the divine? Finally, we shall consider the vision and poetics of female spirituality in select modern poets. 3 hrs. lect. EUR HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

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RELI0293 - Health Care Ethics      

Ethics in Health Care
This course is an introduction to the principles, virtues, and other moral norms that guide decision-making in health care. We will focus on moral values accepted by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and humanistic traditions, and embedded in a liberal, pluralistic society. Popular films and numerous case studies will provide students an opportunity to develop skills in moral reasoning, in conversation with these intellectual traditions. The health care issues we will consider include expectations for patient-physician relationships, research on human subjects, euthanasia and assisted suicide, abortion, assisted reproduction, genetic information, and access to health care resources. 3 hrs. lect./disc. NOR PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2017

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RELI0297 - Middle East Political Religion      

Middle Eastern Political Religion
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the rise of Religious Zionism in Israel, Middle Eastern politics and religion have become inextricably linked. In this course we examine the relationship between politics and religion in the Arab states, Israel, and Iran. Readings include selections from the scriptures of the monotheistic traditions, historical accounts of religious and political change, and theoretical analyses of historical trends. Throughout the term we will follow news accounts of current developments in the Middle East. 3 hrs. lect. AAL PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0298 - Privilege and Poverty      

Privilege and Poverty: The Ethics of Economic Inequality
In this course we will study the ethical implications of domestic and global economic inequality. Drawing from history, economics, sociology, philosophy, theology, and other disciplines, we will examine the causes and consequences of inequality, critically evaluate our usage of the terms “privilege” and “poverty,” and consider the range of moral responses individuals and society might have to inequality. We will ask whether it is unfair, unfortunate, or necessary that some citizens live with significantly less material wealth than others, and whether those who experience “privilege” have any moral responsibility to those who exist in “poverty.” PHL SOC

Spring 2013, Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0303 - Cults and New Religions      

Cults and New Religions
Religious outsiders have been persistent yet controversial. Mystics and messiahs preaching a variety of radical beliefs and ways of life have provoked strong responses from mainline traditions as well as from publics concerned about the "cult" menace. Yet new religions have also been a source of religious experimentation and revival. In this course we will explore the unique characteristics of new religions, the historical circumstances that give rise to them, who join and why, the societal reaction they generate, questions of authority and leadership, violence, and the factors that influence their success, decline and failure. A variety of new religions from North America and the West, as well as from Japan and China, will be considered. These may include the Shakers, the People's Temple, Hare Krishna, Soka Gakkai, the Children of God/Family, Solar Temple, Aum Shinrikyo, Falun Gong, the Branch Davidians, and the Raelians. 3 hrs sem. CMP PHL SOC

Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0320 - Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy      

Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy: Yogacara Depth Psychology and Philosophy of Mind AT
In this seminar we will survey the basic ideas of Yogacara Buddhism (4-6th c. CE), one of two major schools of Indian Buddhism, in relation to cognitive science and philosophy of mind. We will examine these ideas historically, philosophically and comparatively. We focus on the Yogacara analyses of the largely unconscious ‘construction of reality’ and its systematic deconstruction through forms of analytic meditation. We will read primary and secondary texts on Indian Buddhism and texts espousing similar ideas in modern philosophy and the social and cognitive sciences. (one course on philosophy or RELI 0120, RELI 0220, RELI 0223, RELI 0224, RELI 0225, RELI 0226, RELI 0227or RELI 0228.) 3 hrs. sem. AAL CMP PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI0321 - Tibetan Buddhist Art      

The Art of Tibetan Buddhism
In this course we will explore the fascinating imagery of Tibetan Buddhist art, with special attention paid to the rich visual language of tangkas—devotional paintings on cloth of Buddhas, Buddhist deities, spiritual teachers (lamas), and cosmic diagrams (mandalas)— which were used as aids for visualization and meditation. Topics will include the history of Tibet, the growth of Tibetan Buddhist sects, and the development of distinctive stylistic and iconographic characteristics as seen in tangkas, religious sculpture, ritual implements, and monastic architecture. This course will be offered in conjunction with a visiting exhibition of Tibetan tangkas at the Middlebury College Art Museum. 3 hrs. sem./3 hrs. screening. AAL ART HIS

Fall 2014

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RELI0329 - Religion in Modern China      

Persecution and Revival of Religion in Modern China AT
In this study of the dramatic recent religious history of China, we will begin with "modern" critics and reformers at the end of the imperial era and then consider the communist suppression of religion and the "cult of Mao." Our focus, however, will be the remarkable revival of religion since Mao's death in 1976. We will investigate the activity itself-ranging from traditional practices to new religious movements to various forms of Christianity - and the complex cultural and political dynamics involved in this "return" to religion. (HIST 0232, RELI 0225, or waiver) 3 hrs. sem. AAL PHL

Spring 2013

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RELI0335 - Roman Catholicism      

Roman Catholicism WT
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description. EUR HIS PHL

Fall 2012, Spring 2015

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RELI0341 - Gender Sexuality S. Asian Rel      

Gender and Sexuality in South Asian Religions
In this course we will focus on historical and ethnographic scholarship on Hinduism and Islam in South Asia. We will initially draw on the theories of Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and third world feminists to examine issues of gender and sexuality. Then we will examine a range of case studies—including colonial interpretations of the Hindu practices of sati, the experiences of devadasis in Telugu south India, an account of a female Muslim healer in Hyderabad, and the religious practices of third-gendered hijras—to address how gender and sexuality are constructed in the religious landscape of South Asian Hinduism and Islam. Prior study of religion or women’s and gender studies is required. 3 hrs. sem. AAL PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2014

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RELI0344 - Tantra: Sex, Death, & Madness      

Tantric Visions of Sex, Death, and Madness
Using the esoteric realms of Tantric religion in India as our framework, we will explore how unconventional and secretive rituals shape religious experience and identity, and how our understandings of religious life may be challenged by such categories as madness, mysticism, and the supernatural. Readings will focus on Hindu hagiography, Tantric ritual texts, Buddhist narratives, and a range of secondary literature addressing gender, power, sex, and the subaltern. We will also learn how nontraditional religious practices allow for a diversity of meaningful religious expression, thereby fostering in us an enriched vision of religiosity while inviting us to examine the role of esotericism in our own lives. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL

Spring 2015

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RELI0350 - Mystical Tradition of Islam      

Sufism: The Mystical Tradition of Islam
In this seminar, we will start our adventure in the Sufi world by focusing on the historical and religious contexts in which the mystical tradition of Islam developed during the early Islamic centuries. We will then turn to the so-called classical period focusing on the institutionalization of Sufism, major themes of the classical Sufi literature; fundamental teachings and practices of Sufis; and important figures like Rumi, Ibn Arabi, and Hafez. Finally, we will move to the modern period to discuss the ways in which the Sufi tradition has been re-interpreted, contested, or transformed throughout the Muslim world in response to the challenges of modernity. In all this, our main concern will be to develop an understanding of the mystical perspective that has influenced the outlook of much of the world's diverse Muslim population. Requires familiarity with the Islamic tradition. 3 hrs. sem. AAL PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI0362 - Religion and Nationalism      

Religion and Nationalism – Israel and Palestine
How do Palestinian and Jewish nationalisms compare? Are they “simply” national movements? Are they secular or religious movements? Is Zionism a European colonial enterprise, a manifestation of “Orientalism” and racism, or a Jewish response to these phenomena? We will study the development of Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms, with attention to religion, political ideology, and to competing and contradictory versions of history. Course materials will include readings by major proponents and critics of both Palestinian and Jewish nationalism, debates on historiography, memoir, and film. Will include debate simulations. Fulfils requirements for MES Major and JWST Minor. 3 hrs. sem. AAL HIS PHL

Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0376 - Religion and American Politics      

Religion and American Politics AR, ET
Does religion belong in politics? Should religious reasons be permitted in public political debate? Should candidates for office publicly declare their religious beliefs? Are orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Islam fundamentally incompatible with democratic principles? This course examines these and similar questions regarding the relationship between religion and American democracy. We will study the role religion does in fact play in American politics, but primarily we will ask what role, if any, religion should play in politics. We will consider this last question by consulting a number of important contemporary political philosophers and theologians. (One of the following courses: RELI 0190, RELI 0275, RELI 0293, PSCI 0101, PSCI 0102, PSCI 0104, PSCI 0107, or any course in Philosophy) 3 hrs. sem. NOR PHL SOC

Fall 2012

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RELI0381 - Seminar in the New Testament      

Lives of Jesus, Then and Now
In this seminar we will examine lives of Jesus from the earliest gospels to contemporary novels, tracing how changing times result in changing views. Though focusing on literature, we will also look at the ways artists of each period portray Jesus—including representations in contemporary cinema. From the earliest period we will look at a variety of gospels (Mark, John, Thomas, and the Protoevangelium of James); from late antiquity and the medieval world we will consider Augustine’s harmony of the gospels, the Gospel of Nicodemus, and examples of narrative art; the latter part of the course will focus on the “quest of the historical Jesus” and recent responses to it. 3 hrs. sem. LIT PHL

Spring 2014, Fall 2015

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RELI0383 - Storied Women      

Storied Women
In this course we will read and analyze stories about women in the Jewish Bible, its Greek translations, and the New Testament, using various historical, literary, and gendered approaches to the study of ancient texts. Though student interests will help determine the final list of the characters we will consider, contenders include Eve, Hagar, Rebekah, Tamar, Deborah, Ruth, Judith, Mary, the women of Paul’s letters, and Revelation’s great whore of Babylon. In addition to recent academic treatments of the stories, we will also consider some of the ways they have been retold through time and in contemporary literature and film. 3 hrs. sem. LIT PHL

Fall 2014

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RELI0384 - Women, Religion, & Ethnograpy      

Women, Religion, and Ethnography
In this course we will focus on ethnographic scholarship regarding women in various religious traditions. We will begin with questions of feminist ethnography as proposed by Lila Abu-Lughod and then read a range of ethnographies focusing on women in different contexts, including a female Muslim healer in South India, Kalasha women in Pakistan, Bedouin Muslim women in Egypt, and Catholic nuns in Mexico. We will focus on how gendered and religious identities are constructed and intertwined, and what ethnography contributes to the study of both religion and gender. A prior course in Religion, Anthropology, or Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies is recommended. 3 hrs. sem. AAL CMP PHL

Fall 2016

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RELI0387 - Religions of Rome: Good Life      

Religions of Rome: The Good Life WT, ET
In this course we will examine “the good life” as Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian philosophers and moralists wrote about it. Commonly treated in terms of set themes (for example, justice, self-control, civic responsibilities, detachment, and pleasure), definitions of the good life had many common themes but still varied greatly with regard to both what the good life comprised and on what it was based. Primary readings will draw on such writers and works as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Plutarch, wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible, Philo of Alexandria, Sirach, Tobit, 4 Maccabees, Paul of Tarsus, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Didache and Clement of Alexandria. Secondary literature will put these works in context and provide models for comparing and contrasting the views they discuss. 3 hrs. sem. CMP PHL

Fall 2012

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RELI0388 - Job and the Problem of Evil      

The Book of Job and the Problem of Evil
Why do the innocent suffer? The Book of Job asked this question millennia ago, giving not an explicit answer, but at least a response. Framed by a prose tale on the patient Job, the book is mainly a debate in poetry between an impatient Job and his “friends” that has continued to our day, in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought, and in philosophy. We will study the debate on the meaning of Job in philosophy and religion through the works of Maimonides, Kant, Hume, Voltaire, William Blake, Jung, and others. Familiarity with Biblical studies or philosophy of religion is helpful, but not required. 3 hrs. sem.  PHL

Spring 2017

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RELI0390 - Seminar in Religious Ethics      

Seminar in Religious Ethics: ET, WT
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description. HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2014

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RELI0391 - Seminar on Women and Religion      

Seminar on Women and Religion ST, WT
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description. EUR HIS PHL

Fall 2014

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RELI0395 - Religion, Ethics + Environment      

Religion, Ethics, and the Environment ET
We will explore the relationship between religion and ecology through two general approaches. Firstly, we will examine what religious traditions (especially, Jewish and Christian, but also Hindu and Buddhist) have had to say about the human-nature relationship by studying such dominant themes as: doctrines of creation and stewardship, restraints on human impact, concepts of interdependence, and ideas of sacred space. Secondly, we will turn our attention to contemporary religiously-based environmental activism, examining the possibilities and problems that emerge when religious traditions are mobilized on behalf of the environment. Students may write research papers using one or both of these approaches. (RELI 0110 or RELI 0130 or RELI 0160 or RELI 0190 or RELI 0295 or ENVS 0215) 3 hrs. sem. PHL

Spring 2015

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RELI0396 - War/Peace/Christian America      

War, Peace, and Christian America ET, WT
Many Christians have argued that war is morally justifiable in certain circumstances, while others have maintained that killing of any kind, even in the name of the state, is wrong. In this seminar we will examine the theological roots of pacifist, just-war, and crusader perspectives, and then consider how Christian interpretations of political violence have been used to support or dissent from American armed conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the War in Iraq. Throughout the course, we will ask how American views on war have been shaped by the persistent interpretation of the U.S. as a “Christian nation.” 3 hrs. sem. HIS PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2016

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RELI0398 - Amer Religion & Social Justice      

American Religion and Social Justice
Religious communities and organizations have contributed significantly to moral and social reform movements throughout U.S. history. From the colonial period to the present, religion has helped shape the discourse around issues like economic justice, racial equality, women’s rights, immigration, environmentalism, and LGBTQ rights. In this course we will study religious involvement in these social justice movements, critically examining the theologies that inspired both reform and resistance to social change. Throughout the course, we will consider the impact religion may have had—positive and negative—on struggles for social justice in the United States. 3 hrs. sem. HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0400 - Seminar: Study of Religion      

Understanding Religion: Foundational Theories and Methods
In this seminar we will examine the genesis of the academic study of religion in the modern world by reading seminal texts of such founding thinkers as: Durkheim, Weber, James, Freud, Jung, and Eliade. We will analyze these and more recent theories and methods in the sociological, psychological, and comparative study of religion, discerning their assumptions and implications, strengths and weaknesses, and utilizing them in focused written assignments. We end with the study of text-critical methods, interpreting the Garden of Eden story from multiple perspectives. Open to juniors and seniors who have had two religion courses or by waiver. 3 hrs. sem.

Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI0472 - Buddhist/Christian Monasticism      

“The Religious Life”: Buddhist and Christian Monastic Traditions Compared*
Both Buddhism and Christianity include traditions of monasticism, of men and women leaving home for “the religious life.” In this course, we will study and compare Buddhist and Christian monasticism from historical and religious perspectives. We will read primary sources, from the Life of St. Anthony and the Rule of St. Benedict to the verses attributed to the first Buddhist nuns and a Zen monastic code. We will examine monastic vocation, the integration of monasteries into society, and the adaptation of monasticism to different cultures. Throughout, we will highlight the role of gender. We will conclude with attention to contemporary manifestations of monastic culture. This course is equivalent to HIST 0472 and INTL 0472. 3 hr sem. CMP HIS PHL

Spring 2017

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RELI0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI0601 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016

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RELI0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017

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RELI1020 - Meaning in Ordinary Time      

Giving Meaning to Ordinary Time: Exploring the Cycles of our Lives and our Year from a Jewish and Christian Perspective
Beginning with an overview of historical developments within both Judaism and Christianity, we will examine selected holy days, holidays, and life-cycle rituals of these traditions. Selected celebrations will be studied in terms of their development and practice, and their role in expressing a theology and a system of values. We will explore themes such as: the human condition and its challenges; forgiveness, repentance and atonement; salvation; the tension between historical memory and spiritual reinterpretation; and the function of ritual in society will be explored. These will include contemporary issues around gender, emerging practices, and the portrayal of religious celebrations in pop culture. PHL WTR

Winter 2014

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RELI1023 - Early Taoist Texts      

Early Taoist Texts
In this course we will concentrate on the two great early Taoist (Daoist) texts, the Tao te ching (Daode jing) and the Chuang–tzu (Zhuangzi), both of which date from the Warring States period (475 -221 b.c.e.) of China and yet remain widely read and studied. We will read them closely, in multiple translations, and consider questions of authorship, audience, and philosophical and religious content. We will wrestle at length with these wonderful and difficult texts, with attention first to their original context and then to their reception and interpretation in later East Asian religion, philosophy, and literature. (This course is not open to students who have taken RELI 0227). AAL PHL WTR

Winter 2016

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RELI1028 - Religion and Environ Ethics      

Religion and Environmental Ethics
What is the relationship between religion and ecology? We will examine how religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism) have characterized the human-nature relationship by studying such themes as: dominion vs. stewardship, restraints on human impact, concepts of interdependence, and ideas of sacred space. Later in the course, we will study contemporary religiously-based environmental activism, examining the possibilities and problems that emerge when religion is mobilized on behalf of the environment. We will read works by Sallie McFague, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Thomas Berry, and Rabbis Arthur Waskow and David Haberman. We will also take a field trip to an "eco-Catholic" monastery in Vermont. (Not open to students who have taken RELI 0395). PHL WTR

Winter 2013

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RELI1029 - Global Pentecostalism      

Global Pentecostalism
In this course we will explore developments in contemporary Pentecostal and charismatic movements, rapidly growing forms of global Christianity that emphasize direct personal experience with God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit and “speaking in tongues.” We will begin with an exploration of the central beliefs and practices in Pentecostalism, its modern origins in the Azuza Street Revival, and racial tensions among the early “classical denominations” of North America. Then we will turn our attention to the global spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century, examining its cultural and ethnic variations in South America, Africa, and China. Finally, we will consider how these diverse global movements and neo-charismatic mega churches (especially their use of the media and endorsement of prosperity theology) are re-shaping the face of traditional Christianity. CMP NOR PHL WTR

Winter 2013, Winter 2015, Winter 2016, Winter 2017

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RELI1030 - Jews & Rus Empire in Crisis      

Jews and the Russian Empire in Crisis
S. An-sky (1863-1920) was a Russian-Jewish writer, ethnographer, and social activist. A prolific author, he wrote in two languages in every imaginable genre: articles, novels, plays, and songs. His best known work, The Dybbuk, immortalizes the legendary figure of a dead soul that takes possession of a living body to right an injustice suffered during its lifetime. We will study An-sky’s collected “works”: his fiction, play, memoirs, photographs, artifacts, and folk music. Our goal is a greater understanding of the cultural borderland between the two worlds, Russian and Jewish, which An-sky inhabited and portrayed at a time of crisis. (This class counts toward a concentration in Judaism within the religion major or as an elective credit towards the religion major). CMP EUR WTR

Winter 2013

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RELI1032 - Islam in America      

Islam in America
Islam has a long history in America. However, beginning in the 1960s, large numbers of Muslims from across the globe began relocating to America after restrictive immigration laws eased. Today, Islam is reportedly America’s fastest growing religion. In this course we will consider the faith and teachings of Islam, Islam in the African American community, immigrant Muslim communities in the United States, issues of cultural and religious identity, Muslim women in America, and the ways that second generation Muslims are reshaping Islam in the American context. Throughout the course, our focus will be on the making of an American Islam. CMP HIS NOR PHL WTR

Winter 2014, Winter 2016

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RELI1033 - Three Hundred Ramayanas      

Three Hundred Ramayanas: The Life of a Hindu Epic
In a well-known essay, scholar A.K. Ramanujan asks: “How many Ramayanas? Three hundred? Three thousand?” Featuring prince Rama, his wife Sita, and brother Laksmana, the Ramayana is a complex narrative that has been told and retold in numerous contexts for the past twenty-five hundred years. Beginning with Valmiki’s Sanskrit text, we will examine various retellings of the Ramayana in South Asia. We will then shift to discussing the performative life of the text, including dramatic Ramlila performances, Ramanand Sagar’s well-known television serial, and the popular comic book Amar Chitra Katha. We will conclude by examining the political significance of the Ramayana in contemporary Hindu-Muslim interactions. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1399) AAL PHL WTR

Winter 2014

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RELI1034 - C.S. Lewis:Literature/Religion      

C. S. Lewis: His Life, Literature, and Religion
Perhaps no other writer in the last sixty years has had as much influence on English-speaking Christianity as C.S. Lewis. He was a literary polymath. In this course we will delve into Lewis’ fictional worlds, exploring the meaning and symbolism of his Chronicles of Narnia, Space Trilogy, Screwtape Letters, and mythical novel Till We Have Faces. We will also read selections from his nonfictional corpus, including Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Abolition of Man, and The Weight of Glory. Finally, we will contextualize these writings by examining Lewis’ life, times, and legacy. LIT PHL WTR

Winter 2015

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RELI1035 - Hinduism in Performance      

Hinduism in Performance
We will explore the intersection of performativity and Hindu religiosityguided by the analytic categories of Indian aesthetic theory. We will delve into the poetic visions of Kālidāsa; the communal nature of theatrical festivals; the expressions of movement in possession and dance; the social cohesion of popular devotional songs; the divinely inspired singing of Tantric mystics; and the modern critique of Hindu orthodoxy in the films of Ray, Mehta, and Sen. By developing an enriched experiential knowledge of South Asian performance as part of Hindu religious life, we will enhance our own aesthetic appreciation and expressivity. AAL ART PHL WTR

Winter 2015

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RELI1036 - The Way of Ascetics      

The Way of the Ascetics: The Making of the Self in Christian Monasticism
The practice of asceticism appeared in ancient Christianity as a movement striving for a deeper spiritual life and connection with the Divine. Men and women withdrew into the wilderness to become fully attuned to God, engaged more empathetically with their human communities and the natural environment, and served the poor and socially marginalized. We shall examine how their new model of living challenged the traditional formations of identity and power through cultivating a watchful mind and deepening awareness. We shall also consider its possible relevance for our postmodern world. Readings will include the Gospel of Thomas, Desert Wisdom anthologies such as “The Philokalia,” and works of American mystic Thomas Merton and novelist Annie Dillard. CMP PHL WTR

Winter 2016

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RELI1037 - Afterlife in World Religions      

A Hell of a Class: An Exploration of the Afterlife
Is there life after death, and if so, what is it like? How could a loving God condemn people to hell? What are the social and personal implications of not believing in an afterlife? In this course we will explore these questions by reading ancient texts from all the major world religions, classic depictions of heaven and hell such as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Lewis’ Great Divorce, modern accounts of near-death experiences such as neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven, and analytical essays on how our views of the afterlife affect how we live out our lives in the present. This course will count as an elective towards the Religion major. PHL WTR

Winter 2016

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RELI1038 - The Arabian Nights      

The Arabian Nights—Storytelling, Orientalism, and Islamic Culture
In this course we will study the great medieval classic The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights Entertainment. Compiled in Egypt and Syria in the 14th century and translated into French and other European languages in the 17th and 18th centuries, this “ocean story” has had a profound effect on the development of the literatures of both the Middle East and the West. The incorporation of ‘Arabian Nights’ motifs in European art and orientalist discourse will be central in our enquiry. AAL CMP LIT WTR

Winter 2016

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RELI1039 - The Gita in Walden      

The Gita in Walden
In the Walden chapter “The Pond in Winter,” Henry David Thoreau recounts a morning spent reading “the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy” of the classic Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita. “The pure Walden water,” he notes, “is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.” In this course we will study that curious “mingling” through a comparative reading of Walden and the Bhagavad Gita. As we read these texts side-by-side, we will consider their intellectual contexts of Transcendentalism and Hinduism, and trace the influence of both texts in such thinkers as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Annie Dillard, and others. LIT PHL WTR

Winter 2017

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RELI1040 - Islamic Philosophy & Theology      

History of Islamic Philosophy and Theology
During the 8th-10th centuries, Muslim intellectuals began engaging with Aristotelian philosophy via a massive Greek-to-Arabic translation movement. Modern opinion has tended to mourn this era as a brief golden age, stifled by religious fanaticism. However, recent scholarship questions the so-called “decline” narrative, arguing that Islamic philosophy and theology flourished into the 20th century. In this course we will survey the key movements and debates of Islamic intellectual history by reading texts by major thinkers like Avicenna and al-Ghazali. We will also read a range of scholarship to understand how and why the historical narrative is undergoing such radical revision. HIS WTR

Winter 2017

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RELI1041 - Readings in Quran      

Readings in Quran
The Quran is one of the most read and studied books in world history. For more than 1,400 years, scholars have sought to uncover the power and meanings found within the Quran. In this course we will focus on close readings of Islam’s most important text.  We will examine the Quran through multiple theological interpretations, exploring the text’s core themes and teachings.  Important contemporary questions such as the Quran’s relationship to violence and women’s rights will be explored. In doing so, we will seek to understand how this book informs the religious and spiritual understandings of Islam’s 1.8 billion adherents. PHL WTR

Winter 2017

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RELI1073 - Religion Enlightenment      

“A Book Forged in Hell”: Religion, Enlightenment and Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise*
What is the role of religion in a modern state? When citizens’ religious freedoms collide with state interests, which should prevail? In his Theological-Political Treatise, Spinoza rejected the divine origin of scripture and the authority of religion and set the stage for modern textual criticism. He championed the separation of religion and state and laid the groundwork for modern secularism. One reviewer denounced the Treatise as “a book forged in hell.” We begin with a close reading of the Treatise and then consider Spinoza’s long legacy: the rise of liberalism and secularism, the origins of modern Biblical criticism, and the reasons why Spinoza has been called “the first modern Jew.” EUR PHL WTR

Winter 2017

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Department of Religion

Munroe Hall
427 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753