Courses

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

RELI 0100 - 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, Spring 2018

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RELI 0120 - 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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RELI 0121 - Buddhist Traditions in India      

Buddhist Traditions in India
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 SOA

Fall 2015, Fall 2017

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RELI 0122 - The Buddhist Tradition      

The Buddhist Tradition
Buddhists “take refuge in the three jewels”: the Buddha, his teachings, and the community he founded. After a grounding in the context and content of early Buddhism, we will use texts and images to explore these three categories and what they have meant to Buddhists in different times and places. We will pay special attention to changing views of the Buddha, later developments in Buddhist thought and practice, and the spread of the Buddhist tradition throughout Asia and beyond, which has involved adaptation to a startling array of cultures and societies – as well as modernity. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL CMP PHL SOA

Spring 2019

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RELI 0123 - Buddhist Tradition in EastAsia      

The Buddhist Tradition in East Asia
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 NOA PHL

Spring 2016, Spring 2018

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RELI 0130 - 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. 3 hrs. lect./disc. CMP HIS PHL

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

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RELI 0132 - 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 MDE PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0140 - 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. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL PHL SOA

Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0150 - The Islamic Traditions      

The Islamic Traditions
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. 3 hrs. lect./disc AAL MDE PHL

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0160 - Jewish Traditions      

Jewish Traditions
“Traditions” are not static, but a constant interplay between continuity and creativity. What do classical Jewish texts (Bible, Rabbinic literature) tell us about Judaism’s origins? How have the core concepts and practices of Judaism morphed into a cluster of traditions that has endured over two millennia? With these questions in mind, we will study central ideas in Jewish thought, rituals, and their transformations, culminating in individual projects involving the investigation a contemporary movement, congregation or trend in contemporary Jewish life, e.g. Reform, Reconstructionism, mystical (neo-Kabbalistic) revivals, or “secular” Judaism. 3 hrs. lect./disc. HIS PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2018

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RELI 0161 - 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

Spring 2015

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RELI 0165 - 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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RELI 0170 - American Religion      

American Religion
In this course we will explore religion in the Americas with a focus on the United States. Relying on a metaphor from linguistics, we will trace how an American religious “grammar” emerged from colonial contact zones and then assess how capitalism, denominationalism, and secularism shaped that grammar during the ensuing centuries. Extending the metaphor, we will seek to understand how different actors “spoke” American religion to shape society, make sense of the world, and harness natural and supernatural power. We will cover American variations on the traditions of Buddhism, indigenous religion, Christianity, African diasporic religion, folk spirituality, and Islam. 3 hrs lect, 1 hr. disc. AMR HIS NOR PHL

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018

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RELI 0180 - Intro to Biblical Literature      

An Introduction to Biblical Literature
This course is a general introduction to biblical history, literature, and interpretation. It is designed for students who seek a basic understanding of the Bible on its own or as a foundation for further study in religion, art, literature, film, and other disciplines. It aims to acquaint students with the major characters, narratives, poetry, and compositional features of biblical literature and how these writings became Jewish and Christian scriptures. The course will also explore various approaches to reading the Bible, both religious and secular. 3 hrs. lect./disc. LIT PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0190 - 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 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI 0201 - Religion and Violence      

Religion and Violence
“Religion and violence” exists at the knotty intersection between politics, identity, and culture. A critical understanding of how and why religion has been employed to explain or justify violence is essential to becoming a responsible citizen of the world. In this course we will explore the complex relationship between religion, political economy, and violence from a global perspective. Our goal will be to deconstruct popular preconceptions of religion and violence, locate the variety of social structures that induce violence, and to develop a critical apparatus for understanding what is at stake when religion and violence intersect. 3 hrs. lect./disc AMR CMP PHL SOC

Spring 2019

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RELI 0208 - 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. AMR NOR PHL SOC

Spring 2016

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RELI 0209 - 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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RELI 0225 - 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 NOA PHL

Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI 0228 - Japanese Religions      

Japanese Religions
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 NOA PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

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RELI 0229 - 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 NOA PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2018

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RELI 0230 - Christian Ethics      

Christian Ethics
In this course we will encounter a range of moral perspectives that adherents to the Christian tradition may hold on issues such as human rights, social justice, politics, violence, sex, the environment, and the beginning and end of life. Through readings by contemporary Christian thinkers, we will explore the diversity within this religious tradition, as well as consider the impact that theological moral reasoning has on public discourse in the United States. In the process of studying Christian ethics, students also will develop skills in moral reasoning from the perspective of their own worldviews. 3 hrs lect. AMR NOR PHL

Fall 2018

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RELI 0232 - 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

Spring 2015

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RELI 0233 - 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 SAF

Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

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RELI 0237 - 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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RELI 0238 - 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. AMR LIT NOR PHL

Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2019

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RELI 0241 - Ancient Egypt: Art & Religion      

Art and Religion of Ancient Egypt
With its pyramids and mummies, the civilization of Ancient Egypt and its obsession with the afterlife loom large in the contemporary imagination. In this introductory course we explore Egyptian art and religion and study the driving forces for Egypt’s cultural continuity and change between c. 3200 BCE and 30 BCE. We also consider the impact of Ancient Egypt on later civilizations; its rediscovery during the 19th and early 20th centuries; and the reception of Ancient Egypt as a factor in the formation of modern Egypt. 3 hrs. Lect. AAL MDE

Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0243 - 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, moks?a, purity, and nonviolence have shaped the development of Hindu moral consciousness. We will do so through readings of orthodox Hindu ethical texts (dharma sastra), 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 SOA

Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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RELI 0248 - Religion & Class in South Asia      

Religion and Class in South Asia
In this course we will examine the shifting religious landscapes of South Asia in relationship to “new middle classes” in Nepal, India, and Pakistan. We will begin by defining class in contemporary South Asia and then consider ethnographic examples of how class is reshaping religious communities, identities, values, and practices among Hindus and Muslims. Special attention will be given to shifts in practices related to gender and caste, media (television, film, and comic books), fashion, food, and leisure in order to expand our definitions of what “counts” as religion in the modern world. 3 hrs. lect. AAL CW PHL SOA SOC

Spring 2018

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RELI 0252 - Islam in America      

Islam in America
In this course we will briefly consider the historical origins of Islam, its development, and essential teachings. Then we will shift our focus to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the earliest Muslims who set foot on American soil as slaves. We will then examine the fascinating role the African American community played in the spread of Islam during the twentieth century. Finally, we will examine issues of immigration, identity, gender, ethnicity, generational divide, discussing the constantly changing nature of how Islam is imagined in America both by the general public and Muslim Americans. (not open to students who have taken RELI 1032) 3 hrs. lect. AMR CW HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2019

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RELI 0254 - 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 2017

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RELI 0256 - 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 PHL

Fall 2016, Spring 2018

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RELI 0258 - The Qur'an      

The Qur'an
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? What are some of the different approaches Muslims have developed in approaching the Qur’an? How is the Qur’an different from or similar to other sacred scriptures? We will examine questions like this throughout the first half of the semester. During the second half, we will choose a specific theme such as gender, violence, law, ethics, or aesthetics, to examine the role that the Qur’an has historically played in Muslim cultures and its significance for contemporary religious life. 3 hrs. lect. AAL MDE PHL

Fall 2014, Spring 2019

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RELI 0259 - Fundamentalism and Religion      

Fundamentalism and Religion
What is fundamentalism and why is it in the news so much? Is it inherently linked to intolerance, radicalism, violence, and an apocalyptic mood? We will begin by examining the historical development of fundamentalism in the early 20th century, paying special attention to its ongoing symbiotic relationship with modernism and secularism. Though we will focus more on Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, we will also examine Jewish and Christian fundamentalisms, and other regions of the world, discussing all with a comparative approach. We will see whether or not we can find common psychological, socio-economic, and/or religious patterns that can help us understand the rise of fundamentalism in the contemporary world. 3 hrs. lect. AAL CMP MDE PHL

Fall 2017

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RELI 0264 - 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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RELI 0273 - Religion Capitalism Americas      

Crossroads: Religion and Capitalism in the Americas
Why are Americans afraid of selling their souls? Legend tells us that the Delta blues were born when a young black American sold his soul at a crossroads to play the guitar. Since the moment of European contact, the “Crossroads” have represented opportunity, danger, and spiritual power. In this course we will study the Crossroads as an entrée into the field of comparative religion and economy in the Americas. We will explore the contact points between European Christian and African diasporic religion in the U.S. and Brazil, while critically assessing how capitalism has shaped religious life across the hemisphere. 3 hours lect./disc. AAL AMR CMP PHL SOC

Fall 2018

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RELI 0276 - 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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RELI 0277 - 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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RELI 0279 - 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. AMR LIT NOR PHL

Fall 2014

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RELI 0280 - 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

Spring 2016, Spring 2019

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RELI 0290 - Women and the Sacred      

Women and the Sacred 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 2014, Spring 2018

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RELI 0293 - 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. AMR NOR PHL

Spring 2017

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RELI 0297 - 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 MDE PHL

Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018

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RELI 0298 - 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.” 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc. PHL SOC

Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

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RELI 0303 - 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

Spring 2015, Fall 2016

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RELI 0320 - Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy      

Seminar in Buddhist Philosophy: Yogacara Depth Psychology and Philosophy of Mind
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, Spring 2018

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RELI 0321 - 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 SOA

Fall 2014

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RELI 0325 - Seminar in Buddhist Studies      

Seminar in Buddhist Studies: Buddhists and Others
The Buddha sent his students to spread his teachings, thus giving rise to the world’s first major missionary religion. As the Buddhist tradition took root across Asia, Buddhists interacted with many other religions and cultures. We will explore a series of these encounters, ranging from rivalry and opposition to cooperation to synthesis. Our goal will be to understand more deeply both the nature of the Buddhist tradition and the varied settings in which it has thrived and to which it has adapted. We will conclude with attention to the further spread of Buddhism in the modern period and its ongoing encounters with “others.” 3 hr. sem. AAL CMP NOA PHL

Fall 2018

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RELI 0335 - Roman Catholicism      

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

Spring 2015, Spring 2018

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RELI 0339 - Christians in Modern MidEast      

Christians in the Modern Middle East
In the Middle East, Christians have faced fast-paced political, economic, and religious transformations. Focusing on indigenous communities such as Copts, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Assyrians, and Maronites, we will explore Christianity’s place in the region, from the nineteenth century up to the present. Against the backdrop of a waning Ottoman Empire, mounting European colonialism, and the rise of nationalism and Islamism, we will investigate Christians’ status as minorities, who have at times been privileged and at other times been marginalized, exiled, and shunned. We will also pay attention to the ways in which Western governments and Christian missionaries have transformed the lives of Middle Eastern Christians in their quest for evangelism, apocalypticism, and regional domination. Class sources will include memoirs, novels, and films. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AAL HIS MDE SOC

Spring 2019

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RELI 0344 - 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 SOA

Spring 2015

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RELI 0350 - 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 MDE PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2018

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RELI 0359 - Fundamentalism and Relgion      

Issues in Islamic Law and Ethics: Questions of Life and Death
From the Rushdie affair to the controversy over the veil in France and the sentencing of a Nigerian woman to death by stoning, Islamic Law has been portrayed in the West as archaic, barbaric, and inflexible. In this course we will provide an introduction to Islamic Law and its continuing relevance to millions of Muslims in the twenty-first century. Concepts of legal authority, cultural influence, and the varieties of legal interpretation will be examined in an Islamic context. We will examine the origins and development of Islamic law during the pre-modern period before focusing on contemporary issues that have attracted attention in recent years. (RELI 0150) 3 hrs. sem. CMP CW PHL

Spring 2019

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RELI 0362 - 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 MDE PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019

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RELI 0372 - Theories of American Religion      

Theories of American Religion
Since the modern academy’s inception, the Americas have been a laboratory for theorists of the human condition. This is particularly true in the field of religion, where Americans have played both scientist and specimen in the process of understanding homo religiosus. In this course we will study theories of religion as a series of dialogues between theorist and subject. We will begin by reading primary theoretical texts and proceed into experiencing the theorist’s human “evidence” in the fullness of their context. Sections will include theorists that range from Emile Durkheim and William James to Roger Bastide, Fernando Ortiz, and Thomas Tweed. 3 hrs lect/dsc. AMR CMP NOR PHL

Spring 2019

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RELI 0376 - Religion and American Politics      

Religion and American Politics
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. AMR NOR PHL SOC

Spring 2018

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RELI 0381 - 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

Fall 2015

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RELI 0382 - Exemplary Lives      

Exemplary Lives
Many religious and philosophical traditions in the ancient Mediterranean world used
“biographies” to portray and promote their notions of a good life—Judaism and Christianity among them. In this course we will examine examples of these “biographies,” noting similarities and differences with regard to the ideals they emphasize and the strategies their authors use. We will read, for example, “lives” of Moses written by a Greek-speaking Jewish philosopher in Alexandria (Philo) and a Christian bishop in Asia Minor (Gregory of Nyssa)—both of whom use Greek moral vocabulary to praise Moses and make him a model of the good life. Other authors and subjects include Plato, Xenophon, Tacitus, Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Jesus, Paul, Yohanan ben Zakkai, martyrs, philosophers, politicians, and holy men and women from across the Mediterranean world. 3 hrs. sem. LIT PHL

Fall 2018

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RELI 0383 - Storied Women      

Storied Women
In this course we will read and analyze stories about women in the Jewish Bible, its Greek translations, and the Christian Bible (both Old and New Testaments). Using various historical, literary, theological, and gendered approaches to the study of ancient texts, we will examine characters such as Eve, Sarah, 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 in both religious and secular settings, including art, literature, drama, and film. 3 hrs. sem. LIT PHL

Fall 2014, Fall 2017

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RELI 0384 - 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. (National/Transnational Feminisms) AAL CMP PHL

Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019

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RELI 0388 - 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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RELI 0391 - 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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RELI 0395 - 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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RELI 0396 - 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.” (RELI 0130 or RELI 0190 or RELI 0230) 3 hrs. sem. HIS PHL

Spring 2016

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RELI 0398 - Christianity & Social Justice      

Christianity and Social Justice in the U.S.
Religious communities and organizations have contributed significantly to moral and social reform movements throughout U.S. history. In this course we will study Christianity’s involvement in these social justice movements, critically examining the theologies that inspired both reform and resistance to social change. From the colonial period to the present, Christianity has helped shape the discourse around issues like economic justice, racial equality, women’s rights, immigration, environmentalism, and LGBTQ rights. Throughout the course, we will consider the impact Christianity may have had—positive and negative—on struggles for social justice in the United States. (RELI 0130 or RELI 0190, RELI 0230 or RELI 0298) 3 hrs. sem. AMR HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019

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RELI 0400 - 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.

Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

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RELI 0472 - 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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RELI 0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

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RELI 0601 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

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RELI 0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

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RELI 0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

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RELI 1023 - 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 NOA PHL WTR

Winter 2016, Winter 2018

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RELI 1029 - 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 2015, Winter 2016, Winter 2017

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RELI 1032 - 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 2016

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RELI 1034 - 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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RELI 1035 - 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 Kalidasa; 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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RELI 1036 - 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, Winter 2018

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RELI 1037 - 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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RELI 1038 - 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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RELI 1039 - 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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RELI 1040 - 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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RELI 1041 - 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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RELI 1042 - Introspection/ChallengingTimes      

Introspection in Challenging Times
Challenging times—whether personal, national, or global—commonly give rise to the challenge of introspection. In this course we will examine a variety of writers who, in such times, have expressed their reflections in meditations, confessions, prayers, autobiographies, essays, poetry, journals, and letters. The list includes emperors, bishops, monks, nuns, diplomats, slaves, activists, resistors, martyrs, and other ordinary people. (Some names: Augustine, Teresa, Tubman, Douglass, Weil, Frankel, Gandhi, Day, Morrison, and the Dalai Lama). In addition to analysis, discussion, and work in small groups, we will explore writing in the various genres we examine as a way to develop their own approach to introspection in challenging times. LIT PHL WTR

Winter 2018

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RELI 1071 - Voices of Nonviolence      

Voices of Nonviolence
We begin this course with an overview of the teachings of various world religions relating to the theme of nonviolence. We then proceed to examine the religious inspiration, activism, and writings of Tolstoy, Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., César Chavez, and Thich Nhat Hanh. We will test the adequacy of nonviolence as a response to conflict by exploring themes such as the humanity of the opponent, the challenge of despair and cynicism in the face of great obstacles, the place of spiritual practices in individual and community life, and the value (or problem) of redemptive suffering. This course counts as elective credit towards the Religion major. (Students who have taken INTD 1071 will not be eligible to register). PHL WTR

Winter 2018

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RELI 1073 - 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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RELI 1074 - Buddhism in the Modern World      

Buddhism in the Modern World
In this course we will survey and analyze Buddhist traditions around the world, from the mid-19th century to the present. We will begin by examining traditional Buddhist cultures in Asia—their teachings, practices, and social and political organizations—and then analyze how they have variously responded to the challenges of colonialism, nationalism, science, individualism, and democracy. We will examine how these led to the assumptions underlying ‘Buddhist Modernism’ both in Asia and the West. Materials will include texts and films on traditional Buddhism, historical, social, and intellectual analyses of its transformations, as well as narratives of individuals’ lives. CMP PHL WTR

Winter 2018

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Department of Religion

Munroe Hall
427 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753