Courses offered in the past four years. Courses offered currently are as noted.

Course Description

Introduction to Religion
Why is religion a significant element in human life and affairs? What roles does religion play in the lives of individuals and communities? And what is religion anyway? Drawing on Western and Asian traditions, we will take a comparative approach to these questions, examining how religious traditions can differ and converge. Throughout the course, we will introduce the basic vocabulary and analytical tools of the academic study of religion. We will also consider how both scholars and practitioners make sense of religion and debate its role in societies past and present. 3 hrs. lect./disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

PHL, SOA

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Course Description

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. (Juniors and Seniors by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AAL, CMP, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

NOA, PHL

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Course Description

The Global Christian Tradition
In this course we will study the historical development and current presence of Christianity in various regions of the world. Beginning with its origins in the Middle East, we will trace the growth and evolution of this complex tradition in the Mediterranean, Africa, western Europe, the Americas, and East Asia. Along the way, we will encounter important Christian thinkers, discover different schools of belief and practice, and focus on foundational theological themes, like the divinity of Christ, the function and authority of the church, Christian-Jewish relations, and religious perspectives on gender, race, politics, and modernity. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AAL, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

PHL, SOA

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

MDE, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2022

Requirements

HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

LIT, PHL

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Course Description

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./1 hr. disc

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, CMP, PHL, SOC

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Course Description

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. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

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Course Description

Mindfulness: Buddhism and Science
In this course we will be examining the practice of mindfulness. Students will learn about traditional Buddhist meditation, how to analyze original sources in translation, and to assess ways that religious traditions are transformed in the modern era. We will look at the origins and aims of mindfulness in traditional Asian Buddhism, see how it came to the West, and examine the processes of secularization and psychologization that led to its popularization. We will read Buddhist primary sources in translation, trace its history from colonial Myanmar through India to the contemporary West, examine its development in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, and its proliferation in various institutions within the United States. We will read scientific studies examining its psychological benefits and watch some films about it. (Students who have completed RELI 0209 are not eligible to take RELI 0210)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

Love, Anger, and Betrayal in the Indian Epics: The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, and The Shilappadikaram
This course has two goals: to acquaint students with the immense narrative tradition which makes up much of India's religious heritage; and to examine how ideas about love, anger, and betrayal are expressed through the epic medium. The course will focus on the Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Tamil South Indian epic, the Shilappadikaram. We will also discuss the contemporary "re-tellings" of these epics by Indian and Western authors in essays, poetry, film, and theater. We will end by examining the epics’ strategic uses in Indian politics, including nineteenth century freedom movements, Tamil separatism, recent Hindu/Muslim disputes, or early twenty-first century feminist and LGBTQIA+ activism. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

Early Daoist Texts
The two great early Daoist (Taoist) texts, the Daodejing (Tao te ching) and the Zhuangzi (Chuang–tzu)/, date from the Warring States period (475 -221 BCE) of China and remain widely read and studied. We will read them closely and slowly, considering questions of authorship, audience, philosophical and religious content, and translation. We will wrestle at length with these wonderful and difficult texts, with attention primarily to their original context and secondarily to their reception and interpretation in later religion, philosophy, and literature in East Asia and beyond. (This is a half credit course.)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

NOA, PHL

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Course Description

Food in East Asian Religions
One might think that food and eating have nothing to do with the lofty concerns of religious traditions. In fact, many religions bring their fundamental principles to bear on the questions of what, how, and with whom to eat; many also revolve around “feeding” gods and other spiritual beings. In this course, we will examine East Asian religions through the lens of eating practices. We will study Confucian feasting and fasting, various Chinese, Korean, and Japanese rituals offering food to ancestors and gods, Buddhist vegetarianism and its critics, unusual Taoist eating regimens, and the ancient cosmological ideas underlying traditional Chinese medical ideas of healthy eating. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, NOA, PHL

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Course Description

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. (Seniors by waiver) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, NOA, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, NOA, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2021

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

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, while engaging more empathetically with their human communities and the natural environment, and serving 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 Desert Wisdom anthologies such as “The Philokalia,” and works of American mystic Thomas Merton and novelist Annie Dillard.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

EUR, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AAL, MDE

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Course Description

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. (Formerly RELI 1038) (Not open to students who have already taken RELI 1038.)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, LIT, MDE

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Course Description

Greek Religion
In this course we will examine the religious experience of the Greeks in all its complexity and variety. Drawing on literary sources (e.g. Homer, Hesiod, tragedy, and comedy, among others) and archaeological evidence, we will study the Greek views of the gods as these emerge from both mythical narratives and cult practice. We will explore the Greek ideas of personal salvation, but also the importance of religious festivals for the community of the polis. Finally, while looking at ancient philosophical critiques of the traditional gods, we will trace the transition to Christianity and we will compare the sacred in Greek culture with the place of religion in our own society. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

EUR, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Islam and Hinduism in South Asia
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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, HIS, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

Reading Islamic Sacred Texts
In this course we will read selections from texts considered “sacred” by a variety of Muslim communities. Emphasis will be on in depth and slow reading of the texts and understanding how and why they have come to be held at such high esteem by relevant Muslim communities. Through our discussions about these texts, we will try to re-examine the dominant notions of what constitutes a “religion,” particularly what constitutes “Islam.” Readings will include selections from the Qur’an and the biography of Prophet Muhammad, sayings/biography of Muslim saints and mystical poetry, theological and philosophical treatises, and more. (This is a half credit course)

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

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Course Description

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. (Juniors and Seniors by waiver) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AAL, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

Jewish Thought and Culture: The Modern Era
Contemporary Jewish life poses many questions: why do many Jews say they are “Jewish, but not religious”? What is distinct about Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism? What do the terms “Zionist” and “anti-Zionist Jew” mean? What is the place of the State of Israel in Jewish life? To answer these questions we will study the history of Jewish culture in the modern era: the Enlightenment critique of religion, Jewish-Christian relations, changes in Jewish practice, the revival of Hebrew, concepts of nationalism, assimilation and the problem of “Jewish politics.” Sources will include classical and modern texts, literature and art. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

EUR, PHL

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Course Description

Sex, Money, and Violence – an Introduction to the Talmud
The Talmud is the defining book of Jewish culture. Incredibly rich and varied, it has something to say about almost everything, usually something surprising. It is a book not simply to read, but to engage within dialogue. Due to its idiosyncratic language and unique form, it is not always easily accessible for the beginner. In this course we will learn about the fundamentals of the Talmudic text and then delve into selected passages, discovering together what the Talmud has to say about sex, money, violence, and an array of other topics relevant to modern life. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Winter 2022

Requirements

PHL

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Course Description

Jews and Christians: Conflict and Identity
“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 (1729-1786) 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 examine the fraught relationship between Christians and Jews from antiquity to the present. Readings include Church Fathers, rabbinic texts, polemics, theologians, as well as the Catholic declarations of Vatican II and modern interfaith dialogue. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, CW, EUR, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

Rites and Rituals in Israeli Society
In this course we will use theory and case studies, from Israel and its neighbors, to explore a wide range of rituals. We will examine national goals achieved with the assistance of ceremonies, and society’s imprint on its members through life-cycle rituals. We will address similarities and differences in the ways specific rituals are performed, and the diverse meanings they may hold for groups and individuals in geographically proximate yet culturally distinct countries, and in the heterogeneous Israeli society. Our aim is to analyze cultural repertoires and social relations, as are represented, reproduced, and contested in ritualistic activities. (formerly HEBM/SOAN 0254) 3 hrs. lect

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Death in Latin America
The refrain of colonialism in the Americas was death. In its wake, encounters with dying and the dead shaped national cultures and popular religiosities across the hemisphere. In this course we will explore the diversity of rituals, stories, and devotions surrounding death in Latin America. Through a careful reading of Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America, we will critically examine the geopolitical entity of Latin America in its historical context while learning how to write powerfully about its social and economic realities. We will cover death across secular and religious formations in Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, Guatemala, and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. 3 hrs. lect/3 hrs. lab.*This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.*

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, AMR, CMP, CW, PHL, SOC

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Course Description

Religion and Capitalism
Joseph Schumpeter described capitalism as animated by a perennial gale of creative destruction. While he was referring to its capacity to create and destroy industries, capitalism has had the same effect on social worlds. From those tumultuous worlds, a diverse array of religious practices, beliefs, and sentiments have likewise flourished and decayed. This course explores the relationship between global capitalism and religion in the modern period. Anchored in a comparison between Brazil and the United States, we will explore how religious traditions have encountered the world transformed by capitalism as well as the religious dimensions of capitalism itself. 3 hours lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, CMP, PHL

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Course Description

Religion and Politics in Iran
The Islamic revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, propelled Iran to the position of the arch-nemesis of the United States in the region. As a result of hostile media coverage, there are many misconceptions that pervade our understanding of post-revolutionary Iran. In this course we will try to offer a more nuanced understanding by looking deeper into the history of Iran beginning from the era of the early Islamic conquests. A focus of the course will be examining the intersection of religion and politics in the early modern, modern, and finally, contemporary Iranian society.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

MDE, PHL

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Course Description

Studies in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
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. (Seniors by waiver) 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

HIS, PHL

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Course Description

The New Testament in Narrative and Art: Considering the Aesthetics of the Christian Story
For two millennia, the figure of Jesus has captivated the imagination of spiritual seekers around the world. In this course we will explore literary and theological dimensions of the New Testament with special attention to the Gospel as stories, while considering works of art inspired by its themes and characters across time. Paintings, cinematography, and literary narratives from The Protevangelium of James and Maximus the Confessor, to Dostoevsky, Kazantzakis, Sholem Asch, Saramago, Flannery O'Connor, and Marilynne Robinson, will invite the question: how have word and image shaped the understanding of the sacred stories and Christian imagination? Through close readings of the New Testament and exegetical discussion combining systematic with narrative theology, we will analyze style and composition, situate the texts in their historical context, and explore various readers’ perspectives, ancient and modern. 3 hrs. lect./1 hr. disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Spring 2022

Requirements

CMP, LIT, PHL

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Course Description

Gender and Sexuality in the Bible
What does the Bible say about sex, marriage, and homosexuality? While many people claim “the” biblical perspective on this question, the Bible offers various–often complicated–stories and teachings about gender and sexuality. In this course, we will closely read key biblical passages concerning God’s gender, marriage and divorce, family life, sexual violence, women’s social status, asceticism, and sexual orientation. Special attention will be paid to the ancient Mediterranean sociocultural milieu within which ancient Israelites and early Christians constructed their ideas and practices about sex and gender. We will ultimately ask: how might our nuanced understanding of gender and sexuality in the Bible inform contemporary debates on sexual difference, gender inequality, and sexuality and social leadership? 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

CMP, LIT, PHL

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Course Description

Historical Jesus and the Gospels
Who was Jesus of Nazareth? How does the historical Jesus differ from Jesus Christ in the Gospels? In this course we will explore how early Christians remembered Jesus and developed traditions about him. We will read both canonical (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and non-canonical (e.g., Thomas, Mary, Peter) Gospels within their historical and literary contexts, focusing on Judaism, the Roman Empire, and Greco–Roman cultures. We will then examine the critical approaches modern scholars take to reconstruct the historical Jesus’ life. By comparing diverse portraits of Jesus both in ancient literature and in modern scholarship, we will evaluate such diversity’s implications for our intellectual and cultural life today. How does the historical Jesus matter and for whom? 3hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

HIS, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

EUR, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.*

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Winter 2021

Requirements

PHL, SOC

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Course Description

God and Love in the Ancient World: India and Israel
Are loving god and loving a person the same thing? Do people use the same forms of expression for human and divine love? Lovers of all kinds have been asking these questions since the second millennium, BCE. In this course we will explore these questions and others by reading poetry, narrative, prayer, and epic from two ancient classical civilizations: Brahmanical India and Biblical Israel. We will read Indian texts of the Rg Veda, the Bhagavad Gita, and devotional hymns to the classical Hindu gods and goddesses. We will compare these texts with those from the Hebrew Bible, including well-known narratives of royalty, the psalms and the Song of Songs. (At least one RELI course required; courses in the study of literature preferred but not required). 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

CMP, LIT, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

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 PHIL course or RELI 0120, RELI 0121, RELI 0122, or RELI 209) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, PHL, SOA

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Course Description

Who Owns Religion? Controversies in the Study of Religion and Being a Public Intellectual
This course is a study in public scholarship in the humanities--focused on the study of religion but relevant to other humanistic disciplines. Its primary text will be the work: Who Owns Religion? Scholars and Their Publics in the Late 20th Century. The work focuses on case studies where scholars of religion offended the very communities they had imagined themselves honoring through their work. While controversies involving scholarly claims about religion are nothing new, this period saw an increase in public disputes that continues today. At its best, the situation involves constructive dialogue; at its worst, authors and their institutions are the targets of hate mail and book-banning campaigns, and communities are mistrustful of academics and the systems in which they work. These controversies raise important questions that we will deliberate on throughout the class: what does it mean to represent religion? What are the roles of sexuality, gender, racial, disability, historical, colonial and postcolonial realities in this representation? How do academic institutions both contribute to and undermine that representation? Most importantly, what does it mean to create sustained reflection about the public sphere in any project in the study of religion, or the humanities in general? What is the work of a public intellectual? The course will work through the case study method. Each week we will examine a new case in the book, and related materials. At the beginning of the class, students will choose a case study of their own to examine. Their own cases can be drawn from the study of religion or another field of the humanities. Each week, they will be asked to think through the questions raised by the case studies in the book as they might apply to their own case studies. In this way they will develop skills in reading, assessing, and even engaging themselves in controversies where there are no perfect answers. Prerequisite: One course in the study of religion or advanced work in a related field; a willingness to and experience in critically thinking through different sides of a problem; and a deep commitment to the public sphere.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AAL, CMP, NOA, PHL

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Course Description

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. (formerly RELI 0132) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

Saints, Heathens and Heretics: Belief and Unbelief in Imperial Russia
Though Orthodox Christianity is often viewed as synonymous with Russian culture, the Russian Empire was home to a dizzying array of religious faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and varying forms of Christianity. Through primary and secondary source analysis (including textual, visual and aural sources), we will explore the challenges and opportunities this multi-confessional reality posed to Russia’s rulers and the official Orthodox Church. We will also probe the question of what religious faith (in its multiple iterations) meant for subjects from across the social strata and geographic expanse of the empire. How did one lead a spiritually fulfilled life? How did members of different religious faiths interact? What was the relationship between religious and ethnic identities? 3 hrs sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

Christian Theology in the Liberal Arts
Christian theology is the religion’s sustained discourse about God and the human experience of God. After exploring Christianity’s role in the historical development of western liberal arts, we will ask what place, if any, theological study has in modern secular liberal arts education. Reading primarily modern theologians, we will ask what intellectual value theological study holds for people who do not identify with Christianity. We will consider the impact of critical thinking, cultivated by the liberal arts, on adherents’ examination of their theological tradition. And we will examine the relationship between theological studies and other intellectual disciplines, including other approaches to the academic study of religion. (RELI 130, RELI 230, RELI 231, or RELI 236) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

HIS, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AAL, HIS, MDE, SOC

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

MDE, PHL

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Course Description

The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Gods, Goddesses, and Demons in Indian Art
Indian mythology and epic literature abounds with stories of conflicts between the forces of good and evil. There are multiple forms of Hindu gods and goddesses who battle an array of evil and colorful demonic foes, and each cosmic battle embodies a profound philosophical lesson about relative values and complex moral choices. We will explore the meanings and myriad creative expressions of this rich terrain through a lively variety of artistic depictions—in mythological literature, painting, sculpture, drama, dance, television, film, graphic novels, and contemporary arts. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, ART, SOA

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Course Description

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. (formerly RELI 0256) 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

AAL, CMP, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AAL, HIS, MDE, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AMR, CMP, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Possessions: Theories of Power in American Religion
Upon reading Faust, Karl Marx concluded that Goethe’s wisdom was simple: “the extent of the power of money is the extent of my power.” Or, in other words: money represents the power to possess a thing and, in possessing it, to wield that thing’s power. Despite this connection made at the roots of Western theories of power, we do not typically regard our possession of private property as akin to the Devil’s possession of human bodies. In this seminar we will explore the rich and troubling overlaps between private property, demonic possessions, mediumship, and power in the Americas. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

Church and State
In this course we will consider the meaning and implications of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. We will begin with historical foundations in the thought of Roger Williams, William Penn, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. We then will trace the history of interpretation through Supreme Court jurisprudence on issues like school vouchers, the Pledge of Allegiance, displays of the Ten Commandments, and pandemic restrictions on religious gatherings. Finally, we will consider broader questions regarding the appropriateness of religious expression in democratic participation, primarily through the work of philosophers like John Rawls and Michael Sandel. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL, SOC

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

LIT, PHL

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Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

The Bible and the Lives of Others
The Bible contains stories about marginalized people who carry in themselves rich theological ideas about suffering, love, and social justice. Yet, the question of how we as global citizens should read the Bible gives rise to the challenge of considering contested views on minorities in history. In this course we will investigate ways in which the Bible portrays women, children, slaves, foreigners, and people with disabilities, using feminist and minoritized hermeneutics. Asking how these portrayals have been interpreted in modern religio–political contexts, we will reflect upon the impact of biblical interpretation on the lives of others. What does it mean to listen to the voices from the margins in our culturally diverse and politically divided world? 3 hrs. seminar.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

CMP, LIT, PHL

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Course Description

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. 

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

PHL

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Course Description

Crossroads: Religion and Race in the Americas
White rock musicians have traced the origins of their musical style to the Delta blues, fixating on a myth that a young, Black musician sold his soul at a southern crossroads to learn to play the guitar. This myth portrays the success of rock as having supernatural origins, while obscuring how the recording industry appropriated and commodified the art of Black Americans. In this seminar we explore the polysemous image of the “crossroads” as an entrée into the intersecting fields of comparative religion, humanistic economics, and critical race. We will rely on works by authors such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Toni Morrison to interrogate these fields while comparing the histories of the U.S. and Brazil. 3 hrs. sem

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, CMP, PHL

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Course Description

Religion, Ecology and Justice
In this class we will consider the relationship between religion and ecology in some of the world’s great wisdom traditions, particularly Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism. Our approach will be comparative and attentive to “big ideas” about human-nature relationships. How do religious traditions perpetuate ideas of the natural world that are sometimes positive and protective and sometimes apathetic or destructive? Exploring such topics as stewardship, sacred landscapes, and the interdependence of living beings, we will consider both past and present, including examining how religious identity has fueled and shaped religiously-based environmental justice activism today.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Fall 2021

Requirements

CMP, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, PHL

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

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Course Description

“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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021

Requirements

CMP, HIS, PHL

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Course Description

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

AAL, CMP, LIT, MDE, WTR

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Course Description

Prophets and Politics
The prophets of ancient Israel cared less about predicting the future than about shaping it. Political pests, radicals, pacifists and protesters, they were diverse, agitating against the abuse of power, against poverty, economic inequality, and war crimes, long before these abuses were the rallying cries of modern political movements. We will read selections from the prophetic books (Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, I-II Samuel), as well as the writings of activists whom the prophets inspired: Martin Luther King, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dorothy Day. Students will be challenged to write on the meaning of prophetic ethics for our own times.

Terms Taught

Winter 2022

Requirements

HIS, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

#blessed: American Prosperity Religion
tfw the vending machine gives you two snacks instead of one #cookies #blessed. Critics allege that thinking God cares about your personal prosperity exposes the rotting core of American late capitalism. But American nationalism is also rooted in God’s providence. How should we grapple with this American ambivalence toward prosperity and religion? In this class, we will use critical media theory to understand how capitalism cultivates a diversity of religious attitudes toward prosperity. While our focus will be contemporary media from the anglophone United States, we will explore comparable instances from Brazil and other Latin American countries in translation.

Terms Taught

Winter 2020, Winter 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, PHL, SOC, WTR

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Course Description

The Seven Deadly Sins in Theology, Art and Literature
In this course we will study the medieval tradition of the Seven Deadly Sins and their expression in theology, art and literature. Among the authors we will read are Aquinas, Shakespeare, and W.H. Auden. We will view and study films and music that allude to this list of sins.

Terms Taught

Winter 2020

Requirements

LIT, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

Spinoza's "Book Forged in Hell": The Theological-Political Treatise
What is the role of religion in a modern state? When religious freedoms collide with state interests, which should prevail? Spinoza rejected the authority of religion and the divine origin of Scripture, thus laying the groundwork for modern Biblical criticism and championing the separation of religion and state. A contemporary denounced the Treatise as “a book forged in hell.” We begin with a close reading of the Treatise, followed by selections from his Ethics, and consider Spinoza’s long legacy: the rise of secularism, the origins of Biblical criticism, and the reasons why Spinoza has been called “the first modern Jew.”

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

EUR, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

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.

Terms Taught

Winter 2021

Requirements

CMP, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

Religion and Politics in Iran
“The Islamic revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, propelled Iran to the position of the arch-nemesis of the United States in the region. As a result of hostile media coverage, there is much mis-understanding that pervades our understanding of the post-revolutionary Iran. In this course we will try to improve this understanding by digging deeper in the history of Iran as well as examining various aspects of contemporary Iranian society such as media, politics, and religion.” 3 hrs. lect./sem.

Terms Taught

Winter 2020

Requirements

AAL, MDE, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

Religion and Food
This course will examine religion and the construction of religious identity, morality, and community through food and cooking practices. We will consider how “rules” about what, where, when, and with whom one can or cannot eat not only shape the values of particular religious traditions, but also how they inform our very sense of what “counts” as religious. We will engage with practices from a variety of the world’s religious traditions and students will conduct independent research about specific practices of their own choosing in any tradition.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

CMP, PHL, WTR

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Course Description

Feeling Religion
What is the relationship of emotion to religion? What’s at stake when joy, sadness, disgust, outrage, boredom, and fear have religious significance? How are individuals and communities taught to feel religiously or to sense something as spiritual? And how do understandings of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age and ability shape these feelings? In this course, we will wrestle with these questions and others through critical examination of weekly case studies ranging from government debates over sacred Pueblo Indian dances to the emotional terrain of religion, American football, and nationalism.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

PHL, WTR

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