Fall 2006

Undergraduate Courses

RELG 101 Introduction to Western Religions

Heather Warren

An historical survey of the origins and development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Subjects include the origins of monotheism, the rise of Israel as a nation, early Christianity, the rise of Islam in the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, Christianity during the Enlightenment, and the influence of modern science and industrialism on 19th and 20th century religious life. Requirements: Weekly readings, a mid-term, and a final.

 

RELB 102 Buddhism in Fiction and Film

Kurtis Schaeffer

This course offers a solid and engaging introduction to the history and doctrines one of the world's great religious traditions, Buddhism, as well as an introduction to the study of non-western culture in a contemporary, global setting. By focusing upon the presence of Buddhist themes within six contemporary novels and six films produced throughout the world­ - from India, China, Japan, Korea and India to Germany, Russia, and the United States - the course encourages students to consider Buddhism (and religion in general) not as an ancient, monolithic, and isolated tradition but as a vibrant, adaptable, and contested aspect of modern global culture.

 

RELC 121 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
RELJ 121 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Martien Halvorson-Taylor

This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tahakh and to Christians as the Old Testament. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will examine the Hebrew Bible in its original ancient Near Eastern context to learn about the major phases in the history and religion of ancient Israel. We will consider the diverse genres and theological themes found in the Hebrew Bible and the literary artistry of its whole. Finally, we will read Jewish and Christian interpretations of the text in order to understand the complex process by which the text was formulated, transmitted and interpreted by subsequent religious communities. Requirements: A midterm test, a final examination, and brief writing assignments for section discussion.

 

RELJ 201 Intermediate Biblical Hebrew

Daniel Weiss

 

RELJ 203 Introduction to Judaic Tradition

Elizabeth Alexander

An introduction to Judaism as it is practiced as a living tradition. We will survey the central Jewish beliefs that undergird the Jewish tradition and examine the ritual context in which these beliefs are manifest: sacred text study, prayer, holy day practices and life cycle passages (e.g. birth, marriage, death). We will explore the ancient sources from which so much of the Jewish tradition derives and observe the ever-changing ways tradition is manifest in contemporary Jewish life. We will draw on film, sacred text study and anthropological observation of Jewish life in Charlottesville today.

 

RELC 205 History of Christianity I

Robert Wilken

How did Christianity evolve from a small Jewish sect in Palestine into a church that embraced the Mediterranean world, Europe, the middle East, Byzantium and the Slavic peoples? How did the teachings of Jesus and the events of his life become the foundation for a complex system of belief (e.g. Trinity), ethics (e.g. marriage), worship? What was the origin and development of Christian institutions and practices, e.g. bishops and clergy, the papacy, monasticism, Baptism, Communion, et al. How did the Bible take its present form? How was this faith understood and explained in rational terms? These are the broader questions addressed in a survey of the first thousand years of Christian history.

 

RELI 207 Classical Islam

Abdulaziz Sachedina

This is a historical and topical survey of the origins and development of Islam. The course is primarily concerned with the life and career of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, the teachings of the Qur'an, the development of the Muslim community and its principal institutions, schools of thought, law, theology, cultural life and mystical tradition, to about 1300 A.D. The objectives of the course are: (a) To acquaint the student with significant aspects of Islam as a religion in the classical period; and, (b) To help the student think through some of the basic questions of human religious experience in the light of the responses given to these questions by the great sages and saints of the Islamic tradition.

 

RELH 209 Introduction to Hinduism

John Nemec

Canceled

 

RELB 210 Introduction to Buddhism

Karen Lang

This course is an introduction to Buddhism, beginning with its origins in India, its spread throughout Asia to the West. The course will examine the historical and cultural contexts in which Buddhist beliefs and practices developed and are still developing. We will explore a wide variety of sources to understand the many ways in which Buddhists have attempted to understand who the Buddha is, what he and his followers have to say about karma and rebirth, the practice of meditation and the pursuit of enlightenment. We will also examine the views of contemporary Buddhist teachers on these issues and on the challenges Buddhism faces in the modern world. Two hourly examinations and a final.

 

GREE 223 New Testament Greek (Intermediate Greek)

Judith Kovacs

The Department calls attention to this offered through the Classics Department, which can be counted towards the major in Religious Studies: This intermediate course aims to solidify the student's knowledge of Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and give practice in reading and translating the Greek New Testament. We will also consider the principles of New Testament exegesis. Texts read come from the gospels, primarily Luke and John. (Letters of Paul will be read in Greek 224). Prerequisite Greek 101-102 or equivalent (one year of classical or Koine Greek). Requirements: regular quizzes, midterm, and final examination. Course may be used to satisfy the requirements for the major in Religious Studies.

 

RELG 225 Religion, Race and Relationship in Film

Valerie Cooper

This course will explore themes of religion, race, and relationship to the “other” in films from the silent era to the present. It will consider film as a medium and engage students in analysis and discussion of cinematic images, with the goal of developing hermeneutic lenses through which these images can be interpreted. The films selected all deal with issues of race, religion, gender, and relationship, and ask the ultimate question, “How should we treat one another?”

 

RELC 233 History of Christian Ethics

Margaret Mohrmann

This course will survey the development of Christian ethical thought and teaching from its beginnings through the Reformation era. Major ethical themes will be traced through the centuries, as the church's scripture, evolving doctrine, and emerging tradition interact - in thought, word, and deed - with secular society, politics, and philosophy. Readings will be taken mostly from primary texts, such as the Bible and the writings of selected Christian thinkers, but will also include relevant historical and ethical analyses of the developing church and its social milieu.

 

RELC 236 Elements of Christian Thought

Paul Jones

Canceled

 

RELB 254 Tibetan Buddhist Culture

David Germano

Possible Description: This course surveys Tibetan Buddhist religious culture in terms of its history, biographical traditions, religious communities, cultural patterns, ritual life, contemplative traditions, and philosophical discourses. The focus will be on how tantric Buddhism has historically functioned in Tibet to relate these different dimensions together as an identifiable cultural zone of vast geographical terrain, despite never achieving any form of political unity. These range from controversies over antinomian practices pertaining to sexuality and violence, to Tibet¹s religo-political solution to tantra¹s decentralized paradigm of religious leaders understood to be Buddhas with local mandalas of absolute authority. We will look into the rise of the institution of reincarnate lamas that culminated in the Dalai Lama, and address the theory that Tibet¹s lack of centralization led to the importance of so-called "shamanic" trends of Buddhism. Finally we will also examine at great depth Tibetan innovations in Buddhist philosophy, ritual and yoga.

 

RELG XXXX Business and Society.

1 Credit (seven class sessions). Monday, 5:30-7:30

James F. Childress.

 

RELJ 260 Judaism Between Modernity and Secularization

Asher Biemann

Modernity not only redefined the boundaries of Judaism from outside and from within, but also called for a Jewish response to the process of secularization. Over the course of two semesters, this course will explore the variety of Jewish responses and adjustments to the modern world and their implications for present day Judaism in its many forms, ranging from Neo-Orthodoxy to Secular Judaism. The objective will be to introduce students to Judaism as a complex body of simultaneous cultures, societies, and histories. Requirements: Two quizzes and a final exam.

 

RELG 263 Business and Society (one credit)

James Childress

This course will focus on (1) several philosophical and religious perspectives on the moral foundations of business in a capitalist, free market society, (2) debates about whether anything should be excluded from the market (e.g., adoption of children and the transfer of organs), and (3) the internal and external moral responsibilities of businesses, with particular attention to the stakeholder framework. This course will be kept small to ensure maximum interaction and discussion. Case studies will be used. Requirements: participation in discussion and preparation of two papers (7-8 pages each). RELG 263 will meet 7 times throughout the term.

 

RELG 265 Theology, Ethics & Medicine

Jim Childress

An analysis of the ethical principles that should undergird decisions in science, medicine, and health care. The lectures readings, and discussions will focus on ethical principles developed within different ethical traditions (such as Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and Humanism) and on their implications for cases in abortion, death and dying, research involving human subjects, artificial reproduction, genetic engineering, cloning, and allocating resources. Several films, videotapes, and cases will be used. Requirements: Midterm, final examination, 4 brief papers (2 pages) and participation in discussion.

 

RELG 280 African American Religious History

Valerie Cooper

This course will explore African American religious history by combining an examination of current scholarship, worship and praxis. This course will investigate the religious life and religious institutions of African Americans from their African antecedents to contemporary figures and movements in the US. While the course will emphasize the growth and spread of Evangelical Christianity among African Americans, it will also consider some non-Christian influences upon black churches and black communities. In examining the wide variety, popularity, economic strength, and ubiquity of religious institutions in the African American community, we will ask what role religion plays for black people, and what role African American religious life plays in the broader scheme of American life.

 

RELC 304 Paul: Paul: His Life, Letters & Thought

Bryan Stewart

The apostle Paul is one of the most important and influential figures in the history of Christianity. His letters form a major portion of the New Testament corpus and his teaching has been and continues to be studied and debated for the past two thousand years. This course attempts to provide an in-depth investigation into the life, letters and theology of the apostle Paul as an early Christian missionary, leader and thinker. We will explore the background and conversion of Paul, most of his extant letters (with particular attention to Romans), and the major themes and ideas in his teaching. In addition, we will explore some of the contemporary scholarship and debate on important Pauline issues. A familiarity with the origins and early development of Christianity (such as taking RELC 122) is highly recommended.

 

RELC 305 Theologies of Liberation

Corey Walker

Canceled

 

RELC 309 Christianity and Protest

Paul Jones

This course uses the category of protest to understand western Christian thought in the modern period. First, we examine the rise and development of Protestant thought, considering how Christians conceptualized challenges to established ideas, norms, and institutional structures during and after the Reformation. Authors considered include Martin Luther, figures associated with the "radical reformation," pietists such as Philipp Jakob Spener and John Wesley, and American radicals. Second, we consider how various thinkers have critiqued Christianity as intellectually inadequate, morally flawed, socially harmful, etc., reading works by David Hume, Ludwig Feuerbach, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Mary Daly. Third, we reflect on Christian thought as a vehicle of protest in the last hundred years, investigating its struggles against state fascism, its promotion of egalitarian social relations, and its appeal for a reinvigorated ecclesial realm. Authors in this last section include Karl Barth, James Cone, Elizabeth Johnson, Stanley Hauerwas, and Gustavo Gutiérrez. This course requires attendance at all lectures, participation in class discussion, and timely completion of writing assignments. It is suitable for students who wish to gain an introductory understanding of Christian thought in the modern west and for intermediate/advanced students wishing to deepen their knowledge of Christian theology and modern western philosophy of religion.

 

RELC 320 Medieval Church Law

Augustine Thompson

This course focuses on the law of the medieval Church or "Canon Law" in its classical period, 1140-1348. During this period the most of the principles that underlie modern western law, including that of the United States, were first elaborated. We will study canon and Roman law texts in translation: including the first treatise on legal theory, forms of procedure, the laws on marriage and sorcery, and actual court cases. Format: Introductory historical lectures, followed by "socratic analysis" of legal texts--as done in the medieval law faculties and still today in many law schools. Requirements: Active participation during in-class analysis of legal texts (will influence grade); and four in-class exams (25% of grade each). Exams will be exercises in analyzing and solving legal "story" problems using the principles and doctrines of medieval canon law. Topics of exams: 1) general theory; 2) sorcery law; 3) general marriage law 4) specific marriage problems. Each exam will be preceded by a practice take-home (discussed but not graded). Graduate Option: I will allow graduate students to take this course as "directed research" (RELC 895) and substitute a research paper for the exams. Reading knowledge of Latin is required for this option.

 

RELJ 332 Judaism, Medicine and Healing

Vanessa Ochs

The Jewish tradition integrates a respect for the skill and knowledge of the physician with profound awareness of the spiritual and relational components of the healing process. In this course we will study: Jewish ways of understanding why we get sick, suffer, heal and find meaning again; Jewish healing practices (ancient and contemporary) in ritual and prayer; specific laws and practices concerning health, sickness and the healing professions; and Jewish medical-ethical perspectives. Readings will include ancient sacred writings and contemporary texts that have emerged as part of the current Jewish Healing movement. This course will stress close readings of texts and analyses of living traditions.

 

RELB 334 Seminar in Buddhist Ethics

Karen Lang

This seminar will provide an exploration of the place of ethics and moral reasoning in Buddhist thought and practice. The major focus will be on Buddhism but we will also consider how Buddhist attitudes were shaped by Hindu and Jain views. Materials to be examined will be drawn from a wide range of sources, from classical Buddhist and Hindu scriptures to contemporary narratives. Among the topics to be explored: karma and rebirth, peace/nonviolence and war, human and animal rights, suicide and euthanasia, abortion and contraception, gender and sexuality. At least one 200 level course in Buddhism or Hinduism recommended. Requirements: active participation in class, weekly response papers and a term paper (15-20 pages).

 

RELG 336 God Since Cinema

John Portmann

How has the advent of cinema changed or molded Western perceptions of God? Beginning with Jack Miles's biography of God, we'll examine how cinematographers since Dreyer (Joan of Arc, 1928) have crafted a personality profile of both God and saintly people. We will discuss how novels and theological tracts differ from films. We will analyze and then test Pope Pius XII's encyclical Miranda Prorsus (1957), which asserts that cinema possesses a power lacking in other media -- and that film makers thus work under a moral imperative to guide audiences prudently. If more Westerners get to know God through film than through a synagogue or church, what could God's future be?

 

RELG 340 Women and American Religion

Pam Cochran

Historian Ann Braude has argued that women's history is American religious history. This course is an overview of women in American religion, not just mainstream Protestant or Catholic Christianity, but from a variety of religious perspectives, including Jewish, Native American, African American, alternative religions, and women's spirituality among others. A sub-theme of the course will be the question of power. Do women wield power in American religion and, if so, in what ways? Has their often marginal status strengthened or weakened women's influence? What has been women's impact on religion and American culture? Considering the breadth and depth of women's role in American religion will help reveal whether women's history is, indeed, the history of religion in America.

 

RELH 344 From Ghandi to Terrorism

John Nemec

This course will examine the roles of religion and violence in Indian political life from the British period until contemporary times. Through the Indian example, we will explore current questions regarding the relationship between religion and politics: What is the connection between religion and the nation-state, between tradition and modernity?; What are the religious and political motivations for violent action?; When is aggression justifiable? Special attention will be paid to current manifestations of religious politics, including terrorism. Topics will include Gandhian non-violence and the Indian Independence movement, Hindu-Muslim violence, the Kashmir conflict, the rise of Hindu nationalism, and contemporary South Asian geo-politics. Readings include primary texts in translation and related theoretical writings. There are no prerequisites for students who wish to take this course.

 

RELC 347 Religion and Science

John Portmann

Christian Europe gave rise to modern science, yet Christianity and science have enjoyed reputations as mutual enemies. Does science undermine religious belief? Exploration of the encounter between these two powerful cultural forces. Study of the intellectual struggle to locate and anchor God in the modern world (specifically Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Feynman). Focus on the 20th century: the discovery of radio waves, x-rays, use of the first skyscraper, automobiles, vaccine, psychoanalysis, rise of the quantum theory of the atom, birth control pill, "morning after pill," human genome, and stem cell research. Final ten-page paper, regular class participation, and three-hour final examination.

 

RELC 358 The Christian Vision in Literature

William Wilson

A study of selected classics in Christian imaginative literature. Readings will come from the Bible, Dante's Divine Comedy, and several modern authors such as Andrew Lytle, William Faulkner and Flannery O'Conner. Requirements: Three one-hour tests.

 

RELI, RELJ, RELC 359 Medievel Mysticism

Timothy Gianotti

 

RELG 365 Issues in Bioethics: Stem Cells and Genetic Enhancement

William May

This course, taught by a former member of the President\'s Council on bioethics (2002-04), will explore some of the documents produced by the Council, such as On Human Cloning and Human Dignity; Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness; Monitoring Stem Cell Research; and Being Human: Readings. The council intended to serve as an aid to policy makers but also recognized that it would need to stand back from the immediate tactical struggles over federal policies and reflect on the human condition, the whence and whither of being human, the mysteries of mating and parenting, and the human drives that underlie scientific inquiry and medical practice. Students considering these matters will examine the roles of religion and the humanities in contributing to public policy and public culture. Students will be responsible for a comprehensive examination on the course readings. Prerequisite: one prior course in ethics or political philosophy from any department, or petition John Arras at jda3a@virginia.edu or Jim Childress at jfc7c@virginia.edu for permission to enroll. Please include a list of your relevant courses.

 

RELI 367 Islamic Religion and Politics

Timothy Gianotti

 

RELC 369 The Gospel and Revelation to John

Judith Kovacs

This course focuses on two New Testament books attributed by Christian tradition to the apostle John and considers literary, historical, and theological questions through a close reading of the texts. In the case of Revelation we will also study the book's reception history, that is how it has been interpreted through the ages and how it has influenced theology, literature, politics, art, and music. Some specific issues the course addresses are: What is distinctive about the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and why was this gospel so important in the development of Christian theology? How does the gospel use irony and other literary techniques? What clues are there in the text for imagining the specific historical situation in which the gospel was written? What are the reasons for, and implications of, its portrayal of "the Jews"? How do ancient Jewish works called "apocalypses" help us understand the Revelation to John? How can we make sense of its rich array of symbols and images? What is its primary message - does it advocate vengeance, desire for social justice, or a worldwide Christian mission? Why has Revelation been particularly beloved by artists, poets, and prophets? Requirements: midterm, final, and one 8-page paper.

 

RELG 374 Spiritual Journey in Young Adult Literature: Critical Approaches

Vanessa Ochs

This comparative inquiry into young adult literature explores the topic of the spiritual journey. Drawing from different approaches such as religious studies, gender studies, history, pedagogy, psychology, and literary studies we will discuss selected works and analyze their underlying values and assumptions. Our exploration will focus on such themes as: religiosity vs. spirituality, experiencing divine presence and absence, becoming a hero, confronting evil, being different, achieving autonomy, faith and doubt, and the magical and the miraculous. This discussion based, reading-intensive seminar is cross-listed in the Religious Studies and German departments and most texts come from the Western tradition. The sessions will be held in English. German majors are encouraged to read German texts in the original and to write their papers in German. All students must be prepared to participate actively in discussion, critically engage the readings and each other, to write regularly, to develop their independent thoughts, and to work together on a team project. Students from a variety of backgrounds are particularly encouraged to apply.
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RELG 386 Human Bodies and Parts as Property

Jim Childress

An analysis and assessment of different historical and contemporary theological, philosophical and legal interpretations of "rights holders" (e.g. individuals while alive, their families after death, and the society) and the "rights held" (e.g. to transfer, to donate, or to sell) in the living and dead human body, with particular attention to current disputes about the use of human body parts in organ and tissue transplantation and new reproductive technologies. Permission of instructor required.

 

RELA/C 389 Christianity in Africa

Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton

This course examines the development of Christianity in Africa from its earliest roots in Egypt and the Maghrib in the 2 nd c. CE, to contemporary times when over 46% of the continent's population claims adherence to the faith. Our historical overview will cover the flowering of medieval Ethiopian Christianity, 16th and 17 th-century Kongo Christianity, European missions during the colonial period, the subsequent growth of indigenous churches and the recent explosive expansion of Pentecostal “mega-churches” in the urban areas. We will consider trends in African Christian theology, including African feminist theology. We will address issues such as the relationship between colonialism and evangelism; translation, indigenization and inculturation of the gospel; healing and spirit-possession in the conversion process; and the role of women in the church. We will attempt both to position the Christian movement within the wider context of African religious history, and to understand Africa's place in the larger course of Christian history. Requirements include participation in class discussion, several short written critiques of the readings, a mid-term and a final exam.

 

RELG 400a Majors Seminar: Death and the Afterlife

Ben Ray

Restricted to 3rd and 4th year Religious Studies Majors
The goal of this seminar is to develop an informed and critical perspective on the study of religion through the study of myths, rituals, and literature concerning death and afterlife. The seminar does not intend to make the case for any single definition of religion or to take a particular theological perspective on death, but rather to have participants develop critical skills necessary for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a number of scholarly approaches to the subject. Requirements: Six short papers, approximately one every other week. No mid-term and no final exam.

 

RELG 400b Majors Seminar: Suffering

John Portmann

Restricted to 3rd and 4th year Religious Studies Majors
Moral assessment of bodies in pain and spirits in turmoil. Philosophical, religious, biomedical, psychoanalytic, literary, sociological, dramatic, and artistic exploration of suffering. Analysis of ongoing debate over the meaning of suffering. Study of religion as both cure for, and source of, human suffering. Particular attention to the Crucifixion as a cultural paradigm of suffering and social wellspring of anti-Semitism, as exemplified by criticism of actor Mel Gibson’s controversial film of 2004 The Passion. Course meets Second Writing Requirement

 

RELG 400c Majors Seminar: Saints Lives

Augustine Thompson

Restricted to 3rd and 4th year Religious Studies Majors
The focus of this seminar is methodological, the material considered is the genre of ancient and medieval Christian saints' lives. We will examine the theory and application of the following methods: historical, psychological, sociological, gender analytical, folklorist, and anthropological to this literature. We will alternate week to week between the study of theory and examination of its application. As part of the application, students will also apply the methods considered to a particular saints' life. Requirements: weekly class presentations and discussion, one 15-page and one 4-page paper, no exams. No previous study of Christianity required; open only to third- and fourth-year Religious Studies majors.

 

RELG 415 Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature

Ben Ray

Restricted to Majors in Religious Studies, History, and English
This is NOT a majors seminar.
This seminar will explore the rich range of historical scholarship, literary fiction, and primary source materials relating to the infamous witch trials of Salem Village in 1692. How and why did the accusations begin? How and why did they stop? Serious theories and wild speculations abound, both then and now. Who were the heroes and villains of this tragic episode? Some of the most gripping personal stories may be found in the primary sources and literary treatments. Explore the impact of this small-scale, 300 year-old event on the American cultural heritage -- why has "Salem witchcraft" become part of the American cultural imagination? In addition to two major historical studies, Boyer & Nissenbaum, SALEM POSSESSED and Norton, IN THE DEVIL'S SNARE, and a seminal article by Rosenthal on Tituba, we will read literary works by Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown," Longfellow, GILES CORY OF SALEM FARMS, and Miller's THE CRUCIBLE. The course will also make extensive use of the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive http://etext.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft which contains all the original court documents and contemporary accounts. Using these resouces, students will write original research essays on important people and events related to the witch trials.

 

RELG 423 Bioethics Internship Seminar

Margaret Mohrmann

This is NOT a majors seminar.
This course is designed to provide students with experience in discerning and analyzing ethical issues as they arise in particular clinical settings. Each student will spend one half-day each week in a clinic or other health-care-related setting (the same setting throughout the semester) under the mentorship of a health care professional engaged in that setting. Seminar time will focus both on the role of the ethicist/observer and on the particular issues that commonly arise in clinical medicine. During the second half of the semester, students will give presentations related to their specific areas of observation. Students are expected to have some background knowledge of bioethics methods and common questions. Admittance to the course is by application; for details, see the Undergraduate Bioethics Program Website at http://bioethics.virginia.edu/internships.html

 

RELS 495 Independent Research

Instructor: Student's choice

Systematic readings in a selected topic under detailed supervision. Prerequisite: Permission of departmental advisor and instructor.

 

RELS 496 Distinguished Major Thesis

Instructor: Student's choice

Thesis, directed by a member of the department, focusing on a specific problem in the theoretical, historical or philosophical study of religion or a specific religious tradition. The thesis is based in part on at least three hours of directed reading in the field of the thesis. Prerequisite: Selection by faculty for Distinguished Major Program.

 

RELS 497 Fourth Year Essay

Instructor: Student's choice

Studies selected topic in religious studies under detailed supervision. The writing of an essay constitutes a major portion of the work. Prerequisite: permission of deparmental advisor and instructor.

Graduate Courses

RELB 502 Tibetan Buddhist History

Kurtis Schaeffer

This course is a seminar on Tibetan history and the history Buddhism in Tibet from the seventh through the nineteenth centuries. Each meeting will be dedicated to the work of an important European or American historian of Tibet , though which both the broad outlines of Tibetan history and the development of historiography about Tibet will be read. Readings include A.I. Vostrikov's Tibetan Historical Literature, Christopher Beckwith's The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia (1987), Giuseppe Tucci's Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Luciano Petech's Central Tibet and the Mongols, Gray Tuttle's Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China, as well as essays by Dan Martin, Geza Uray, Eliot Sperling, and Gene Smith. In an effort to situate the study of religion in Tibet within a wider context of contemporary historical studies, we will also read a recent overview of historiographic method and theory by a historian of religions in Late Antiquity, Elizabeth A. Clark's History, Theory, Text: Historians and the Linguistic Turn (2004).

 

RELG 505 J. Z. Smith and the Study of Religion

Kurtis Schaeffer

The work of Jonathan Z. Smith has exerted a profound influence on the study of religion since the 1970s. Smith states boldly that "for the self-conscious student of religion, no datum possesses intrinsic interest. It is of value only insofar as it can serve as an exemplum of some fundamental issue in the study of religion." Smith's work endeavors to model this self-consciousness, while at the same time highlighting what he takes to be fundamental issues in both the study of religion as well as in humanities education more broadly. In this seminar we will read all of Smith's major writings on the study of religion: Map is Not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions (1978); Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1982); To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (1987); Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (1990); Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion (2004). We will also read Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1959) to gain some perspective on Smith's interlocutors within the study of religion. Note: This course meets the History of Religions Doctoral Program methodology requirement.

 

RELC/RELJ 506 The Tree of Life: Wisdom Literature in Ancient Israel

Martien Halvorson-Taylor

Biblical wisdom sought to order human experience and played a significant role in the development of both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. Using a comparative approach, this course examines ancient Israelite and early Jewish wisdom literature alongside other wisdom literature from ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. We will read primary texts in English translation, such as the biblical books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes (Qohelet), the Wisdom Jesus ben Sira, and the Wisdom of Solomon. In addition, we will examine other biblical texts (some psalms, the Joseph story, and the books of Esther and Deuteronomy) for possible evidence of wisdom influence. The course will also treat early Jewish wisdom texts that were not included in the Hebrew Bible, such as works from the Dead Sea Scrolls. In our study, we will consider what is distinctive about wisdom's view of reality, the definition of the genre of wisdom literature, the contours of a Jewish wisdom tradition, and the changing place that biblical scholarship accords to the place of wisdom literature, particularly in its relation to the Hebrew Bible as a whole. And finally, we will seek to articulate how the notion of wisdom contributed to the shape of early Judaism and Christianity.

 

RELG 507 Interpretation Theory

Larry Bouchard

We will explore various approaches to interpretation theory, with emphasis on the nature and problems of interpretive activity in aesthetics, religion, and ethics. We will take up hermeneutical considerations of figuralism (e.g. Erich Auerbach), truth and understanding in encounters with texts and others (e.g., Schleiermacher, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Adam Zachary Newton), and reconsiderations of the hermeneutical model in such figures as Bahktin, Nussbaum, and Vattimo. Special attention may be given this time to postmodern views of religious discourse (e.g., in Derrida and some of his sympathizers and critics). Requirements: Class participation of assigned materials, a midterm take-home examination, and either a paper or an essay final.
Undergraduates not yet enrolled in this course need to obtain permission of the instructor and may be placed on a waiting list kept by Prof. Bouchard. Contact: lbouchard@virginia.edu.

 

RELG 508 Seminar on Religion and American Culture

Heather Warren

 

RELG 509 Theologies of Resistance and Reconciliation: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Charles Marsh

The course has three goals: (1) to explore the themes of resistance and reconciliation in the writings and lives of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.; (2) to understand their conflicted relationship with academic theology and attention to the theological shape of lived experience; and (3) to consider the meaning of lived theology for contemporary religious thought. Requirements include a 16-20 page research paper; a weekly 250-word written response circulated to the class by email before class; a thirty minute class presentation; active participation in seminar discussions; and a final exam in the form of a review essay. Important: Permission by the instructor is required to take this course. The class size is limited to fifteen students.

 

RELJ 510 Theology and Ethics of the Rabbis

Elizabeth Alexander

An exploration of fundamental theological and ethical beliefs that run though rabbinic literature. Though the rabbis do not address theological and ethical questions directly, we will tease out the rabbinic response to classical theological questions such as, what is the nature of divinity? what is the relationship of God to humanity, and specifically to the people Israel? is there a concept of natural law? how are we to understand evil? We will also explore the question of why the rabbinic literature does not address theological concerns in a straightforward manner. In the area of ethics, we will explore central themes such as the value of life as weighed against other concerns, responsibility to the other, and cultivation of an ideal self. In drawing a rabbinic ethic out of the literature, we will consider the respective value of narrative vs. legal materials. Attention throughout will be on close readings of primary texts. Prerequisite: Previous exposure to rabbinic literature in RELJ 203, 256, 331, 383, 505 or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.

 

RELC 514 The Theology of John Calvin

Paul Jones

This course examines a text that has shaped modern Christian thought: Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. The focus will be on close reading and rigorous analysis of theological ideas. Topics considered include the role of the Bible in theological thought, the nature of sin, the identity of God, the identity of Jesus, creation, justification and sanctification, and the nature of the Christian life and community. Suitable for graduate students in religious studies and related disciplines and undergraduates with knowledge of Western religious thought. Contact the instructor directly with questions.

 

RELC 515 Naming God

Janet Soskice

Is the God who says ‘I AM WHO I AM’ from the Burning Bush an ‘egotist par excellence’? Did medieval Christianity ruin a fine Jewish text by reading Exodus metaphysically? How can the God of Scripture be the God of the classical attributes – eternal, One, omnipotent, and so on. The seminar will explore a long history of Christian andJewish reflection on the names and the naming of God. Topics will include: the God of the classical attributes; Moses and the burning bush; creation and speech; what is naming for?; naming and being in relation, and the gendered names of God (Father, Son, Mother Lover). The course will begin with the modern problematic (Hume, Feuerbach, Freud, feminism and process theology) and the work it way through Exodus, Philo of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, amongst others.

 

RELB 527 Chinese Buddhism

Paul Groner

This course examines the ways in which Chinese Buddhism differs from the Buddhisms of other countries. The first half of the course focuses on the historical development of the tradition. How did Indian

Buddhism enter China? How was it influenced by the indigenous traditions of Confucianism and Daoism? After undergoing several persecutions, Chinese Buddhists had to change their tradition in important ways to make it more amenable to Chinese culture. Later, other challenges requiring important adaptations occurred when Chinese Buddhism encountered foreign influences including Tibetan Buddhism, western political philosophies, and science. The second half of the course surveys several philosophical schools and forms of practice including Huayan, Chan, Pure Land, and Tantric Buddhism. Prior study of Buddhism is required.

 

RELB 533 Colloquial Tibetan III

A continuation of colloquial portion of Literary and Spoken Tibetan II, this course uses multimedia programs in Colloquial Tibetan to develop verbal fluency, acquire vocabulary, and master advanced topics in spoken Tibetan. Prerequisites: Tibetan II. Requirements: Class attendance, participation, preparation of programs outside of class, multiple exams and quizzes. This is a 2 credit course.

 

RELB 535 Literary Tibetan III

Slava Komarovski

A continuation of the literary portion of Literary and Spoken Tibetan II, this course is designed to expose students to a variety of styles/genres in Tibetan literature and advanced Tibetan grammar. Prerequisites: Tibetan II. Requirements: Class attendance and participation, three exams, four translation assignments.

 

RELB 542 Colloquial Tibetan V

Soulong (Sonam) Wang

A continuation of the Colloquial Tibetan IV, this course uses multimedia programs in Colloquial Tibetan to develop verbal fluency, acquire vocabulary, anhd master advanced topics in spoken Tibetan. This is a 2 credit course. Prerequisites: Tibetan IV. Requirements: Class attendance, participation, preparation of programs outside of class, multiple exams and quizzes.

 

RELH 545 Seminar in Shaiva Tantra

John Nemec

This course constitutes an advanced survey of Shaiva tantrism, with a particular empasis on the texts, traditions, and philosophical schools prevalent or influential in the tenth- to eleventh-century Kashmir Valley. Students are expected to have strong familiarity with Indian religions and philosophy. Readings will be drawn largely from primary texts in translation, but secondary scholarly works will also be consulted.

 

RELB 547 Literary Tibetan V

David Germano

A continuation of the literary portion of Literary Tibetan IV, this course is designed for training in the literary forms of the Tibetan language. Emphasis is on exposure to a wide variety of styles/genres in Tibetan literature and in-depth knowledge of Tibetan grammar. Prerequisites: RELB 534 or equivalent. Requirements: Class attendance and participation, four exams, midterm, final, translation assignments.

 

RELG 557 Postliberal Christianity and the Jews

Peter Ochs

This course examines how a current movement in Christian theology relates to Jews and Judaism. The “Postliberals” are Christian theologians such as Frei, Lindbeck, Hauerwas, and Jenson -- who believe that postmodern criticisms of modern rationalism do not rule out recovering scripture and theological commentary as resources for knowing the world and our place in it. For example, they revisit Christology and Trinitarian theology as sources of non-dogmatic and non-foundationalist Christian knowledge. Surprisingly, their “return to Christology” leads them also to re-value Judaism as an enduring source of knowledge. The course examines postliberal writings on Christianity and on Judaism and also considers some exceptions to postliberalism’s more general tendencies. The course has lots of reading and writing.

 

RELJ 562 Philosophies of Dialogue

Asher Biemann

Peter Ochs

On Relation and Intersubjectivity in Modern Thought and Theology. This course will explore the use of dialogical models of encounter (such as the I-Thou philosophy) in modern Jewish and Christian Thought. Readings include texts by Soren Kierkegaard, Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, Charles Peirce, Emmanuel Levinas, and others.

 

RELG 563: Issues in Religion and Literature: Genre

Larry Bouchard

This seminar explores possibilities in interdisciplinary work in religion, literary art, and criticism. Attention is give to three problem areas in religion and literary studies: innovation and tradition in the arts and religion, aesthetic experience and religious meaning, and what it may mean to engage in "religious," "theological," and "ethical" readings of literary works and their cultural settings. These basic issues are structured around historically important redefinitions of the four major literary genres: epic poetry and formulaic composition, drama and ritual, lyric poetry and Romanticism and formalism, and prose fiction as moral inquiry—together with a section on scripture read "as" literature. The course introduces and directs students to important bibliography for graduate studies in religion and literature. The readings include discussions of the productive (as opposed to classificatory) functions of genre and of the intersections between these genres/works with religious traditions, ethics, or theology. Of special concern will be reflections on the intersecting generic relationships as a "causal joint" (to import a term from natural theology) between the reader and author and between "spirit" and understanding. Requirements include active participation, presentation of some assigned material, and a final paper.

 

RELC 572 Christianity and Culture

Robert Wilken

Christianity is a culture forming religion. Course will examine the formation of a distinctively Christian civilization in the late Roman and early medieval periods. Discussion of education, poetry, art, architecture, law, government (e.g. kingship), calendar, mores, et al. Thought historically focused the course will deal with theoretical issues of the nature of culture (e.g. Clifford Geertz) and theological questions concerning the relation of Christianity to culture (e.g. Niebuhr's Christ and Culture).

 

RELB 580 Literary Tibetan VII

David Germano

 

RELB 587 Colloquial Tibetan VII

Soulong (Sonam) Wang

A continuation of Colloquial Tibetan VI, this course uses multimedia programs in Colloquial Tibetan to develop verbal fluency, acquire vocabulary, and master advanced topics in spoken Tibetan. Prerequisites: Tibetan VI. Requirements: Class attendance, participation, preparation of programs outside of class, multiple exams and quizzes. This is a 2 credit course.

 

RELI 710 Islamic Law, Ethics and Society

Abdulaziz Sachedina

The seminar will undertake to study the Islamic Legal Theory (usul al-fiqh) and Practice (fiqh) in conjunction with Islamic ethics, which serves as an integral part of juridical tradition of Islam. The sources of law like the Qur’an, the Tradition (Sunna), Consensus (Ijma`), Analogy (qiyas) and Reason (`aql) will be examined in connection with the process by which legal decisions in Islam are made. Closely related to the sources of the law are the legal doctrines, principles and rules that form the bulk of juridical-ethical tradition in Islam. Judicial-ethical decision-making is a highly developed intellectual activity in Islam, utilizing all forms of legal reasoning to provide solutions to legal-ethical problems confronting human society. The course will provide a rare opportunity to students of comparative ethics and law to learn about one of the well-developed religious-ethical system in Abrahamic traditions. In addition, this course will offer a study of interaction between faith and history in Islam which has impacted upon the development of ethical-legal judgments in the Shari ‘a. The study will explore both the continuum as well departure from the normative formulations in the area of practical religion, which came into existence through a dynamic interaction between religious ideas and sociological context of the community life in Islam. The `essentialist' approach to Islamic legal studies have led both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars to maintain that Muslim legal-ethical tradition was `frozen' at a certain point in history, hence, losing its practicability in the changing social-political conditions. In this seminar we will examine this incorrect evaluation of the Islamic legal-ethical heritage. The seminar will also investigate the factors that led Muslim jurists to adopt an epistemological posture that was conducive to rational methodology in providing relevant legal-ethical rulings. The legal-ethical dynamism in Islamic law can be evaluated in the institution of ijtihad (independent legal thinking) that has provided practical guidance in the ever changing life of the community.
The purpose of the course is twofold:
(i) To provide an opportunity for students to appreciate the relationship between faith and history as it continues to demonstrate itself in the legal-ethical life of the community;
(ii) To direct the student of Islamic religious-ethical ideas to appreciate intellectually the extent to which the Islamic moral-legal heritage has been operative in the contemporary Muslim society.

 

RELG 730 The Study of Ritual

Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton

This seminar introduces graduate students to ritual theory as a useful methodological tool in Religious Studies. Many of our case studies are drawn from Africa, but the theories and methods we discuss are applicable to an array of religious traditions in many different cultures. We cover a range of approaches to the study of ritual, including “myth-ritualism,” functionalism, analyses of the ritual process, structuralism, ritual as violence, Marxist-historical approaches, psychological and cognitive models, performance theory, feminist interpretations of ritual, and revisionist critiques of ritual. The course is designed to fulfill the History of Religions methodology requirement, and it is hoped that students from different fields will enroll to enrich the discussion and stimulate comparative thinking. Requirements include leading the class discussion several times during the semester and a final research paper of at least 20-25 pages.

 

RELC 740 The Gospel and Revelation to John

Judith Kovacs

Graduate component of RELC 369

 

RELI 751 al-Ghazali

Timothy Gianotti

 

RELB 826 Topics in Literary Tibetan

David Germano

 

RELB 831 Sanskrit: Dharmakirti

John Nemec

In this course, we will read Dharmakiirti, the 7th- to 8th-century Buddhist philosopher, in the original Sanskrit. Students are expected to have an advanced knowledge of Sanskrit, as well as some familiarity with Buddhist philosophy.

 

RELS 895 Research Selected Topics

Instructor: Student's choice

Systematic reading in a select topic under detailed supervision.

 

RELS 897 Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For master's research, taken before a thesis director has been selected.

 

RELS 898 Non Topical Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For master's research, taken under the supervision of a thesis director.

 

RELG 899 Pedagogy

TBA

 

RELS 997 Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Doctoral Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For doctoral research, taken before a dissertation director has been selected.

 

RELS 999 Non-Topical Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For dissertation research, taken under the supervision of a dissertation director.