Current Courses

FALL 2017 COURSES

 

Courses in African Religions

RELA 2850 Afro Creole Relg in Americas
Schmidt,Jalane Dawn
A survey course which familiarizes students with African-derived religions of the Caribbean and Latin America

RELA 3900 Islam in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa and learn about the medieval Muslim kingdoms of the Sub-Sahara.  We will also consider the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition, the growth of Sufi brotherhoods, and the impact of colonization, de-colonization and globalization upon Islam.

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey.  Through the use of ethnographic and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in Islamic movements, traditions and practice, and African Muslim spirituality. This course meets the Historical Studies requirement, as well as the Non-Western Perspectives requirement.

RELA 5620 Ritual & Remembrance
Schmidt,Jalane Dawn
By reading ethnographic accounts of ritual performances in West Africa and its Atlantic diaspora, the seminar considers theories of ritual, discursive and non-discursive forms of remembrance, and the production, malleability and politics of memory amidst the particular challenges that the histories of slavery, colonialism, and collective trauma pose to the development of collective identities in the Afro-Atlantic World.

 

Courses in Buddhist Religions

RELB 2054 Tibetan Buddhism Introduction
TBA
A systematic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, including aspects of its history, iconography, philosophy, ethics, monasticism, rituals, practices, and social milieu. Special attention will be paid to the various strands of Indo-Tibetan culture that have intertwined to produce the immensely rich tradition we see today, though we will also spend a good bit of time examining the uniquely Tibetan tantric technologies that evolved from this process. Previous knowledge of Buddhism is not necessary, but would be helpful for certain segments of the course.

RELB 2900 Buddhist Meditation Traditions
Braun,Erik C
The goal of this course will be to examine different conceptions of Buddhist meditation and how these different conceptions affect the nature of practice and the understanding of the ideal life within a variety of Buddhist traditions.  Thus, the study of Buddhist meditation traditions reveals not just intricate forms of practice, but reveals the nature of the good life and how one lives it.

RELB 3559 Contemporary Chinese Religions
Heller,Natasha L
This course explores religion in contemporary China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.  Topics include the revival and reimagination of traditional Buddhist and Daoist practices , the growth of Christianity, the role of Islam, and the emergence of new religious groups.  Course materials will include primary sources in translation, journalistic account, and documentary films.  

RELB 3655 Buddhism in America
Braun,Erik C
This course is a seminar that examines the development of Buddhism in America going from its earliest appearance to contemporary developments.

RELB 5470 Literary Tibetan V
TBA
Advanced study in the philosophical and spiritual language of Tibet, past and present. Prerequisite: RELB 5000, 5010, 5350, 5360, or equivalent.

RELB 5490 Religious History of Tibet
Germano,David F
Surveys political, social, religious, and intellectual issues in Tibetan history from the fifth to fifteenth centuries, emphasizing the formation of the classical categories, practices, and ideals of Tibetan Buddhism.

RELB 5800 Literary Tibetan VII
TBA
Investigates the techniques and presuppositions involved in the methods used to study Buddhism, including textual, historical, philosophical, and social scientific methods.

RELB 8230 Adv Literary & Spoken Tibetan
Germano,David F
Readings in various genres, including philosophy, poetry, ritual, narrative, and so forth.

 

Courses in Christian Religions

RELC 1210 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Halvorson-Taylor,Martien A
This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. This course also provides an introduction to methods of modern biblical scholarship; using these methods, 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.

RELC 2050 Rise of Christianity
Shuve,Karl Evan
How did a movement that began as a Jewish sect become the official religion of the Roman Empire and forever change the world? In this course, we will trace Christianity’s improbable rise to religious and cultural dominance in the Mediterranean world during the first millennium of the Common Era. We will examine archaeological remains, artistic creations and many different kinds of writings—including personal letters, stories of martyrs and saints, works of philosophy and theology, and even gospels that were rejected for their allegedly heretical content—as we reimagine and reconstruct the lives and struggles of early and medieval Christians. Our goal will be to understand the development of Christian thought, the evolution of the Church as an institution, and how Christianity was lived out and practiced by its adherents.

RELC 2215 Mormonism and American Culture
Flake,Kathleen 
This course is designed to add substantive depth to a general understanding of American religious pluralism and insight into the socio-historical context of American religion through the study of Mormonism. In addition to introducing Mormonism's basic beliefs and practices, the course will explore issues raised by Mormonism's move toward the American mainstream while retaining its religious identity and cultural distinctiveness.

RELC 2360 Elements of Christian Thought
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This course considers the complex world of Christian thought by examining various perspectives on the nature of faith, the being and action of God, the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, the role of the Bible in theological reflection, and the relationship between Christian thought and social justice. Students will read various important works of Christian theology and become acquainted with a range of theological approaches and ideas. Authors considered include Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Elizabeth Johnson, and many others. The course is suitable for those seeking an academic introduction to Christian theology and those wishing to deepen their understanding of this religious tradition. No previous knowledge of Christian thought is required.

RELC 3056 In Defense of Sin
Portmann,John Edward
Exploration of transgression in Judaism and Christianity with a focus on the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins.  Reflection on who determines what is sinful and why.  Close reading of texts challenging the wrongfulness of acts and attitudes long considered sinful, with critical attention to the persuasiveness of religious rules.  Does religious practice remain focused on pleasing God, or does it now principally fulfill familial / ethnic obligation?  Or has it perhaps become simply a personal quest with indeterminate goals?  What does sin have to do with the modern world?

RELC 3231 Reformation Europe
Lambert,Erin M
Surveys the development of religious reform movements in continental Europe from c. 1450 to c. 1650 and their impact on politics, social life, science, and conceptions of the self. Cross-listed as HIEU 3231.

RELC 3675 Women in Ancient Christianity
Shuve,Karl Evan
Why were women excluded from the priestly hierarchy of the church? How did male clerics subsequently circumscribe women's roles in the church? And how did women respond? These are the questions that we will explore in this course on the intersection between gender and power in pre-modern Christianity.

RELC 4044 Religion and the American Courts
Portmann,John Edward
What is the legal expanse of religion in American society?  This seminar will explore the limits of spiritual convictions in a liberal democracy which guarantees religious freedom. This course will examine:  1) the First Amendment; 2) legal methodology; and 3) the contemporary debate over whether citizens and public officials have a duty to refrain from making political and legal decisions on the basis of their religious beliefs. After surveying the theoretical literature, we will turn to specific legal issues involving the practice of religion in the United States.  The Supreme Court’s understanding of the Religion Clauses changed substantially in the twentieth century, and so we will focus on the second half of the last century. Requirements:  1) oral presentation; 2) final fifteen-page paper; 3) regular class participation; and 4) three short exams.

RELC 5009 Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr and King
Marsh Jr.,Charles Robert
The course has four goals: (1) to understand the theologies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King Jr.; (2) to explore the themes of resistance and reconciliation in their writings and actions; (3) to examine their ambivalent relationships with academic theology; and (4) to consider the promise of lived theology for contemporary religious thought.

RELC 7515 Reformation to the Present
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This seminar acquaints graduate students with landmark works in Christian thought. In addition to functioning as a survey of major thinkers, it also provides the requisite background for comprehensive examinations in Christian thought. What are the major debates and concepts that have informed Christian thought? What styles of reasoning and deliberation have been employed, and to what ends? Authors considered may include: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Sergius Bulgakov, H. Richard Niebuhr, Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Mary Daly, James Cone, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Sarah Coakley.

 

Courses in General Religions

RELG 1010 Intro Western Religious Trads
Warren,Heather A
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, two tests and a final

RELG 1040 Intro Eastern Religious Trads
Allen,Michael S
Introduces various aspects of the religious traditions of India, China, and Japan.

RELG 1500 Intro Sem Religious Studies: Religion in America
Mathewes,Charles T
Analysis of different modes of reflecting on religion in America, in ways that throw light on those modes of inquiry, on the category of "religion," and the idea of America.

RELG 1500 Intro Sem Religious Studies: Polytheism
Kachru,Sonam 
This is a course which considers what the study of religion might look like when we do not take Monotheism(s) as  paradigmatic of the meaning of religion. This course explores polytheism as far as possible on its own terms, and not as a foil for monotheism. We shall look to Ancient Greece, Rome and India, and consider the prospect of the return of the gods in European Modernity.

RELG 2210 Religion Ethics & Environment
Jenkins,Willis Jackson
Where do ideas of nature come from, and what cultural and political consequences do they carry?  This course interprets humanity’s changing ecological relationships through religious and philosophical traditions. It takes up ethical questions presented by environmental problems, introduces frameworks for making sense of them, considers relations between imagination and behavior, and argues over the implications for personal commitments and public policy. Online discussion sections. 

RELG 2650 Theological Bioethics
Flores,Nichole M
“What is the relationship between bodies, beliefs, and power? This course analyzes challenging ethical issues in religion and health care from Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Jewish, and Islamic theological perspectives. We begin by exploring various bioethical frameworks (narrative, virtue, principles) before applying these methods to a range of practical issues: end of life care, maternal-fetal relations, transplantation ethics, genetics, research ethics, health care, and global health.  In addition to theology and philosophy, the course readings, lectures, and discussions engage the disciplines of politics, law, and public policy.”

RELG 2820 Jerusalem
Andruss, Jessica
This course traces the history of Jerusalem with a focus on its significance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. How have these communities experienced and inhabited Jerusalem? How have they imagined the city and interpreted its meaning? How have Jews, Christians, and Muslims expressed their attachments to this contested space from antiquity to modern times? Our exploration will be rooted in primary texts--literary and documentary sources, and visual images--and informed by historical and cultural context, as well as scholarly approaches to sacred space.

RELG 3255 Ethics, Literature & Religion
Bouchard,Larry D
Geddes,Jennifer Leslie
Explores how ethical issues in religious traditions and cultural narratives are addressed in literature, scripture, essay, and memoir. How do stories inquire into “the good life”? How may moral principles and virtues be “tested” by fiction? How does narrative shape identity, mediate universality and particularity, reflect beliefs and values in conflict, and depict suffering?

RELG 3559 Religion on Fire
Ochs,Peter W
The course examine “religion” as an element of socio-political activity in major conflicts in the past two decades: examining the global phenomenon of irremediable, religion-related violent conflict, recent efforts to diagnose religion-specific sources of both violence and peacebuilding, and prospects for cooperative peacebuilding efforts among governmental, civil society, and religious agencies. Admission by application to pwo3v.

RELG 4023 Bioethics Internship Seminar
Marshall,Mary Faith
The course enables students to spend time in medical settings as 'participant-observers,' in order to gain first-hand experience of the subject matter that is the focus of the theory, teaching, and practice of bioethics. Prerequisites: Bioethics Major/Minor

RELG 4220 Amer Religious Autobiography
Warren,Heather A
Multidisciplinary examination of religious self-perception in relation to the dominant values of American life. Readings represent a variety of spiritual traditions and autobiographical forms.

RELG 4500 Religion and Children
Heller,Natasha L
his seminar will focus on children and religion, examining the topic from several theoretical vantage points (e.g. sociological, historical, psychological, ethnographical).  We will draw on different religious traditions to consider ideas about the spiritual development of children, what children represent in religious literature, and materials designed to instruct children in a faith.

RELG 4500 Pilgrimage
Ochs,Vanessa L
Majors’ seminars give in Religious Studies give you an opportunity to step back and consider what you have been studying and how you have been studying it, and hopefully, to better clarify why you have devoted yourself to the study of religion.  One goal, then, of the seminar is to recall that religions are studied through diverse lenses—for example, through the methodologies of different disciplines (for example: anthropology, sociology, history psychology, and material culture) and through the eyes of particular theorists).  The methodologies and theories shape the way we approach, understand and interpret religion. Majors’ seminars also have a distinct focus, and ours will be studying the phenomenon of pilgrimage, emphasizing the diverse ways in which it has been experienced (actually and virtually), described and theorized.

RELG 4800 Research Methods in RS
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
Designed for students in the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP), this course offers third- and fourth-years the resources they need for conceiving and executing a substantial research project.  Participants will practice essential scholarly skills including: 1) critical and analytical reading; (2) formulating a research topic and questions; (3) crafting an evidence-based argument, and (4) developing a professional voice in non-fiction prose. The course also surveys religious studies arguments constructed from different types of data, sources and evidence so that students get a sense of the range of the field. The class assignments culminate in a prospectus (12-15 pages) and an annotated bibliography (15-20 sources) that will serve as the foundation for the student’s eventual thesis. 

As a follow-up to this course, DMP students are expected to enroll in RELG 4900 (“Distinguished Major Thesis”), which affords them an opportunity to write the thesis they have conceived.  But whether one plans to write a thesis or not, RELG 4800 offers an accessible introduction to the craft of advanced research in religious studies and the humanities more broadly. DMP students from other departments have successfully participated in this course in the past; all researchers are welcome!

The class is conducted as a workshop in which students submit work-in-progress to their peers for feedback and discussion.  An additional aspect of the course, then, entails initiation into the culture of advanced research wherein constructive feedback is given and received in a generous spirit. 

RELG 4810 Poetry and Theology
Hart,Kevin John
This seminar focuses on the writings of two important poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Geoffrey Hill. The one is Catholic, and the other questions religion at every level while also remaining open to the possibility of faith. Each poet raises major theological issues: belief, doubt, ecstasy, martyrdom, revelation, transcendence, and theodicy, among them. We will read, as closely as possible, some poems and prose writings by each poet, consider their theological contexts, and examine the ways in which theological issues are folded in their poems. Students will write two essays, one on each poet.  This is not a Majors seminar.

RELG 5559 Theology and Culture
Bouchard,Larry D
fewer):Theological assessments of culture, considered as the human-made environment comprising: language and patterns of living; structures of belief, norms, and practices; and forms of work, thought, and expression. Topics include cultures as contexts for identity, secular experience and secularization, critiques of religion as an aspect of culture, cultural conflict and religious plurality, and theological interpretations of culture and nature.

RELG 5775 Religion on Fire
Ochs,Peter W
The course examine “religion” as an element of socio-political activity in major conflicts in the past two decades: examining the global phenomenon of irremediable, religion-related violent conflict, recent efforts to diagnose religion-specific sources of both violence and peacebuilding, and prospects for cooperative peacebuilding efforts among governmental, civil society, and religious agencies.    .

RELG 7360 Study of Religion
Jenkins,Willis Jackson
Kachru,Sonam 
Given the multidisciplinary character of religious studies, it is imperative for new scholars to gain a basic sense of theoretical and methodological options in the field. By way of an examination of landmark texts, this course surveys the formation of religious studies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and considers some important contemporary approaches.

RELG 7559 TEC Proseminar
Mathewes,Charles T
Flores,Nichole M
A Proseminar introducing students to the various methods and approaches of inquiry in theological, ethical, and philosophical/cultural dimensions of resaerch

RELG 8350 Proseminar in SIP
Ochs,Peter W
This one credit seminar introduces students the Scriptural Interpretation and Practice (SIP) program to recent approaches to the comparative study of scriptural sources and scriptural traditions.

RELG 8400 Historiography Amer Religion
Hedstrom,Matthew Sigurd
This course provides advanced training in the study of American religious history through a careful analysis of important recent and classic scholarship in the field. It is designed to accommodate graduate students whose primary work is in religious history, as well as students from a variety of fields—history, theology, religious studies, politics, literature, anthropology, art history, law, and others—who might benefit from a thorough grounding in the religious history and historiography of the United States.

 

 

Courses in Hindu Religions

RELH 2090 Hinduism
Nemec,John William
This course offers a comprehensive survey of the history of the religion from its earliest days up to the time of the British presence in India.  No previous exposure to Hinduism or Indian religions more generally is required of students who wish to enroll in this course.

RELH 5559 Aesthetics
Nemec,John William
This course will pursue a detailed and technical understanding of Indian aesthetic theory; it will, that is, pursue a comprehensive study of the Alaṃkāraśāstra, in particular the Kashmiri contributions to the same.  Knowledge of Sanskrit is not required but is a plus; significant knowledge of Hinduism/Indian Religions is required of all who want to enroll in this course.

RELH 5559 Sanskrit
Nemec,John William
This is a Sanskrit reading course at the advanced level.  At least 2 years of formal study in Sanskrit is required of all students who wish to enroll in this course.

 

Courses in Islamic Religions

RELI 2085 Modern Islam
Nair,Shankar Ayillath
Surveys Islamic history from the "age of the great empires" (Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal) to the colonial period and up to the present day, including Islam in America. Islamic life and thought will be examined from multiple angles -- including popular piety and spirituality, philosophy and theology, law, gender, art, architecture, and literature -- with particular attention paid to the rise of modern Islamic "fundamentalist" movements.

RELI 3120 Sufism
Nair,Shankar Ayillath
This course will be a historical and topical survey of the development of Sufism from the classical Islamic period through the modern age, paying special attention to the interaction of ideas and the social and political contexts surrounding them.

RELI 3559 Prophecy in Islam and Judaism
Andruss,Jessica H
Prophecy provides the theme for our comparative inquiry into two sacred scriptures (the Qurʾan and the Hebrew Bible) alongside the rich traditions of Muslim and Jewish interpretive literature. We will consider narratives about specific prophets, medieval debates between and within Muslim and Jewish communities about the status and function of prophecy within their traditions, and modern theoretical approaches to prophecy.

RELI 3900 Islam in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa and learn about the medieval Muslim kingdoms of the Sub-Sahara.  We will also consider the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition, the growth of Sufi brotherhoods, and the impact of colonization, de-colonization and globalization upon Islam.

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey.  Through the use of ethnographic and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in Islamic movements, traditions and practice, and African Muslim spirituality. This course meets the Historical Studies requirement, as well as the Non-Western Perspectives requirement.

 

Courses in Judaic Religions

RELJ 1210 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Halvorson-Taylor,Martien A
This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. This course also provides an introduction to methods of modern biblical scholarship; using these methods, 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.

RELJ 1410 Elementary Classical Hebrew I
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
Learning a new language can be extremely challenging and immensely fun. This course promises to be both. In this course (in combination with its sequel, HEBR/RELJ 1420) students will develop a basic grasp of classical (biblical) Hebrew grammar and syntax. By the end of the spring semester, students will be able to read and translate narrative prose from the Hebrew Bible. Being able to read the Hebrew Bible in its original language provides a better window into the life and thought of the ancient Israelites, as well as a foundation for interpretation of the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Students who successfully complete this course and its sequel will be able to continue study of classical Hebrew at the intermediate level.

RELJ 2030 Introduction to Judaism
Alexander,Elizabeth S
This course introduces students to the academic study of Judaism.  We will use historical methods to observe change and development in Jewish beliefs and practices over time, we will analyze Jewish texts to learn about Jewish beliefs and practices, and we will observe contemporary Jews engaged in Jewish practice to gain insight into Judaism as lived religion.  Among the topics covered are:  sacred text study, prayer, rituals of daily life, holy day practices and life cycle passages.

RELJ 2410 Intermed Classical Hebrew I
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
In this course, which continues and builds upon HEBR/RELJ 1420, students will develop facility in the reading, comprehension, and translation of biblical Hebrew. Students will review basic grammar, learn to analyze syntax, and build their working vocabulary. As a secondary objective of the course, students will learn to interpret biblical prose. By the end of the course, students will be able to read and translate from Hebrew to English moderately difficult prose passages.
 

RELJ 3052 Responses to the Holocaust
Geddes,Jennifer Leslie
Responses to the Holocaust

RELJ 3170 Modern Jewish Thought
Biemann,Asher D
This course introduces the medieval Jewish intellectual tradition (9th-13th centuries) in its cultural and historical context. We will explore key themes such as the nature of God, prophecy, exile, the status of Scripture, the history of religions, and the quest for spiritual perfection. Readings will be drawn from philosophical, theological, exegetical, pietistic and mystical texts, including works from Saadia Gaon, Judah Halevi, and Maimonides.

RELJ 3559 Prophecy in Islam and Judaism
Andruss,Jessica H
Prophecy provides the theme for our comparative inquiry into two sacred scriptures (the Qurʾan and the Hebrew Bible) alongside the rich traditions of Muslim and Jewish interpretive literature. We will consider narratives about specific prophets, medieval debates between and within Muslim and Jewish communities about the status and function of prophecy within their traditions, and modern theoretical approaches to prophecy.

RELJ 3559 Contemporary Jewish Fiction
Ochs,Vanessa L

RELJ 5105 Religion and Culture of Rabbis
Alexander,Elizabeth S
An examination of religion and culture of the rabbinic movement (c. 70-600 CE) in the social and cultural contexts of Greco-Roman antiquity.  Among the issues to be examined: 1) rituals and institutions of the rabbis, 2) social organization within the rabbinic movement and 3) rabbinic engagement with other sectors of Jewish and non-Jewish society.

RELJ 5559 Hermann Cohen
Biemann,Asher D
The  Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen was one of the most influential thinkers of 20th-century religious thought. The seminar traces Cohen's neo-Kanian legacy in Europe and the United States. Apart from Cohen's work, we will cover select topics in Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Ernst Cassirer, Ernst Bloch, Leo Strauss, Mordecai Kaplan, and Steven Schwarzschild.

 

FALL 2016 COURSES

LIsted below are courses offered during the current semester, grouped by specialization: African ReligionsBuddhismChristianityGeneral Religious StudiesHinduismIslam, and Judaism. For more information, please contact the course instructor or consult the public unofficial course directory on Lou's List

Spring 2017

Spring

RELA 2750 | African Religions

Introduces the mythology, ritual, philosophy, and religious art of the traditional religions of sub-Saharan Africa, also African versions of Christianity and African-American religions in the New World.

RELA 3351 | African Diaspora Religions

This seminar examines changes in ethnographic accounts of African diaspora religions, with particular attention to the conceptions of religion, race, nation, and modernity found in different research paradigms. Prerequisite: previous course in one of the following: religious studies, anthropology, AAS, or Latin American studies.

RELA 3730 | African Literature and Films

An exploration of religious concepts, practices and issues as addressed in African literature and film.  We will examine how various African authors and filmmakers weave aspects of Muslim, Christian and/or traditional religious cultures into the stories they tell. Course materials will be drawn from novels, memoirs, short stories, creation myths, poetry, feature-length movies, documentaries and short films.

RELB 2054 | Tibetan Buddhism Introduction

Michael Schuman

Provides a systematic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism with a strong emphasis on tantric traditions of Buddhism - philosophy, contemplation, ritual, monastic life, pilgrimage, deities & demons, ethics, society, history, and art. The course aims to understand how these various aspects of Tibetan religious life mutually shape each other to form the unique religious traditions that have pertained on the Tibetan plateau for over a thousand years.

RELB 2100 | Buddhism

Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana Buddhist developments in India.

RELB 2165 | Buddhist Meditation

This course offers a survey of Buddhist meditation traditions in India and Tibet, an introduction to the ways that meditation is adapted and used today throughout many areas of life, and a chance to practice secular meditation techniques in a contemplative lab. In class meetings are experimentally based.

RELB 2715 | Introduction to Chinese Religion

Natasha Heller

This course serves as an introductory survey of religious life in China, with emphasis on everyday religious practice over doctrine. Through primary texts (in translation), we will explore key figures and texts, core concepts, and ritual traditions with reference to the cultural, historical, political and material contexts in which they were conceived and expressed.

RELB 3030 | Mindfulness and Compassion: Living Fully Personally and Professionally

Dorothe Bach, Juliet Trail

This course provides an in-depth experience in contemplative practices to prepare students to live more fully, be more engaged & compassionate citizens & professionals, & navigate life's stressors with greater clarity, peace of mind, & healthy behaviors. Besides mindfulness training, this course will also foster the cultivation of compassion and prosocial qualities. For more info: http://pages.shanti.virginia.edu/Mindfulness__Compassion/

RELB 3559 | Anthropology of Tibetan Buddhism

Ana Lopes

This course provides an overview of the anthropological literature related to Tibetan Buddhism. Special attention will be paid to the ways this religion was assimilated in neighboring Himalayan countries and, in a later phase, around the world. Topics to be addressed include, among others, spiritual practices, doctrines, sacred places, religious politics, and issues of identity, ethnicity and nationalism.

RELB 5055 | Buddhist Philosophy

Study of the Pali and Sanskritic Buddhist philosophical traditions.

RELB 5480 | Literary Tibetan VI

Gentry, James

RELB 5559 | Buddhism and Psychology

This class explores topics related to the often fraught interrelations among Buddhist thought, psychological studies, and the study of the mind and consciousness in philosophy and neurology.  We will focus on recent developments, looking at such matters as the cultural embeddedness of psychological uses of Buddhist meditation, the argument for a physicalist approach to Buddhist thought, and the neurological correlates to meditation.

RELB 5810 | Literary Tibetan VIII

Gentry, James

RELB 5991 | Seminar in Chinese Buddhism

Heller, Natasha

The topic for Spring 2017 will be modern Chinese Buddhism, covering the late 19th century through the present.  This period saw the emergence of new discourses and practices, and for much of this time Buddhism also faced greater state oversight in both China and Taiwan.  We will look at intellectual and institutional responses to these challenges, including how Buddhist thinkers addressed science and war, as well as how Buddhist organizations developed charities, tourist sites, and new media.  We will also consider the role of Chinese Buddhism in global religious networks.

RELC 1210 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Laugelli, Ben

This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. 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.

RELC 2460 | Spirit of Catholicism

The course will trace the origins and development of Roman Catholic doctrine in light of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The following topics will be treated: the nature and person of Christ as examined in the first ecumenical councils from Nicaea (325) to Chalcedon (451); the nature of the Church and its authority vested in bishops and the pope; original sin, grace, and justification; the rise of hte Reformation in western Christianity.

RELC 2850 | Kingdom of God

The course examines the influence of theological ideas on social movements in twentieth and twenty-first century America; and it seeks to answer such questions as:  How do religious commitments shape the patterns of everyday living, including economic, political, and sexual organization, as well as racial perception?  How do our ideas about God shape the way we engage the social order?  What role do nineteenth century European and American Protestant theologies play in informing the American search for “beloved community”, which was the term Martin Luther King Jr. sometimes used interchangeably with the Kingdom of God?  What are the social consequences of religious beliefs?  Although our primary historical focus is the American Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1968, we will also look at counter-cultural movements of the late 1960’s, as well as the faith-based community-development movement and recent community organizing initiatives.

RELC 3030 | Jesus and the Gospels

Ashley Tate

This course focuses on Jesus of Nazareth as an historical figure, that is, as he is accessible to the historian by means of historical methods. Our most important sources of information on Jesus are the canonical Gospels, and so much of the course will involve reading and attempting to understand these texts. We will attempt to reconstruct at least the broad outlines of Jesus activity and teachings, keeping in mind the limits of our sources.
 

RELC 3077 | Christian Theologies of Liberation

Cox, Kendall

“Liberation Theology” has emerged in modern contexts of violence and oppression as a faithful form of critique and protest. It radically contextualizes the pervasive scriptural emphasis on freedom from injustice and exploitation. In this course, we will examine the larger biblical narrative of human suffering and divine justice and the way it is reanimated in global theologies of liberation, including Latino/a, Black, and feminist theology.

RELC 3222 | From Jefferson to King

A seminar focused upon some of the most significant philosophical and religious thinkers that have shaped and continue to shape American religious thought and culture from the founding of the Republic to the Civil Rights Movement, including Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Addams, William James, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  This course fulfills the College’s Second Writing Requirement.

RELC 3559 | Lost and Found: The Prodigal Retold

Cox, Kendall

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a paradigmatic tale of waywardness, rebellion, and redemption. One of the most popular and influential stories in Western scriptures, it has been depicted and retold countless times by artists, theologians, novelists, poets, and filmmakers. In this course, we will discuss the parable and some of its most popular retellings and representations, including creative works from the first century to the present.

RELC 3625 | Christ

This course explores what it means to say that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ or Messiah. We will discuss candidates for the proper starting point of theology, including the claim that Jesus is the Christ. How is the doctrine of Jesus as the Christ built up from biblical witnesses, the Church Fathers, and Church councils? What roles do heresies play in this construction? What differences are there between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith,” and should we accept this distinction? What are the functions of creeds? What is “revelation”? More particularly, what events in the life of Jesus are central to Christological claims? Sustained attention is given to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and particular attention is given to the preaching of Jesus, especially his teaching of the Kingdom of God.

RELC 4610 | Sex and Morality

Portmann, John

How have Jewish and Christian morals shaped sexual experience in the West?  What do contemporary Americans mean by “family values”?  Focusing on the United States today, we will analyze pre-marital sex, the sexual revolution, promiscuity, abortion, prostitution, gay marriage, pornography, rape, teaching sex education in public schools, and “senior sex.”  We will pay special attention to selected legal decisions in minting sexual mores, as well as to art, film, and the media in challenging values.

What does sexual activity have to do with religious practice?  How will we theorize or understand sexual desires we don’t share?  How appropriate is it for the government to legislate sexuality?  What is the future of sex in America?

Requirements: 1) informed seminar discussion; 2) two exams; 3) final 15-20 page paper 

RELC 5077 | Pius XII, Hitler the US &WW II

For the past forty years the role of Pius XII and the Vatican during World War II has been controversial. This seminar will look at that controversy and place it in the context of newly available archival material. The students will read several books on both sides of the question and then present their own research papers, the topics of which will be chosen in consultation with the professor.

RELC 5665 | Freedom

This seminar investigates diverse perspectives on freedom. We will consider three overlapping areas of concern: (a) sin, grace, and the “bound will”; (b) divine providence and human action; and (c) analyses of gender, sex, race, and class as they bear on the issues of “subjection” and “liberation,” broadly construed. We will read landmark works by Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Sojourner Truth, Friedrich Nietzsche, James Cone, Judith Butler, and several others.

The seminar is primarily intended for graduate students, but open to advanced undergraduates with a strong and extensive background in the academic study of Christian thought and/or western philosophy and political theory.

RELG 2155 | Whiteness and Religion

This lecture class examines the role that religion has played and still plays in defining a racial category known as whiteness. By reading cultural histories and ethnographies of the religious practices of various U.S. communities, we will examine how immigrant groups now classified as white (Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, etc.) and religious images (depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary) "became white" and the role that religious practice played in this shift in racial classification.

RELG 2160 | Religion in America Since 1865

Religion in America Since 1865 is an historical examination of the social and cultural change that affected the religious life of Americans over the ensuing 150 years.  The course studies theological change in Protestantism, the emergence of three kinds of Judaism, controversy and change in American Catholicism, the origins of fundamentalism and Pentecostalism, various expressions of African-American faith, the attraction of Asian religions to non-Asians in America in the 1960s and afterwards, and the rise of the religious right.  We also explore the effects of immigration, urbanization, politics, and intellectual change on religions in America.  Readings include Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain about snake handling Pentecostals in Appalachia, Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath, sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr., and an essay by basketball coach Phil Jackson about his practice of Buddhism and the way it influenced his coaching of the championship Chicago Bulls.  Fulfills historical studies and humanities area requirements for the College.

RELG 2190 | Religion and Modern Fiction

Modern fiction—in the 20th and 21st centuries—often creates questions that are intrinsically religious, spiritual, or ethical in character. Fiction may ask about the human spirit and human nature, evil and suffering, identity and community, reason and revelation, grace and transformation. This course will explore writers who have pursued such questions, and how they have imagined traces of the sacred or transcendent through the distinctive language and experience of their works.

Some of our writers (such as N. Scott Momaday, Elie Wiesel, Shusaku Endo, Marilynne Robinson) write fiction that explicitly reflects religious traditions.  Others (Hermann Hesse, E. M. Forster) create apparently “secular” narratives that nonetheless reveal religious or ethical “dimensions” or implications.  Still others (Toni Morrison, Paul Harding, and Yann Martel) employ a variety of cultural and spiritual traditions to disclose new and distinctive religious visions.  Religious theorists such as Martin Buber and John Caputo provide ways to try out different vocabularies for such visions. And the writers I have selected could change somewhat.

Requirements: the course will be taught through discussion more than lecture, so regular attendance and active participation are important. There will be two guided essays with flexible prompts on assigned material (about 2000 words each); and a short paper on assigned material (about 8 pages, 2400 words) in lieu of a final exam.  RELG 2190 can meet the 2nd writing requirement, on request.

 

RELG 2660 | Spirituality in America

What does “spiritual but not religious” mean, and why has it become such a pervasive self-description in contemporary America? This interdisciplinary course surveys spirituality in America, with a particular eye for the relationship between spirituality and formal religion, on the one hand, and secular modes of understanding the self, such as psychology, on the other. Along the way we’ll study everything from AA to yoga to Zen meditation, with stops in rock music and jazz, Beat poetry, Abstract Expressionist painting, spirit photography, the feminist movement, environmentalism, and recent film. The study of spirituality forces us to confront many of the central concerns of modern American life: psychology, self-help, and therapeutic culture; global religious and cultural encounters; gender and sexuality; and consumerism and mass culture. In the end, we’ll come to see spirituality in America as a complex intermingling of the great world religions, modern therapeutic psychology, the politics of movements for social change, and a crassly commercialized, billion-dollar culture industry.

Is this the fate of religion in a modern, capitalist, globalized society?

RELG 3450 | The Emotions

Exploration of how what we feel colors what we know, what we believe.  What are human emotions and why do we have them?  Philosophers, psychiatrists, religious thinkers, and neurologists disagree.  We will analyze these variations, along with the question of whether the emotions can be controlled or educated. We will focus on William James, who influentially argued that for most believers, religious experience is first and foremost emotional.

RELG 3559 | The History of Evil

This lecture course examines the way that various cultures from the Ancient Near East forward have conceived of malice and misfortune under categories broadly gathered under the title of "evil." It will survey a wide range of texts and cultural myths to equip students with a rich understanding of how a large swath of humanity has conceived a large swath of the challenges facing human existence, historically and today.

RELG 3559 | New Course in Religious Studies: Theology and Politics

Jonathan Teubner

In recent years there has been an increased focus on the political role religious actors play for good or for ill. But scant attention has been paid to the theological motivation of religious actors’ political action. This course is designed to introduce students to theologians, bishops, imams, rabbis, and religious philosophers who have actively engaged politically and to the theological underpinnings of their engagement. By focusing both on their theological thought as well as their social and political location, we shall investigate the correlation between theology and politics. In addition to the historical readings, students will also hear from guest lecturers who will speak about how a particular religious figure has informed or motivated their own political action.

The hypothesis for this course is that there are patterns of religious reasoning displayed in both the writings and political action of theologians. By investigating both the theology and the political action, we may be able to understand the relation between religion and politics in ways that have been obscured by the study of religion that reduces religious action to standard social scientific categories

RELG 3559 | Favorite Things and Sacred Objects

This course will look at the things we love—possessions, prizes, collectibles, curios—and the objects we hold sacred—icons, idols, totems, charms—and the ways we acquire them, make them, think about them, imagine them, value them, and ascribe meaning to them. What different kinds of relationships do we have with the objects around us? Why are some things considered disposable and others sacred? How do our sacred and secular divides affect how we think about and engage with the objects around us? We will read literature, theology, philosophy, theory, and essays that engage with these questions.

RELG 3559 | Peace & Justice in America

Aiken, Guy

This course traces the development of political nonviolence among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, culminating with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Other key figures might include William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams, Howard Thurman, Dorothy Day, Reinhold Niebuhr, A. J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, and the rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. 

RELG 3559 | Theology Death and Dying

Pickell, Travis

This class focuses on religious and theological understandings of death and dying, particularly within Christian and Jewish traditions (though some attention will be given to other traditions). We will explore questions such as: why do human beings (and non-human creatures) die? Is death evil, and if so, what is it about death that is evil? Would it be a good thing to live forever? How do religious traditions shape the human response to death?  

RELG 3800 | African American Religious History

RELG 4023 | Bioethics Internship Seminar

Marshall, Mary Faith

This course is designed to provide students with experience in discerning and analyzing ethical issues as they arise in particular clinical settings. Each student spends approximately four hours each week in a clinic, hospital unit, or other health care- related venue (the same one throughout the semester), under the mentorship of a health care professional engaged in that setting. Seminar time focuses primarily on student experiences and observations in their placements, plus discussion of readings that explore selected ethical issues common to clinical medicine and the role of the ethicist/observer. During the second half of the semester, each student presents for class critique an analysis of an ethical issue or question that arises in his or her setting, and that will form the basis of the student's final paper for the class. Students must have some background knowledge of bioethics' methods and common questions. Admittance to the course is by application only; for details, see the Undergraduate Bioethics Program Website at http://bioethics.virginia.edu/internships.html.

RELG 4500 | Majors Seminar: Sex, Gender and Religion

RELG 4500 | Majors Seminar: Thinking with Animals

This course moves beyond questions about animals framed in terms of legal rights to explore how humans have used and continue to use animals to identify, enforce, transgress and transcend the confines of self and species. Attention is paid to a wide range of periods, sources and regions.

RELG 5559 | Philosophy of Science

The philosophy of science for students of theology and religious studies. The course has three components: history of philosophy of science in the West, studies in post-Newtonian logic of science, and comparative studies in the logic of experimental science and logics of scriptural interpretation in the Abrahamic traditions.

RELG 5559 | Narrative and Drama

This seminar will assess contributions narrative and drama studies have made to ethical and theological reflection. It will especially look for differences in how narrative and theatrical modes reflect human experience, identity, and activity, and so may inform reflection in distinctive ways. Literary and theoretical materials will be examined together.

RELG 5559 | Religion and Common Good

How is a religiously pluralistic society to pursue the common good? This graduate seminar explores responses to this question within religious ethics at the local, national, and global levels. Readings will address major contributions to this topic within political philosophy before pivoting to responses in religious and theological ethics. Major themes include theories of justice, citizenship, and interpretation.

RELG 5559 | Power, Violence, and the Sacred

This course will explore the interrelations of power, violence and the sacred, with particular attention to the following questions: What is power? Is it inherently violent? Is there something sacred about violence and/or violent about the sacred? Are there such things as sacred power and secular power? And, if so, how do we distinguish between them? What is the relationship between religion and violence? In our exploration of these questions, we will read a selection of works by theologians, philosophers, and social theorists (for example, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Adriana Cavarero, James Cone, Michel Foucault, Rene Girard, Emmanuel Levinas, and Steven Lukes), as well as literary works that ask and explore these questions.

RELG 5835 | Ethnography Study of Religion

This course is intended for students who want practice in studying religious experience and practice from an ethnographic perspective. Readings will include a wide range of ethnographies of religions and reflections on methodology. Students will engage in small ethnographic fieldwork projects, beginning with very simple encounters and concluding with what I call "deep hanging out," a process of spending time over several weeks in a fairly local setting where “religion” broadly interpreted, is practiced. We will study ways that people gather field notes and write up their findings.  This course is neither an introduction to ethnographic theories nor an overview of the exemplary ethnographies of religion. Rather, it is meant to train students in studying religion by observing it being practiced in diverse settings. That said, we will be consulting theories and reading ethnographies throughout the semester.

RELG 7559 | Religion, Theory, Theology, and Modernity

Mathewes, Charles, Jones, Paul

The purpose of this class is to acquaint graduate students with landmark texts that consider the place, significance, and purpose of religion in late modernity. Focusing on works written over the last few decades, which have seen a blossoming of interest in the issue of religion and modernity, we will draw on multiple genres of study: philosophy, anthropology, social science, religious studies, and theological inquiry. 

RELG 8205 | Husserl

This seminar proposes a close reading of two major texts by Edmund Husserl, *Ideas* I and *Ideas* II

RELG 8350 | Proseminar in SIP

RELH 3559 | Hinduism and Ecology

This course will explore Hindu views of the relationship between human, natural, and divine worlds, as well as the work of contemporary environmentalists in India. We will read texts both classical and modern (from the Bhagavad Gita to the writings of Gandhi), and will consider case studies of Hindu responses to issues such as climate change, river pollution, deforestation, and industrial agriculture.

RELH 5450 | Hindu-Buddhist Debates

This course examines philosophical debates of Hindu and Buddhist authors from the time of the founding of Buddhism to the medieval period. Primary sources in translation and secondary, scholarly sources are examined in this course. Prerequisite: Significant prior exposure to Hinduism and/or Buddhism.

RELI 3559 | Muḥammad and his Companions

Stafford, Samuel

An introduction to the biographies of Muḥammad and his earliest followers, the Companions. The course will introduce students to the major works of classical Arabic literary biography and how the authors of these works crafted the biographies of the earliest Muslims, who are venerated as the ideal and exemplary Islamic community. We will focus on the themes and conventions of the literary biographies of the Companions.

RELI 5230 | Islamic Philosophy & Theology

This course surveys the major developments within Islamic philosophy and theology from the classical to the early modern periods. Topics covered include the early theological schools (Ash‘aris, Maturidis, Mu‘tazilis), the transmission of Greek philosophy into Arabic, Peripatetic philosophy, Illuminationism, Shi‘ite philosophy, and philosophical Sufism, concluding with the challenges faced by Islamic philosophy through the colonial and modern eras.

RELJ 1210 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Laugelli, Ben

This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. 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.

RELJ 1420 | Elementary Classical Hebrew II

RELJ 3372 | German Jewish Culture and History

Gabriel Finder, Volker Kaiser

This course provides a wide-ranging exploration of the culture, history & thought of German Jewry from 1750 to 1939. It focuses on the Jewish response to modernity in Central Europe and the lasting transformations in Jewish life in Europe and later North America. Readings of such figures as: Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Rahel Varnhagen, Franz Kafka, Gershom Scholem, Martin Buber, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, Walter Benjamin, and Freud.

RELJ 3390 | Jewish Feminism

Individuals and groups have been agents of change in religious traditions. From ancient times to our own day, Jewish women have engaged with Jewish tradition, texts and practices by appropriating, resisting and transforming them.  We will study how Jewish feminists and feminist scholars of Judaism (primarily in American, and in Israel too) have defined and legitimized the study of Jewish women's experience by tracing the impact of Jewish feminism on Jewish ritual practice, text study, prayer and theology. We will study major works and issues in contemporary American Jewish feminism from the mid-1960's to the present, including work by 20-something Jewish feminists.    Finally, we will explore the consequences of  feminist critique, intended to spawn new understandings and practices in shaping a more inclusive Judaism.  This course will be of interest to all who study ethical challenges to ancient traditions.

RELJ 3559 | Continental Philosophy Israel

Weinman, Michael

This course investigates three senses of “Israel”: Eretz Israel, the land or the nation of Israel; Am Israel, the people of Israel whether in “diaspora,” “exile” or resident in Eretz Israel; and Israel(-Palestine), the modern nation-state that is in a tortured relation to the Palestinian Territories. We will see how Judaism and the Jewish state reflect deeper tensions inherent in the very idea, and surely in the practice, of secular modernity.

RELJ 5385 | The Song of Songs

This graduate research seminar is a close reading of the Song of Songs, with attention to its literary artistry, ancient context, canonization, and reception.

Readings will include not only the Song itself, but a range of other biblical (and ancient Near Eastern) texts that shed light on the diverse and often surprising views on sex, love, and gender that were held in the ancient world. Other topics include biblical poetry as a genre; metaphor and its function; and the intersection of sexuality and power relationships. We will also read a variety of secondary sources to provide historical and theoretical (literary, feminist, etc.) frameworks for understanding the Song of Songs and its interpretation.

Requirements: Shorter oral reports throughout the semester, one longer presentation on your research, and a 12–15-page final paper suitable for a conference. Graduate students are encouraged to discuss their particular research interests at the outset of the semester so that these can be accommodated in the course design.

Prerequisites: (1) This course assumes that biblical literature arose from specific historical contexts and reflects the political, economic, religious ideologies of its authors. For this reason, a course on critical scholarship of the Hebrew Bible (1210 or the equivalent) is required. If you still feel that you still have an insufficient background in these approaches, please consult with me at the outset and I will provide you with background reading. We will approach the Bible approached historically, as an ancient Near Eastern text that reflects the values of its many authors, and with attention to its literary artistry. (2) A knowledge of Hebrew and/or Greek is preferred, but not required. (3) Undergraduates who are interested in taking the course should contact the instructor at maht@virginia.edu before enrolling.

Fall 2017

Fall

RELA 2850 | Afro Creole Relg in Americas

A survey course which familiarizes students with African-derived religions of the Caribbean and Latin America

RELA 3900 | Islam in Africa

This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa and learn about the medieval Muslim kingdoms of the Sub-Sahara.  We will also consider the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition, the growth of Sufi brotherhoods, and the impact of colonization, de-colonization and globalization upon Islam.

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey.  Through the use of ethnographic and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in Islamic movements, traditions and practice, and African Muslim spirituality. This course meets the Historical Studies requirement, as well as the Non-Western Perspectives requirement.

RELA 7559 | Ritual and Remembrance

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar consists of readings in theories of ritual, memory and history, as well as ethnographies which focus on rituals performed in Africa and its Atlantic diaspora. We will consider both discursive (oral and written) and non-discursive (embodied, sensorial, spatial, ritualized, etc.) forms of remembrance, as well as examine ritual performances of memory and the politics of memory. We will explore topics such as the production of history and the particular challenges that the histories of slavery, colonialism, and collective trauma pose to the development of collective identities in the Atlantic World. At the end of the semester, students will be expected to write a seminar-length paper which interprets the themes of ritual and remembrance with respect to their own arena of research.

RELB 2054 | Tibetan Buddhism Introduction

A systematic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, including aspects of its history, iconography, philosophy, ethics, monasticism, rituals, practices, and social milieu. Special attention will be paid to the various strands of Indo-Tibetan culture that have intertwined to produce the immensely rich tradition we see today, though we will also spend a good bit of time examining the uniquely Tibetan tantric technologies that evolved from this process. Previous knowledge of Buddhism is not necessary, but would be helpful for certain segments of the course.

RELB 2900 | Buddhist Meditation Traditions

The goal of this course will be to examine different conceptions of Buddhist meditation and how these different conceptions affect the nature of practice and the understanding of the ideal life within a variety of Buddhist traditions.  Thus, the study of Buddhist meditation traditions reveals not just intricate forms of practice, but reveals the nature of the good life and how one lives it.

RELB 3559 | Contemporary Chinese Religions

This course explores religion in contemporary China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.  Topics include the revival and reimagination of traditional Buddhist and Daoist practices, the growth of Christianity, the role of Islam, and the emergence of new religious groups.  Course materials will include primary sources in translation, journalistic account, and documentary films.  

RELB 3655 | Buddhism in America

This course is a seminar that examines the development of Buddhism in America going from its earliest appearance to contemporary developments.

RELB 5800 | Literary Tibetan VII

Investigates the techniques and presuppositions involved in the methods used to study Buddhism, including textual, historical, philosophical, and social scientific methods.

RELB 8230 | Adv Literary & Spoken Tibetan

Readings in various genres, including philosophy, poetry, ritual, narrative, and so forth.

RELC 1210 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. This course also provides an introduction to methods of modern biblical scholarship; using these methods, 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.

RELC 2050 | Rise of Christianity

How did a movement that began as a Jewish sect become the official religion of the Roman Empire and forever change the world? In this course, we will trace Christianity’s improbable rise to religious and cultural dominance in the Mediterranean world during the first millennium of the Common Era. We will examine archaeological remains, artistic creations and many different kinds of writings—including personal letters, stories of martyrs and saints, works of philosophy and theology, and even gospels that were rejected for their allegedly heretical content—as we reimagine and reconstruct the lives and struggles of early and medieval Christians. Our goal will be to understand the development of Christian thought, the evolution of the Church as an institution, and how Christianity was lived out and practiced by its adherents.

RELC 2215 | Mormonism and American Culture

This course is designed to add substantive depth to a general understanding of American religious pluralism and insight into the socio-historical context of American religion through the study of Mormonism. In addition to introducing Mormonism's basic beliefs and practices, the course will explore issues raised by Mormonism's move toward the American mainstream while retaining its religious identity and cultural distinctiveness.

RELC 2360 | Elements of Christian Thought

This course considers the complex world of Christian thought by examining various perspectives on the nature of faith, the being and action of God, the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, the role of the Bible in theological reflection, and the relationship between Christian thought and social justice. Students will read various important works of Christian theology and become acquainted with a range of theological approaches and ideas. Authors considered include Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Elizabeth Johnson, and many others. The course is suitable for those seeking an academic introduction to Christian theology and those wishing to deepen their understanding of this religious tradition. No previous knowledge of Christian thought is required.

RELC 3056 | In Defense of Sin

Exploration of transgression in Judaism and Christianity with a focus on the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins.  Reflection on who determines what is sinful and why.  Close reading of texts challenging the wrongfulness of acts and attitudes long considered sinful, with critical attention to the persuasiveness of religious rules.  Does religious practice remain focused on pleasing God, or does it now principally fulfill familial / ethnic obligation?  Or has it perhaps become simply a personal quest with indeterminate goals?  What does sin have to do with the modern world?

RELC 3231 | Reformation Europe

Lambert, Erin

Surveys the development of religious reform movements in continental Europe from c. 1450 to c. 1650 and their impact on politics, social life, science, and conceptions of the self. Cross-listed as HIEU 3231.

RELC 3675 | Women in Ancient Christianity

Why were women excluded from the priestly hierarchy of the church? How did male clerics subsequently circumscribe women's roles in the church? And how did women respond? These are the questions that we will explore in this course on the intersection between gender and power in pre-modern Christianity.

RELC 4044 | Religion and the American Courts

What is the legal expanse of religion in American society?  This seminar will explore the limits of spiritual convictions in a liberal democracy which guarantees religious freedom. This course will examine:  1) the First Amendment; 2) legal methodology; and 3) the contemporary debate over whether citizens and public officials have a duty to refrain from making political and legal decisions on the basis of their religious beliefs. After surveying the theoretical literature, we will turn to specific legal issues involving the practice of religion in the United States.  The Supreme Court’s understanding of the Religion Clauses changed substantially in the twentieth century, and so we will focus on the second half of the last century. Requirements:  1) oral presentation; 2) final fifteen-page paper; 3) regular class participation; and 4) three short exams.

RELC 5009 | Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr and King

The course has four goals: (1) to understand the theologies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King Jr.; (2) to explore the themes of resistance and reconciliation in their writings and actions; (3) to examine their ambivalent relationships with academic theology; and (4) to consider the promise of lived theology for contemporary religious thought.

RELC 7515 | Reformation to the Present

This seminar acquaints graduate students with landmark works in Christian thought. In addition to functioning as a survey of major thinkers, it also provides the requisite background for comprehensive examinations in Christian thought. What are the major debates and concepts that have informed Christian thought? What styles of reasoning and deliberation have been employed, and to what ends? Authors considered may include: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Sergius Bulgakov, H. Richard Niebuhr, Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Mary Daly, James Cone, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Sarah Coakley.

RELG 1010 | Intro Western Religious Traditions

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, two tests and a final

RELG 1040 | Intro Eastern Religious Traditions

Introduces various aspects of the religious traditions of India, China, and Japan.

RELG 1500 | Intro Sem Religious Studies: Polytheism

This is a course which considers what the study of religion might look like when we do not take Monotheism(s) as  paradigmatic of the meaning of religion. This course explores polytheism as far as possible on its own terms, and not as a foil for monotheism. We shall look to Ancient Greece, Rome and India, and consider the prospect of the return of the gods in European Modernity.

RELG 1500 | Intro Sem Religious Studies: Religion in America

Analysis of different modes of reflecting on religion in America, in ways that throw light on those modes of inquiry, on the category of "religion," and the idea of America.

RELG 2210 | Religion Ethics and Environment

Where do ideas of nature come from, and what cultural and political consequences do they carry?  This course interprets humanity’s changing ecological relationships through religious and philosophical traditions. It takes up ethical questions presented by environmental problems, introduces frameworks for making sense of them, considers relations between imagination and behavior, and argues over the implications for personal commitments and public policy. Online discussion sections. 

RELG 2650 | Theological Bioethics

What is the relationship between bodies, beliefs, and power? This course analyzes challenging ethical issues in religion and health care from Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Jewish, and Islamic theological perspectives. We begin by exploring various bioethical frameworks (narrative, virtue, principles) before applying these methods to a range of practical issues: end of life care, maternal-fetal relations, transplantation ethics, genetics, research ethics, health care, and global health.  In addition to theology and philosophy, the course readings, lectures, and discussions engage the disciplines of politics, law, and public policy.

RELG 2820 | Jerusalem

This course traces the history of Jerusalem with a focus on its significance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. How have these communities experienced and inhabited Jerusalem? How have they imagined the city and interpreted its meaning? How have Jews, Christians, and Muslims expressed their attachments to this contested space from antiquity to modern times? Our exploration will be rooted in primary texts--literary and documentary sources, and visual images--and informed by historical and cultural context, as well as scholarly approaches to sacred space.

RELG 3255 | Ethics, Literature & Religion

Explores how ethical issues in religious traditions and cultural narratives are addressed in literature, scripture, essay, and memoir. How do stories inquire into “the good life”? How may moral principles and virtues be “tested” by fiction? How does narrative shape identity, mediate universality and particularity, reflect beliefs and values in conflict, and depict suffering?

RELG 3559 | Religion on Fire

The course examine “religion” as an element of socio-political activity in major conflicts in the past two decades: examining the global phenomenon of irremediable, religion-related violent conflict, recent efforts to diagnose religion-specific sources of both violence and peacebuilding, and prospects for cooperative peacebuilding efforts among governmental, civil society, and religious agencies.

RELG 4023 | Bioethics Internship Seminar

Marshall, Mary Faith

The course enables students to spend time in medical settings as 'participant-observers,' in order to gain first-hand experience of the subject matter that is the focus of the theory, teaching, and practice of bioethics. Prerequisites: Bioethics Major/Minor

RELG 4220 | American Religious Autobiography

Multidisciplinary examination of religious self-perception in relation to the dominant values of American life. Readings represent a variety of spiritual traditions and autobiographical forms.

RELG 4500 | Religion and Children

This seminar will focus on children and religion, examining the topic from several theoretical vantage points (e.g. sociological, historical, psychological, ethnographical).  We will draw on different religious traditions to consider ideas about the spiritual development of children, what children represent in religious literature, and materials designed to instruct children in a faith.

RELG 4500 | Pilgrimage

Majors’ seminars give in Religious Studies give you an opportunity to step back and consider what you have been studying and how you have been studying it, and hopefully, to better clarify why you have devoted yourself to the study of religion.  One goal, then, of the seminar is to recall that religions are studied through diverse lenses—for example, through the methodologies of different disciplines (for example: anthropology, sociology, history psychology, and material culture) and through the eyes of particular theorists).  The methodologies and theories shape the way we approach, understand and interpret religion. Majors’ seminars also have a distinct focus, and ours will be studying the phenomenon of pilgrimage, emphasizing the diverse ways in which it has been experienced (actually and virtually), described and theorized.

RELG 4800 | Research Methods in Religious Studies

Designed for students in the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP), this course offers third- and fourth-years the resources they need for conceiving and executing a substantial research project.  Participants will practice essential scholarly skills including: 1) critical and analytical reading; (2) formulating a research topic and questions; (3) crafting an evidence-based argument, and (4) developing a professional voice in non-fiction prose. The course also surveys religious studies arguments constructed from different types of data, sources and evidence so that students get a sense of the range of the field. The class assignments culminate in a prospectus (12-15 pages) and an annotated bibliography (15-20 sources) that will serve as the foundation for the student’s eventual thesis. 

As a follow-up to this course, DMP students are expected to enroll in RELG 4900 (“Distinguished Major Thesis”), which affords them an opportunity to write the thesis they have conceived.  But whether one plans to write a thesis or not, RELG 4800 offers an accessible introduction to the craft of advanced research in religious studies and the humanities more broadly. DMP students from other departments have successfully participated in this course in the past; all researchers are welcome!

The class is conducted as a workshop in which students submit work-in-progress to their peers for feedback and discussion.  An additional aspect of the course, then, entails initiation into the culture of advanced research wherein constructive feedback is given and received in a generous spirit. 

RELG 4810 | Poetry and Theology

This seminar focuses on the writings of two important poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Geoffrey Hill. The one is Catholic, and the other questions religion at every level while also remaining open to the possibility of faith. Each poet raises major theological issues: belief, doubt, ecstasy, martyrdom, revelation, transcendence, and theodicy, among them. We will read, as closely as possible, some poems and prose writings by each poet, consider their theological contexts, and examine the ways in which theological issues are folded in their poems. Students will write two essays, one on each poet.  This is not a Majors seminar.

RELG 5559 | Theology and Culture

Theological assessments of culture, considered as the human-made environment comprising: language and patterns of living; structures of belief, norms, and practices; and forms of work, thought, and expression. Topics include cultures as contexts for identity, secular experience and secularization, critiques of religion as an aspect of culture, cultural conflict and religious plurality, and theological interpretations of culture and nature.

RELG 5775 | Religion on Fire

The course examine “religion” as an element of socio-political activity in major conflicts in the past two decades: examining the global phenomenon of irremediable, religion-related violent conflict, recent efforts to diagnose religion-specific sources of both violence and peacebuilding, and prospects for cooperative peacebuilding efforts among governmental, civil society, and religious agencies.    .

RELG 7559 | TEC Proseminar

A Proseminar introducing students to the various methods and approaches of inquiry in theological, ethical, and philosophical/cultural dimensions of research

RELG 7630 | Study of Religion

Given the multidisciplinary character of religious studies, it is imperative for new scholars to gain a basic sense of theoretical and methodological options in the field. By way of an examination of landmark texts, this course surveys the formation of religious studies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and considers some important contemporary approaches.

RELG 8400 | Historiography American Religion

This course provides advanced training in the study of American religious history through a careful analysis of important recent and classic scholarship in the field. It is designed to accommodate graduate students whose primary work is in religious history, as well as students from a variety of fields—history, theology, religious studies, politics, literature, anthropology, art history, law, and others—who might benefit from a thorough grounding in the religious history and historiography of the United States.

RELH 2090 | Hinduism

This course offers a comprehensive survey of the history of the religion from its earliest days up to the time of the British presence in India.  No previous exposure to Hinduism or Indian religions more generally is required of students who wish to enroll in this course.

RELH 5559 | Aesthetics

This course will pursue a detailed and technical understanding of Indian aesthetic theory; it will, that is, pursue a comprehensive study of the Alaṃkāraśāstra, in particular the Kashmiri contributions to the same.  Knowledge of Sanskrit is not required but is a plus; significant knowledge of Hinduism/Indian Religions is required of all who want to enroll in this course.

RELH 5559 | Sanskrit

This is a Sanskrit reading course at the advanced level.  At least 2 years of formal study in Sanskrit is required of all students who wish to enroll in this course.

RELI 2085 | Modern Islam

Surveys Islamic history from the "age of the great empires" (Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal) to the colonial period and up to the present day, including Islam in America. Islamic life and thought will be examined from multiple angles -- including popular piety and spirituality, philosophy and theology, law, gender, art, architecture, and literature -- with particular attention paid to the rise of modern Islamic "fundamentalist" movements.

RELI 3120 | Sufism

This course will be a historical and topical survey of the development of Sufism from the classical Islamic period through the modern age, paying special attention to the interaction of ideas and the social and political contexts surrounding them.

RELI 3559 | Prophecy in Islam and Judaism

Prophecy provides the theme for our comparative inquiry into two sacred scriptures (the Qurʾan and the Hebrew Bible) alongside the rich traditions of Muslim and Jewish interpretive literature. We will consider narratives about specific prophets, medieval debates between and within Muslim and Jewish communities about the status and function of prophecy within their traditions, and modern theoretical approaches to prophecy.

RELI 3900 | Islam in Africa

This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa and learn about the medieval Muslim kingdoms of the Sub-Sahara.  We will also consider the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition, the growth of Sufi brotherhoods, and the impact of colonization, de-colonization and globalization upon Islam.

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey.  Through the use of ethnographic and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in Islamic movements, traditions and practice, and African Muslim spirituality. This course meets the Historical Studies requirement, as well as the Non-Western Perspectives requirement.

RELJ 1210 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

This course provides an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as the Tanakh and the Torah and to Christians as the Old Testament. We will read, for example, the narratives about Abraham & Sarah, Jacob, Rachel & Leah, Joseph, David, Solomon, Esther, Daniel, Job and the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos. This course also provides an introduction to methods of modern biblical scholarship; using these methods, 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.

RELJ 1410 | Elementary Classical Hebrew I

Studies the essentials of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Includes readings of narrative portions of the Hebrew Bible. Prerequisite: HEBR/RELJ 1410 or the equivalent.

RELJ 2030 | Introduction to Judaism

This course introduces students to the academic study of Judaism.  We will use historical methods to observe change and development in Jewish beliefs and practices over time, we will analyze Jewish texts to learn about Jewish beliefs and practices, and we will observe contemporary Jews engaged in Jewish practice to gain insight into Judaism as lived religion.  Among the topics covered are:  sacred text study, prayer, rituals of daily life, holy day practices and life cycle passages.

RELJ 2410 | Intermed Classical Hebrew I

Readings in the prose narratives of the Hebrew Bible. Emphasizes grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Attention to issues of translation and interpretation. Prerequisite: HEBR/RELJ 1420 or the equivalent.

RELJ 3052 | Responses to the Holocaust

Responses to the Holocaust

RELJ 3170 | Modern Jewish Thought

This course introduces the medieval Jewish intellectual tradition (9th-13th centuries) in its cultural and historical context. We will explore key themes such as the nature of God, prophecy, exile, the status of Scripture, the history of religions, and the quest for spiritual perfection. Readings will be drawn from philosophical, theological, exegetical, pietistic and mystical texts, including works from Saadia Gaon, Judah Halevi, and Maimonides.

RELJ 3559 | Prophecy in Islam and Judaism

Prophecy provides the theme for our comparative inquiry into two sacred scriptures (the Qurʾan and the Hebrew Bible) alongside the rich traditions of Muslim and Jewish interpretive literature. We will consider narratives about specific prophets, medieval debates between and within Muslim and Jewish communities about the status and function of prophecy within their traditions, and modern theoretical approaches to prophecy.

RELJ 3559 | Contemporary Jewish Fiction

Contemporary Jewish Fiction

RELJ 5105 | Religion and Culture of the Rabbis

An examination of religion and culture of the rabbinic movement (c. 70-600 CE) in the social and cultural contexts of Greco-Roman antiquity.  Among the issues to be examined: 1) rituals and institutions of the rabbis, 2) social organization within the rabbinic movement and 3) rabbinic engagement with other sectors of Jewish and non-Jewish society.

RELJ 5559 | Hermann Cohen

The  Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen was one of the most influential thinkers of 20th-century religious thought. The seminar traces Cohen's neo-Kanian legacy in Europe and the United States. Apart from Cohen's work, we will cover select topics in Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Ernst Cassirer, Ernst Bloch, Leo Strauss, Mordecai Kaplan, and Steven Schwarzschild.