Highlighted Courses

FALL 2017 COURSES

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 JacksonWhere 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.

 

 

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.

 

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
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
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
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
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.

Highlighted Courses

Hinduism

RELH 2090 | Hinduism

Surveys the Hindu religious heritage from pre-history to the 17th century; includes the Jain and Sikh protestant movements.