Courses

FALL 2018 COURSES

For more information, please contact the course instructor or consult the public, unofficial course directory on Lou's List

Fall 2018

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 3730 | Religious Themes in African Literature and Film

Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia

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.

RELA 3890 | Christianity in Africa

Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia

An historical and topical survey of Christianity in Africa from the 2nd Century CE to the present. We will cover medieval Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Kongolese Christianity, European colonial missions, indigenous churches, contemporary Pentecostal mega-churches, and African theologies. Themes and topics will include: colonialism and evangelism, translation and inculturation of the Gospel, and healing and prophecy.  In exploring models of religious change, we will position the Christian movement within the wider context of African religious history and attempt to understand Africa's place in the larger course of Christian history. Cross listed with RELC 3890.

This course meets the following Gen. Ed. requirements:  Historical Studies/Historical Perspectives; Non-Western Perspectives/Cultures and Societies of the World.

Buddhism

RELB 2054 | Tibetan Buddhism Introduction

Oertle, Franziska

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

Braun, Erik

Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana Buddhist developments in India.

RELB 3150 | Gender and Buddhism

Liang, Jue

This seminar takes as its point of departure Carolyn Bynum's statements: "No scholar studying religion, no participant in ritual, is ever neuter. Religious experience is the experience of men and women, and in no known society is this experience the same." The unifying theme is gender and Buddhism, exploring historical, textual and social questions relevant to the status of women and men in the Buddhist world from its origins to the present day.

RELB 5470 | Literary Tibetan V

Weinberger, Steven

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

RELB 5800 | Literary Tibetan VII

Weinberger, Steven

Examines the Yogachara-Svatantrika system as presented in Jang-kya's Presentation of Tenets, oral debate, and exercises in spoken Tibetan. Prerequisite: RELB 5000, 5010, 5350, 5360, 5470, 5480 or equivalent.

RELB 8230 | Advanced Literary and Spoken Tibetan

Weinberger, Steven

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

Christianity

RELC 1220 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Halvorson-Taylor, Martien

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 | The Rise of Christianity

Shuve, Karl

This course traces the rise of Christianity in the first millennium of the Common Era, covering the development of doctrine, the evolution of its institutional structures, and its impact on the cultures in which it flourished. Students will become acquainted with the key figures, issues, and events from this formative period, when Christianity evolved from marginal Jewish sect to the dominant religion in the Roman Empire.

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 2245 | Global Christianity

TBA

The story of Christianity's emergence in the Middle East and its migration into Europe and then North America is just one aspect of Christian history, which also has a rich and long history in Africa, Asia and other parts of the global South. This course looks at the shape Christianity is taking in non-Western parts of the world and how this growth impacts Christianity in the West.

RELC 2360 | Elements of Christian Thought

Jones, Paul

This course considers the complex world of Christian thought, 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.

RELC 3222 | From Jefferson to King

Hadley, Mark

A seminar focused upon some of the most significant philosophical and religious thinkers that have shaped and continued 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. We will explore how their thought influenced the social and cultural currents of their time.

RELC 3559-001 | Biblical Outsiders

Morris, Peter

This class considers the idenity and boundaries of religious communities as they are articulated in the Hebrew Bible , the New Testament, and other ancient religious literature. It will ask about what places a person or group outside of the people of God as imagined in biblical literature. Specific issues will include the excluded ethnicitities, gender, and the rhetoric of universalism.

RELC 3559-002 | Jesus in Film

Sellick, Jeannie

This course offers a fresh look at the life of Jesus from the perspective of both ancient and modern sources. We will examine the canonical gospels, apocryphal literature, and modern films to understand how the story of Jesus’ birth, life, and death has been shaped by ancient and modern imaginations.

RELC 3890 | Christianity in Africa

Hoehler-Fatton, Cynthia

An historical and topical survey of Christianity in Africa from the 2nd Century CE to the present. We will cover medieval Ethiopian Orthodoxy and Kongolese Christianity, European colonial missions, indigenous churches, contemporary Pentecostal mega-churches, and African theologies. Themes and topics will include: colonialism and evangelism, translation and inculturation of the Gospel, and healing and prophecy.  In exploring models of religious change, we will position the Christian movement within the wider context of African religious history and attempt to understand Africa's place in the larger course of Christian history. Cross listed with RELA 3890.

This course meets the following Gen. Ed. requirements:  Historical Studies/Historical Perspectives; Non-Western Perspectives/Cultures and Societies of the World.

RELC 5559 | Schleiermacher and Tillich

A comparative engagement with key works by F. D. E. Schleiermacher and Paul Tillich, two of the most important protestant thinkers of the last two hundred years. The course will pay particular attention to both authors'  attitudes to the category of "religion," the meaning of cultural production, and the nature of experience. It will also engage both authors' perspectives on central issues in the field of Christian thought.

General Religious Studies

RELG 1010 | Introduction to Western Religions

Warren, Heather

Studies the major religious traditions of the Western world; Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam.

RELG 1040 | Introduction to Eastern Religious Traditions

Nemec, John

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

RELG 1400 | The Art and Science of Human Flourishing

Trail, Juliet, Hubbard, Leslie

This course explores human flourishing, well-being, and resiliency across academic, personal, and professional spheres. The course presents a balance of theory and practice, organized into five domains: self-awareness, well-being, connection, wisdom, and integration. Each week explores a single quality of flourishing through scientific research, humanistic reflection, and artistic expression, as well as a detailed set of contemplative practices.

RELG 2820 | Jerusalem

Andruss, Jessica

This course traces the history of Jerusalem with a focus on its significance in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. How has Jerusalem been experienced and interpreted as sacred within these religious communities? How have they expressed their attachments to this contested space from antiquity to modern times? Discussion will be rooted in primary texts from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources, with attention to their historical context.

RELG 3325 | Civil Rights

Marsh, Charles

The seminar considers the American Civil Rights Movement, its supporters and opponents, in religious and theological perspective.  While interdisciplinary in scope, the seminar will explore the religious motivations and theological sources in their dynamic particularity; and ask how images of God shaped conceptions of personal identity, social existence, race and nation in the campaigns and crusades for equal rights under the law.

RELG 3360 | Conquests and Religions in the Americas, 1400s-1830s

Schmidt, Jalane

Beginning with Islamic-ruled Spain and the Aztec and Incan empires, the course examines historical changes in the religious practices of indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans and European settlers in Latin America and the Caribbean under European colonization and the transatlantic slave trade. Topics include: religious violence, human sacrifice, the Inquisition; missions; race, gender and sexuality; slavery, revolts, revolutions, nationalism.

RELG 3559-001 | Latino Religions

Lamas, Carmen

This course interrogates the role of religion in shaping, directing and influencing the political inclinations and the self-definitions of Latinos. We will ask: How do Protestantism, Catholicism and other religious practices speak to the place of Latinos in public life? All readings, writing and discussions will be in English.

RELG 3559-003 | Sustainability and Asceticism

Allen, Michael

To what extent does the pursuit of sustainability require restraining or retraining our desires?
How can people be encouraged to consume less, or in less destructive ways, when cultures of
consumption prove resistant to change? This seminar will explore these questions from the
perspective of South Asian traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain). We will consider classical
sources as well as contemporary debates about sustainable development.

RELG 3559-005 | Gods, Humans, Robots

Heller, Natasha

The growing role of robots in society presents new challenges, but many of the ethical and philosophical issues raised by robots are not new. This course will examine golems, automatons, and cyborgs alongside robots to consider what distinguishes humans, what it means to be embodied, and what relationships we should have with the nonhuman. Readings will range across different cultural traditions, including both scholarly and popular sources.

RELG 3600 | Religion and Modern Theatre

Bouchard, Larry

What relationships does religion have with the theatrical arts? Performance plays a major role in religious ritual, and the story of contemporary theatre in America can map a trajectory from Greek tragedy through medieval pageantry to modern and avant-garde dramas all the way to Broadway’s The Book of Mormon. This course will examine how drama and performance are linked with religious traditions and experience, sacred themes, and with some secular and theological perspectives on religion.   Modern theatre has often sought to revitalize its historical and thematic relations with ritual and sacred stories, and it has also probed the ethical and performed dimensions of selves and communities—as seen against the presence (or absence) of either a transcendent, divine horizon or an immanent sense of the sacred. Theatre also presses boundaries of moral and theological acceptability by staging questions about truth and illusion, obscenity and frivolity, and what sorts of stories we should tell. What differences do such relations make in our enjoyment, understanding, and criticism of theatrical drama? How can theatre expand and nuance the study of religion and culture?

            We will encounter a number of classical dramas (e.g., Greek tragedy, “mystery” plays, Shakespeare) and plays by modern-or-contemporary dramatists (such as Peter Shaffer), who bring new takes to ancient themes.  Some dramatists have explicitly explored religious themes or subjects (such as Denys Arcand's film-about-a-performance, Jesus of Montreal; the Scholem Aleichem story turned into Fiddler on the Roof; Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz’s Mass; and Wole Soyinka’s exploration of Yoruba religion and European theatrical traditions in Death and the King’s Horsemen).  We will also look at ostensibly secular plays and musicals (such as Jonathan Larson’s musical, Rent, or T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party) that nonetheless take up questions of religion, spirituality, and political life (more examples: plays by Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Caryl Churchill, Tony Kushner, John Patrick Shanley, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Mary Zimmerman).  And we will sample ritual theory, performance theory, and religious/theological views of drama and theatrical performance.  The syllabus is always changing and will be available soon.

            Mode of teaching: some lectures, much discussion, reading/performing aloud, perhaps play attendance and film screenings, possibly even class performance.

Requirements: regular class attendance and participation; weekly very short response questions or comments emailed to the instructor, three prompt-directed essays (meeting the 2nd writing requirement for those who desire it) or a creative project in lieu of the third essay.

RELG 3605 | Religion, Violence and Strategy: How to Stop Killing in the Name of God

White, Gerard

This course will teach students to evaluate critically the leadership and strategies of social impact campaigns, and the ways in which governments, religious actors and civil society have tried to reduce violent conflict. Students will be organized into small integrated teams to research the root causes and triggers for religion-related violence across the Middle East and North Africa.

RELG 3630 | Idolatry

Biemann, Asher

Beginning with Biblical sources and concluding with contemporary texts, this course will examine the philosophical framework of casting idolatry as an unspeakable sin: What is an idol, and why is idolatry so objectionable? With an emphasis on Judaism, though not exclusively, we will discuss idolatry in the context of representation, election, otherness, emancipation, nationalism, secularism, religious innovation, and messianism.

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

Warren, Heather

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 4550 | Majors Seminar: Sex, Gender and Religion

Shuve, Karl

What do sex and the body have to do with religious thought and practice? That is the primary question we will explore in this seminar, through an analysis of sources deriving a number of religious traditions—especially Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. We will consider topics such as purity and defilement; patriarchy and the subordination of women; the link between sexuality and “spirituality”; and definitions of marriage.

RELG 4559 | MLK, Jr.: Power, Love, Justice

Wallace, Maurice (Dept of African American Studies)

This course will study closely the written and homiletical works of the man widely held to be one of the greatest moral leaders and rhetoricians in modern history: Martin Luther King, Jr.  We will study King’s best-known writings and speeches including “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Strength the Love, and his singular “I Have a Dream” oration with a special emphasis on King's political, ethical and theological vision.

RELG 4800 | Crafting a Research Project in Religious Studies

Alexander, Elizabeth

This course offers third- and fourth-year Religious Studies majors resources for conceiving and executing a major research project. As a follow-up, students usually take RELG 4900 ("Distinguished Major Thesis"), which affords them an opportunity to write the research project they have conceived in this course. Whether you plan to write a thesis or not, RELG 4800 offers an accessible introduction to the craft of research in Religious Studies.

RELG 4810 | Poetry and Theology

Hart, Kevin

This seminar seeks to develop a close reading of major religious poetry by two major religious poets

RELG 5321 | Proseminar in Religion, Politics & Conflict

Ochs, Peter

The Proseminar for MA students in Religion, Politics & Conflict meets monthly each semester to discuss student research, to integrate methods and themes in the field, to facilitate professional development, and to deepen relationships with colleagues.

RELG 5801 | Crafting a Research Project in Religious Studies

Alexander, Elizabeth

This course offers MA students in Religious Studies resources for conceiving and executing a major research project or thesis. By the end of the semester, each participant will have completed a well-organized, detailed prospectus. The prospectus will reflect the guidance of one¿s thesis advisor as well as the scrutiny of the instructor and input from peers. Each student will thus be poised to begin writing his/her thesis the following semester.

RELG 5821 | Proseminar in World Religions, World Literatures

Ochs, Peter

This monthly seminar explores methods and issues vital to the combined study of literatures and religions. It brings all MA students together, under faculty guidance, to attend to the broad range of individual projects and to foster a rich conversation that traverses the emergent field of study.

RELG 5835 | Ethnography and the Study of Religion

Ochs, Vanessa

 

This course studies 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 simple encounters and concluding with  "deep hanging out," a process of spending time over several weeks in local setting where “religion” broadly interpreted, is practiced. We will study ways that people gather field notes and write up their finding and  will be consulting theories and reading ethnographies throughout the semester.

RELG 7130 | American Spirituality

Hedstrom, Matthew

What is "spirituality" and why has it become such a pervasive term in contemporary American culture? This course explores this question through historical interrogation of the category and its development since the early nineteenth century. The encounter of historic religious traditions, especially Protestant Christianity, with the intellectual, cultural, economic, and social currents of modernity will form the larger background for our analysis.

RELG 7360 | Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion

Erik Braun, Jennifer Geddes

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 8350 | Proseminar in Scripture Interpretation and Practice

Ochs, Peter

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 8715 | Tutorial: Abrahamic Philosophical Theologies

Ochs, Peter

This seminar provides some philosophic disciplines needed for theological study today: resources in logic, philosophic reasoning, metaphysics, and epistemology, from classic Greek sources through the contemporary period. Students will examine how these resources inform works in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim theology: medieval, modern and contemporary. For 2018, the seminar will focus on sources and uses of claims about the “universal,” the “true.

RELG 8716 | Tutorial: Religion, Politics and Conflict

Ochs, Peter

Advanced research on religion, politics and conflict.  Research methods drawn from religious studies, politics, anthropology and linguistics, history, sociology, nursing, philosophy, systems analysis and data science.  Extensive reading on recent literature in religion and peace building, religion and foreign affairs, conflict analysis, policies and strategies identity-and religion-related conflict.

RELG 8719 | Tutorial: The Frankfurt School

Geddes, Jennifer

This course will focus on key texts of the group of scholars known as the Frankfurt School, including Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, and Jürgen Habermas.

Hinduism

RELH 3559 | The History of Yoga

Allen, Michael

Yoga is practiced by millions of people across the world and comes in an astonishing variety of forms. Historically, yoga has roots in ancient Indian practices of asceticism and meditation. But how are these practices related to yoga as it practiced today? This seminar will trace the history of yoga from its earliest origins to the present. Readings will include both primary sources (in translation) and works of contemporary scholarship.

Islam

RELI 2070 | Classical Islam

Stafford, Samuel

Studies the Irano-Semitic background, Arabia, Muhammad and the Qur'an, the Hadith, law and theology, duties and devotional practices, sectarian developments, and Sufism.

RELI 3110 | Muhammad and the Qur'an

Stafford, Samuel

Systematic reading of the Qur'an in English, with an examination of the prophet's life and work. Prerequisite: Instructor permission.

RELI 3355 | Prophecy in Islam and Judaism (This course has been canceled)

Andruss, Jessica

This course has been canceled. 

RELI 5540 | Seminar in Islamic Studies

Andruss, Jessica

Contact the instructor at jha9s@virginia.edu

Judaism

RELJ 1220 | Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Halvorson-Taylor, Martien

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

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.

Course Goals

Acquire an understanding of basic Hebrew grammar and syntax.
Master approximately 450 vocabulary words, from Hebrew to English.
Understand and apply rules of Hebrew grammar and syntax to the analysis of Hebrew sentences.
Learn to pronounce classical Hebrew accurately and fluidly.
Translate Hebrew sentences into English.
Memorize and recite a short Hebrew passage.
Discover how much fun it is read Hebrew!

RELJ 2410 | Intermediate Classical Hebrew I

TBA

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.

Course Goals

Achieve intermediate proficiency in basic Hebrew grammar and syntax.
Master Hebrew vocabulary down to words appearing approximately 100 times or more.
Identify elements of Hebrew syntax.
Apply rules of Hebrew grammar and syntax to the analysis of Hebrew prose.
Develop accuracy and speed in the pronunciation of classical Hebrew.
Translate with the aid of a dictionary prose passages from Hebrew to English.
Memorize and recite a short passage of Hebrew prose.
Discover how much fun it is read Hebrew prose!

RELJ 3170 | Modern Jewish Thought

Biemann, Asher

This course offers an introduction into the major themes of Modern Jewish Thought.

RELJ 3355 | Prophecy in Islam and Judaism (This course has been canceled)

Andruss, Jessica

This course has been canceled

RELJ 3559 | Biblical Outsiders

Morris, Peter

This class considers the idenity and boundaries of religious communities as they are articulated in the Hebrew Bible , the New Testament, and other ancient religious literature. It will ask about what places a person or group outside of the people of God as imagined in biblical literature. Specific issues will include the excluded ethnicitities, gender, and the rhetoric of universalism.

RELJ 5100 | Theology and Ethics of the Rabbis

Alexander, Elizabeth

This course explores theological and ethical themes in classical rabbinic literature (c. 200-600 CE). Focus is on gaining fluency in textual and conceptual analysis. Questions examined include: How is the relationship between God, humans generally and the people Israel specifically, imagined? What is evil and how is it best managed? What is the nature of one's obligation to fellow human beings? How does one cultivate an ideal self?

RELJ 5559 | Holocaust Studies

Geddes, Jennifer

This course will introduce students to major issues in current Holocaust Studies, with discussions of testimonies, theological responses, historical works, and theoretical texts..

RELJ 8714 | Tutorial: Scriptural Reasoning in Judaism

Ochs, Peter

How recent Jewish philosophy and theology has turned back to the study of sacred texts. How that turn has engendered another turn: to intensive dialogue with like-minded Christian and Muslim philosophers and theologians. The course will require considerable reading in scriptural texts and in both classical and contemporary commentaries - philosophic and theological