Spring 2009

RELG 104 Introduction to Eastern Religious Traditions

John Nemec

This course serves as a general introduction to Asian Religions, in particular Indian Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese religions, Confucianism and Daoism in particular. By emphasizing the reading of primary texts in translation, we will explore the major ideas and practices of these traditions, making special note of the cultural, historical, political and material contexts in which they were conceived and expressed.
There are no prerequisites for students who wish to take this course.

RELJ 112 Elementary Classical Hebrew

Greg Schmidt Goering

This course (in conjunction with RELJ 111) introduces students to the basics of classical (biblical) Hebrew vocabulary and grammar. The course treats the derived stems, thus completing the study of the verbal system and of basic Hebrew grammar as a whole. In the course, we will begin reading prose passages directly from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. At the completion of the two semester sequence, students will have mastered the basic tools required to read prose passages from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in the original language. Prerequisite: RELJ 111 or an equivalent.

RELC 122 Early Christianity and the New Testament

Harry Gamble
plus discussion section

This course surveys the origins and early history of Christianity on the basis of a historical and analytical study of early Christian writings belonging to the "New Testament." Topics covered include the origins of Christianity in Judaism; the activity and significance of Jesus; the formation, beliefs and practices of early Christian communities; the varieties of Christianity in the first century; and the progressive distinction of Christianity from Judaism. Requirements: Two quizzes and a final examination, and occasional short papers in connection with discussion sections. Regular attendance at discussion sections is mandatory

RELC 150 Introduction to Christianity

Valerie Cooper
plus discussion section

This course will explore Christianity in its modern and historical contexts, combining an examination of current scholarship, worship and praxis. Because one course could not begin to exhaust the wide diversity present in Christianity, we will instead focus on several smaller questions over the course of the semester.The first half of the course will ask the question, “Who was Jesus?” We will consider some of the historical, textual, sociological, theological, and archaeological evidence surrounding his life and the subsequent Jesus Movement which developed into early Christianity. Efforts will be made to place Jesus’ life in the context of Jewish popular movements of his time. The second half of the course will ask the question, “What is the church?” and consider the development of the Christian church from the time of Constantine onward. This discussion of Christian worship will be accented by students’ field visits to churches in the Albemarle County area. Course materials will include those dealing with the development of a few specific denominations, as well as larger subsets of Christianity such as Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Although Christian traditions worldwide will be addressed, the main emphasis of the second half of the course will be modern American Christianity.

RELJ 202 Intermediate Classical Hebrew

Greg Schmidt Goering

An intermediate-level reading course of selected classical (biblical) Hebrew texts. Before enrolling in this course, students should have a firm grasp of basic classical Hebrew grammar and vocabulary. Through this course, students will gain facility with reading and translating classical Hebrew poetry. Prerequisite: RELJ 201 or an equivalent.

RELC 206 History of Christianity II

Augustine Thompson
plus discussion section

Survey of Western Christianity from the 12th to the 19th century. Attention will be given to spirituality and forms of piety, worship, development of theology, and the institutional history of the Christian Church. Special focus will be placed on the High Medieval Church, the Crisis of the Protestant Reformation, and the early modern background of contemporary Christianity, including Eastern Orthodoxy. Readings from original sources. Three short papers, in-class mid-term and final.

RELI 208 Islam in the Modern World

Abdulaziz Sachedina
plus discussion section

REL 208 deals with the Muslim communities in the contemporary world. That which characterizes these communities is their devotion to the classical faith, Islam, with its legacy of rich past. The course is primarily concerned with the study of Islamic tradition and its peoples in the last two centuries - the period of Islamic reform in the wake of Western hegemony and the efforts of the community to readjust under the challenges of the liberal and technical age. The course will attempt to answer a basic question: What is happening to the Muslim community in the technical age and how has it responded to the challenges posed by "Westernization" through "modernization” through “secularization”? Moreover, it will explore ways of evaluating the relatively new phenomenon in the Muslim world in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution in Iran: "Political Islam" in the context of global religious fundamentalism in the world's religions.

RELG 216 Religion in America Since 1865

Heather Warren
plus discussion section

An historical survey of religion in America from the Civil War to the present. The course includes study of theological change in Protestantism, the emergence of three kinds of Judaism, controversy and change in American Catholicism, the origins of fundamentalism and Pentecostalism, and various expressions of African-American faith. It attends to the effects of immigration, urbanization, politics, and other social and cultural changes on American religious life. 2 in-class tests and a final examination.

RELJ 217 Modern Jewish Thought

Asher Biemann

This course is a critical survey of the most significant Jewish responses to the encounter with the modern era. We will explore the influences of rationalism, idealism, historicism, and nationalism on the development of Jewish thought and theology. Changing and conflicting perspectives on tradition, practice, culture, religion, and politics will be in the center of our interest. We will also study the origins of Zionism and of contemporary Jewish movements, such as Reform, Neo-Orthodoxy, Conservatism, Reconstructionism, and Secular Judaism, as well as philosophical perspectives on the Holocaust.

RELG 219 Religion and Modern Fiction

Larry Bouchard
plus discussion section

Modern fiction often asks questions that are intrinsically religious in character, concerning: the human spirit and human nature, faith and doubt, evil and suffering, personal and communal wholeness, and identity and transformations of identity. We will explore these questions and also ask about how, through narrative forms or symbolic orders of meaning, writers attempt to discern the divine at the limits of language and experience. Some of the authors we will consider (such as Elie Wiesel, Flannery O'Connor, or Marilynne Robinson) write fictions intend to reflect explicitly their religious traditions. Others (like E. M. Forster, Cormack McCarthy, or Toni Morrison) create apparently secular narratives that raise philosophical and moral questions that carry religious implications. And others (N. Scott Momaday, E. R. Doctorow, or Yann Martel) employ a variety of religious and cultural traditions to create more idiosyncratic religious interpretations. (The authors mentioned here may change.) In addition, there will be readings from a number of modern interpreters of religion (Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, Mircea Eliade, J. Z Smith, Wendy Doniger, or John Caputo). Requirements: Regular attendance and active participation at lectures and discussion sections. Experience in writing essays about ideas in fiction. Two exams (essay exams, but with short objective sections), one third and two thirds through the course and an essay on assigned fiction in lieu of a final exam.

GREE 224 New Testament Greek (Intermediate ) Letters of Paul

Judith Kovacs

This course offered by the Classics department may be counted towards the Religious Studies major:The primary aims of the course are to solidify students’ knowledge of Hellenistic Greek grammar and vocabulary and to develop speed and proficiency in reading and translating the Greek New Testament. The course also considers central features of Paul’s theology, questions of interpretation, and the principles of New Testament textual criticism. We will read I Corinthians and Ephesians and passages from the Acts of the Apostles and Romans. Prerequisite: Greek 101-102 or permission of the instructor. Interested graduate students are asked to consult with the instructor.

RELG 230 Religious Ethics and Moral Problems

Charles Mathewes
plus discussion section

This course examines several contemporary moral issues from the standpoint of the ethical insights of Western religious traditions (especially Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, but with some attention to Islamic positions) as well as from a broadly humanistic perspective. We will consider a variety of moral issues including (but not limited to) marriage, friendship, truthfulness, capital punishment, warfare, and the meaning of work, career, and vocation. We will also examine the relationship between religious convictions, morality, and the law. Particular attention will be paid to what selected authorities and thinkers in the above traditions say about these issues, how they reach their conclusions, and how their theological or philosophical convictions influence their moral judgements.

RELB 254 Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism

Amy Miller

Examines the Tibetan Buddhist culture, giving equal attention to religio-philosophical and contemplative systems, as well as historical and social contexts

RELG 263 Business Ethics

Chad Wayner
Betsy Mesard
Jenny Phillips
Paul Harper

This course aims to acquaint students with a variety of philosophical and religious frameworks for interpreting and evaluating human activity in the marketplace. The first half of the semester will focus on Adam Smith, Max Weber, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Ayn Rand. The second half of the semester will examine some contemporary issues within the marketplace that deserve additional scrutiny, such as private property, freedom of contract, and the distribution of goods. In addition, we will attend to specific issues in corporate ethics. Requirements will include both a midterm and final exam, as well as writing requirements to be determined

RELB 277 Daoism

Clarke Hudson

While early classics of Daoist wisdom are well-known nowadays, the Daoist religion--with its celestial gods and disease demons, communal rituals and private meditations--is relatively little-known. This course will cover the whole spectrum of Daoism in China, including early classics, religious history, practices, ideas, and ways of life. Through readings, lectures, discussions, and writing assignments, students will gain a general understanding of this ancient and vital tradition.

RELJ 283 Women in Judaism

Elizabeth Alexander

This course explores the role of women in Judaism as understood by classical Jewish sources and as reconceived by key feminist thinkers in the modern era. Starting with the classical sources, this course familiarizes students with talmudic sources that touch on various aspects of women's lives. We begin with the observation that classical Jewish sources imagine sexuality as a potent creative force, and then explore a number of derivative questions affecting the status and lives of women. How did this positive embrace of sexuality affect the place accorded women in Jewish society? Was female sexuality imagined in different terms than male sexuality? Were women seen to interfere with men's religious lives or enhance it? Was there a domain of women's religious experiences that was distinct from men's? We will analyze both legal and narrative texts for answers to our questions. Other topics treated include: control and protection of women's sexuality, the economics of women's labor, rituals of the body and the modes of expression characteristic of classical Jewish sources. In the last section of the course we will review contemporary attempts by key feminist Jewish thinkers (Plaskow, Adler and Ross) to rethink women’s roles in the religion.

RELA 285 Creole Religions

Jalane Schmidt
plus discussion section

This large sectioned lecture course will examine primarily those religions practiced in the Caribbean and Latin America which feature an African-derived pantheon, as well as significant other New World religions (Roman Catholic devotions, Protestant revivalism) which have been deemed exemplars of religious "creolization" among African-descended populations

RELC 285 Kingdom of God in America

Charles Marsh
plus discussion section

The course examines the influence of theological ideas on social movements in twentieth century America and asks such questions as: How do religious commitments shape the patterns of everyday living, including economic, political, and sexual organization, as well as racial perception? What role do nineteenth century European and American Protestant theologies play in shaping the American search for "beloved community"? How does social existence influence conceptions of God and religious community? Our main historical focus will be the Civil Rights Movement in the South, but we will also look at counter-cultural movements of the late 1960's, as well as the intentional community movement, the faith-based community-development movement and recent organizing community initiatives.

RELI 311 Muhammad and the Quran

Abdulaziz Sachedina

This will be a systematic and detailed study of Muhammad's biography in the light of the Qur'an and the interpretations of the occasions of revelations among Muslim scholars. The course will approach the study of Muslim scriptural sources (including the Tradition) in its historical, anthropological and sociological contexts, deciphering major events connected with the founder of Islam that shaped the interpretive trajectories. The course will include biographical literature authored by Muslims and non-Muslims to fathom the "insider-outsider" approaches to the development of religious development of Muslim interpretations and applications of the Qur'anic event.

RELH 314 Jainism

Karen Lang

This course examines the religious beliefs and practices of the Jains in India. Beginning with the teachings of Lord Mahavira and basic doctrines of Jainism, the course will consider the historical foundations of the Jain tradition through philosophical and doctrinal texts, and the rich Jain narrative tradition. The second half of the course will focus more on contemporary Jain life and religious practice, both monastic and lay, through examination of the religious lives of ascetics and Jain laity, ritual practices of temple worship and pilgrimage, as well as modern sectarian movements within the tradition and the emerging Jain interest in environmentalism. No prerequisites although previous course course work on Asian religions recommended.

RELB 315 Buddhism and Gender

Karen Lang

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 of this seminar is gender and Buddhism. We will explore historical, textual andsocial questions relevant to the status of women and men in the Buddhist world from the time of Buddhism's origins to the present day. Materials will be interdisciplinary, drawing from religious studies, anthropology, and gender studies. Prerequisite: An introductory course on Buddhism or instructor's permission

RELJ 317 Images of David
RELC 317 Images of David

Martien Halvorson-Taylor

This course examines the multi-faceted figure of King David, the unlikely shepherd boy who slays the giant Goliath, the mercenary soldier, the political innocent subject to an increasingly jealous King Saul, the jaded monarch who seduces the wife of one of his soldiers, the beloved of Saul’s son Jonathan, the sweet singer of Israel, the absent father whose wayward sons jeopardize the kingdom. We will use a variety of different scholarly methods (historical, literary, feminist and cultural) to consider David’s complex depiction in the biblical text, his historical circumstance, and his legacy in both religious and secular traditions. Our reading begins with the Hebrew Bible and includes the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Psalms. Then, we will consider the various interpretations and images of David put forth by later interpreters, writers, artists; examples include the works of the Dead Sea Scrolls community, the ancient rabbis, sculptors of the Italian Renaissance, modern Israeli and American writers and artists. Prerequisite: RELC/J 121 is highly recommended.

RELH 330 Seminar in Hinduism

Alberto Todeschini

This course offers a historical overview of the development of Hindu religious thought over a span of some two millennia. We will start with early, pre-philosophical ideas as contained in the Vedas and work our way up to the so-called Six Schools. As we read some of India's most important religious texts, we will encounter and discuss such topics as karma and rebirth, the nature of the soul, the practice of Yoga, how we perceive the world, the religious significance of the Sanskrit language, etc. The course does not require any previous knowledge of Indian religion.

RELC 340 Silence in Christian Thought and Practice

Petra Harvey

How does one think about silence? How does one speak about it without violating the very concept? In Christianity, silence has long connoted reverence as well as the inability to speak adequately of the divine. But silence also can refer to God's silence, that is, to the lack of God's speech to human beings. This course examines the many dimensions of silence in Christianity, with the intent of cultivating an appreciation for silence in Christian practice as well as an understanding of silence employed in Christian thought. We will first engage the concept and use of silence in historical modes of religious thought and practice, and then examine depictions of religiously grounded silence in literature, before turning to current theological inclinations in the understanding and use of silence. This class will require a midterm paper (5-6 pages) and a final paper (10-12 pages).

RELG 345 The Passions

John Portmann

Analysis of the philosophy of the emotions, specifically the epistemological question of how what we feel colors what we know. Survey of how philosophers, psychiatrists, religious thinkers, business school professors, and neurologists have explained the link between happiness and the emotions. How do the emotions aid or impede our moral judgment, our efforts to understand ourselves? Can the emotions be controlled, and at what cost? Special focus on envy, fear, ambition, depression, anger, and love.

REQUIREMENTS: three brief exams; seminar presentation; final 12-15pp. paper


RELG 351 Religion and Society

Clarke Hudson


RELB 355 Theravada Buddhism

Daniel Kent


RELJ 361 Jewish Weddings

Vanessa Ochs

We will study the legal and ritual aspects of Jewish marriage, from the biblical period until the present. Ethnographic methods will be used to analyze the many variations of contemporary American and Israeli Jewish weddings, including secular, religious Ashkenazi, Sephardi, heterosexual, same sex, and interfaith. From the perspective of ritual theory and performance studies, we will see how weddings provide a dramatic occasion that permits preservation, adaptation, revision and subversion.

RELC 362 Modern Theology

Kevin Hart

Who are the great modern Christian theologians? What do they have to say to us? What do they argue about? Who did they offend and why? In this seminar we shall read major works by four of the truly great modern theologians. Two are Protestant (Karl Barth and Paul Tillich), and two are Catholic (Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac).

RELG 362 American Religious Thought

Mark Hadley

An historical overview and philosophical investigation of some major themes and thinkers in 19th and 20th century American religious thought. We will be asking what is distinctively American about them and examining how they are in turn influenced by the American social and cultural contexts of their day. Our main focus will be reading and interpreting classic philosophical and religious texts by such authors as Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Walter Rauschenbusch, Mordecai Kaplan, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will give some attention at the end of the course to a few issues in contemporary religious thought.

RELC 364 Themes in Eastern Orthodoxy: An Introduction

Vigen Guroian

Rather than a broad historical overview of Orthodox Christianity, this course is an introduction to the thematic core of the Orthodox Christian tradition. We will first review the major elements of the Orthodox faith that developed over the course of the Byzantine era. Then we will examine one half dozen or so themes to which modern and contemporary Orthodox theologians have given considerable thought. These include: the role and meaning of icons, scripture and tradition, liturgy and sacrament, faith and spirituality, ecclesiology, relations with other churches and religions, and the interaction of Christianity and culture. This course is cross listed with RELC 864.

RELI 367 Islam & Politics

Mohsen Kadivar

RELI 367 is a topical and historical survey of the bases and genesis of the religious-political conceptions operative in the Islamic world today. This course will offer a study of Islamic political ideas, both in theory and in practice, which have been operative in the historical process and which are closely linked with the religious ideas.

The main question of this course is the relationship between these binaries: divine commands and human rights, power and merci, God’s sovereignty and democracy, human based law and jurisprudential rules (Shari’ah), religious order and secular order, reason and revelation in public domain.

The period of study will cover from the time of Muhammad, when the first Islamic polity was created under his leadership, up to the contemporary times. The course will also undertake to examine Muslim political theorists in its different brunches: Philosophical approach like al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes; juristic approach like al-Mawardi, Ibn Taymiyya, and Ayatollah Khomeini; and moral approach like Nizam al-Mulk and al-Ghazali. The recent Muslim approaches to politics such as fundamentalists, conservatives and reformists will be the other subject of our discussion.

The possibility of democracy in Muslim societies, the identity and possibility of Islamic Democracy, the challenge between religious state and state religion, and finally the guidelines of Islam in politics will be the most problematic of this course.

RELH 374 Hinduism Through Its Narrative Literature

John Nemec

In this course, we will read major narratives from the corpus of “Hindu” religious literature, including works of various genres (including mythology, poetry, dramaturgy, story literature, and fiction). Throughout, we will ask a series of questions regarding these materials: what do they tell us about “Hinduism” and about religion more generally? How can and how should they be interpreted? What gives these stories vibrancy, or what causes them to resonate with the reader? It is hoped that in reading these stories students will not only gain a broad familiarity with the idioms of Indian narrative literature, but also a deeper appreciation for the non-dogmatic, quotidian, and metaphorical dimensions of the religion in question and of religion more generally.

RELG 378 William Faulkner and the Bible

William Wilson

Go Down Moses; Absalom Absalom!; If I Forget Thee Jerusalem. These and many other novels by William Faulkner indicate that this author was deeply influenced by biblical narrative and verse, and perhaps more so than any other American author. This course will investigate this influence. The primary goal is simply to see how a thorough knowledge of biblical verse and story can help us better understand Faulkner's fiction. However, the course will also be deeply concerned to understand how the Bible became a vital tradition in the development of American letters, and how Biblical themes were employed in the South's struggle with race relations, war, and regional identity.

RELA 390 Islam in Africa
RELI 390 Islam in Africa

Cindy Hoehler-Fatton

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, clerics, and jihads to West Africa. We shall consider the medieval Muslim kingdoms; the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition; the growth of Sufi brotherhoods; and the impact of colonization and de-colonization upon Islam. Our overview of the history of Islam in East Africa will cover: the early Arab and Asian mercantile settlements; the flowering of classical Swahili courtly culture; the Omani sultanates and present-day Swahili society as well as recent "Islamist" movements in the Sudan and other parts of the East African interior.
Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey. Through the use of ethnographical 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 African Islam; and African Islamic spirituality. Midterm, final, short paper, participation in discussion.

RELJ 396 Jewish Philosophy

Peter Ochs

A study of the uses of Scripture in the history of Jewish philosophy: in particular, the way Jewish philosophers drew out of Scripture various rules and practices for repairing the world. Readings on the modern Jewish philosophers Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig, with briefer studies in ancient and medieval thinkers, such as Philo, Saadya Gaon, Yehuda Halevi, Maimonides, and Gersonides. Students will need to keep up readings, write weekly response papers, midterm paper, and final paper. Course fulfills second writing requirement. (up to 25 std)

RELC 400 Majors Seminar: Saint's Lives

Augustine Thompson

The focus of this seminar is methodological, the material considered is the genre of ancient and medieval Christian saints' lives. We will examine the theory and application of the following methods: historical, economic, psychological, sociological, gender analytical, folklorist, and anthropological to this literature. We will alternate week to week between the study of theory and examination of its application. Requirements: weekly class presentations and discussion, one 15-page and one 4-page paper, no exams. No previous study of Christianity required.

RELG 400 Majors Seminar: Scripture

Elizabeth Alexander

What is the difference between sacred texts, scripture and canon? Why do some texts come to be more authoritative than others? How are sacred texts used in different communities (African Americans, Fundamental Christians? Muslims? Jews)? What else is significant about scripture besides its semantic content? Why do the non-semantic aspects of scripture take on import? Can we say on the basis of examining the use of scripture in different religious communities that scripture is one thing? How do theologians understand the revelation of God that is manifest in scripture in conceptual terms? How do we decide when scripture should continue to have authority? Perhaps scripture should be disregarded for other forms of religious "truth" like personal experience. We will explore these and other questions central to understanding the religious phenomenon of scripture. We will do ethnographic studies of how scripture is used by different communities. We will also examine the emergence of biblical scripture as a historical phenomenon. We will also consider a number of theorists on the role of scripture in religious experience.

RELG 400 Majors Seminar: Pilgrimages

Vanessa Ochs

This seminar focuses on the theme of the physical journeys (both actual journeys and imagined, fictional ones) that religious seekers of various traditions embark upon. We will analyze these texts and the experience of being a pilgrim by drawing upon theories that religious scholars turn to in psychology, anthropology, feminist theory, and sociology.

RELA 410 Yoruba Religions

Ben Ray

An in depth study of Yoruba religion through its oral traditions, ritual performances, traditional art, independent churches, and its representation in literature. The course will cover the following subjects: Ifa divination; sacred kingship; the orisha; the concept of supreme being; plays by Ijimere, Soyinka, and Osofisan; Yoruba art and aesthetics; concepts of personal destiny, final judgment, and rebirth.

RELG 422 American Religious Autobiography

Heather Warren

This course is a multidisciplinary examination of religious self-perception in relation to dominant values of American life. Readings present a variety of spiritual traditions and autobiographical forms, among them Thomas Merton's The Sign of Jonas, Charles Colson's Born Again, Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, and Jan Willis' Dreaming Me: From Baptist to Buddhist. Fulfills the majors seminar requirement. Prerequisites: courses in religious studies, American history, or American literature. Requirements: 1, 7-page paper and an
autobiography (20pp.).

This IS a majors seminar, but it is not restricted to RELS majors

RELG 423 Bioethics Internship Seminar

Margaret Mohrmann

This course is designed to provide students with experience in discerning and analyzing ethical issues as they arise in particular clinical settings. Each student will spend one half-day each week in a clinic or other health-care-related setting (the same setting throughout the semester) under the mentorship of a health care professional engaged in that setting. Seminar time will focus both on the role of the ethicist/observer and on the particular issues that commonly arise in clinical medicine. During the second half of the semester, students will give presentations related to their specific areas of observation. Students are expected to have some background knowledge of bioethics methods and common questions. Admittance to the course is by application; for details, see the Undergraduate Bioethics Program Website at http://bioethics.virginia.edu/internships.html.

RELC 444 The Atonement in Christian Thought

Paul Jones

In the context of Christian theology, "atonement" describes the way in which Jesus Christ's life and death overcomes sin and brings about the reconciliation of God and human beings. In this class, we'll consider a range of classic positions on atonement, reading works by authors such as Anselm, Abelard, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Sergius Bulgakov. We'll also engage contemporary authors who have raised questions about the relationship between classical depictions of Jesus' death and the perpetuation of violence, paying especial attention to recent work by feminist and liberationist theologians.

This course is ideal for students with a scholarly background in Christian thought, and will be of especial value for those interested in Christian theology, ethics, and western philosophy of religion. The course can fulfil the second writing requirement. This course is NOT a majors seminar.

RELG 461 Sex and Morality

John Portmann

Survey of how Jewish and Christian theologians have shaped sexual experience in the West. Focus on "family values," pre-marital sex, abortion, and gay marriage in the United States. Special attention to sex education in public schools and the roles of art and the media in challenging sexual mores.

What does sexual activity have to do with religious practice? How are we to understand the moral category of “forbidden sex”? What is the future of sex in America?

REQUIREMENTS: three brief exams; seminar presentation; final 15-20pp. paper

RELS 495 Independent Research

Instructor: Student's choice

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

RELS 496 Distinguished Major Thesis

Instructor: Student's choice

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

RELS 497 Fourth Year Essay

Instructor: Student's choice

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

A note on 500-level courses: Rise to a higher level!

All 500-level courses are open to undergraduate enrollment. Though these are graduate-level courses, they are designed to accommodate advanced undergraduates who have previously taken religious studies courses. Minors, and especially majors are encouraged to consider enrolling in these courses. For those considering graduate school, taking a 500-level course could prove immensely helpful.
If you see any 500-level course in this syllabus that you think you might want to take, and you have questions about it, please contact the professor who will be offering it. The religious studies faculty as a whole welcomes all such inquiries.


RELB 517 Dalai Lamas

Kurtis Schaeffer

RELC 523 Pentecostalism

Valerie Cooper

This course will study the history, practices, theology, and praxis of Pentecostalism, the fastest growing Christian movement in the world, from its origins among poor whites and recently freed African Americans to its phenomenal expansion in places like South America, Asia and Africa. The course will explore Pentecostalism’s theological and historical relationship to the Holiness, Apostolic, and Charismatic movements, as well as Pentecostal belief in phenomena like speaking in tongues, healing, miracles, and prophecy. Finally, the course will use race, class, and gender analysis to evaluate the cultural influences of Pentecostalism in the US and elsewhere in the world.

RELJ 524 Text and Interpretation

Martien Halvorson-Taylor

This year’s seminar focuses on the books of Samuel, which trace Israel’s history from the putative conquest of the land through the reigns of its first kings. We will examine the literary artistry of the books by considering plot, characterization, and compositional history. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will further consider the books in their historical and religious context. And, finally, we will examine the early history of how the books were received and interpreted. Readings will include the biblical text, early biblical interpretation, and secondary scholarship on the history, literature and religion of Ancient Israel.

Prerequisites: Previous coursework in biblical studies.

RELC 526 Seminar in New Testament: Paul in Modern Study

Harry Gamble

Extensive reading and discussion of recent scholarship on Paul, with emphasis on Paul's thought, and close exegesis of selected Pauline texts.

RELG 554 Dostoevsky's Religious Vision: The Great Novels

Vigen Guroian

No modern novelist has probed more deeply or profoundly the human condition and humankind's relationship to God than Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He ranks with the poets Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. The late Jaroslav Pelikan wrote of Dostoevsky, "His theology is unmatched by the work of any [modern] theologian." We will read and study carefully three of Dostoevsky's greatest novels: Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). In addition, we will look at some of Dostoevsky's letters and essays as well as the writings of several Russian thinkers who influenced his religious vision.

RELG 561 Ethical and Legal Reasoning in Public Policy

James Childress

This course will explore uses of legal and moral analysis in the American political culture through case studies of current policy problems. The range of possible case studies includes organ transplantation, tobacco control, immunization, mental health policy, and physician-assisted suicide. Course is designed to introduce MPP students to the basic structure of American law and patterns of ethical reasoning in public policy.

RELG 566 Time, History, and Meaning

Asher Biemann

RELB 568 Pure Land Buddhism

Paul Groner

This course focuses on religious doctrines and practices that surround several Buddhas and bodhisattvas that became the object of devotional cults. Among the major figures that we will consider are the Buddha Amitabha (Omituofo, Amida) and the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Guanyin, Kannon). The course is divided into three parts. We begin with a consideration of a set of Indian texts that would serve as the authoritative source for the East Asian Pure Land tradition and attempt to determine how these works might have fit into the Indian Buddhist tradition. During the second third of the course, developments in China are covered. Various issues that arose as the Chinese interpreted these texts are considered, including debates concerning the balance between meditation and recitation of the Buddha’s name, the balance between faith and works, and the influence of modern Japanese scholarship on our interpretations of Chinese Buddhism. In addition, Buddhist teachings concerning the decline or end of Buddhism and the effect they had on Pure Land beliefs are considered. During the last third, the course moves to Japan where some of the more extreme interpretations of Pure Land are considered. Among the topics considered will be differences in the response to Pure Land teachings by different social groups, syncretism with Shinto, and funerary practices.

RELG 569 Recent Feminist Thought

Margaret Mohrmann

This seminar course will explore in depth works published in the last decade or so that demonstrate feminist thought as increasingly integrated into "mainstream" conversations and controversies in ethics, both social/political and theological, and at the same time instrumental in taking those discussions in new and necessary directions. The emphasis in the course will be on careful reading and explication, usually of book-length works, and the required paper(s) will ask for the same close attention to a recent text. Permission of instructor required. Open to advanced undergraduates.

RELC 583 Love and Justice in Christian Ethics

James Childress

An examination of various conceptions of neighbor-love (agape) and justice and their relations (e.g., identity and opposition) in selected Protestant (and some Catholic) literature (mainly from the 20th and early 21st centuries). The principles of agape and justice will be considered in the context of interpretations of human nature (e.g., the locus and power of sin), theological convictions (e.g., God as creator, preserver, and redeemer), and perspectives on moral reasoning. In addition, attention will be devoted to the distinction and relations between agape and other modes of love, such as philia and eros. Finally, in passing, the seminar will also examine the implications of different interpretations of agape (and its relations to justice) for selected practical areas, such as punishment, war, allocation of resources, and friendship

RELG 753 Ritual & Remembrance in the Atlantic World

Jalane Schmidt

This interdisciplinary graduate seminar, co-taught by Yarimar Bonilla (Anthropology) and Jalane Schmidt (Religious Studies) will explore ritual performances of memory, and both discursive (oral and written) and non-discursive (embodied, sensorial, spatial, ritualized, etc.) forms of remembrance. We will interpret debates about the politics of memory, the production of history, and the formation of collectives identities, primarily in the context of Africa and the African Diaspora. Though we will pay close attention to the particular
challenges that the histories of slavery, colonialism, and collective trauma pose to the development of collective identities in the Atlantic World, 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."

RELC 762 Liberal Theology in Europe and America

Paul Jones

Using the contested category of “liberalism” as an organizing rubric, this course provides a survey of western protestant theology from the late 1800s until the present day. For about two-thirds of the semester, we will read authors often considered representative of theological liberalism in Europe and the United States: Albrecht Ritschl, Adolf Harnack, Ernst Troeltsch, Charles Hartshorne, and Paul Tillich. Attention will also be paid Martin Kähler, Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth (three early critics of a certain form of theological liberalism), and H. Richard Niebuhr. For the final third of the semester, we will read works by contemporary scholars who continue to wrestle with the issues raised by earlier authors. As well as considering historicism and historical criticism, the nature of Christian ethics, process theology, theological epistemology, the method of correlation, Christianity’s relationship with liberal democratic politics, theological method, postliberalism, and the relationship between theology and feminist insights, a live question for this course is: does the category of liberalism provides a useful way for scholars to consider protestant theology in the modern period?

This course is ideal for students looking to gain a strong sense of key options in Western protestant thought after Schleiermacher. Students will be assessed according to class participation, response papers, and a term paper. The course is intended for graduate students in the Religious Studies Department; others should contact the professor directly for further details.

RELG 772 Kant and Scripture

Peter Ochs

An exploration: if we read the Bible the way Kant reads our experiences of the world, then what, according to our reading of the biblical texts, are the transcendental conditions for knowing the world as creation? Bypassing Kant’s dismissive comments on Scripture, the course focuses on a Kantian phenomenology of Scripture (primarily OT, with some attention to NT). To set the stage for this study, we will have a look at the work of Moses Mendelssohn (Kant’s Jewish colleague) and of Hermann Cohen (the Jewish philosopher-disciple of Kant). Primary sources: Tanakh, New Testament, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Hermann Cohen's Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism, and Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem. Prerequisite: prior work in Kant, ideally in the First Critique (we will not have time for introductory study of Kant). (up to 15std)

RELG 800 Tragedy, Suffering, Religious Imagination

Larry Bouchard

RELI 804 Arabic Reading: Al-Farabi's Political Philosophy

Mohsen Kadivar

RELI805 is an Arabic Reading Course for graduate students. The prerequisites for this course are Arabic and Classical Islam. Al-Farabi is the most important political philosopher in Islamic tradition. His texts, after eleven centuries, remain the main source in Islamic political philosophy.In this course a selected chapters of al-Farabi’s major works will be read in Arabic and explained and analyzed in English.

RELG 855 Seminar in the Thought of Martin Heidegger

Kevin Hart

This seminar seeks to read the early seminars and writings of Martin Heidegger at the time when he took himself to be a Christian theologian. How does Heidegger refigure the projects of Aquinas and Schleiermacher, among others? How does his thought square with that of Barth and Bultmann? What was it in his intellectual itinerary that made him veer away from Christian theology? Is it possible to retrace his itinerary and rejoin it to Christian theology? These are some of the questions that we shall consider, and we shall look for help among some contemporary theologians, including Jean-Yves Lacoste.

RELC 864 Themes in Eastern Orthodoxy: An Introduction

Vigen Guroian

Rather than a broad historical overview of Orthodox Christianity, this course is an introduction to the thematic core of the Orthodox Christian tradition. We will first review the major elements of the Orthodox faith that developed over the course of the Byzantine era. Then we will examine one half dozen or so themes to which modern and contemporary Orthodox theologians have given considerable thought. These include: the role and meaning of icons, scripture and tradition, liturgy and sacrament, faith and spirituality, ecclesiology, relations with other churches and religions, and the interaction of Christianity and culture. This course is cross listed with RELC 364.

RELC 892 Clement of Alexandria and Origen

Judith Kovacs

The primary focus of this graduate seminar is Clement of Alexandria (ca.150-ca.215), the first to attempt a thoroughgoing synthesis of the Bible and Greek philosophy, who began a long tradition of Christian philosophical reflection. Some consideration will also be given to the legacy of Clement among the Greek-speaking fathers, especially as it is evident in the works of Origen. An exuberant and dynamic thinker, Clement was a Biblical exegete, Platonic philosopher, polymath, and apologist for Christianity. He cites widely from the Bible and Greek poetry, drama, and philosophical writings, especially the "truth-loving" Plato. Topics we will take up include: Clement’s creative adaptation of ideas from Middle Platonism, Philo, and heterodox gnostic groups; his response to criticisms from pagans, gnostics, and simple Christians; his exegesis of Scripture (including allegorical exegesis and debates with gnostic exegetes about the correct interpretation of the letters of Paul); Clement’s esoterism and apophatic theology; his view of Christian life as a movement from faith to gnosis (knowledge); his portrayal of the ideal Christian as the "true gnostic."

Provision will be made for students who have Greek and for those who do not. Interested students are asked to contact Mrs. Kovacs as soon as possible.

RELS 895 Research Selected Topics

Instructor: Student's choice

Systematic reading in a select topic under detailed supervision. Contact the graduate secretary for details regarding his course.

RELS 897 Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For master's research, taken before a thesis director has been selected. Contact the graduate secretary for details regarding this course.

RELS 898 Non Topical Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For master's research, taken under the supervision of a thesis director. Contact the graduate secretary for details regarding this course.

RELG 899 Pedagogy


RELS 997 Non-Topical Research, Preparation for Doctoral Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For doctoral research, taken before a dissertation director has been selected.
Contact the graduate secretary for details regarding this course.

RELS 999 Non-Topical Research

Instructor: Student's choice

For dissertation research, taken under the supervision of a dissertation director.
Contact the graduate secretary for details regarding this course.