2013 Spring Courses


African Religions

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

RELA 3000 Women and Religion in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This seminar examines women’s religious activities, traditions and spirituality in a number of different African contexts.  Drawing on ethnographic, historical, literary, and religious studies scholarship, we will explore a variety of themes and debates that have emerged in the study of gender and religion in Africa.  Topics will include gendered images of sacred power; the construction of gender through ritual; sexuality and fertility; and women’s agency in indigenous religious movements, Muslim communities and Christian congregations in Africa. 

RELA 3351 African Diaspora Religions
Schmidt,Jalane Dawn
This seminar examines changes in ethnographic accounts of African diaspora religions, with particular attention to the conceptions of religion, race, nation, and modernity found in different research paradigms. Prerequisite: previous course in one of the following: religious studies, anthropology, AAS, or Latin American studies


RELB 2054 Tibetan Buddhism Introduction
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 2715 Chinese Religions
Hudson, William C
This course serves as a general introduction to the religions of China, including Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, and popular religion. 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.This course satisfies the Non-Western Perspectives Requirement, and there are no prerequisites.

RELB 3150 Buddhism and Gender
Lang,Karen C
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 and social questions relevant to the status of men and women in the Buddhist world from the time of Buddhism's origins to the present day. We will consider the issue of gender in relation to Buddhist views on sexuality, celibacy, and the formation of ideas about compassion, wisdom, selflessness, and non-duality.

RELB 3170 Buddhist Meditation
Germano, David

RELB 5390 Tibetan Buddhist Tantra Dzokchen
Germano, David
Examines the Dzokchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhist Tantra focusing on its philosophical and contemplative systems and its historical and social contexts.

RELB 5480 Literary Tibetan VI
Advanced study in the philosophical and spiritual language of Tibet, past and present. Prerequisite: RELB 5000, 5010, 5350, 5360, or equivalent.

RELB 5559 Buddhist Ethics
Lang,Karen C
This seminar will explore the place of ethics and moral reasoning in Buddhist thought and practice. The major focus will be on Buddhism but we will also consider how Buddhist attitudeswere shaped by Hindu and Jain views. Materials to be examined will be drawn from a wide range of sources, from classical Buddhist and Hindu scriptures to contemporary narratives. Among the topics to be explored: karma and rebirth, peace/nonviolence and war, human and animal rights, suicide and euthanasia, abortion and contraception, gender and sexuality.

RELB 5600 Pali
Lang,Karen C
An introduction to reading Pali Buddhist texts. Some knowledge of Sanskrit useful but not necessary.

RELB 5715
Clarke Hudson
This is the graduate student section for RELB 2715. Students registering for RELB 5715 will participate in RELB 2715 class sessions, but will also have additional biweekly meetings, with extra readings, and a longer paper. The place and time for the additional meetings will be decided by consensus. No prior knowledge of Chinese religions is presupposed. Advanced undergraduate students may also choose to register for RELB 5715 instead of RELG 2715

RELB 5810 Literary Tibetan VIII
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 Adv Literary & Spoken Tibetan
Germano,David F
Examines selected topics and techniques of Tibetan education.


RELC 1220 Early Christianity & New Test
Gamble,Harry Y
Studies the history, literature, and theology of earliest Christianity in light of the New Testament. Emphasizes the cultural milieu and methods of contemporary biblical criticism.

RELC 2060 Reform & Expansion of Xianity
Shuve,Karl Evan
How did Christianity become a global religion with hundreds of denominations and nearly two billion adherents? In this course, we will explore the reform and expansion of Christianity in the second millennium of the Common Era, from the high Middle Ages to the present day.

RELC 3009 Protestant Theology
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This course considers the writings of important protestant theologians from the 1500s to the present day. Beginning with key texts by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and writers from the radical reformation, we consider major eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century thinkers such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Karl Barth. We also examine recent developments in process, liberationist, and feminist theology. Topics considered include: the role of the Bible in theological reflection, the nature of God, Christology, sin and salvation, and Christian ethics.

Familiarity with the academic study of Christian thought is useful but not required.

RELC 3045 History of the Bible
Gamble,Harry Y
The history of the formation, transmission, translation, forms and uses of the Christian Bible from the 1st to the 21st century.

RELC 3150 Salem Witch Trials
Ray,Benjamin C
The course will explore the historical scholarship, literary fiction, and primary source materials relating to the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. How and why did the accusations begin? How and why did they stop? Serious theories and wild speculations abound both in 1692 and now. Who were the female and male heroes, victims, and villains in this tragic episode? The most gripping personal stories are to be found in the court records and in the literary portrayals by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller. Explore the impact of this small-scale, 300 year-old event upon America’s cultural heritage -- how and why did "Salem witchcraft" become part of the American cultural imagination? The course will draw upon the following historical works: Entertaining Satan by John Demos, Salem Story by Bernard Rosenthal, In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton, and Judge Sewall’s Apology by Richard Francis, in addition to selected journal articles, as well as Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible. The class will include short presentations of reading materials and culminates in two short essays to be written on important figures and/or topics related to the witch trials, based entirely on the primary sources. The best of these essays will become part of UVA’s award winning site, "Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive" The class will make extensive use of the online Salem Archive which contains all the original court documents and contemporary accounts.

RELC 3231 Reformation Europe
Erin Lambert
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 3261.

RELC 3559 Body & Spirituality in Xianity
Shuve,Karl Evan
Why do Christians seem so preoccupied with regulating and restricting sexual behavior? Does this arise out of a sheer hatred of the body, or are more complex motives at work? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions by exploring the attitudes of Christians in the formative period of the church—roughly from the first to sixth centuries of the Common Era—towards the body, sexuality and spirituality.

RELC 3700 Revelation to John
This course considers the last book of the New Testament from two different points of view. First we will study the Revelation to John in its original, first-century context, comparing it with other works in the same genre, the Jewish apocalypses Daniel, 1 Enoch, and 2 Esdras, and asking questions about the historical setting in which the book was written and its message in and for that context. Secondly, we will consider the book’s reception, that is how it has been used and interpreted through the centuries, not only in theological commentaries but also in art (e.g. the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer and illustrations of William Blake), hymns, spirituals, reggae music, and popular songs, political comment, poetry, and fictional works such as the Left Behind series.
No prerequisites.
For registration priority given to Religious Studies majors.

RELC 3880 Religion in Children's Literature
Guroian, Vigen
"Children's Literature" is a rubric whose subject matter might at first thought seem simple enough. The Victorians invented the genre. Yet the Victorian writer, George MacDonald, who did so much to influence C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak and others, insisted that the children's stories he wrote were not just for children.

RELC 3150 Salem Witch Trials
Ray,Benjamin C
The course will explore the historical scholarship, literary fiction, and primary source materials relating to the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. How and why did the accusations begin? How and why did they stop? Serious theories and wild speculations abound both in 1692 and now. Who were the female and male heroes, victims, and villains in this tragic episode? The most gripping personal stories are to be found in the court records and in the literary portrayals by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller. Explore the impact of this small-scale, 300 year-old event upon America’s cultural heritage -- how and why did "Salem witchcraft" become part of the American cultural imagination? The course will draw upon the following historical works: Entertaining Satan by John Demos, Salem Story by Bernard Rosenthal, In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton, and Judge Sewall’s Apology by Richard Francis, in addition to selected journal articles, as well as Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible. The class will include short presentations of reading materials and culminates in two short essays to be written on important figures and/or topics related to the witch trials, based entirely on the primary sources. The best of these essays will become part of UVA’s award winning site, "Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive" The class will make extensive use of the online Salem Archive which contains all the original court documents and contemporary accounts.

RELC 4610 Sex and Morality
Portmann,John Edward
How have Jewish and Christian morals shaped sexual experience in the West?  What do contemporary Americans mean by “family values”? Focusing on the United States today, we will analyze pre-marital sex, the sexual revolution, promiscuity, abortion, prostitution, gay marriage, rape, teaching sex education in public schools, and “senior sex.”  We will pay special attention to art, film, and the media in challenging sexual mores.  What does sexual activity have to do with religious practice?  How will we theorize or understand sexual desires we don’t share?  How appropriate is it for the government to legislate sexuality?  What is the future of sex in America? Requirements:  informed class participation; three brief exams; seminar presentation; final 15-20-page paper. Please noted that no laptops will be permitted in this seminar.

RELC 5230 Pentecostalism
Cooper,Valerie C
Examines the history, theology, and practices 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.

RELC 5559 Marriage
This course studies the history, theology, and ethics of marriage in the Christian faith from the New Testament through the present. It will cover Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions with special emphasis on the rites, their development and meaning. as well as contemporary loci of discussion and controversy such as divorce, remarriage, gay marriage, courtship, and sexuality.

RELC 5700 Patristic Greek
Readings of Greek fathers such as John Chrysoston and Gregory of Nazianzus, with emphasis on grammar, syntax and rhetoric. An intermediate to advanced level course.

RELG 1040 Intro Eastern Religious Traditions
Campbell, John
Introduces various aspects of the religious traditions of India, China, and Japan.

RELG 2160 Religion in America since 1865
Warren,Heather A
Includes American religious pluralism, religious responses to social issues, and the character of contemporary American religious life.

RELG 2190 Religion and Modern Fiction
Bouchard,Larry D
Modern fiction often asks questions that are intrinsically religious, spiritual, or moral in character.  Fiction may ask about the human spirit and human nature, faith and doubt, evil and suffering, personality and community, identity and transformation. We will explore how some modern writers have explored these questions and how they have discerned traces of the divine or the transcendent in their stories and experiences.  

Some of our writers (such as Elie Wiesel, Flannery O'Connor, and Marilynne Robinson) write fictions that explicitly reflect their religious traditions. Others (e.g., Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, and Toni Morrison) write apparently secular narratives that nonetheless have religious or ethical “dimensions” or implications.  And others (N. Scott Momaday and Yann Martel) employ a variety of cultural and spiritual traditions to create new and distinctive religious visions.

Requirements: Regular attendance and participation at lectures and discussion sections; two guided essays with prompts, on assigned material (about 6 pages each, worth 25% and 40%); and a short paper on assigned material (about 8 pages, 35% of grade) in lieu of a final exam.

note: Relg 2190 can meet the 2nd writing requirement, on request.

RELG 2210 Religion Ethics & the Environment
Childress, James
A comparative examination, across several religious and philosophical traditions, of beliefs, values, and practices that bear on the natural environment and have implications for personal, communal, and public actions and policies. The course will start by exploring several theories, methods, and approaches to environmental ethics—these will include standard ethical theories and their extensions to environmental ethics; imagination, metaphor, and narrative (illustrated by discourse about wildness/wilderness); ideals and virtues; and ecofeminism. Then several weeks will be devoted to a close examination of such religious traditions as Christianity (Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism), Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as native American perspectives. Throughout, especially through cases studies used in lectures and discussion sections, students will engage in ethical analyses of specific problem areas such as sustainability and the treatment of non-human animals in light of several of these religious views and philosophical perspectives. Contemporary debates about the social construction of nature, the intrinsic and extrinsic value of nature, non-anthropocentric and anthropocentric perspectives, etc., will be addressed.

RELG 2260 Religion, Race, Film
Cooper,Valerie C
This course explores themes of religion, race, gender, and relationship to the religious or racial ¿other¿ in films from the silent era to the present. It will consider film as a medium and engage students in analysis and discussion of cinematic images, with the goal of developing hermeneutic lenses through which these images can be interpreted. The films selected all ask "How should we treat one another?"

RELG 2300 Religious Ethics & Moral Probs
 Mathewes, Charles T
This course examines several contemporary moral issues from the standpoint of major Western religious traditions (Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) as well as from several broadly secularistic perspectives. We will consider moral issues such as marriage, friendship, truthfulness, capital punishment, warfare, and the meaning of work, career, and vocation. 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 judgments (and vice-versa).

RELG 2370 Religion After Jefferson
Lorish, Philip
What is the nature of “religion” as a distinct object of study?  And how does our answer to that question determine what we think of religion’s place in modern public life?  This seminar pairs the ongoing discussion regarding the difficulty of defining religion with a discussion about the place of religious institutions and the use of comprehensive doctrines in the shaping of American public policy.  We will begin our study by considering the novelty and legacy of the Jeffersonian compromise on religious liberty.  We’ll then survey various developments in American jurisprudence as well as the role of religion in moments of social unrest and redefinition.  Particular interest will be given to the theological character of the Civil War, the emergence of a so-called "Tri-Faith America" in the 20th Century Post-War period, and the role of religious institutions in the American Civil Rights Movement.  The class will conclude by considering a series of debates in recent political philosophy regarding the “post-secular” and the nature of comprehensive doctrines in modern pluralistic societies. 

RELG 2380 Faith & Doubt in Modern Age
 Marsh Jr., Charles Robert
This course introduces undergraduates to seminal writings in modern Western thought that explore and question the meaning, truthfulness, and uses of religious belief.  The goal is to develop a multi-storied narrative of the variety of interpretations given to the idea of God in modernity and to clarify the conditions of responsible religious belief in a pluralistic and possibly post-modern world.  Lectures and discussions will follow such questions as:   Is belief in God a product of wishful thinking?  Is religious belief a symptom of neurotic behavior?  If there is no God, is everything permissible?  Is atheism (new and old) parasitic on the moral convictions inspired by religion?  Is religion a primitive stage in human intellectual development in need of an education to reality?  Does religion promote violent tendencies among individuals and groups?  Is it inherently immoral?  On what basis do some intelligent people argue that belief in God is rational and others that belief in God violates reason?  We will consider such questions by studying the modern critiques of religion and the implications of such critiques for believers and people of faith.  Our sources novels, film, music and writings by philosophers, theologians and psychologists. 

RELG 2475 God 
Ochs Peter W
An introduction to the personality of God as portrayed in the sacred literatures, histories, and practices of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What are the major personality traits of God as displayed in the three Abrahamic scriptures? In discussions, journals and writing assignments, students will be offered opportunities to comment on how these literatures portray the attributes of God and to explore various implications and wonderments.

RELG 2559 Religion and Revolution
Mesard, Hellen Elizabeth

RELG 2630 Business Ethics and Society
A study of the philosophical and religious frameworks for interpreting and evaluating human activity in the marketplace. This includes major theoretical perspectives, contemporary issues within the marketplace, and corporate ethics.

RELG 2660 Spirituality in America
Hedstrom,Matthew Sigurd
What does “spiritual but not religious” mean, and why has it become such a pervasive self-description in contemporary America? This interdisciplinary course surveys spirituality in America, with a particular eye for the relationship between spirituality and formal religion, on the one hand, and secular modes of understanding the self, such as psychology, on the other. Along the ways we’ll study everything from AA to yoga to Zen meditation, with stops in Christian rock, Beat poetry, Abstract Expressionist painting, spirit photography, the feminist movement, and recent film. This course will draw on both American Studies and Religious Studies approaches as we read poetry and autobiography, listen to music, and look at photographs, painting, and film.We'll read both critics and promoters of the turn toward spirituality as we seek to understand this fascinating phenomenon for what it is: a complex intermingling of the great world religions, modern psychology, the politics of movements for social change, and a crassly commercialized, billion-dollar culture industry.Is this the fate of religion in a modern, capitalist, globalized society? Join this class and we’ll explore this question together!

RELG 2713 Sensing the Sacred
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
Seeing is believing. Or is it? In this experiential course, we will examine the role of sensory perception in religious imagination. Drawing on approaches from anthropology, psychology, history, philosophy, and cognitive science, among others, and on case studies from Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and ancient Israel, we will consider how religious practitioners think about the senses, uses the senses to experience the world, assign meaning to sensory experiences, and deploy sensory metaphors to describe their experience of the sacred. We will reflect on a conundrum central to many religions: since religious practitioners often imagine the sacred in transcendent terms, how can humans, as sensory beings, experience that which is purportedly beyond sense? One goal of the course is to evaluate whether analyzing cultural assumptions about the senses, as well as how practitioners use the senses and sensory metaphors, can shed light on the values, truth claims, and orientations of various religions.

RELG 3051 Religion and Soceity
Hudson, William C
Critical appraisal of classic and contemporary approaches to the sociological study of religion and society. This course has no prerequisites

RELG 3485 Moral Leadership
Portmann,John Edward
Exploration of moral ways of inspiring and influencing other people. Special attention to the thought of Machiavelli and Deborah Rhode; styles of leading; the role of the so-called global elite in contemporary world affairs; the media; the ethics of discrimination; the risks of whistle blowing; the Internet; blaming; and environmental disasters. Requirements: informed class participation; three brief exams; final 8-12-page paper. Please note that no laptops will be allowed in this seminar.

RELG 3559 Idolatry
Biemann,Asher D
To the monotheistic traditions, idolatry represents one of the most abhorrent moral transgressions. Permeating both the religious and the secular, the prohibition against idol worship has become deeply ingrained in Western culture delineating the boundaries between "true" and "strange."  Yet, while the religious significance of idolatry seems to have vanished, the idol continues to remain in the vocabulary of our everyday language.  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 3559 Bioethics Moral Legal Religious Perspectives
Ashley Hurst
This course will analyze contemporary bioethical issues through moral/philosophical, legal and religious perspectives to understand what is at stake for individuals and communities as science and technology change what we know, who we are and how we relate to one another as human beings.

RELG 4023 Bioethics Internship Seminar
Mary Faith Marshall
This course is designed to provide students with experience in discerning and analyzing ethical issues as they arise in particular clinical settings. Each student spends approximately four hours each week in a clinic, hospital unit, or other health care- related venue (the same one throughout the semester), under the mentorship of a health care professional engaged in that setting. Seminar time focuses primarily on student experiences and observations in their placements, plus discussion of readings that explore selected ethical issues common to clinical medicine and the role of the ethicist/observer. During the second half of the semester, each student presents for class critique an analysis of an ethical issue or question that arises in his or her setting, and that will form the basis of the student's final paper for the class. Students must have some background knowledge of bioethics' methods and common questions. Admittance to the course is by application only; for details, see the Undergraduate Bioethics Program Website at http://bioethics.virginia.edu/internships.html.

RELG 4500 Comparative Scriptures
Alexander,Elizabeth S
The goal of this seminar is to develop an informed and critical perspective on the study of religion through the study of scripture, its history and function in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The seminar does not make the case for any single definition of religion or take a particular theological perspective on scripture, but rather encourages students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.

RELG 4500 Self, Spirit(s) & Experience
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
What does it mean to sense a spiritual presence?  What is religious experience and how do we explain it?  How do individuals describe their encounters with God or spirits, and how do we view these accounts?  Divine inspiration, miracles, epiphanies and revelations are integral to many religious traditions, yet prove difficult to understand.  In attempting to come to terms with religious experience in a variety of cultures from around the world, we will analyze some classic works in the sociology and psychology of religion.  We will also consider anthropological, historical and cognitive interpretations of this fundamental, but illusive feature of religion.

RELG 4500 Pilgrimage
Ochs,Vanessa L
Majors’ seminars give in Religious Studies offer the opportunity to consider what you have been studying and how you have been studying it. We will investigate how 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 5559 Hegel, Materialism, & Theology
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This course examines Hegel's thought and its influence throughout the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. We'll begin with a careful reading of some of Hegel's key texts, including Reason in History,thePhenomenology of Spirit, and the 1827Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Next, we'll examine the reception and development of Hegel's ideas in the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, George Lukács, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno. Finally, we'll consider some recent engagements with Hegel by theologians and philosophers of religion, reading authors such as Robert Jenson, SlavojŽižek, Peter Hodgson, Judith Butler, Catherine Malabou, and T. A. Lewis. This course will be of value to students with interests in continental philosophy of religion, political theory, Christian and Jewish thought, and critical theory.

RELG 5559 American Religion and Social Reform
Warren,Heather A
American Religion and Social Reform examines the history of the interplay between theology, morality, and politics in American history. Topics covered include temperance and prohibition, labor, civil rights, the peace movement, and environmentalism. Weekly reading, class presentation, and original research will be important components of the class. Open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

RELG 5559 Genealogies of Secularity and Modernity
Michael Chad Wellmon
How and why did modernity become nearly synonymous with secularization?  This course sketches a genealogy of the secular from the Enlightenment to Jürgen Habermas’s debates with Cardinal Ratzinger. One of our basic goals will be to consider the intellectual origins and development of two sets of related concepts: reason-religion and modernity-secularization. How and why did central figures in modern European history distinguish reason and religion? And, is there an alternate history to be told? Might we be able to sketch a history of reason from the Enlightenment onward that is inextricable from religion? Can we trace a dialectic of the counter-Enlightenment, a different history of Enlightenment reason that undercuts purportedly modern oppositions between religion and faith, science and religion and the easy equation of modernity and secularization? Texts will include works from: Herder, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Heine, Marx, Nietzsche, Barth, Weber, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Adorno, Ratzinger, and Habermas, as well as more contemporary work from Taylor, Mahmood, Conolley, Berger, Asad and Casanova.

RELG 5850 Narrative in Ethics & Theology
Bouchard,Larry D; Childress, James F
Examines the nature of narrative modes of representation and argument, and how narrative theory has been employed in contemporary ethics and religious thought.

RELG 5960 What is Scripture
Ochs, Peter

“What is Scripture?” This is the defining question for this introductory seminar in Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice. It is also the title of the first book examined in the course: WC Smith, What is scripture? a comparative approach. Following his lead, the course then samples two tradition-specific ways that Smith’s question might be answered: from Muhammad Iqbal on Islam to Georges Drefuys on Tibetan Buddhism. The course then moves to the approaches of Jewish and Christian theologians and philosophers, from Augustine to contemporary semioticians.  The course concludes with studies of the possible role of scripture reading in the history of inter-religious conflict and peace: “What does Scripture do?”


RELH 2090 Hinduism
Newman, Adam
Surveys the Hindu religious heritage from pre-history to the 17th century; includes the Jain and Sikh protestant movements.

RELH 3440 Gandhi to Terrorism: Religion and Violence
Nemec,John William
The purpose of this course is to study the phenomenon of religious violence in one geographic and cultural context. We will examine the roles of religion and violence in Indian political life from the British period until contemporary times, and through the Indian example, we will explore current questions and problems regarding the relationship between religion and politics. Prerequisite: Some knowledge of India/South Asia recommended.


RELI 2559 Women, Gender and Islam
Sara Omar
This course will survey issues pertaining to women and gender in Islam through an exploration of sacred texts (Qur’an and Hadith) and Islamic jurisprudence. We will consider the political, social, and intellectual milieu of Muslims during the early and classical periods, which contributed to the normative doctrine on gender and sexuality. This course is designed to introduce students to various debates pertaining to women, gender, and sexuality in the Islamic tradition. The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with the history and texts that form the backdrop of modern debates. This course will introduce students to how scholars have approached the study of major issues pertaining to women and gender, such as veiling, contraception, marriage and divorce, sex, and homosexuality. By the end of this course, students should have a nuanced understanding of the historical and modern discourse surrounding these issues, and be familiar with prominent female figures and their religious and social activities in Islamic history.

RELI 3110 Muhammad and the Qu'ran
Sara Omar
This course will examine various approaches to the Qurʾān and its exegesis both as an historical document and as the foundational text of Muslim believers. We will cover the contested history of the text, notions of revelation, and some key genres of classical Qurʾānic Sciences such as abrogation, occasions of revelation, and the variant readings. In addition, we will cover some of the major themes of the Qurʾān such as social justice, violence, tales of the prophets, women and gender issues, belief, disbelief and hypocrisy, and reward and punishment in the afterlife. The verses pertaining to these themes will be examined in their own historical context in addition to how they have been interpreted and appropriated, by various claimants to religious authority in the contemporary Muslim world.


RELJ 1420 Elementary Classical Hebrew II
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
In this sequel to HEBR/RELJ 1410, students will learn the derived stems and weak verbs, cardinal and ordinal numbers, Masoretic accents, oath formulas, and parsing. Thus students will complete the study of the verbal system and of basic Hebrew grammar as a whole. In addition, students will learn to use a Hebrew lexicon and read prose passages directly from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. At the completion of the two semester sequence, students will have learned the basic tools required to read longer prose passages from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament in the original language.

RELJ 2420 Intermed Classical Hebrew II
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
In this course, which continues and builds upon HEBR/RELJ 2410, students will develop facility in the reading 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 poetry. To this end, students will learn repetition, acrostic, inclusio, refrain, metaphor, correspondence, elision, compensation, and other poetic devices. By the end of the course, students will grasp the complex phenomenon of poetic parallelism.

RELJ 3085 The Passover Haggadah: A Service Learning Course
Ochs,Vanessa L
The Passover Haggadah cultivates sensitivity for the plight of the stranger, and we will study how it came about and how has been used as a template for rituals of social activism on behalf of oppressed peoples, and in particular, of refugees. In volunteer placements in the community, UVA students will work with individuals who have have found refuge in Cville. Together, they will collaborate on designing haggadahs addressing themes such as being a stranger, freedom, home and renewal. The culminating event will be holding community-wide seders that raise awareness about our new neighbors who are establishing themselves here.

RELJ 3559 Intro to Modern Jewish Thought
Biemann, Asher
This course is a critical survey of the most significant Jewish responses to the experience of the modern era.  Beginning with Spinoza's political and hermeneutic thought, we will explore how Jewish thinkers met the social, cultural, and religious challenges of modernity and, in turn, influenced the transformation of modern Jewry.  Jewish Thought is understood in a broader sense to include philosophers, religious reformers, and political leaders.  Changing and conflicting perspectives on tradition, education, culture, and religion will be in the center of our interest.  

RELJ 3559 Judaism and Science
Ochs, Peter
An introductory study of the place of science in Judaism, focusing on the example of creation. Topics include: The Genesis story and Evolution; Myth, Science, and Religion; Newton, Quantum Physics, and Judaism; The Big Bang through the history of Jewish reasoning.

RELJ 3559 Israeli Cultural History, 1920-1970
Assaf Shelleg
This class is an attempt to teach Israeli history through the way it has been recorded in literature, film, music, and visual art. Focusing on the fifty-year period between the emergence of the Jewish community of Palestine and the post Six Day War era, we will try to determine the validity of culture in relation to the region’s contested narratives. Assignments include a research paper (to be submitted at the end of the semester) and a midterm.

RELJ 3559 Jewish Identities in Western Art Music 1600-2000
Assaf Shelleg
The class explores the historical contexts of compositions written by Jews, for Jews, and about Jews—from the seventeenth century until the turn of the twenty-first century. "Jewish identities in Western Art Music" class offers a study of Jewish history through music, unfolding the dilemmas involved in Jewish assimilation and composers' grappling with stereotypes of themselves. Using case studies from late renaissance Italy to twentieth-century American and Israeli music the course illustrates the way music has recorded Jewish history, as well the constrains of its composers. Music reading is NOT a prerequisite for this course.
Assignments include a research paper (to be submitted at the end of the semester) and a midterm.

RELJ 3615 Biblical Novels
Laugelli, Ben
We will conduct a close critical reading of some of the finest narratives in ancient Judaism:  The story of Joseph, the biblical books of Esther and Daniel, and the books of Tobit and Judith.  Each tells of an ancient Jewish hero living outside the land, in exile, who works, against all odds, to deliver her or his people.  In tandem with these works, we will also consider several related biblical and extra-biblical texts (including Joseph and Aseneth, Ezra and Nehemiah, Ruth, Susanna, Bel and the Serpent, and the Gospel of Mark).  We will attend to the literary, historical, and theological significance of these works and to themes they have in common, such as the refiguring of exile and restoration, the role of women in ancient Israel, the function of coincidence and coincidental reversals, the role of human activity in the face of a seemingly remote deity, the temptations of assimilation, and the vindication of the underdog and trickster.

RELJ 5950 Midrashic Imagination
Alexander,Elizabeth S
This course introduces students to midrashic literature in the original Hebrew.  It gives students the interpretive skills to make sense of the texts and provides an overview of the scholarly issues pertinent to the study of midrash.  At the heart of our study will be the question of what generates midrashic interpretations of the biblical text?  Are the interpretations a genuine “reading” of the biblical text?  If so, what kind of reading do they represent?  Or do the midrashic interpretations simply transmit traditional meanings of the text?  Or they are an outgrowth of historical conditions at the time at which they were composed?  Each of these view points has merits and we will give them equal attention.  We will survey three different midrashic texts in an effort to chart out different ways in which the midrashic endeavor is carried out in different collections. 

RELS: Special Topics

RELS 8995 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 8998 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.

RELS 9998 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 9999 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.