2015 Fall Course Offerings in Religious Studies

African Religions

RELA 2700 Festivals of the Americas
Schmidt, Jalane Dawn
Readings will include contemporary ethnographies of religious festivals in the Caribbean ans South, Central, and North America, and increase their knowledge of the concepts of sacred time and space, ritual theory, and the relationships between religious celebration and changing accounts of ethnicity.


RELB 2054 Tibetan Buddhism Introducition
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 Introduction to Buddhism
Kachru, Sonam
Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana Buddhist developments in India.

RELB 3408 Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy
Campbell, John R.B.
Tibet possesses one of the great Buddhist philosophical traditions in the world. Tibetan Buddhist thinkers composed comprehensive and philosophically rigorous works on human growth according to classical Buddhism, works that surveyed ethics, meditation practice, the nature of personal identity, and enlightenment itself. In this seminar we will read and discuss famous Tibetan overviews of Buddhist philosophy. Pre-Requisites: One prior course in religion or philosophy recommended

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

RELB 5559 Truth & Tradition: Intro to Buddhist Scholasticism
Kachru, Sonam
This course examines the distinct genres of Buddhist systematic thought (commentary,  conspectus, monograph, etc.) and explores how they function, and how hermeneutics interacts with epistemology, this as a way of clarifying what Buddhist scholasticism might be. Special attention is paid to Vasubandhu, but also other thinkers, in this course.

RELB 5800 Literary Tibetan VII
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 & Spoken Tibetan
Germano, David F
Examines selected topics and techniques of Tibetan education.


RELC 1210 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. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will examine the Hebrew Bible in its original ancient Near Eastern context to learn about the major phases in  the history and religion of ancient Israel. We will consider the diverse genres and theological themes found in the Hebrew Bible and the literary artistry of its whole. Finally, we will read Jewish and Christian interpretations of the text in order to understand the complex  process by which the text was formulated, transmitted and interpreted by subsequent religious communities.

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

RELC 2215 Mormonism and American Culture
Flake, Kathleen  
At one time Mormonism, meaning primarily The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had the distinction of being one of the most radical and violently persecuted religions in U.S. history. It is now the nation's fourth largest religious body, with a reputation for hyper patriotism and middle class mores. In addition to introducing who the Mormons are, their beliefs and religious practices, this seminar will explore issues raised by the Church's move toward the American mainstream while retaining its religious identity and cultural distinctiveness. These issues include: What is the religious “mainstream” in the U.S.?  How did conflicts over Mormonism during the nineteenth century, especially the conflict over polygamy, help define the limits of religious tolerance in this country? How have LDS teachings about modern revelation, gender, race and marriage, as well as controversies about whether or not Mormons are Christian, positioned and repositioned Mormons within U.S. society?

RELC 2360 Elements of Christian Thought  
Jones, Paul Dafydd
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. Authors considered include Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin, Karl Barth, Elizabeth Johnson, and many others. The course is suitable for those seeking an academic introduction to Christian theology and those wishing to deepen their understanding of this religious tradition. No previous knowledge of Christian thought is required.

RELC 2401 History of American Catholicism
Fogarty, Gerald P
Catholicism in the United States has often been in a dilemma. On the one hand, its spiritual loyalty to Rome and its growth through immigration made it appear "foreign" to most Americans. On the other, the American Catholic support for religious liberty drew suspicion from Rome. In 1960, the election of John Kennedy seemed to signal the acceptance of Catholics as Americans. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council seemed to ratify what had long been a cherished American Catholic tradition. To understand the significance of these events of the 1960s, the course will treat the following themes: the early Spanish and French settlements, the beginning of English-speaking Catholicism in Maryland, with its espousal of religious liberty, the establishment of the hierarchy under John Carroll and its early development of a strong sense of episcopal collegiality, immigration and nativism, American Catholic support of religious liberty and conflict with the Vatican at the end of the 19th century, and the American Catholic contribution to Vatican II (1962-1965). The course will conclude with an analysis of social, political, and theological developments in the American Catholic Church since the end of the council. Course requirements: 1) a mid-term and final exam; 2) an analysis of an historical document selected from collections on reserve.

RELC 3006 Augustine's City of God
Mathewes, Charles
Augustine’s magnum opus The City of God is the most important book in Western Civilization that almost nobody has read. It is one of the greatest works of human intellect in the West, and had an almost unmatched impact on Western history. Yet its very scale is so galactic as to intimidate even the most serious reader. This course provides an introduces you to the book in an accessible way so you understand its structure, the thought of Augustine, the world of Late Antiquity in which he lived, and the fundamental questions that drive the book forward, from its beginnings in the sack of pagan Rome in 410 AD to Augustine’s concluding vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem at the End of Time. By the end of this course, you will not only understand the content of The City of God but you’ll also have a profoundly new way of thinking about politics, religion, the course of history, and Christian understandings of humanity's relationship to the divine.

RELC 3040 Paul: Letters and Theology
Spittler, Janet Elizabeth
The apostle Paul is arguably the most important figure in the development of early Christianity.  Of the 27 books of the New Testament, thirteen are explicitly attributed to Paul; of these thirteen, seven are near unanimously recognized by scholars as having been written by Paul himself – his letter to the Thessalonians being the earliest piece of Christian literature that we have today.  Paul is also the primary hero of the longest narrative in the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles, as well as multiple non-canonical narratives.  In this course we will study the life, teachings, and influence of Paul through careful reading of four different types of ancient texts.  We will consider: 1) his own letters, paying close attention to his role within the larger Christian community, including his disputes with other prominent figures; 2) letters written in Paul’s name by Christians of subsequent generations, including some texts the authenticity of which is still disputed by scholars (e.g. 2 Thessalonians and Colossians) and others that were quite clearly composed well after Paul’s death (e.g. his correspondence with the philosopher Seneca); 3) narrative texts in which Paul plays a leading role, including the canonical Acts and the non-canonical Acts of Paul; and 4) non-Pauline canonical texts that seem to contradict Paul’s positions on multiple issues (e.g. James and 2 Peter).  Because the one absolutely incontrovertible thing we know about Paul is that he was a resident of the Roman empire in the first century C.E., we will begin with an historical survey, setting the material covered in this course within its geographical, cultural and social contexts.

RELC 3804 Amer. Catholic Social Thought
Fogarty, Gerald P
This reading and discussion seminar will trace the evolution of American social and political thought from the Catholic Church's assimilation of an immigrant population to sometimes  unfriendly environment.  The American Church would accordingly support the organized labor movement and set an example for the European Church.  While the American Catholic Church developed progressive social thought, it sometimes refused to take a stand on such "political" issues as slavery.  During the Great Depression, there were, however, further developments in both papal social thought and its acceptance and accommodation to the American ethos.  Post World War II years saw the assimilation of older ethnic groups and yet the plight of new arrivals and racial minorities.  Gradually the American Church addressed these new problems and, in light of Vatican II, took up new issues such as nuclear arms and capital punishment.

RELC 5009 Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr and King
Marsh Jr., Charles Robert
This graduate seminar explores the theologies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, Jr., with attention to their intellectual inheritance and formation, historical context, and influence on modern religious thought.  Course requirements include three 1800-2000 word essays or one 6000-7500 research paper, weekly discussions, a class presentation and readings in primary and critical sources.  Undergraduate enrollment by permission of instructor.

RELC/J  5291 Genesis
Halvorson-Taylor, Martien 
A seminar of the book of Genesis, its formation, and its subsequent interpretation. We will examine the literary artistry of the book—the dramatic and tangled narrative that opens the Hebrew Bible—by considering its plot, characterization, and compositional history. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will further consider the book in its historical and religious context. And, finally, we will examine the early history of how the book was interpreted. Readings will include not only biblical texts, but other ancient Near Eastern compositions that shed light on Genesis, early biblical interpretation, and secondary scholarship on the history, literature and religion of Ancient Israel. 

This course is open to graduate students; undergraduate students (who have completed RELC/RELJ 1210) may contact the instructor to discuss permission to enroll. 

Hebrew is not a prerequisite for the course, but advanced students in classical Hebrew may elect to take a translation component.

RELC 5559 Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narratives
Spittler, Janet Elizabeth
Several important phenomena in the history of literature coincide in the first centuries CE: the invention of the novel (that is, fictive literature in prose), the adoption of the book (or “codex”) format, and the emergence of Christian literature, specifically the composition of prose narratives about Jesus and his disciples.  In this seminar, we will ask how and to what extent these phenomena are related.  To that end, we will read a wide variety of texts, including the earliest romance novels (e.g. Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe), Jewish novellas (e.g. Joseph and Aseneth) and Christian narratives both canonical (e.g. the Gospel of Mark) and apocryphal (e.g. the Acts of Paul).  In these texts we will read about prison escapes, crucifixions, apparent deaths and resurrections, love at first sight, true love lost, beast fights in the arena, travel to exotic lands, shipwrecks, and pirates—lots and lots of pirates. We will consider questions of definition and genre, but our primary goal will be—through reading both widely and deeply—to increase our understanding of how ancient prose narratives function.  Simply put, we will try to become better readers of these texts.

RELC 5980 Theology of Karl Barth 
Jones, Paul Dafydd
A close examination of the thought of Karl Barth -- arguably the most important European Protestant theologian of the twentieth century. While we will deal with some of Barth’s early work -- specifically, the second edition of *Epistle to the Romans* -- our primary focus will be the mighty *Church Dogmatics*. Topics considered include the role of the Bible in theological reflection, theological epistemology, the doctrine of God, election, human being and human agency, Christology and atonement, sin and evil, and the nature of Christian community. This course is primarily intended for graduate students with interests in Christian theology, western philosophy of religion, theological ethics, and biblical exegesis. Advanced undergraduates who wish to enroll must have significant background in the academic study of Christian thought and should contact the instructor before signing up on SIS.

General Religious Studies

RELG 1010 Intro Western Religious Traditions
Warren, Heather A
Studies the major religious traditions of the Western world; Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam.

RELG 2559 Literature and Ethics
Geddes, Jennifer Leslie  &  Bouchard, Larry D
This course explores the intersection between literature and ethics through close readings of literary texts and attentive readings of theoretical works in ethics, literary criticism, philosophy, and theology.

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 2650 Theology,  Ethics and Medicine
Childress, James F
This course examines the ethical principles that commonly guide decisions in health care. It focuses on ethical principles accepted by many Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and humanistic traditions, and embedded in a liberal, pluralistic society, and it examines debates about the implications of these principles for suicide and assisted suicide; terminating life-sustaining treatment; abortion and maternal-fetal relations; artificial reproduction, including human cloning; using human subjects in research; genetic counseling, screening, and engineering; health-care reform; allocating life-saving medical resources; obtaining and distributing organs for transplantation; and public health issues surrounding AIDS, pandemic influenza, Ebola, & possible bioterrorist attacks. The course will use numerous actual and hypothetical cases to highlight moral issues.

RELG      2660       Spirituality in America
Hedstrom, Matthew  
What does “spiritual but not religious” mean, and why has it become such a pervasive self-description in contemporary America? This interdisciplinary course surveys spirituality in America, with a particular eye for the relationship between spirituality and formal religion, on the one hand, and secular modes of understanding the self, such as psychology, on the other. Along the way we’ll study everything from AA to yoga to Zen meditation, with stops in rock and jazz, Beat poetry, Abstract Expressionist painting, spirit photography, the feminist movement, environmentalism, and recent film. The study of spirituality forces us to confront many of the central concerns of modern American life: psychology, self-help, and therapeutic culture; global religious and cultural encounters; gender and sexuality; and consumerism and mass culture. In the end, we’ll come to see spirituality in America as a complex intermingling of the great world religions, modern therapeutic psychology, the politics of movements for social change, and a crassly commercialized, billion-dollar culture industry. Is this the fate of religion in a modern, capitalist, globalized society?

RELG 3200 Martin,  Malcolm,  and America
Hadley, Mark
An intensive examination of African-American social criticism centered upon, but not limited to, the life and thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  We will come to grips with the American legacy of racial hatred and oppression systematized in the institutions of antebellum chattel slavery and post-bellum racial segregation and we will analyze the array of critical responses to, and social struggles against, this legacy.  We will pay particular attention to the religious dimensions of these various types of social criticism.   

RELG      3215       American Religious Innovation
Flake, Kathleen
Contact professor directly

RELG 3360 Conquests and  Religions
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 Moral State of the World
Mathewes, Charles T
What is going on in the world, morally and/or ethically speaking? What are the great moral challenges and moral opportunities? Consider the "moral climate," in which humans live, move, and have their ethical being; is that climate changing? This is a question that has been asked by many of the major religious traditions in the world for millennia.  It has recently begun to be asked by secular institutions as well.  This class studies this question, trying to get a grip on the shape of our world's most prominent moral/ethical issues. It will also reflect, reflexively, on that very question itself, asking why we should care about it, and how historically we have come to care about it in the ways that we typically do.

RELG 3559 Basic Philosophy
Ochs, Peter W
Basic Philosophy for Students of Theology/Religion: Plato to Kant" introduces students to the primary philosophic contributions of Plato/Socrates, Aristotle, the Stoics, Augustine,  Locke, Descartes, Hume, and Kant, with briefer studies in Thomas, Maimonides, Al-Ghazali, and Leibniz. Discussion will focus on thesse thinkers' potential significance for contemporary studies in religion and theology For grads and undergrads.

RELG 3559 Slavery and Liberation: A Theological Inquiry
Nichole Flores
This course examines slavery and human trafficking (both in historical and current manifestations) and their legacies through the lens of Liberation Theology, especially as expressed in Black, Womanist, and U.S. Latino/a theological conversations. Beginning with an overview of Liberation Theology’s themes, methods, and Latin American origins, the course studies slavery in relation to Christian doctrine-- theological anthropology, Trinitarian theology, Christology, soteriology, theological aesthetics—and crucial ethical issues, including racism, labor ethics, food ethics, global economic ethics, environmental ethics, and bioethics.

RELG      3559       Religion and Foreign Affairs
Ochs, Peter  
Approaches  in “religion-on-religion” conflict resolution. Special attention to two approaches developed at UVA (“Hearth to Hearth Conflict Resolution” and “Scriptural Reasoning) and to “Global Covenant of Religions,” an NGO whose research is planned at UVA. Students join research teams comprised of majors in Religious Studies, Systems Analysis, Politics, and Anthropology (and ethno-linguistics). Admission by application to pwo3v@virginia.edu.

RELG 3559 Ethics,  Literature,  Religion
Bouchard, Larry
Geddes, Jennifer Leslie
This course explores ethical questions raised by particular literary texts (mostly prose fiction but also memoir, poetry, drama, and scripture) as well as the narrative, or “storied,” dimensions of ethical thought and expression. By ethical questions, we mean inquiries into what it can mean to be a “good” person and live a “good life”; how we should live with and respond to those around us, especially when involving matters of flourishing and suffering; and what visions of the world we should seek to cultivate and realize. We will explore the following proposals: 1) there are relationships between how we respond to literary texts and how we interact with and respond to persons; 2) narrative precedes principles; 3) human beings are story-telling and story-craving animals; and 4) the stories we read and the stories we tell shape who we are, what we deem important, and what we hold sacred. 

Format: the course is taught as a seminar with guided discussion.  Assignments include very short written responses to select literary and theoretical readings, two critical essays, and a final presentation reflecting back on the course.

RELG 3559 / RELG 5320 Research Seminar in Religion, Conflict, and Peace 
Ochs, Peter
Advanced research on religion, politics and conflict for students of "religion-on-religion" conflict/conflict resolution. Research methods drawn from religious studies, politics, anthropology and linguistics, history, sociology, nursing, philosophy, systems analysis and data science. Topics recommended by current work in the Global Covenant of Religions, the UVA Initiative on Religion in Conflict, and other professional work in the field.

RELG 3375/ENWR Spiritual Writing
Ochs, Vanessa L
This course concerns the  quest for meaning, purpose and direction and explores individual encounters with the sacred.  Half of the class is devoted to the study of contemporary spiritual writing from diverse religious and spiritual traditions in fiction, memoir, diaries, and creative non-fiction.The other half of the class is a writing workshop. Students will write about matters of the spirit (as they understand the term) in various genres and will share their work with classmates. This course fulfills the Second Writing Requirement.

RELG 3630 Idolatry
Biemann, Asher
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 3820 Global Ethics & Climate Change
Jenkins, Willis Jackson
Addressing planet-wide problems seems to require a global ethic, but is a global ethic possible in a world of many moral cultures and religious traditions? This seminar takes up the ethical questions posed by climate change as ways into the search for shared grounds of cooperation across human difference. We examine political, philosophical, and religious arguments about justice amidst inequality, fairness across borders, harm across generations, and duties to other species. We also explore relations of science, ethics, and culture in developing practical responsibilities for global environmental change.

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 A
Multidisciplinary examination of religious self-perception in relation to the dominant values of American life. Readings represent a variety of spiritual traditions and autobiographical forms. This course counts as a religious studies majors seminar.

RELG 4500 Majors Seminar:  Modern American Marriage in Historical Context
Flake,  Kathleen  
Using a variety of approaches and methods, this course will examine the modern history of Christian marriage and family construction in its cultural context. Equal emphasis will be given to early modern and contemporary American marriage, including gay marriage and polyfidelity. Particular attention will be paid to such issues as the gendered ideologies and practices of marriage, especially in relation to the shift from patriarchal to companionate marriage; the connection between marriage, citizenship and civil rights; and the significance of sex, as the root symbol of marriage. We will trace these issues through the evolution of marriage rites and American law and consider contemporary practical challenges posed to specific religious communities    

RELG 4500 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      4500       Pilgrimage
Ochs, Vanessa
The Majors’ seminar in Religious Studies gives you an opportunity to step back and consider what you have been studying and how you have been studying it.  Hopefully, this will clarify why you have devoted yourself to the study of religion. One goal of the seminar is to recall that religions are studied through diverse lenses—for example, through the methodologies of different disciplines and through the eyes of particular theorists; these shape the way religion is approached, understood and interpreted. religion. The focus of this seminar is the pilgrimage, emphasizing the diverse ways in which this complex ritual has been experienced, described and understood in diverse traditions. Contemporary pilgrimages we will discuss include the Hajj to Mecca, Israel Birthright, the Camino (to Santiago de Compostella, Spain), and the Rolling Thunder Run to the Wall (via motorcycle, to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in DC).

RELG      4500       Religion and Psychology
Portmann, John
Exploration of the will to believe, with attention to religious emotions such as fascination, terror, guilt, wholeheartedness, and ecstasy. What motivates religious conversion?  What keeps someone loyal to the religion of his parents?  What impulse prompts a believer to commit acts of hatred or terrible violence in the name of God?  How does contemporary psychiatry compete with or complement pastoral counseling?  Emphasis on Nietzsche, James, Freud, and Daniel Kahneman.  Requirements: 1) regular and substantive class participation; 2) two brief exams; 3) a class presentation; and 4) a final 15-20-page paper

RELG 4800:  Research Methods in Religious Studies
Elizabeth Shanks Alexander
W 3:30-6:00
This course guides students as they design an advanced research project in Religious Studies.  The seminar treats issues such as how to construct an evidence-based argument, how to work with sources and how to develop a professional voice in nonfiction prose. Students develop both a 10-12 pp proposal outlining their project's research questions, methods, and sources, and an annotated bibliography of key works related to the project.  Prerequisite: 3.4 min GPA.

RELG 5541 Seminar in  Social & Political Thought: Public Health Ethics
Childress, James F
This course will explore both ends and means in public health ethics. On the one hand, it will examine the broad goal of public health and reduction of the social burden of disease and injury. It will consider how this goal, which is grounded in a commitment to social welfare and social justice/equity, can be specified for purposes of guiding both policy and practice. On the other hand, public health’s population-based perspective poses a challenge to the traditional individual-centered, autonomy-driven perspectives in the U.S.’s public philosophy. This course will consider when, in a liberal democracy, the broad and specific goals of public health justify overriding liberty, privacy, confidentiality, etc., all of which establish presumptive (but non-absolute) constraints against certain societal and governmental interventions. It will examine the tension between giving priority to voluntary actions by members of the public and employing effective public health interventions, in such contexts as testing and screening, surveillance, quarantine/isolation, vaccination, and allocation of resources. 

RELG 8000 Negativity and Religious Imagination
Bouchard,  Larry
Examines ways in which tragedy (and other forms of imaginative literature), scripture and theology, and hermeneutics and criticism portray and reflect on aspects of suffering and evil.

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

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

Our focus throughout will be on the “state of the art”—understood broadly to include recent trends and debates in both subject and method. We will read works by emerging and established practitioners in the field to assess the current shape of the field, and the way religious history dialogues with wider conversations in both religious studies and history. We will examine the assigned texts from multiple angles, including their utility for us as models of scholarship.

In addition to the primary focus on method—a focus that will take us into social history, political history, labor history, and cultural history—the course also covers a variety of religious traditions and subjects, seeking to balance an appreciation of diversity with the search for unifying themes. The majority of the readings covers the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


RELH 2195 Theory and Practice of Yoga
Campbell, John R.B.
An investigation of yoga practice throughout history from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Topics include yoga's origins in ancient India, systematic yoga theories in Buddhism and Hinduism, Tantric Yoga, and the medicalization and globalization of Yoga in the modern period. Students' readings and writing assignments are supplemented throughout with practical instruction in yoga.


RELI 2070 Classical Islam
Nair, Shankar
 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 3559 Medieval Scholars and Books
al-Rahim, Ahmed
fewer):A survey of medieval scholarship, book culture, and transmission of knowledge.

RELI 5559 Classical Quranic Commentary
al-Rahim, Ahmed  
This graduate seminar is intended to introduce students to the genres of medieval Arabic quranic commentary. We will examine and compare Israelite and hadith based exegesis, sectarian and mystical exegesis, as well as Quran qua Qurran commentaries.

RELI 5559 Islam in South Asia
Nair, Shankar  
fewer):This course examines Islam in the South Asian context. We will explore the coming of Islam to South Asia and its cultural, political and intellectual development from the classical to the modern periods. Special attention will be given to issues of religious boundaries and identity, particularly as this relates to Muslim-Hindu interactions. The course will also aim to provide advanced exposure to current methodological trends within the subfield.


RELJ 1210 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. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will examine the Hebrew Bible in its original ancient Near Eastern context to learn about the major phases in  the history and religion of ancient Israel. We will consider the diverse genres and theological themes found in the Hebrew Bible and the literary artistry of its whole. Finally, we will read Jewish and Christian interpretations of the text in order to understand the complex  process by which the text was formulated, transmitted and interpreted by subsequent religious communities.

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

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

RELJ 3170 Modern Jewish Thought
Biemann, Asher D
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 3490 Jewish Weddings
Ochs, Vanessa
What makes a wedding Jewish? In this ritual studies course, we will explore how the Jewish wedding ceremony has changed from antiquity to the present day. In particular, will see how notions about love, marriage, gender relations, and the normative family are displayed and challenged. In the modern context, we will be investigate the establishment of innovations in the contemporary Jewish weddings (traditional, liberal, same-sex and interfaith) in America and Israel.

RELJ 3559 Political Theology and Israel
Weinman, Michael
This course investigates the tradition of Political Theology. The course will focus centrally on Spinoza'the Theological-Political Treatise, and will cover precursors-“precursors” to Spinoza, including 1st and 2nd Samuel, Talmudic selections (read with commentary from Levinas), e medieval texts (Rambam/Ibn Sina/Ibn Roschd), “responses” to Spinoza, including Hegel, Schmitt, Benjamin, and Derrida as well as Arendt, Agamben, Butler and Levinas.

RELJ 5100  Ethics and Theology of the  Rabbis
Alexander, Elizabeth S
Though the rabbis do not have a distinct genre in which they discuss ethical and theological questions, we will use these rubrics to deepen our understanding of the rabbinic religious outlook.  In the domain of theology, we will tease out the rabbinic response to questions such as:  What is the nature of divinity?  How is personhood conceived? What is the relationship between God and humanity, and specifically to the people Israel?  How are we to understand evil?  What are the limits of knowledge?  We will also explore the question of why rabbinic literature does not address theological questions in a straightforward manner.  In the area of ethics, we will explore central themes such as obligations to the poor, behavioral norms and cultivation of an ideal self (virtue ethics).  In drawing a rabbinic ethic out of the literature, we will consider the respective value of narrative vs. legal materials.  Throughout the course, we will focus on close readings of primary texts.  The goal of the course is to shed light on theological and ethical matters with the aid of reading strategies attentive to the distinctive character of rabbinic discourse.

RELJ 3052 Responses to the Holocaust
In this course, we will read a wide range of responses to the Holocaust—historical accounts, survivor testimonies, theological responses, and philosophical works—as we explore the following questions: What are the theological and philosophical implications of the Holocaust? After the Holocaust, how have understandings of human nature, religious belief and practice, good and evil, responsibility and ethical action changed? What responses to the Holocaust are possible, important, and/or necessary now?

RELJ 5165 Scripture and Philosophy in Judaism and Beyond
Ochs,  Peter
What happened when classical Jewish traditions of study and learning encountered the Hellenic traditions of philosophy? This course examines instances of encounter between philosophy and Jewish text learning throughout Jewish history, from the days of Philo to today, focusing on contexts of history, text-reading and hermeneutics. The second half of the course will explore implications for studies in Christianity and Islam.

RELJ/C 5291 Genesis
Halvorson-Taylor, Martien 
A seminar of the book of Genesis, its formation, and its subsequent interpretation. We will examine the literary artistry of the book—the dramatic and tangled narrative that opens the Hebrew Bible—by considering its plot, characterization, and compositional history. Using methods of modern biblical scholarship, we will further consider the book in its historical and religious context. And, finally, we will examine the early history of how the book was interpreted. Readings will include not only biblical texts, but other ancient Near Eastern compositions that shed light on Genesis, early biblical interpretation, and secondary scholarship on the history, literature and religion of Ancient Israel. 

This course is open to graduate students; undergraduate students (who have completed RELC/RELJ 1210) may contact the instructor to discuss permission to enroll. 

Hebrew is not a prerequisite for the course, but advanced students in classical Hebrew may elect to take a translation component.

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.