Fall 2020 Courses

African Religions

RELA3000  |  Women and Religion in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This course 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.   Readings include works by religious studies scholars, historians, anthropologists and novelists. Main requirements: a brief “issue paper”, midterm and final exams, a 10-page research paper, and active participation in class discussion.

RELA3559  |  New Course in African Religion: Religion Witchcraft & Modernity in Africa and Diaspora
Skora, Kara

RELA3730  |  Rel in African Lit & Film
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This seminar examines the ways in which religious ideas, practices and issues are represented, and addressed, in African literature and film. How do African authors and filmmakers interweave aspects of Muslim, Christian and traditional religious cultures into the stories they tell? To what extent are questions of religious belief, spirituality, or conflict incorporated into their literary and cinematographic projects? How does “religion” serve as a lens through which to explore various relationships—social, political, emotional—in the works of these artists? The literary (and oral) genres covered in the class include creation myths, novels, memoirs, short stories and plays. The movies—both feature films and “shorts”—are made by African directors and producers. The course offers a sampling of classic works that depict precolonial, colonial and early postcolonial experiences, as well as recent works by a new generation of African writers and filmmakers who engage contemporary contexts and issues.   Requirements: class presentations, short writing assignments, quizzes, midterm and final exams.


RELB1559  |  Buddhist Ethics

RELB2054  |  Tibetan Buddhism Introduction
Taylor,Andrew Steven
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.

RELB3495  |  Early Buddhism in South Asia
This course explores the origins and development of Buddhism in South Asia. It assumes students have no prior knowledge of Buddhism. The goal is to understand the complex of teachings, practices, and relationships that would become known later as Buddhism and, simultaneously, how such a complex has developed within specific cultural contexts.

RELB3655  |  Buddhism in America
Braun,Erik C
"We will also examine the places of story and imagination in modern life and religious traditions. Is fiction “only” fiction; are metaphors “just” figures of speech; are symbols or symbolic actions “merely” myths and symbols? Are certain forms of fiction especially suited to exploring religious and moral questions? Does fiction ever disclose religious answers?  The course will blend lecture and discussion. There will be two guided essays with flexible prompts on assigned material (about 2000 words each), short quizzes, and a short paper on assigned material (about 8 pages, 2400 words) in lieu of a final exam. The course can meet the 2nd writing requirement, upon request."

RELB5470  |  Literary Tibetan V
Weinberger,Steven Neal
Advanced study in the philosophical and spiritual language of Tibet, past and present. Prerequisite: RELB 5000, 5010, 5350, 5360, or equivalent.

RELB5800  |  Literary Tibetan VII
Weinberger,Steven Neal
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.


RELC1210  |  Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Halvorson-Taylor,Martien A
Studies the history, literature, and religion of ancient Israel in the light of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Emphasizes methods of contemporary biblical criticism. Cross listed as RELJ 1210.

RELC2050  |  Rise of Christianity
Karl Shuve
This course traces the rise of Christianity in the first millennium of the Common Era, covering the development of doctrine, the evolution of its institutional structures, and its impact on the cultures in which it flourished. Students will become acquainted with the key figures, issues, and events from this formative period, when Christianity evolved from marginal Jewish sect to the dominant religion in the Roman Empire.

RELC2245  |  Global Christianity
Henry,James Daryn
The story of Christianity's emergence in the Middle East and its migration into Europe and then North America is just one aspect of Christian history, which also has a rich and long history in Africa, Asia and other parts of the global South. This course looks at the shape Christianity is taking in non-Western parts of the world and how this growth impacts Christianity in the West.

RELC2360  |  Elements of Christian Thought
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This course considers the complex world of Christian thought by examining various perspectives on the nature of faith, the being and action of God, the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, the role of the Bible in theological reflection, and the relationship between Christian thought and social justice. Students will read important works of Christian theology and become acquainted with a range of theological approaches and ideas. Authors considered include Augustine of Hippo, Karl Barth, Leonardo Boff, John Calvin, Elizabeth Johnson, Delores Williams, and many others.   The course is suitable for those who seek an academic introduction to Christian theology and those who wish to deepen their understanding of this religious tradition. No previous knowledge of Christian thought is required.

RELC3030  |  Jesus and the Gospels
Spittler, Janet
This course focuses on Jesus of Nazareth as an historical figure, that is, as he is accessible to the historian by means of historical methods. Our most important sources of information on Jesus are the canonical Gospels, and so much of the course will involve reading and attempting to understand these texts. We will attempt to reconstruct at least the broad outlines of Jesus activity and teachings, keeping in mind the limits of our sources.

RELC3090  |  Plagues, Pestilence, Pox and Prophecy
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
This course examines the phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israel. We will read in translation most of the stories from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament about prophets (Moses, Deborah, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha), as well as the books attributed to prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve). Each primary text will be considered in its historical, cultural, and political contexts

RELC3222  |  From Jefferson to King
Hadley,Mark Andrew
A seminar focused upon some of the most significant philosophical and religious thinkers that have shaped and continue to shape American religious thought and culture from the founding of the Republic to the Civil Rights Movement, including Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Addams, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

RELC3625  |  Christ
Hart,Kevin John
This course is an introduction to Christology, that part of Theology concerned with the claim that Jesus is the Christ. How is this doctrine built up from Scripture, Church Councils, and the Fathers? What roles do heresies and creeds play in the construction? What events in the life and death of Jesus are most relevant to Christological claims? Particular attention is given to Jesus's preaching of the Kingdom of God.

RELC4044  |  Religion and American Courts
Portmann,John Edward
What is the nature of religion and its role in American society? This seminar will explore the limits of spiritual convictions in a liberal democracy which guarantees religious freedom. This course will examine: 1) the First Amendment; 2) legal methodology; and 3) the contemporary debate over whether citizens and public officials have a duty to refrain from making political and legal decisions on the basis of their religious beliefs.

RELC5559  |  Christian America: Religion and Nationalism in US
Hedstrom,Matthew Sigurd
This course examines the complex interactions between religion and nationalism in the United States, past and present. Considerable attention will be paid to both hegemonic and counterhegemonic cultural formations across a wide range of religious traditions. Topics will include, as examples, civil religion; black nationalism; settler colonialism and empire; and cosmopolitan, diasporic, and internationalist critiques of nationalism.

RELC5730  |  Theology and Culture
Bouchard, Larry D
Theological assessments of culture, considered as the human-made environment comprising: language and patterns of living; structures of belief, norms, and practices; and forms of work, thought, and expression.  Topics include cultures as contexts for identity, secular experience and secularization, critiques of religion as an aspect of culture, cultural conflict and religious plurality, and theological interpretations of culture and nature.

RELC5980  |  The Theology of Karl Barth
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This seminar engages the thought of Karl Barth, arguably the most important Protestant theologian of the twentieth century. While we will deal with some of Barth’s early work – specifically, The Word of God and Theology and the second edition of The Epistle to the Romans – our primary focus will be the Church Dogmatics. Topics considered include the role of the Bible in theological reflection, theological epistemology, the doctrine of God, election, Christian ethics and political life, the human being, sin and evil, Christology and atonement, and the Christian community.

RELC7515  |  Themes and Topics in Christian Thought: Ecotheology
Jenkins, Willis
Advanced seminar on relation of contemporary Christian theologies to environmental thought. Surveying environmental formulations of Catholic (including magisterial and liberationist), Protestant (including evangelical and anabaptist), and Eastern Orthodox traditions, as well as projects to ecologically reconstruct Christianity (ecofeminism and creation spirituality), this seminar assumes previous training in systematic theology.

General Religion

RELG1010  |  Intro Western Religious Trads
Warren, Heather
Studies the major religious traditions of the Western world; Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam

RELG1400  |  The Art and Science of Human Flourishing
Hubbard, Leslie

RELG1500  |  Introductory Seminar in Religious Studies: Religion and Gender
Tate, Ashley

RELG2190  |  Religion and Modern Fiction
Bouchard,Larry D
Are there intrinsically “religious” or “spiritual” questions? Modern fiction—in the 20th and 21st centuries—often raises questions that appear to be religious, spiritual, or ethical in character. Fiction may ask about “human spirit” and “human nature,” evil and suffering, identity and community, reason and revelation, grace and transformation. We will explore writers who pursue such questions, and how they imagine traces of the sacred or transcendent through their works’ distinctive language, forms, imagery, and experiences.   The writers in this course collectively tell a story of late modernity, from the early 20th century into the 21st. Some of them (such as Elie Wiesel, Shusaku Endo, Marilynne Robinson) write fictions that explicitly reflect religious traditions they identify with. Others (Hermann Hesse, Kamila Shamsie) write mostly or apparently secular narratives that nonetheless have religious, spiritual, or ethical implications. Others (N. Scott Momaday, Toni Morrison, Yann Martel) employ a variety of traditions to create new and distinctive spiritual visions.

RELG2559  |  Bullets Ballots and Bibles
This course will examine how religion has inspired debates on strategies for achieving black liberation, including nonviolent direct action, the use of force, self-defense, voting, riot, and revolution. Authors and figures discussed may include Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Pauli Murray, Fannie Lou Hamer, Frantz Fanon, Marcus Garvey, Walter Benjamin, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown.

RELG2630  |  Business Ethics and Society
Petra Turner; Charles Mathewes
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

RELG2650  |  Theological Bioethics
Henry, James Daryn
Analyzes various moral problems in medicine, health care, and global health from Christian (Catholic and Protestant), Jewish, and Islamic theological perspectives with reference to salient philosophical influences.

RELG3325  |  The Civil Rights Movement in Religious and Theological Perspective
Marsh, Charles
The seminar considers the American Civil Rights Movement, its supporters and opponents, in religious and theological perspective. While interdisciplinary in scope, the seminar will explore the religious motivations and theological sources in their dynamic particularity; and ask how images of God shaped conceptions of personal identity, social existence, race and nation in the campaigns and crusades for equal rights under the law.

RELG3405  |  Intro to Black and Womanist Religious Thought
Crawley,Ashon Thomas
Is thought always already racialized, gendered, sexed? This Introduction to Black and Womanist Thought course argues that thought does not have to submit itself to modern regimes of knowledge production, that there are alternative ways to think and practice and be in the world with one another. An introduction to major thinkers in both religious thought traditions with attention to theology, philosophy and history.

RELG3485  |  Moral Leadership
Portmann,John Edward
This course introduces students to the moral frameworks of Aristotle, Maimonides, Machiavelli, and Jeff McMahon and then examines pressing moral issues in contemporary America.

RELG3559  |  Black Philosophy and Religion
Crawley,Ashon Thomas
This course is about the major themes, thought traditions and modes of reflection in Black Religion and Philosophy. Students will read from major thinkers that have informed this tradition and write about their influences in both religion and philosophy as disciplines. 

RELG3559  |  Black Music, Black Faith
Parker,Kai Perry
This course examines the intersection of religion and music in African American culture and politics from the antebellum era to the present. Topics will include how religion inhabits seemingly secular genres such as R&B, jazz, and hip-hop; the role of spirituals in the development of black politics; gospel's discourse on world affairs; and the sacred music of abolition and civil rights. No background in music theory or practice is required.

RELG3605  |  Religion, Violence & Strategy
White,Gerard B
This course will teach students to evaluate critically the leadership and strategies of social impact campaigns, and the ways in which governments, religious actors and civil society have tried to reduce violent conflict. Students will be organized into small integrated teams to research the root causes and triggers for religion-related violence across the Middle East and North Africa.

RELG4220  |  Amer Religious Autobiography
Warren,Heather A
Multidisciplinary examination of religious self-perception in relation to the dominant values of American life. Readings represent a variety of spiritual traditions and autobiographical forms.

RELG4500  |  Majors Seminar: Scripture
Alexander,Elizabeth S
Capstone seminar on the subject of scripture

RELG4800  |  Crafting a Research Project in Religious Studies
Spittler,Janet Elizabeth
This course offers third- and fourth-year Religious Studies majors resources for conceiving and executing a major research project. As a follow-up, students usually take RELG 4900 ("Distinguished Major Thesis"), which affords them an opportunity to write the research project they have conceived in this course. Whether you plan to write a thesis or not, RELG 4800 offers an accessible introduction to the craft of research in Religious Studies.

RELG5225  |  The Civil Rights Movement in Religious and Theological Perspective
Marsh, Charles
The seminar considers the American Civil Rights Movement, its supporters and opponents, in religious and theological perspective. While interdisciplinary in scope, the seminar will explore the religious motivations and theological sources in their dynamic particularity; and ask how images of God shaped conceptions of personal identity, social existence, race and nation in the campaigns and crusades for equal rights under the law.

RELG5320  |  Research Religion and Conflict
Ochs,Peter W
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.

RELG5321  |  Relg, Pol, Conflict Proseminar
Ochs,Peter W
The Proseminar for MA students in Religion, Politics & Conflict meets monthly each semester to discuss student research, to integrate methods and themes in the field, to facilitate professional development, and to deepen relationships with colleagues.

RELG5801  |  Crafting a Research Project in Religious Studies
Spittler,Janet Elizabeth
This course offers MA students in Religious Studies resources for conceiving and executing a major research project or thesis. By the end of the semester, each participant will have completed a well-organized, detailed prospectus. The prospectus will reflect the guidance of one's thesis advisor as well as the scrutiny of the instructor and input from peers. Each student will thus be poised to begin writing his/her thesis the following semester.

RELG5821  |  Prosem World Relig World Lit
Ochs,Peter W
This monthly seminar explores methods and issues vital to the combined study of literatures and religions. It brings all MA students together, under faculty guidance, to attend to the broad range of individual projects and to foster a rich conversation that traverses the emergent field of study.

RELG7360  |  Themes and Methods in the Study of Religion
Heller,Natasha L
Given the multidisciplinary character of religious studies, it is imperative for new scholars to gain a basic sense of theoretical and methodological options in the field. By way of an examination of landmark texts, this course surveys the formation of religious studies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and considers some important contemporary approaches.

RELG7528  |  Topics in Modern Religious Thought: Political Theology
Mathewes, Charles
Examination of a major topic in modern religious thought--e.g., religious imagination, ethical and religious subjectivity, metaphor and religious language, religious and ethical conceptions of love.


RELH2090  |  Hinduism
Nemec,John William
This course serves as a general introduction to Hinduism in its classical, medieval and colonial forms. By reading primary texts in translation (along with key secondary sources), and by taking note of the cultural, historical, political and material contexts in which they were composed, we will explore Hinduism from its earliest forms to the period of the “Hindu Renaissance” in the nineteenth century. In other words, we will take a sweeping look at the religious and cultural life of the Indian sub-continent from the second millennium B.C. (B.C.E.) to the nineteenth century.

RELH3105  |  Hinduism and Ecology
Allen,Michael S
This course will explore Hindu views of the relationship between human, natural, and divine worlds, as well as the work of contemporary environmentalists in India. We will read texts both classical and modern, from the Bhagavad Gītā to the writings of Gandhi, and will consider case studies of Hindu responses to issues such as wildlife conservation, pollution, deforestation, and industrial agriculture.

RELH3725  |  Travel Writing and India
Nemec,John William
"This course examines (Western) encounters with India by reading the fiction and travel writing of Europeans, Americans, and Expatriated Indians in India or, conversely, in the West. The selected works were in the main written by Western writers for Western audiences, and they thus provide a window on Western attitudes towards South Asia. (In many cases, they can tell us a good deal about India, as well.) Among the novelists we will read are Mark Twain, Herman Hesse, and Rudyard Kipling, as well as expatriated Indian writers such as V.S. Naipaul and Suketu Mehta, who have lived outside India for decades and have recorded their experiences on returning to the subcontinent. The goal of this course is to explore how it is we come to know a place other than home, and how encounters with “the other” inspire, challenge, transform, or confirm our own notions of self, society, religion, and way-of-life."

RELH5559  |  The Rise of Vedanta
Allen,Michael S


RELI2070  |  Classical Islam
Nair,Shankar Ayillath
A general introduction to the origins, development, teachings, and practices of the Islamic tradition. Studies the Irano-Semitic background, Arabia, Muhammad and the Qur'an, the Hadith, law and theology, duties and devotional practices, sectarian developments (Sunnism and Shi'ism), and Sufism or "Islamic mysticism."

RELI5540  |  Seminar in Islamic Studies
Nair,Shankar Ayillath


RELJ1210  |  Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Halvorson-Taylor,Martien A
Studies the history, literature, and religion of ancient Israel in the light of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Emphasizes methods of contemporary biblical criticism. Cross listed as RELC 1210.

RELJ1410  |  Elementary Biblical Hebrew I
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
First half of a year-long introduction to biblical Hebrew, using an innovative language-learning approach. Through communicative activities in an immersive environment, students acquire oral and aural capacities naturally, in Hebrew. These capacities enable students to internalize the language and thus achieve the overall course goal: read simple biblical Hebrew prose with immediate comprehension. Students begin reading Jonah by semester's end

RELJ2410  |  Intermediate Biblical Hebrew I
Schwartz, Avram
Readings in the prose narratives of the Hebrew Bible. Emphasizes grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Attention to issues of translation and interpretation. Prerequisite: HEBR/RELJ 1420 or the equivalent.

RELJ3052  |  Responses to the Holocaust
Geddes,Jennifer Leslie
Responses to the Holocaust

RELJ3090  |  Israelite Prophecy
Goering,Gregory Wayne Schmidt
This course examines the phenomenon of prophecy in ancient Israel. We will read in translation most of the stories from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament about prophets (Moses, Deborah, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha), as well as the books attributed to prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve). Each primary text will be considered in its historical, cultural, and political contexts.

RELJ3170  |  Modern Jewish Thought
Biemann,Asher D
This course offers an introduction into the major themes of Modern Jewish Thought

RELJ3320  |  Judaism: Medicine and Healing
Ochs,Vanessa L
Jewish tradition integrates a respect for the skill and knowledge of the physician along with an awareness that there are spiritual and relational components of the healing process. In this course we will study: multiple Jewish ways of understanding why we get sick, suffer, heal and find meaning again; Jewish healing practices (ancient and contemporary) in ritual and prayer; and specific Jewish medical-ethical perspectives concerning the body and healing. Readings will include ancient sacred writings in Torah, Mishna and Talmud as well as modern and contemporary texts (serving as case studies) that reflect how medicine, suffering and healing are variously constructed and reflected in Jewish culture.  This course will stress close readings of texts, analyses of living traditions, and encounters with those whose lives and experiences are perfused by Jewish models of healing    

RELJ3372  |  German Jewish Culture and History
Finder, Gabriel; Grossman, Jeffrey

RELJ3390  |  Jewish Feminism
Ochs,Vanessa L
Jewish Feminism

RELJ3885  |  Judaism in Art
Biemann, Asher

RELJ5100  |  Theology/Ethics of Rabbis
Alexander,Elizabeth S
This course explores theological and ethical themes in classical rabbinic literature (c. 200-600 CE). Focus is on gaining fluency in textual and conceptual analysis. Questions examined include: How is the relationship between God, humans generally and the people Israel specifically, imagined? What is evil and how is it best managed? What is the nature of one's obligation to fellow human beings? How does one cultivate an ideal self?