2014 Spring Courses

Courses on this page are listed by Subject Area, RELA, RELB, RELC, RELG, RELH, RELI, and RELJ.

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  3900  Islam in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa.  We will consider the medieval Muslim kingdoms; the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition; the growth of Sufi brotherhoods; and the impact of colonization and de-colonization upon Islam.  We will also consider distinctive aspects of Islam in East Africa, such as the flowering of Swahili devotional literature, and the tradition of saint veneration in the Sudan and Somalia. 

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey. Drawing on ethnographical and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in African Islam; and African Islamic spirituality.   One prior course on Islam or African religions is recommended.

RELA  4559 New Course: Evangelism in Contemporary Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This seminar examines Christian missions in Africa in the 21st Century.  Through a variety of theoretical lenses and methodological approaches, we examine faith-based initiatives in Africa—those launched from abroad, as well as from within the continent.  What does it mean to be a missionary in Africa today? How are evangelizing efforts being transformed in response to democratization, globalization and a growing awareness of human rights?   What is the relationship between evangelism and economic development, proselytism and humanitarian aid, mission and education today?


RELB  2165  Buddhist Meditation
Germano,David F
Schaeffer,Kurtis R

RELB  2450  Zen
Groner,Paul S
This course is a study of the development and history of the thought, practices, goals, and institutions of Zen Buddhism as it has evolved in India, China, Japan, and America. Among the topics discussed are meditation, enlightenment, the role of Zen in the arts, life in a Zen monastery, and the rhetoric used in Zen. The course focuses on following these topics as the Buddhist tradition responds to various traditions. Developments in other forms of Buddhism are also considered and contrasted with Zen.

RELB  2715  Chinese Religions
Hudson II,William Clarke

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 is gender and Buddhism, exploring historical, textual and social questions relevant to the status of women and men in the Buddhist world from its origins to the present day.

RELB  3160  The Religions of Japan
Groner,Paul S
This course is a survey of issues in the study of Shinto and Japanese Buddhism, as well as their roles in Japanese literature, culture and society. Among the topics discussed are syncretism between Buddhism and Shinto, the relationship between folk religion and the monastic traditions, the development of uniquely Japanese forms of Zen, the emergence of Pure Land Buddhism, the use of Shinto as a nationalistic ideology, and the role of Christianity.  Because the course emphasizes texts that are readily accessible to students, there are no necessary prerequisites; but a basic knowledge of Buddhism or Japanese history is very useful.

RELB  3559  Confucianism
Hudson II,William Clarke

RELB 3559 Mindfulness and Compassion
Susan Bauer-Wu
This elective course provides an in-depth and rich experience in contemplative practices, namely secular mindfulness and compassion practices. It is designed to prepare students to live more fully, be more engaged and compassionate citizens and professionals, and navigate life’s stressors with greater clarity, peace of mind, and healthy behaviors.  See the following link for entrance requirements: http://pages.shanti.virginia.edu/Mindfulness__Compassion/

RELB  5055  Buddhist Philosophy
Lang,Karen C
This seminar will explore the philosophical thought of the Theravada Buddhist School through reading and discussing many of its canonical texts, the classical commentaries of Buddhaghosa, and studies of contemporary Theravadin scholars.  The course will examine on the historical and cultural background of Buddhist ideas and examine what Theravadin texts (canonical and post-canonical) say about such issues as personal identity and continuity, ethical behavior, differing types of meditation experience, and philosophical beliefs and psychological attitudes that characterize the liberated person.
At least one previous course in Buddhism recommended.

RELB  5480  Literary Tibetan VI
Weinberger,Steven Neal
The course is divided into four sections, with selections from four texts representing canonical genres. These are provisionally an exoteric scripture (sutra), esoteric scripture (tantra), a text from the Collected

RELB  5715  Chinese Religion & Society
Hudson II,William Clarke

RELB  5810  Literary Tibetan VIII
Weinberger,Steven Neal
The course is divided into four sections, with selections from four texts representing canonical genres. These are provisionally an exoteric scripture (sutra), esoteric scripture (tantra), a text from the Collected Tantras of the Ancients, and a canonical treatise from the Tengyur.  The course is part of the advanced literary Tibetan two-year sequence of courses covering sixteen genres of Tibetan literature.

RELB  8310  Advanced Pali
Lang,Karen C
Reading course in Pali suttas. Prerequisite: RELB5600 (Introduction to  Pali) or equivalent.



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  2460  Spirit of Catholicism
Fogarty, Gerald P
The course will trace the origins and development of Roman Catholic doctrine in light of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The following topics will be treated: the nature and person of Christ as examined in the first ecumenical councils from Nicaea (325) to Chalcedon (451); the nature of the Church and its authority vested in bishops and the pope; original sin, grace, and justification; the rise of the Reformation in western Christianity;  the seven sacraments and their orientation toward the Eucharist; the liturgy of the Mass, as the expression of the reality of the Christ event; the doctrines of the Virgin Mary and the cult of the saints; and the basis for Catholic social teaching.

RELC  3058  Christian Vision in Literature
Wilson,William M
RELC 3058 is a study in Christian imaginative literature from the Bible to the modern period and addresses such issues as the nature of the Christian sacramental outlook, the Christian adoption of the Greco-Roman epic form, and the faith's reliance on stories and narratives in the modern "post-Christian" world.

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. The course will draw upon parts of the following historical works: Entertaining Satan by John Demos, Salem Story by Bernard Rosenthal, and In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton, in addition to selected journal articles, as well as Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible. The class will include several short online discussion forums and three two page essays on reading materials.  The  class will make extensive use of the online "Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive” <http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/> which contains all the original court documents and contemporary accounts.

RELC  3215  American Religious Innovations
Flake, Kathleen
This course is about America’s newer religious movements: Scientology, the Nation of Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The class will be using theories of ritual and text to understand how religious communities constitute themselves around an originating vision and retain a sense of continuity notwithstanding dramatic change.  Readings for the course are organized by these three themes – originating vision, narrative canon and embodiment of belief – in order to facilitate comparison.  In addition, we will be asking why these three religious movements have created such crisis for the American state and anxiety among its citizens.   Three short papers and periodic exercises reflecting on questions raised by our reading will be required.

RELC 3231 Reformation Europe
Lambert, Erin
This course explores the history of religion in Europe from c. 1450 to c. 1650.  At the beginning of this period, the overwhelming majority of Europeans were bound together by a commonly-held Christian culture.  In the sixteenth century, these bonds were shattered as Europeans debated what “Christianity” meant.  In order to defend their answers, children disowned their parents, princes waged wars, and martyrs faced violent deaths.  By the seventeenth century, Europeans lived in a world divided by religion.  How did these divisions take shape?  And how did they shape the lives of early modern European individuals, families, and communities?  Throughout the semester, we will explore these questions through a combination of lectures and discussions. Most importantly, we will read primary sources from the sixteenth century.  Central themes include the formation of divergent Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Catholic communities; persecution and toleration; the effects of religious reform on art and culture; and the interplay between Reformations in Europe and the exploration of the wider world.

RELC  3559  New Course: Gender and Power in Medieval Christianity
Shuve,Karl Evan
Why were women excluded from the priestly hierarchy of the church? How did male clerics subsequently circumscribe women’s roles in the church? And how did women respond? These are the questions that we will explore in this course on the intersection between gender and power in pre-modern Christianity.

RELC  3620  Modern Theology
Hart,Kevin John
Who are the great modern Christian theologians? What do they have to say to us? What do they argue about? Who did they offend and why? In this seminar we shall read major works by four of the truly great modern theologians of the twentieth century. Two are Protestant (Karl Barth and Paul Tillich), and two are Catholic (Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac). Over the semester we shall read substantial sections of three systematic theologies: those by Tillich, Barth, and Rahner. What is “systematic theology”? Is it any more than an interconnected account of the main doctrines of Christianity? In what ways can it be done? Since de Lubac did not write a systematic theology, we have the opportunity to ask another question: What does theology gain by not being systematic? Students will be introduced to other figures in theological debates of modern times, including Rudolf Bultmann and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

RELC  3685 Christianity, Gender, Sexuality
Jones,Paul Dafydd
This seminar engages a range of theological and ethical perspectives on sexuality and gender. There are four sections to the course. First, we'll consider landmark statements in the Bible and in the Christian tradition, reading authors like Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine of Hippo, Simeon the Theologian, and John Paul II. Second, we'll engage important texts of feminist and womanist theology, stretching from the revolutionary work of Mary Daly to contemporary authors like Serene Jones and Monica Coleman. Third, we'll engage a diversity of opinions about same-sex relationships and explore the exciting field of queer theology. Finally, we'll read some cutting-edge works that tackle themes discussed throughout the semester. 

Requirements: participation in class discussion and (a) two 10-page papers OR (b) one 20-page research paper. While there are no firm pre-requisites, students who enroll in this class should have taken at least one course in the U.Va Department of Religious Studies, ideally in the field of Christian thought or western philosophy of religion.

RELC  3804  American 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  3880  Religion in Children's Literature

RELC  4559 New Course: Evangelism in Contemporary Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This seminar examines Christian missions in Africa in the 21st Century.  Through a variety of theoretical lenses and methodological approaches, we examine faith-based initiatives in Africa—those launched from abroad, as well as from within the continent.  What does it mean to be a missionary in Africa today? How are evangelizing efforts being transformed in response to democratization, globalization and a growing awareness of human rights?   What is the relationship between evangelism and economic development, proselytism and humanitarian aid, mission and education today?

RELC  4559  New Course: Family Values
Portmann,John Edward
Exploration of family structures and norms, specifically of what came to be known in the United States as “family values” in the early 1970s.  Particular attention to the Family Research Council and James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” today.  How are family values enforced and transmitted through religious communities, social pressures, and laws?  What shaped prevailing attitudes toward:  adoption, abandonment, child abuse, neglect, wife beating, incest, and sexual regulation in general?  How, if at all, do television shows such as Modern Family, American Dad, and The Simpsons reinforce or undermine traditional “family values”?  How have American politicians manipulated social anxiety about professional women, divorce, childhood depression, gays, and lesbians?

Requirements:  informed class participation, final 18-25 page paper

RELC  5043 Prospects in Eastern Orthodox Theology

RELC  5551  After the New Testament
Gamble,Harry Y
Early 2nd century Christianity in the literature of the Apostolic Fathers (esp. 1 Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, Martyrdom of Polycarp).  Topics include emerging church orders, issues of legitimacy and authority, liturgical ideas and practices, uses of  (Jewish) scripture , relations to Judaism, and the ethos of Christianity in the earlly second century.

RELC  5559 New Course:  Freedom
Jones,Paul Dafydd
A graduate seminar that investigates diverse theological and philosophical treatments of freedom. During the semester, we will consider three overlapping areas of concern: (a) sin, grace, and the "bound will"; (ii) divine providence and human action; and (iii) analyses of gender, sex, race, and class -- i.e., the question of "liberation," broadly construed. Authors studied may include the following: Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant, Sojourner Truth, Karl Marx, W. E. B. Dubois, Simone de Beauvoir, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, James Cone, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Catherine Keller.

Undergraduates wishing to take this class must apply for permission from the instructor, and must have done a fair amount of academic work in  Christian theology and western philosophy of religion.

RELC  5559 New Course: America's Bibles
Flake, Kathleen
This course asks why and to what ends have Americans produced so many versions of the Bible, as well as several new scriptures, such as the Book of Mormon and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health? A minor, though recurring theme in the course will be the modernist crisis over questions of historicity and myth, reason and revelation.  So, we will be thinking about the Bible both as a sacred text for some and an unavoidable cultural object for all Americans. Finally, the three-century scope of the course lends itself to a reappraisal of American religious history from the vantage point of Bible use. This reappraisal will take us through such themes as race, gender, nationalism, millennialism, and science, using such approaches as material Christianity and narrative criticism. Students will be asked to find and introduce briefly to the class a version of the bible or other American scripture not treated by the syllabus. A 15-20 page paper on a question or text of your choice will also be required; the length dependent on degree program.

General Religion

RELG  1040  Intro Eastern Religious Traditions
Campbell,John R.B.

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—in the 20th and 21st centuries—often creates questions that are intrinsically religious, spiritual, or ethical in character.  Fiction may ask about the human spirit and human nature, evil and suffering, identity and community, reason and revelation, grace and transformation. This course will explore writers who have pursued such questions, and how they have imagined traces of the sacred or transcendent through the distinctive language and experience of their works.

Some of our writers (such as Elie Wiesel, Flannery O'Connor, and Marilynne Robinson) write fiction that explicitly reflects religious traditions.  Others (Hermann Hesse, E. M. Forster, and Toni Morrison) create apparently secular narratives that nonetheless reveal religious or ethical “dimensions” or implications.  Still others (Mary Doria Russell and Yann Martel) employ a variety of cultural and spiritual traditions to disclose new and distinctive religious visions.  Religious theorists such as Martin Buber and John Caputo provide ways to try out different vocabularies for such visions.  And the writers selected may change.
Requirements: Regular attendance and participation; 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 and the Environment
Jenkins,Willis Jackson
This course interprets humanity’s changing ecological relationships through religious and philosophical traditions. It takes up ethical questions presented by environmental problems, introduces frameworks for making sense of them, and examines the symbols and narratives that shape imaginations of nature. Discussion sections focus on relationships of belief and behavior in practical problems (e.g. climate change, food choices) and consider implications for personal commitments and public goals.

RELG  2300  Religious Ethics & Moral Problems
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  2559 New Course: Whiteness and Religion
Schmidt,Jalane Dawn
This class examines the role religion plays in defining a racial category known as whiteness. By reading cultural histories and ethnographies of the religious practices of various communities, we will examine how groups now classified as white (Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, etc.) and religious images (depictions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary) "became white" and the role that religious practice played in this shift in racial classification.

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 way 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, 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  3485  Moral Leadership
Portmann,John Edward
Exploration of moral ways of inspiring and influencing other people.  Special attention to the thought of Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Al Gore; styles of leading; the role of the so-called global elite in contemporary world affairs; the media; censorship; the Internet; globalization; Wall Street, and going to war.  What is the definition of leadership?  What does traditional religious observance have to do with the definition?  What is the role of judgment in moral leadership? 

Requirements:  informed class participation; three brief exams; final 8-12-page paper.

RELG  3559 New Course: Human Dignity
Wellmon, Chad
fewer):Appeals to human dignity are ubiquitous in daily speech, as well as religious, ethical, legal, political, and philosophical discourse. And yet, when people invoke human dignity are they talking about the same thing? And what are the ramifications––ethically, politically, legally––if they are not? This course considers both the history of the term, from concepts of the imago dei to recent legal formulations, and contemporary ethical debates.

RELG  3630 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. In class presentations and research Paper

RELG  4023  Bioethics Internship Seminar
Mohrmann,Margaret Elizabeth
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  Major's Seminar: Pilgrimage
Ochs,Vanessa L
The focus of this seminar is the phenomenon of pilgrimage in different religious traditions, and we will be analyzing the diverse ways in which it has been experienced, described, represented,  analyzed and theorized. An important new component of this course is a project called “Engaged Religious Studies in which you explore how your Religious Studies training might be used professionally.

RELG  4500  Major's Seminar: God Politics and War
Mathewes,Charles T
Once upon a time, we lived under kings, who were great warriors and high priests.  Now we largely don't have kings, our rulers are not soldiers, and neither rulers nor soldiers are perceived to possess special theological mojo, whose votaries are elsewhere.  How did this change happen?  Our class will study how humans have come to distinguish activities they describe as "politics" from "religion," and how they have differentiated both from the use of violence in war.  We will watch films, read plays, and study philosophical, political, sociological and theological texts in pursuit of answers to our questions: how did humans come to distinguish religion, politics, and war, and in what ways do they remain, perhaps despite our best efforts, intertwined?

RELG  4559 New Course: American Religion in the 1960s
Warren,Heather A
This course explores the interplay of religion, politics, and American popular culture in the 1960s and 70s.  Subjects covered include Vietnam and the peace movement, the popularization of Asian religions, Christian rock opera, hippie religious communes, women in religion, and the neo-evangelical revival.

RELG  5455  Recent Feminist Thought: Gender, Medicine, and Ethics
Mohrmann,Margaret Elizabeth
This seminar course will explore in depth works in feminist ethics, social/political thought, and theology with a specific focus on materials relevant to issues in biomedicine and health care. Topics will include feminist approaches to bioethics generally and to particular issues, such as disability, the transgender experience, and disparities in care. The emphasis in the course will be on careful reading and explication, usually of book-length works, and on recognition of characteristic feminist themes and methods of argumentation. Course requirements include response papers and a final research paper. Permission of instructor required. Open to advanced undergraduates.

RELG  5559 New Course: Bonhoeffer & Modernity
Marsh Jr.,Charles Robert
This seminar is intended for graduate students and upper level undergraduates who wish to study the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in intellectual and historical context.  In addition to weekly readings from the Bonhoeffer Werke, we will consider the writings of Adolf von Harnack, Karl Barth, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber, Erich Przywara, Reinhold Niebuhr, W. E. B. Dubois, Mahatma Ghandi, and Hannah Arendt as influential sources of Bonhoeffer’s thought and actions.  His attention to the meaning of modernity remains the thematic focus.  Course requirements include a 20-25 page research paper; a weekly 250-word response to the readings; a half hour class presentation and a final exam in the form of a review essay on a scholarly book.  Written permission from the professor is necessary for enrollment in the seminar. 

RELG  5559  New Course: Theology Ethics and Economy
Jenkins,Willis Jackson
 This seminar considers the relation of modern economic thought to religious ethics. It reads texts from the emergence of an independent economic science and then considers how theological traditions have attempted to relate the ethics of love and justice to the science of self-interest. That encounter raises methodological questions about the relation of religion and capitalism and about roles for ethical judgments in economic thinking. Finally, we contextualize those questions within recent reform economic reform efforts, including the capabilities approach to development, the emergence of ecological economics, and the loss and recovery of happiness in consumer societies.

RELG  5559  New Course: Religion and Foreign Affairs
Ochs,Peter W
A study of the recent turn to “Religion” as a focus of attention in US foreign affairs. Why did religion receive relatively little attention before 9/11 in the US Department of State and in university graduate programs in international affairs and diplomacy? The course begins with a survey of US government reports and foreign affairs literature on religion over five decades before 9/11. What happened in the early 21st century to make religion a front-page international news topic and a topic of at least modest (and growing) concern in think tanks and agencies devoted to international affairs? The course examines the role of religion in political and military conflicts over the past decade, including detailed case studies of religion and conflict in the Middle East and in East Asia. And what now? The second half of the course addresses very recent academic writing and US Department of State policy on the probable role of religion in conflict and peace in the coming decade. Classwork will be supplemented by field visits to religious communities in Virginia and by guest speakers in foreign affairs and international inter-religious diplomacy. During the last weeks of the course, students will interview State Department staff members on current events and policy.

RELG  5630  Sem Study of Religion & Lit
Bouchard,Larry D
This seminar explores possibilities in interdisciplinary work in religion, literary art, and criticism.  Attention is given to three problem areas in religion and literary studies: innovation and tradition in the arts and religion, aesthetic experience and religious meaning, and what it may mean to engage in "religious," "theological," and "ethical" readings of literary works and their cultural settings.  The seminar is also is designed to direct students to important bibliography for graduate studies in religion and literature.   However, literary texts, not just as adjacent criticism and theory, will be the weekly focus.

Issues are structured around historically important redefinitions of the four major literary genres:  epic poetry and formulaic composition, lyric poetry and Romanticism and formalism, drama and ritual,  and  prose fiction as moral inquiry—together with a section on scripture read "as" literature.  Other genres may be explored as well.  The readings include discussions of the productive (not just classificatory) functions of genre.  Of special concern will be reflections on the intersecting generic relationships as providing an intersection between the reader and author, and between "spirit" and understanding.

Requirements include active participation, very short weekly response papers, 1 or 2 class presentations of some assigned material, and a journal-article-length paper.

RELG  7450  Phenomenology and Theology
Hart,Kevin John
This seminar examines the work of two eminent proponents of the “new phenomenology”: Jean-Yves Lacoste and Jean-Luc Marion. Particular attention will be given to how the new phenomenology resets and refigures questions in systematic theology. Reference will be made to Hans Urs von Balthasar, Michel Henry, Jean-Louis Chrétien, Dominique Janicaud, Emmanuel Lévinas, Henri de Lubac, and Jacques Derrida, among others. Students will write a substantial essay on a topic chosen in conjunction with Professor Hart.

RELG  8130  Philosophy & Religious Ethics
Mohrmann,Margaret Elizabeth
In this seminar course, designed to help ensure the comprehensive background necessary for scholarship in religious ethics, we shall read and discuss several classic and mostly non-theological works and movements. The reading list is likely to include certain of Plato’s Dialogues and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, along with some interpretive essays, followed by a more intensive concentration on Stoicism, the often academically neglected but pervasive and enduring influence on Western moral thought. We shall read works by Cicero, Seneca, and Epictetus, as well as current discussions of Stoic philosophy. The final weeks of the semester will be spent on later figures, such as MacIntyre and others whose work attempts to bring these early modes of ethical thought forward into contemporary discourse. Course requirements include response papers and three short research papers.

RELG  8350  Proseminar in SIP
Ochs,Peter W


RELH  3725 Travel Writing and India
Nemec,John William
This course examines western encounters with India by reading the fiction and travel writing of Europeans and Americans in India.  The works we will read were written largely by Western writers, primarily for Western audiences.   They therefore provide a window into Western attitudes towards South Asia.  (In many cases, they can tell us a good deal about India, as well.)  Among the authors 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.  Questions we will examine include: How can one—or can one—know another culture or another religion intimately?  How are Hinduism and Buddhism depicted in Western writings on India?  To what degree is India stereotyped in these writings, and to what degree is it accurately represented?  What do the writings in question tell us about India’s influence on Europe and America?  Ultimately, we will examine how race, ethnicity, and nationality shape one’s perception of another country, culture, or religion, and we will consider what power exists and what potential dangers lurk in the attempt to know a culture other than one’s own.

RELH  3740  Hinduism through Narrative Lit
Nemec,John William
In this course, we will read major narratives from the corpus of Hindu religious literature, including works of various genres (among them mythology, poetry, dramatic works, story literature, and fiction).  Throughout, we will ask a series of questions regarding these materials: what do they tell us about Hinduism, and about religion more generally?  How can and how should they be interpreted?  What gives these stories vibrancy, or what causes them to resonate with the reader?  It is hoped that in reading these stories students will not only gain a broad familiarity with the idioms of Indian narrative literature, but also a deeper appreciation for the non-dogmatic, quotidian, and metaphorical dimensions of the religion in question and of religion more generally.


RELI  3559  New Course: Shared Prophets

RELI  3900  Islam in Africa
Hoehler-Fatton,Cynthia Heyden
This course offers an historical and topical introduction to Islam in Africa.  After a brief overview of the central features of the Muslim faith, our chronological survey begins with the introduction of Islam to North Africa in the 7th century.  We will trace the transmission of Islam via traders and clerics to West Africa.  We will consider the medieval Muslim kingdoms; the development of Islamic scholarship and the reform tradition; the growth of Sufi brotherhoods; and the impact of colonization and de-colonization upon Islam.  We will also consider distinctive aspects of Islam in East Africa, such as the flowering of Swahili devotional literature, and the tradition of saint veneration in the Sudan and Somalia. 

Readings and classroom discussions provide a more in-depth exploration of topics encountered in our historical survey. Drawing on ethnographical and literary materials, we will explore questions such as the translation and transmission of the Qur'an, indigenization and religious pluralism; the role of women in African Islam; and African Islamic spirituality.   One prior course on Islam or African religions is recommended.

RELI  5559  New Course in Islam



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  2030  Introduction to Judaism
Alexander,Elizabeth S
An introduction to Judaism as it is practiced as a living tradition. We will survey traditional Jewish views about God, human nature, evil, revelation, the afterlife and community, and examine the ritual context in which these views are manifest: sacred text study, prayer, holy day practices and life cycle passages (e.g. birth, marriage, death). We will explore the ancient sources from which so much of the Jewish tradition derives and observe the ever-changing ways tradition is manifest in contemporary Jewish life. We will draw on film, sacred text study and anthropological observation of Jewish life in Charlottesville today.

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  3300  The Jewish Mystical Tradition
Ochs,Peter W
A historical, textual, and practical introduction to the Jewish mystical traditions: from the visions of Ezekiel, to rabbinic quests after the Throne of God, to medieval and later schools of color, light, alphabet and creation mysteries: Zoharic, Abulafian, Lurianic, Hasidic and philosophic streams of Kabbalah

RELJ  3372  German Jewish Cult & History

RELJ  3390  Jewish Feminism
Ochs,Vanessa L
We will study the feminist critique of Judaism with respect to traditional gender roles in texts, law, ethics, prayer, rituals, and leadership. We will also explore the consequences of the critique, intended to spawn new understandings and practices in shaping a more inclusive Judaism.

RELJ  3559  New Course: 20th Century Jewish Art Music
Jewish Identities in twentieth century art music offers students a study of modern Jewish histories "through" music. The seminar comprises of various case studies of Jews who under different historical circumstances and various aesthetic and ideological constrains identified as Jews through their compositions. Case studies include modern European Jewish art music, music written during the holocaust, modern American music (both film and art music), and music from Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Assignments include: midterm, final, short response papers, and a presentation.

RELJ  3559  New Course: Modern Hebrew Lit & Music
The seminar offers a study of the music behind the words and the words behind the music in novels, novellas, and compositions penned in the Jewish community of Palestine (the "yishuv') and Israel. Sessions include close and critical reading of mostly primary literary and musical sources that will be discussed against the backdrop of their historical and cultural contexts. Assignments include three writing assignments, research paper, and a presentation.

RELJ  3559 New Course: Jews, Judaism and Visual Arts
Biemann,Asher D
Art and visual representation have had prominent, though at times contested, roles in Judaism. This course surveys the Jewish encounter with the visual arts especially in the modern and contemporary periods. Focusing on Europe, Israel, and the United States, we will think about both "Jewish art" and the Jewish participation in art. The course will cover some of the relevant theories of representation and rabbinic and modern responses to the visual. It will then explore individual artists representative of the history of Jewish art, the aesthetic dimensions of movements such as Zionism and Jewish Renaissance, Jewish memorial art, including museums and monuments, art after the Holocaust, ritual and religious art, and Jewish kitsch. Guest speakers will lecture on select topics. Students are required to write a research paper.

RELJ  5559  New Course: The Song of Songs
Halvorson-Taylor,Martien A
This research seminar considers the Song of Songs in its ancient context, with attention to the history of the Song’s canonization and reception.

Readings will include ancient Near Eastern texts and portions of the Hebrew Bible—not only the Song itself, but a range of other biblical texts that shed light on poetry as a genre, metaphor and its function, constructions of gender and sexuality in the ancient world, the intersection of sexuality and power relationships, and the forging of ethnic, political, and religious identities in ancient Israel and early Judaism. We will also read a variety of secondary sources to provide historical and theoretical (literary, feminist, etc.) frameworks for understanding the Song of Songs and its interpretation.

Requirements: Shorter oral reports throughout the semester, one longer presentation on your research, and a 12-15 page final paper. Graduate students are encouraged to discuss their particular research interests at the outset of the semester so that these can be accommodated in the course design. 

Prerequisites: (1) A course on critical scholarship of the Hebrew Bible (1210 or the equivalent) is required. (2) A knowledge of Hebrew and/or Greek is preferred, but not required.

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.