A list of regularly offered courses follows. The indication of when a course will be offered is based on the best projection of the home department and can be subject to change. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement.
Asks the question: “What is religion?” and provides a variety of answers by looking both at representative religious documents from a wide array of traditions and at theories about religion in the West. McMahan
This course introduces students to central aspects of Judaism from the ancient period to the early modern period and beyond. Judaism will be explored from three different yet complementary aspects: history, religious practice, and textual culture. Judaism has manifested itself in a variety of forms around the world and throughout history. It has developed through negotiations with the traditions of the past as well as with the changing conditions of the present, almost invariably influenced and affected by local non-Jewish cultures. Students shall acquire familiarity with the Jewish understandings of certain key notions (creation, law, chosenness, prophecy, exile, redemption) and the continuing debates around them. Same as JST 112. Putzu
Surveys a variety of topics in the history of Christianity. Topics include the origin of the religion, its persecution by Rome and the eventual conversion of the Roman Empire, the development of Trinitarian theology, the ascetic and monastic movement, scholasticism, the Crusades, mysticism and reform movements in the Latin church of the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation and the development of liberal and evangelical theologies in the 20th century. Cooper
This course is an introduction to the intellectual and political history of Islam in both pre-modern and contemporary times. Several major aspects of Islamic religious thought will be covered including the Qur’an and its interpretations, the persona and prophetic authority of Muhammed, law and theology, law and gender, Islamic mysticism, and contemporary Muslim reform movements. We will use a range of sources including primary religious texts (all in translation), anthropological works, novels, films etc. to examine the diversity and complexity of Muslim thought and practice, both past and present. While focusing on Islam, this course will also familiarize students with larger conceptual questions and problems in the academic study of religion. Tareen
Historical and thematic survey of the major religious traditions of Asia, concentrating on the more influential traditions of India, China, Japan and Tibet. Covers select traditions of ancient and modern forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. Focuses on doctrine, myth and ritual in particular cultural and historical contexts. McMahan
Surveys the dominant tradition of American religious practice: spirituality. The goals of this course encompass the study of different forms of spirituality in the United States past and present. The course will familiarize you with mainstream as well as alternative spiritual practices, from Puritan Devotions and the Lakota Sundance to evangelicalism, political radicalism and various modes of artistic production. The course seeks to trace major outlines of development from past to present and to illuminate the meaning of spirituality for our time and in relation to American history. Same as AMS 167. Osborne
Examines the relationship between religion and culture in the United States from approximately 1492 to the present. In addition to looking at liturgical forms of religion and surveying various religious movements and groups, we will explore 1) how cultural forms serve as vehicles of religious meaning; 2) how religious values are expressed and/or criticized in everyday social life; and 3) the interaction between religion and developments within the political, social, economic and philosophical spheres. Same as AMS 203. Osborne
Study of the writings of the Hebrew Bible. Seeks to understand the historical development of Israel in the biblical period and the religious forms of thought and practice that arose during this time. Same as JST 212. Putzu
A study of the New Testament centered on Jesus and the writings that present his life, teachings and the new religion based around him. Analyzes the origin of the Jewish religious movement arising around Jesus, which became Christianity after his execution and the proclamation of his resurrection by his followers. Course seeks to understand the practices and beliefs of the earliest Christians by examining the earliest Christian writings. Focuses on New Testament gospels, but also examines a selection of apocryphal and gnostic gospels. Cooper
A study of the New Testament centered on the letters of the apostle Paul and his role in the transformation of the Jewish religious movement that became Christianity. Analyzes the New Testament writings by Paul and those writings influenced by him (letters written in his name; the book of Acts; and Revelation), as well as the interpretation of his writings by ancient Christians and modern scholars. Course seeks to understand how the conversion of Paul and his missions contributed to the growth and formation of early Christianity. Cooper
Buddhism is constituted by many traditions that have spread throughout Asia and, more recently, throughout the world. This course surveys some of the most influential forms in both ancient and modern manifestations. We begin with Buddhism in ancient India, then move to Tibet, China and Japan. Finally, we will look at some of the transformations of Buddhism that have occurred as Buddhism has encountered modernity and the West. This course considers multiple dimensions of these traditions including philosophy, meditation, social relations, ethics, art and ritual. McMahan
In this course we will consider how the categories of “witchcraft” and “sorcery” have been used in Anthropology, both to describe mystical acts (particularly mystical attacks) and as an ethnographic metaphor to discuss the pressures of communal life for individuals. Course content will consist of, but not be limited to, witchcraft and sorcery as a “social strain gauge,” witchcraft and sorcery as expressions of symbolic power, the gendered name of witchcraft and sorcery, as well as witchcraft and sorcery under conditions of Western-style modernity. Same as AFS/ANT/WGS 250 Bastian
This course takes account of various aspects of religious and ritual practice, using material from both contemporary and classic ethnographies. Topics of special interest for the course will include, but are not be limited to: cosmological constructions; initiation; possession; commensality; magic; witchcraft and sorcery; ritual aesthetics; and performance. Prerequisite: ANT 200. Same as ANT 330. Bastian
Begins with Christian classics, St. Augustine and Calvin, and their vision of the relation of Christianity to the State or to the pursuit of power and wealth. Moves to the last few centuries, in which a Christian vision has been challenged by thinkers such as Rousseau and Nietzsche. Course ends with readings from contemporary period, in which the place of Christianity in the public sphere is again shifting. Aronowicz
Focuses on three thinkers who rethought the meaning of their respective religious traditions — Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism — in ways that were to influence not only their respective community, but also how we think about religion in general. All three challenged what we mean by religion. Same as JST 359. Aronowicz
Readings of well-known 20th-century Jewish short story writers, novelists and poets. In an era in which many people, including many of the authors, thought they were moving away from religion, religious questions and imagery remain nonetheless prevalent. What are these questions? How does the fiction reflect and respond to the upheavals of the time? Same as JST 233. Aronowicz
Studies Jewish thinkers from the Enlightenment to the present, through their philosophical writings, political essays, religious reflections and fiction. The chief question was how to make the Jewish tradition adapt or respond to the modern Western State and to modern Western culture. This is a course about the Jews and the West. To what degree is there harmony? To what degree is there conflict? Same as JST 252. Aronowicz
Introduction to Jewish history, beginning with first centuries of the Common Era and continuing to end of 17th century. Examines central themes and patterns in Jewish history. Readings consist of narrative as well as documentary histories with discussion of different theoretical approaches to the writing of Jewish history. Same as HST/JST 253. Hoffman
Introduction to Jewish life in the modern era from late 18th century Emancipation and Enlightenment through the present, tracing the transformations of Jewish life. Broad historical sketches are combined with close readings of particular texts, movements and thinkers to flesh out the contours and dynamics of the Jewish experience in the Modern world. Major events of Jewish history of 20th century (the Holocaust, foundation of the State of Israel and mass migration of European Jews to the Americas) are examined through secondary and primary sources. Hoffman Same as HST/JST 254. Hoffman
Course focuses on the Jews of Eastern Europe from the end of the Middle Ages through the present; looks at variety of cultural forms and expressions they have created. From tradition to modernity, Shtetl to Socialism, religious scholarship to secular literature, examines the rich cultural life of East European Jews in all its myriad manifestations. Specific emphasis on transformations in the culture of Yiddish-speaking Jews in Poland and Russia. Same as HIS/JST 325. Hoffman
Course explores the ways in which Jews have related to and represented the figure of Jesus, using Jewish texts from the birth of Christianity to the present day. Beginning with the Talmud, examines numerous Jewish sources (including literature and art) and looks at a number of historical periods and the different religious, social and intellectual developments that influenced Jewish perceptions and portrayals of Jesus. Same as HIS/JST 326. Hoffman
Course explores representations of American Jewish life, culture and religion in cinema. Using an historical perspective, it analyzes the different ways in which Jewish identity and culture have been represented in American film. Looks at history of Jews in the United States, Jewish involvement in the film industry and anti-Semitism. Films viewed weekly, including feature films and several documentaries, in class and in an extra viewing session. Same as AMS/HIS/JST 327. Hoffman
Focuses on Jews and Judaism during the period of profound changes after the conquest of Alexander the Great that were key to development of modern Judaism and Christianity. Surveys variety of Jewish writing from the period: historical; philosophical; apocalyptic; and exegetical. These texts, including Dead Sea scrolls, will be read in combination with modern scholarly works treating Jewish life and history of the period. Same as JST 340. Cooper
An examination of the political and doctrinal conflicts between the Roman Catholic Church and the “reformed” religions of northern Europe and their impact on art and architecture of Germany and the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. The following topics are emphasized: iconoclasm (the destruction of images), new forms of iconography and church architecture and the transformation of visual culture in emerging Protestant states. Prerequisite: Prior course in art history recommended. Same as ART 335. Aleci
An exploration of the Islamic legal tradition (the Shari‘a) in both historical and contemporary contexts. This class will familiarize students with the key concepts, categories, and questions connected to the content and application of Islamic law. After a thorough overview of the historical narrative and the conceptual categories of Islamic law, the class shifts to in-depth discussions on critical questions of ethics such as jihad and the limits of just-war, minority rights, history, brain death, and gender . Tareen
Focuses on some of the distinctive forms that Buddhism has taken in North America. Discusses a number of traditions, including Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, comparing their American versions with those in Asia and addressing the transformations of various Buddhist traditions to accommodate American lifestyles and views. Also addresses a number of issues pertinent to Buddhism in America and the West, such as Buddhist identity, ethnicity, gender issues, authority and social activism. Same as AMS 322. McMahan
An exploration of selected thematic elements of Hinduism. Begins with a focus on texts, doctrines, myths and rituals of Hinduism from the early period. This will give us some basic Hindu ideas on selfhood, the nature of the cosmos and divinity and concepts of gods and goddesses and how one should relate to them. After this, we will look at the modern period beginning with Hindu reformers such as Gandhi and Vivekananda. Then we explore the varied and colorful world of contemporary Hinduism. McMahan
A thematic exploration of self, society, nature and their interrelationships as conceived in Chinese and Japanese religions, especially Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Addresses these issues through translations of classical Chinese and Japanese texts and examines how these themes play out in a number of historical periods. We will end with some examples of recent East Asian concepts and practices that embody certain themes in ancient traditions while adapting to the unique challenges of modernity. McMahan
Surveys a variety of religious traditions and expressions of African Americans throughout the history of the United States. Of particular interest to our study will be the problems of slavery, colonization and racialism as they have been embodied in the history of African American religion. Same as AFS 313. Lardas Modern
What are the major theories in the West about the nature of religion? How do they help or hinder us in our interpretation of the documents of specific religious traditions? We will read some of the major theorists of religion in depth and see how they shed light on religious texts and movements. Cooper
Independent study directed by Religious Studies staff. Permission of chairperson and departmental faculty.
Sci Fi and Religion.
Law/Ethics in Islam.
Introduction to Jewish Mysticism.
Between Faith and Reason.
Zen Buddhism: Thought, Practice, and Culture.
Indian Buddhism: Foundations of the Buddhist Tradition.
Islam, Tradition, and Modernity.
American Sacred Spaces.