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The College Catalogue

Religion – Courses

First-Year Seminars

These introductory courses focus on the study of a specific aspect of religion, and may draw on other fields of learning. They are not intended as prerequisites for more advanced courses in the department unless specifically designated as such. They include readings, discussion, reports, and writing. Topics change from time to time to reflect emerging or debated issues in the study of religion. For a full description of first-year seminars, see the First-Year Seminar section.

1015 {15} c. Religion, Violence, and Secularization. Fall 2013. Elizabeth Pritchard.

[1027 {27} c. Astral Religion in the Near East and Classical Antiquity.]

Introductory Courses

1101 {101} c - ESD. Introduction to the Study of Religion. Fall 2013. Robert G. Morrison. Spring 2014. Elizabeth Pritchard.

Basic concepts, methods, and issues in the study of religion, with special reference to examples comparing and contrasting Asian and Western religions. Lectures, films, discussions, and readings in a variety of texts such as scriptures, novels, and autobiographies, along with modern interpretations of religion in ancient and contemporary, Asian, and Western contexts.

1116 {116} c. Christian Sexual Ethics. Fall 2015. Elizabeth Pritchard.

An examination of the themes, varieties, and conflicts of Christian teachings and practices regarding sex and sexuality. Source materials include the Bible, historical analyses, Church dogmatics, legal cases, and ethnographic studies. Topics include celibacy and marriage, the development and status of sexual orientations, natural law, conversion therapy, reproductive rights and technologies, and comparative religious ethics. (Same as Gay and Lesbian Studies 1116 {116} and Gender and Women’s Studies 1117 {117}.)

[1125 {125} c - ESD, IP. Entering Modernity: European Jewry. (Same as History 1180 {125}.)]

[1142 {142} c. Philosophy of Religion. (Same as Philosophy 1442 {142}.)]

Intermediate Courses

Asian Religions (2219–2229 {219–229}); Bible and Comparative Studies (2205 {205}, 2215 {215}, 2216 {216}, 2275 {275}); Christianity and Gender (2249–2259 {249–259}); Islam and Post-Biblical Judaism (2207 {207}, 2208 {208}, 2210 {210}, 2232 {232}.)

2201 {201} c - ESD, VPA. Black Women, Politics, Music, and the Divine. Fall 2014. Judith Casselberry.

Seminar. Examines the convergence of politics and spirituality in the musical work of contemporary Black women singer-songwriters in the United States. Analyzes material that interrogates and articulates the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality, generated across a range of religious and spiritual terrains with African diasporic/Black Atlantic spiritual moorings, including Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba. Focuses on material that reveals a womanist (Black feminist) perspective by considering the ways resistant identities shape and are shaped by artistic production. Employs an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating ethnomusicology, anthropology, literature, history, and performance and social theory. Explores the work of Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Abby Lincoln, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dianne Reeves, among others. (Same as Africana Studies 2201 {201}, Gender and Women’s Studies 2207 {207}, and Music 2291 {201}.)

2205 {205} c. Evil in Religious Contexts. Spring 2014. Jorunn Buckley.

Uses literary, anthropological, and historical examples in order to investigate religious views of “evil” to ask: “Evil” to whom, for/against whom, under what circumstances? Is “evil” a given, and does it have an unquestioned, autonomous existence? Deals with evil as religious/cultural constructs. Among the issues are witchcraft, demons, political-religious-demagogic leaders and their followers, and religious ideologies of murderous-suicidal groups. Sources range from the early medieval Beowulf to present-day extreme forms of Christianity and Islam, covering various time-periods and geographical locales. Not theological or conceptual-abstract; focuses on pragmatics.

2207 {207} c - ESD. Introduction to Judaism. Fall 2013. Robert G. Morrison.

Surveys Jewish texts, traditions, and beliefs from the end of the Hellenistic period to the origins of the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox movements in Europe and America. With an emphasis throughout on the role of historical drama in Jewish practice, pays special attention to the formation of Rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewish literature and thought, and to how Jews’ historical memory affected their responses to the Enlightenment.

2208 {208} c - IP. Islam. Fall 2014. Robert G. Morrison.

With an emphasis on primary sources, pursues major themes in Islamic civilization from the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad until the present. From philosophy to political Islam, and from mysticism to Muslims in America, explores the diversity of a rapidly growing religious tradition.

2210 {210}c - IP. Esoteric Themes in Islamic Thought. Spring 2014. Robert G. Morrison.

Explores, historically, the development and growth of Sufism and other esoteric movements of Islam. Questions that will arise include: Do these esoteric and mystical ideas supplant or complement the exoteric practices and beliefs of Islam? Why is Sufism important for Sufis? How do we study religious ideas that thrive, sometimes, on defying description?

[2215 {215} c - ESD. The Hebrew Bible in Its World.]

2216 {216} c - ESD. The New Testament in Its World. Fall 2013. Jorunn J. Buckley.

Situates the Christian New Testament in its Hellenistic cultural context. While the New Testament forms the core of the course, attention is paid to parallels and differences in relation to other Hellenistic religious texts: Jewish, (other) Christian, and pagan. Religious leadership, rituals, secrecy, philosophy of history, and salvation are some of the main themes.

[2217 {217} c - ESD. Gnosticism.]

2219 {219} c. Religion and Fiction in Modern South Asia. Spring 2015. John Holt.

A study of the Hindu and Buddhist religious cultures of modern South Asia as they have been imagined, represented, interpreted, and critiqued in the literary works of contemporary and modern South Asian writers of fiction and historical novels. (Same as Asian Studies 2550 {219}.)

2220 {220} c - IP. Hindu Literatures. Spring 2014. John Holt and Sree Padma Holt.

A reading and discussion of translated classical Hindu literature, including the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Yoga Sutra, the epics Ramayana, Mahabharata (including the Bhagavad Gita), Devi Mahatmya and the Cilapatikaram, etc. Focuses on development of various types of religious worldviews and religious experiences as reflected in classical Sanskrit and vernacular literature of India. (Same as Asian Studies 2552 {240}).

2221 {221} c - IP. Hindu Cultures. Spring 2015. John Holt.

A consideration of various types of individual and communal religious practice and religious expression in Hindu tradition, including ancient ritual sacrifice, mysticism and yoga (meditation), dharma and karma (ethical and political significance), pilgrimage (as inward spiritual journey and outward ritual behavior), puja (worship of deities through seeing, hearing, chanting), rites of passage (birth, adolescence, marriage, and death), etc. Focuses on the nature of symbolic expression and behavior as these can be understood from indigenous theories of religious practice. Religion 2220 {220} is recommended as a previous course. (Same as Asian Studies 2553 {241}.)

2222 {222} c - ESD, IP. Theravada Buddhism. Fall 2013. John Holt.

An examination of the major trajectories of Buddhist religious thought and practice as understood from a reading of primary and secondary texts drawn from the Theravada traditions of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Burma. (Same as Asian Studies 2554 {242}.)

2223 {223} c - IP. Mahayana Buddhism. Fall 2014. John Holt.

Studies the emergence of Mahayana Buddhist worldviews as reflected in primary sources of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese origins. Buddhist texts include the Buddhacarita (“Life of Buddha”), the Sukhavati Vyuha (“Discourse on the ‘Pure Land’”), the Vajraccedika Sutra (the “Diamond-Cutter”), the Prajnaparamitra-hrdaya Sutra (“Heart Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom”), the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (the “Lotus Sutra”), and the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, among others. (Same as Asian Studies 2551 {223}.)

2232 {232} c - IP. Approaches to the Qur’an. Spring 2014. Robert G. Morrison.

Explores a variety of approaches to and interpretations of the Qur’an, the foundational text of Islam. Special attention will be paid to the Qur’an’s doctrines, to the Qur’an’s role in Islamic law, to the Qur’an’s relationship to the Bible, and to the Qur’an’s historical context. While the Qur’an will be read entirely in English translation, explores the role of the Arabic Qur’an in the lives of Muslims worldwide.

[2237 {237} c. Judaism Under Islam.]

2247 {247} c - ESD, IP. Global Pentecostalism: The Roots and Routes of Twentieth-Century Christianity. Spring 2014. Judith Casselberry.

Seminar. Pentecostalism is a form of Christianity centered on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals speak in tongues, heal, prophesize, see visions, and exorcise demons. By many accounts, Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion in the world. While the Pentecostal population is difficult to count, current estimates place the world’s total number of adherents at close to 600 million, of whom 75% are women. With particular attention to its intersections with gender, ethnicity, and class, explores the religion’s appeal; its impact on devotees’ lives; and resultant local, regional, and global implications. Case studies include the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa. (Same as Africana Studies 2235 {242} and Gender and Women’s Studies 2229.)

2252 {252} c. Marxism and Religion. Fall 2013. Elizabeth Pritchard.

Despite Karl Marx’s famous denunciation of religion as the “opiate of the masses,” Marxism and religion have become companionable in the last several decades. Examines this development through the works of thinkers and activists from diverse religious frameworks, including Catholicism and Judaism, who combine Marxist convictions and analyses with religious commitments in order to further their programs for social emancipation. Included are works by liberation theologians Hugo Assmann, Leonardo Boff, and José Miguez Bonino, and philosophers Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, and Cornel West.

2253 {253} c - ESD. Gender, Body, and Religion. Spring 2016. Elizabeth Pritchard.

A significant portion of religious texts and practices is devoted to the disciplining and gendering of bodies. Examines these disciplines including ascetic practices, dietary restrictions, sexual and purity regulations, and boundary maintenance between human and divine, public and private, and clergy and lay. Topics include desire and hunger, abortion, women-led religious movements, the power of submission, and the related intersections of race and class. Materials are drawn from Christianity, Judaism, Neopaganism, Voudou, and Buddhism. (Same as Gender and Women’s Studies 2256 {256}.)

2259 {259} c. Religious Toleration and Human Rights. Spring 2016. Elizabeth Pritchard.

Is toleration a response to difference we cannot do without, or is it simply a strategy for producing religious subjectivities that are compliant with liberal political rule? Is toleration a virtue like forgiveness or a poor substitute for justice? Examines the relationship between early modern European arguments for toleration and the emergence of universal human rights as well as the continuing challenges that beset their mutual implementation. Some of these challenges include confronting the Christian presuppositions of liberal toleration, accommodating the right to religious freedom while safeguarding cultural diversity by prohibiting proselytism, and translating arguments for religious toleration to the case for nondiscrimination of sexual orientations and relationships. In addition to case studies and United Nations documents, course readings include selections from Locke, Marx, Heyd, Walzer, Brown, Pellegrini, and Richards.

2271 {271} c - ESD. Spirit Come Down: Black Women and Religion. Spring 2015. Judith Casselberry.

Explores issues of self-representation, memory, material culture, embodiment, and civic and political engagement through autobiographical, historical, literary, anthropological, cinematic, and musical texts. Primarily focused on Christian denominations: Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal. Examines the religious lives of black women in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. (Same as Africana Studies 2271 {271} and Gender and Women’s Studies 2270 {270}.)

[2275 {275} b - ESD. Comparative Mystical Traditions.]

2276 {276} c - ESD, IP. Religion and the Unconscious. Fall 2013. Jorunn J. Buckley.

A focus of three central figures in psychology and religion: Sigmund Freud and his pupils C. G. Jung and Wilhelm Reich, none of whom is particularly “popular” at present. Selected writings by them, and by William James, on individual religious experience, and study of Islamic mysticism and an anthropological critique of the modern appropriation of the term “shamanism.”

2288 c - IP. Religious Culture and Political Change in Southeast Asia. Spring 2014. John Holt.

An examination of the ways in which changes in political economies and societies of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia have fostered changes in the predominantly Theravada Buddhist religious cultures of modern Southeast Asia. Focuses include how civil wars in Sri Lanka and Burma, revolutions in Laos and Cambodia, and the ideology of kingship in Thailand have elicited changes in the public practice and understanding of religion. Previous credit in Religion 2222 {222} (same as Asian Studies 2554 {242}) is highly recommended. (Same as Asian Studies 2555.)

2970–2973 {291–294} c. Intermediate Independent Study in Religion. The Department.

2999 {299} c. Intermediate Collaborative Study in Religion. The Department.

Advanced Courses

The following courses study in depth a topic of limited scope but major importance, such as one or two individuals, a movement, type, concept, problem, historical period, or theme. Topics change from time to time. Religion 3390 {390} is required for majors, and normally presupposes that four of nine required courses have been taken.

[3344 {344} c. Religious Culture and Politics in Southeast Asia. (Same as Asian Studies 3550 {344} and Government 3900 {393}.]

3390 {390} c. Theories about Religion. Fall 2013. John Holt.

Seminar focused on how religion has been explained and interpreted from a variety of intellectual and academic perspectives from the sixteenth century to the present. In addition to a historical overview of religion’s interpretation and explanation, the focus also includes consideration of postmodern critiques and the problem of religion and violence in the contemporary world.

Prerequisite: Religion 1101 {101}.

4000–4003 {401–404} c. Advanced Independent Study in Religion. The Department.

4029 {405} c. Advanced Collaborative Study in Religion. The Department.

4050–4051 c. Honors Project in Religion. The Department.

Online Catalogue content is current as of August 1, 2013. For most current course information, use the online course finder. Also see Addenda.