Location: Bowdoin / The College Catalogue / Courses / Religion / Courses

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.

1014 {14} c. Heresy and Orthodoxy. Fall 2014. Todd Berzon.

[1015 {15} c. Religion, Violence, and Secularization.]

1017 {16} c. Christian Sexual Ethics. Spring 2015. Elizabeth Pritchard (Same as Gay and Lesbian Studies 1016 {16} and Gender and Women’s Studies 1017 {17}.)

Introductory Courses

1101 {101} c - ESD. Introduction to the Study of Religion. Fall 2014. John Holt. Spring 2015. Todd Berzon.

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.

1125 {125} c - ESD, IP. Entering Modernity: European Jewry. Fall 2015. Susan Tananbaum.

Explores Jewish life through the lenses of history, religion, and ethnicity and examines the processes by which governments and sections of the Jewish community attempted to incorporate Jews and Judaism into European society. Surveys social and economic transformations of Jews, cultural challenges of modernity, varieties of modern Jewish religious expression, political ideologies, the Holocaust, establishment of Israel, and American Jewry through primary and secondary sources, lectures, films, and class discussions. (Same as History 1180 {125}.)

1142 {142} c. Philosophy of Religion. Spring 2016. Scott Sehon.

Does God exist? Can the existence of God be proven? Can it be disproven? Is it rational to believe in God? What does it mean to say that God exists (or does not exist)? What distinguishes religious beliefs from non-religious beliefs? What is the relation between religion and science? Approaches these and related questions through a variety of historical and contemporary sources, including philosophers, scientists, and theologians. (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, Meshell 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}.)

2204 {204} c. Science, Magic, and Religion. Spring 2015. Dallas Denery.

Traces the origins of the scientific revolution through the interplay between late-antique and medieval religion, magic, and natural philosophy. Particular attention is paid to the conflict between paganism and Christianity, the meaning and function of religious miracles, the rise and persecution of witchcraft, and Renaissance hermeticism. Note: This course fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors. (Same as History 2040{204}.)

Prerequisite: History 1140 {110} or permission of the instructor.

2207 {207} c - ESD. Modern Judaism. Spring 2015. Robert G. Morrison.

Investigates the origins, development, and current state of modern Judaism. Covers the emergence of modern movements such as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Hasidic Judaism and explores these movements’ debates over Jewish law and leadership and the connection of these debates to important Jewish texts. Concludes by examining contemporary questions such as Zionism, gender, sexuality, and the place of Jews in a multi-religious country.

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.]

2215 {215} c - ESD. The Hebrew Bible in Its World. Fall 2014. Todd Berzon.

Close readings of chosen texts in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the Old Testament), with emphasis on its Near Eastern religious, cultural, and historical context. Attention is given to the Hebrew Bible’s literary forerunners (from c. 4000 B.C.E. onwards) to its “successor,” The Dead Sea Scrolls (c. 200 B.C.E. to 200 A.C.E.). Emphasis on creation and cosmologies, gods and humans, hierarchies, politics, and rituals.

2216 {216} c - ESD. The New Testament in Its World. Spring 2015. Todd Berzon.

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.

2219 {219} c. - ESD, IP. Religion and Fiction in Modern South Asia. Spring 2015. Carmen Wickramagamage.

Explains the nexus between religion and society in modern South Asia proffered via the prism of South Asian literature in English. Confined to prose fiction, considering its tendency to attempt approximations of reality. Interrogates how ideas of religion and ideas about religion manifest themselves in literature and affect understanding of south Asian religions among its readership. Does not direct students to seek ‘authentic’ insights into orthodox or doctrinal religion in the literary texts but to explore the tensions between “textual” religion and everyday “lived reality” in South Asia. (Same as Asian Studies 2550 {219}.)

[2220 {220} c - IP. Hindu Literatures. (Same as Asian Studies 2552 {240}).]

2221 {221} c - IP. Hindu Cultures. Fall 2016. 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 2014. 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 2015. 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.]

[2247 {247} c - ESD, IP. Global Pentecostalism: The Roots and Routes of Twentieth-Century Christianity. (Same as Africana Studies 2235 {242} and Gender and Women’s Studies 2229.)]

2250 {250} c. Modern Christian Thought. Spring 2015. Elizabeth Pritchard.

Acquaints students with the major figures and trajectories of Christian religious thought since the Enlightenment. Gives attention to the inwardization of religion, the issue of authority, the claims of Christian supremacy, the association of religion and feeling, and the relationship between religion, ethics, and politics. Of particular interest are the critiques of religious knowledge claims, subjectivity, and patriarchy.

2251 {251} c. Christianity. Fall 2014. Elizabeth Pritchard.

An introduction to the diversity and contentiousness of Christian thought and practice. This diversity is explored through analyses of the conceptions, rituals, and aesthetic media that serve to interpret and embody understandings of Jesus, authority, body, family, and church. Historical and contemporary materials highlight not only conflicting interpretations of Christianity, but also the larger social conflicts that these interpretations reflect, reinforce, or seek to resolve.

2252 {252} c. Marxism and Religion. Fall 2017. 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. Fall 2014. 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}.)

[2258 c - ESD. Citizenship and Religion in America.]

[2259 {259} c. Religious Toleration and Human Rights.]

2271 {271} c - ESD. Spirit Come Down: Religion, Race, and Gender in America. Spring 2015. Judith Casselberry.

Examines the ways religion, race, and gender shape people’s lives from the nineteenth century into contemporary times in America, with particular focus on black communities. Explores issues of self-representation, memory, material culture, embodiment, and civic and political engagement through autobiographical, historical, literary, anthropological, cinematic, and musical texts. (Same as Africana Studies 2271 {271} and Gender and Women’s Studies 2270 {270}.)

2275 {275} b - ESD. Comparative Mystical Traditions. Fall 2014. Jorunn J. Buckley.

Taking a clue from the Greek verb behind the term “mysticism,” “to see inwardly” (muein), studies primary texts—some “classical,” others less well known—with a specific focus on Jewish, Hellenistic, Christian, and Islamic materials. Avoiding “universal” ideas about mystical traditions, places mystical aspects within their specific religious traditions. Focuses on the language(s) of mysticism: how are mystical techniques, training regimens, and experiences expressed in their respective religious-cultural frameworks? Mysticism is seen as separate from modern “self-help” therapies and other ego-enhancing systems. Religious-political aspects of mysticism are treated, especially with respect to certain types of medieval European Christian mysticism.

2277 c - ESD, IP. Women in South Asia: Images and Experiences. Spring 2015. Carmen Wickramagamage.

South Asia undoubtedly presents a paradox with regard to women’s status with its veneration of Devi [Goddess] and ‘Mother’ and endorsement of strong political women, on the one hand, and spectacular, headline-grabbing violence against women on the other. What are the factors that give rise to this seeming paradox? Drawing on a variety of sources, literary and non-literary (from literary and analytical pieces to field reports, documentaries, interviews, personal narratives and oral testimonies), the course introduces students to the forces—cultural and material—that shape women’s life-experiences in South Asia. (Same as Asian Studies 2700 and Gender and Women’s Studies 2198.)

2285. Nation, Religion, and Gender in Indian Epics. Fall 2014. Sree Padma Holt.

Studies the Indian state-sponsored televised serials of two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and examines their overwhelming popularity among the general public. Explores issues surrounding the concept of Indian nationhood and its interrelation with the Hindu religion and the position of women in Indian society. Readings include scholarly translations and retellings of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; viewings of selected episodes of the televised epics are followed by engagement with the public debate through published online media and other sources. One-half credit. (Same as Asian Studies 2650 and Gender and Women’s Studies 2203.)

[2288 c - IP. Religious Culture and Political Change in Southeast Asia.]

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.

3333 {333} c. Islam and Science. Spring 2015. Robert Morrison.

Surveys the history of science, particularly medicine and astronomy, within Islamic civilization. Pays special attention to discussions of science in religious texts and to broader debates regarding the role of reason in Islam. Emphasizes the significance of this history for Muslims and the role of Western civilization in the Islamic world. Students with a sufficient knowledge of Arabic may elect to read certain texts in Arabic.

3390 {390} c. Theories about Religion. Fall 2014. Robert Morrison.

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, 2014. For most current course information, use the online course finder. Also see Addenda.