Fall 2014 Courses

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REL 1014. Heresy and Orthodoxy.
This writing-intensive course focuses on readings in heretical texts, orthodox creeds, and scholarly treatments of the religious-ideological construction of heresy and orthodoxy. Fundamentally, heresy is dangerous precisely because of its proximity to orthodoxy. Examples focus on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions; attention given to categories such as dogma vs. freedom, pure vs. impure, society vs. individual. Facets of present-day debates on fundamentalism included.
REL 1101. Introduction to the Study of Religion.
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.
REL 2201. Black Women, Politics, Music, and the Divine.
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.
REL 2208. Islam.
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.
REL 2215. The Hebrew Bible in Its World.
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.
REL 2222. Theravada Buddhism.
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.
REL 2251. Christianity.
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 the larger social conflicts that these interpretations reflect, reinforce, or seek to resolve.
REL 2253. Gender, Body, and Religion.
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.
REL 2275. Comparative Mystical Traditions.
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.
REL 2285. Nation, Religion, and Gender in Indian Epics.
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. The aim is to explore 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; selected episodes of the televised epics will be viewed followed by engagement with the public debate through published online media and other sources. One-half credit.
REL 3390. Theories about Religion.
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.