The study of religion, in the context of a liberal arts education, draws upon multiple disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences. This is reflected in the variety of courses offered within the department: some introduce a religious tradition and trace its development historically; others examine in a cross-cultural context the issues faced by various religious communities and individuals; and still others explore and compare diverse theories and methods employed in the study of religions. The department is concerned with traditional and contemporary forms of both major and more marginal religions, and with both "elite" and "popular" forms of religious expression. We examine the existential, intellectual, and social problems to which religions respond, and probe the dynamic and often ambiguous relationship between religious beliefs and practices and the social order in which they are embedded. Throughout the curriculum, religion is approached as a significant and pervasive expression of human culture, both in the past and the present.
Requirements for a Major
Sixty-nine credits in the department, of which no more than twelve from outside the department (either non department off-campus studies or outside department).
RELG 110 Understanding Religion, taken by the end of fall of the junior year
RELG 300 Theories and Methods in Religious Studies
RELG 399 Senior Research Seminar
RELG 400 Integrative Exercise 3 credits
12 credits of 300-level seminars other than 300 and 399
Two 100-level survey courses numbered between 120-170
a. Traditions: twelve or more credits corresponding to one of the following traditions:
Traditions in the Americas
b. Themes: eighteen or more credits corresponding to one of the following themes:
Religious Thought and Philosophy
Ethics, Law, and Politics
Lived Religion and Culture
Religion and Social Power: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Colonialism
RELG 100. What Would Buddha Do? Exploring Buddhist Ethics The question of how to live a good life is among the most important and difficult we face as humans. This course will explore some of the answers provided by Buddhist traditions over their 2500-year history in Asia and, more recently, the West. Drawing on texts from South Asia, Tibet, China, Japan, and America, we will examine such issues as the relation between renunciation and social engagement; the nature of enlightenment; the validity of ethics in a world devoid of Self or God; and Buddhist views on such questions as sex, violence, money, human rights, and the environment. 6 cr., AI, WR1, IS, FallR. Jackson
RELG 110. Understanding Religion This course offers an opportunity to reflect upon religion in human life. Sections vary with professors' aims, but all sections encounter material from more than one religious tradition, and probe theories of religion from several disciplinary perspectives. The study of individual quests highlights the personal dimension of religion, while the examination of historical cases brings out its cultural and political dimensions. Issues of gender, power, and social location also receive attention. Although Religion 110 makes no attempt to survey the world's religions, it provides an introduction to aspects of religious life and to the academic field of religious studies 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, Fall,Winter,SpringP. Francis
RELG 118. Religion and the Ethical This introductory course will examine philosophical accounts of what it means to live well, focusing mainly on works written since the American Civil War that are relevant to issues in religious ethics: whether morality requires a religious foundation, the ethical significance of divine commandments, and the concepts of virtue, goodness, evil, horror, holiness, sainthood, faith, and the sacred. Among the thinkers to be discussed are Tolstoy, H. Richard Niebuhr, Richard Rorty, John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, and Robert Merrihew Adams. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 120. Introduction to Judaism How does a religious tradition evolve over time? This course provides an overview of the Judaic tradition as a whole, exploring its history, modes of expression, and characteristic polarities as they have emerged in various times and places. The contours of classical Jewish life and thought are explored, as well as the crises, challenges, and choices confronting Jews and Judaism today. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IS, FallS. Sippy
RELG 121. Introduction to Christianity This course will trace the history of Christianity from its origins in the villages of Palestine, to its emergence as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and through its evolution and expansion as the world’s largest religion. The course will focus on events, persons, and ideas that have had the greatest impact on the history of Christianity, and examine how this tradition has evolved in different ways in response to different needs, cultures, and tensions--political and otherwise--around the world. This is an introductory course. No familiarity with the Bible, Christianity, or the academic study of religion is presupposed. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, WinterP. Francis
RELG 122. Muhammad and the Qur'an: An Introduction to Islam This course explores the foundational sources of the Islamic tradition--the Qur’an and the actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad--as embodied in texts and the lives of pious Muslims. Students will learn the fundamentals of Islam not as timeless abstracts, but rather as dynamic and contested objects shaped by multiple histories. Through following the thread of ideas from Islamic scripture, through legal and interpretive traditions, and into the complicated present, students will explore the complexity of what it means to live an Islamic tradition with both fidelity to the text and flexibility to the demands of the modern age. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, WinterN. Salomon
RELG 124. Jews and the American Experience What happens to a traditional religion when it is transplanted into a modern environment? How do people adapt old beliefs and practices to a new social setting, and what new forms of religious and ethnic life develop? These are the questions raised by the study of Jews and Judaism in America. We will analyze the development of Judaism in America through the works of historians, sociologists, novelists, filmmakers, and theologians. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 125. Jesus and the Gospels The Gospel accounts of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John are among the earliest Christian texts depicting the life, mission or "good news" of Jesus Christ. Comparative critical reading of these four Gospels is the basis for both historical and literary modes of discerning the social world of Jesus, his audiences, and his core message. Through these unique canonical texts that describe Jesus, his social world, and the audiences he inspired, this course will survey key results of the methods of distinguishing the worlds behind, in front of, and within these four Gospels, as well as the means of discerning them. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 130. Native American Religions This course explores the history and contemporary practice of Native American religious traditions, especially as they have developed amid colonization and resistance. While surveying a broad variety of ways that Native American traditions imagine land, community, and the sacred, the course focuses on the local traditions of the Ojibwe and Lakota communities. Materials include traditional beliefs and practices, the history of missions, intertribal new religious movements, and contemporary issues of treaty rights, religious freedom, and the revitalization of language and culture. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 140. Religion and American Culture This course explores the colorful, contested history of religion in American culture. While surveying the main contours of religion in the United States from the colonial era to the present, the course concentrates on a series of historical moments that reveal tensions between a quest for a (Protestant) American consensus and an abiding religious and cultural pluralism. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 150. Religions of South Asia A survey of the origins and classical development of the major religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent. Primary attention will be given to the Hindu and Buddhist communities, but Islam and the Jain and Sikh traditions also are considered. Readings are drawn mainly from Indian sources in English translation. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, FallS. Sippy
RELG 151. Religions in Chinese Culture An introduction to the major religious traditions of China, from earliest times to the present. Combining thematic and historical approaches, this course will scrutinize both defining charactersistics of, and interactions among, various religious traditions, including Buddhism, Daoism, and the Confuciansim, as well as Christianity and new religious movements. We also will discuss issues crucial in the study of religion, such as the relation between religion and violence, gender, modernity, nationalism and war. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 152. Religions in Japanese Culture An introduction to the major religious traditions of Japan, from earliest times to the present. Combining thematic and historical approaches, this course will scrutinize both defining characteristics of, and interactions among, various religious traditions, including worship of the kami (local dieties), Buddhism, shamanistic practices, Christianity, and new religious movements. We also will discuss issues crucial in the study of religion, such as the relation between religion and violence, gender, modernity, nationalism and war. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IS, FallA. Sango
RELG 153. Introduction to Buddhism This course offers a survey of Buddhism from its inception in India some 2500 years ago to the present. We first address fundamental Buddhist ideas and practices, then their elaboration in the Mahayana and tantric movements, which emerged in the first millennium CE in India. We also consider the diffusion of Buddhism throughout Asia and to the West. Attention will be given to both continuity and diversity within Buddhism--to its commonalities and transformations in specific historical and cultural settings. We also will address philosophical, social, political, and ethical problems that are debated among Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism today. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IS, WinterA. Sango
RELG 160. Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) represents a millennium of beliefs, desires, and customs from ancient Israel and Judah, many of which still reverberate today. Who were its authors? Why did they write what they did? How does their writing compare with literatures from the superpowers of their day: the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Egyptians, and the Mesopotamians? Integrating a cross-disciplinary spectrum of religion, history, and literature, students in this class will interpret Hebrew Bible texts in English using methods employed by biblical scholars, asking questions about language and meaning, literary effects, and Hebrew Bible's social and historical contexts. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, Offered in alternate years. SpringK. Brink
RELG 162. Jesus, Paul, and Christian Origins (New Testament) This course introduces students to the diverse literature and theologies of the New Testament and to the origins and social worlds of early Christian movements. Possible topics include: Jesus and his message; Paul and women's spiritual authority; non-canonical gospels (Mary, Thomas, Judas, etc.); relations between Christians and Jews in the first century; and more. Attention is given to the interpretation of New Testament texts in their historical settings, and to the various ways contemporary scholars and groups interpret the New Testament as a source for theological reflection. 6 cr., HU; NE, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 163. The Qur'an An exploration of the most influential single authority for Muslims world-wide, the Arabic text received by the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century known as "The Recitation," or Qur’an. We will investigate questions regarding its transmission, redaction, interpretation, and ritual uses. Our major concern will be to utilize the contents of the Qur’an as a window on the Islamic world-view, and to consider issues that arise from diverse attempts to read and understand it in the context of contemporary Muslim experience. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 188. Women and Religion: India and Abroad This course addresses some of the most challenging questions facing the combined study of religion, gender, and post-colonialism today, using case studies from India, Europe and the United States as starting points. What do we mean when we talk about "religion" and its scholarly study? Do "women" constitute a legitimate category of analysis? How might women and men manipulate an inherited tradition to creative ends, and how might these ends be related to gender and power? This class focuses on Christianity and Hinduism, and other religions as time allows. 6 cr., HU; HI, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 213. Sex and Scriptures This course will juxtapose contemporary sexual theories with religious texts, such as the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, when assessing the sexual moral economy they promote, presuppose, or have been interpreted to contain. Among issues covered: kinship systems, gendered poverty, sex and disability law, violence, the economics of caring labor, and racism as sexual ideology. Texts by Marcuse, Fanon, Rubin, Foucault, Irigaray, Butler, and Sandoval, among others, are surveyed for application in order to clarify relationships between sexual hierarchies, religious systems, and the social and economic struggles of various groups for human dignity. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 221. Sex, Jews and Gender Questions raised by feminism and gender studies have transformed religious traditions and dramatically changed the way scholars approach the study of religion. In this course, we will consider how reading Jewish tradition with attention to gender opens up new ways of understanding Jewish history, texts, theology and ritual. We will also consider how women and feminism have continually and newly envisioned Jewish life. We will interrogate how Jewish masculinity and femininity have been constituted through, reinforced by, and reclaimed/transformed in Jewish texts, law, prayer, theology, ethics and ritual, in communal as well as domestic contexts. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, WinterS Sippy
RELG 222. The State of Judaism in the State of Israel The course will explore the complex relationship between Judaism and social-political realities of modern Israel. What is the role of Judaism in the modern, largely, secular, State of Israel? How and why did the early Zionists’ anti-religious ideology give rise to such enormous religious passions? How have traditional Jewish practices been adapted to this new environment? Readings will range from biblical texts to the works of contemporary "post-Zionist" Israeli thinkers. This course is part of the off-campus winter break program to Israel. Winter break programs involve two linked classes in fall and winter terms, and this class is the first class in the sequence. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 223. Research on Israel This course is the second part of a two-term sequence beginning with Religion 222 and will give students an opportunity to develop a research project on a topic of their choice on the state of Judaism in Israel. It is anticipated that research projects will be shared in a public symposium at the end of the term. 6 cr., ND; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 226. Liberation and the Bible Liberation theologians argue that the core theme of the Judeo-Christian Bible is human liberation. This course will survey the classic biblical texts used to support this claim, as well as the key concepts and theoretical presuppositions of liberation hermeneutics. We will also engage with contemporary challenges to classic liberation approaches coming from post-colonial, queer, indigenous, feminist, critical race and disability studies. Liberation readings from all continents will be covered utilizing the new Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. 6 cr., HU, WR; NE, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 229. Images of God: Art and the Christian Tradition This course explores Christianity's complex and shifting relationship to image-making, beauty and the arts across the centuries. We read Christian theologies and philosophies of art, analyze Christian works of art and visit churches to consider the role of art in worship. Topics include: the beauty of God and the ugliness of Christ, incarnation and the theology of matter, image vs. idol, iconoclasm, beauty as a path to God, Christianity and censorship, art as co-creation with God, the artist as prophet. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, FallP. Francis
RELG 230. Feminist Theologies How have feminist theologians attempted to understand and transform religious traditions they find both oppressive and liberating where justice for women is concerned? This course examines works by feminist scholars (from Christian and Jewish traditions) who have sought to re-think fundamental categories, symbols, questions, and methods related to the study of scripture, ethics, and theology. We explore the ways in which theologians from various cultural backgrounds have worked toward women’s empowerment through critiques of sexism, racism, and colonialism, and through feminist models of community, identity, and justice. Topics include: gender and biblical interpretation, God-language, redemption, sexual ethics, and ecofeminism. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 231. From Luther to Kierkegaard Martin Luther and the Reformation have often been understood as crucial factors in the rise of "modernity." Yet, the Reformation was also a medieval event, and Luther was certainly a product of the late Middle Ages. This class focuses on the theology of the Protestant Reformation, and traces its legacy in the modern world. We read Luther, Calvin, and Anabaptists, exploring debates over politics, church authority, scripture, faith, and salvation. We then trace the appropriation of these ideas by modern thinkers, who draw upon the perceived individualism of the Reformers in their interpretations of religious experience, despair, freedom, and secularization. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 232. God and Desire This course explores the messy entanglements of desire for God and desire for earthly things, erotic relationships with the divine and those among human beings. We begin with Plato’s conception of Eros, and then trace its disavowal and/or appropriation in the history of Christian thought and its reemergence in modern and postmodern Western thought, especially that informed by psychoanalysis. We explore the ways that the Christian ascetic and mystical traditions and psychoanalysis are allied discourses inasmuch as they are means of discerning and relating to the desires of the heart. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, SpringP. Francis
RELG 235. Be a Man: Masculinity and Christianity From action figures to images of Jesus, masculinities are ever-present if seldom acknowledged. This course explores the changing conceptions of masculinity in Christianity and the West in relation to issues of gender and sexuality, and in debates around God, morality, and family. We consider recurring tropes in Christian and Western conceptions of masculinity, but pay particular attention to images of suffering male bodies--from the crucified Christ to Robert Mappelthorpe’s photographs. How do such images reinforce notions of male "toughness" and how do they reveal the vulnerability of male bodies and the agency-perhaps the redemptive power-of such vulnerability? 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IDS, WinterP. Francis
RELG 238. The Sacred Body The human body has been a focus of reflection throughout history and across traditions. Drawing on specific examples from various historical, geographical, and cultural contexts, we will explore numerous ways of constructing, deconstructing, cultivating, imagining, representing, disciplining, habituating, inhabiting, and adorning the body--both in daily life and in religious fields. We will explore different forms of bodily knowledge and their relation to subjectivity. We will also take up questions about the relation between the soul (insofar as it is relevant in certain traditions), the self, and the body as it has been elaborated in a variety of contexts. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 243. Native American Religious Freedom This course explores historical and legal contexts in which Native Americans have practiced their religions in the United States. Making reference to the cultural background of Native traditions, and the history of First Amendment law, the course explores landmark court cases in Sacred Lands, Peyotism, free exercise in prisons, and sacralized traditional practices (whaling, fishing, hunting) and critically examines the conceptual framework of "religion" as it has been applied to the practice of Native American traditions. Service projects will integrate academic learning and student involvement in matters of particular concern to contemporary native communities. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 246. Religion and the Black Freedom Struggle This course will examine the key events, figures, philosophies, tactics, and consequences of the modern civil rights movement in United States. The period from 1955-1965 will receive special attention, but the roots of the freedom struggle and the effect on recent American history will also be considered. Studying primary source documents, film, secondary literature, and music will facilitate understanding of what is widely regarded as the most effective mass protest movement in modern American history. Emphasis will be given to the centrality of religion for the social ethics of key movement participants. 6 cr., HU; HI, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 247. RAP and Religion: Rhymes about God and the Good We will explore the origins, existential, and ethical dimensions of Rhythm and Poetry (RAP) music. Giving attention to RAP songs written and produced by African American artists, including Tupac, Nas, Cee-lo Green, Dante Smith, Michael Franti, The Roots, and Lauryn Hill, we will analyze their work with an interest in understanding the conceptions of God and the good reflected in them, and how these conceptions connect to and reflect African American cultural practices. Weekly, we will read one theoretical, biographical, or sociological book and listen to one album. Assignments will include book review essays, music reviews, and a final paper. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 248. Religion, Law, Religious Law This course will examine the burgeoning field of "religion and law" through asking two questions central to its inquiry: 1) How does religion become law? 2) How does secular law extend into domains to which religion also stakes claims through the adjudication process? To answer the first question, we'll examine the development of Islamic shari‘a from "God’s Path" into "religious law" in its codification and canonization by the modern state. To answer the second question, we'll look at American First Amendment jurisprudence, examining recent cases to determine how the law defines "religion" and what assumptions about religion such definitions legislate. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 249. Religion and American Public Life This course explores the contentious place of religion in American public life. What roles do religious organizations and religious motivations play in the public arenas of electoral politics, policy-making, schools, courts, social service delivery, media, and marketplace? What roles ought they play? In a pluralistic society, how are Americans to balance diverse moral positions with our shared civic life? Engaging the insights of sociologists of religion, legal scholars, ethicists, political theorists, and cultural critics this course will refine the language with which we address such broad questions. Students will apply those insights to focused critical analyses of issues they choose. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 250. Buddhism and Ecology Both environmental scholars and activists have been vigorously discussing the role that religion plays in shaping our attitudes towards the environment. In this course, we carry on this conversation through a unique vantage point, Buddhism. Western environmentalists often assume Buddhism to be "eco-friendly." Together, we will critically rethink this benign image, exploring the parallels and the divergences between Buddhism and ecological practice, as well as the problems and the prospects of Buddhist environmentalism. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, SpringA. Sango
RELG 251. Theravada Buddhism Study of Buddhism's beginnings in India and its spread to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, where it is a dominant religious and cultural form. The first part of the course focuses on Theravadin interpretations of the Buddha's life and basic teachings, as found in the Pali canon. The second part of the course analyzes Buddhism's function as a cultural system in one or more Theravadin society, with special attention to such issues as Buddhist legitimization of secular power, popular religious practices, the relation between monks and laity, and the role of women. Religion 150 recommended but not required. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 252. Mahabharata: The Hindu Book of War and Peace The Mahabharata, perhaps the longest epic poem ever composed, tells the story of a fratricidal war at the dawn of Indian history. It is an inexhaustible source of Hindu mythology, religion, philosophy, psychology, ethics, political theory, and social thought. We will study both the broad outlines and particular sections of the Mahabharata, including its most famous episode, the Bhagavad Gita. We will explore the epic both in its traditional context and through modern artistic re-creations. Throughout, we will seek to understand what the Mahabharata tells us about the enduring values, and notions of war and peace, found in Indic civilization. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 253. Tibetan Buddhism Against a background of the essential ideas and practices of Mainstream and Mahayana Buddhism, this course examines the development within Mahayana of the esoteric traditions of Tantra, and then traces the rise and development of the complex, Tantra-dominated Buddhism of Tibet. Topics include the role of the lama, ideas about death and reincarnation, tantric meditative practices, debates about such doctrines as emptiness and skillful means, the place of women, and the history of the Dalai Lamas. Religion 150 is recommended but not required. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, SpringR. Jackson
RELG 254. Zen Buddhism An exploration of the "meditation" school of East Asian Buddhism. We will trace Zen back to its purported origins in India, through its development in China, on to its efflorescence in Japan, where it became a powerful cultural and political force. We will explore the paradoxes and practices of Zen; its impact on Japanese religion, aesthetics, and philosophy; and its complex ethical implications. We also will consider Zen’s place in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in America, where it has influenced art, literature, and religion for over a century and remains perhaps the best known of all Buddhist traditions. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 255. Social Engagement in Asian Religions This course explores religions in contemporary Asia while focusing on their energetic engagement with social and political issues and crises. In Vietnam, Burma, and Tibet, for example, Buddhists famously protested against war and violence by quietly marching, fasting, or immolating themselves. Yet in Japan and China, many religious groups are criticized for having justified imperialism, engaged in terrorist activities, or become mere money-making machines. Can religions serve as a vehicle of social and political activism? Do they potentially change or passively maintain the status quo? We will critically examine both examples and counter-examples of social engagement in Asian religions. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, FallA. Sango
RELG 256. Modern Hinduism: Encounters with the West A controversial statement: "Modern Hinduism was defined in engagement with Western discourses of 'religion.'" This course will begin with the ideas of such prominent Hindu thinkers as Rammohan Ray, Vivekananda, Savarkar, and Gandhi, looking to a range of historical and critical materials to ground their voices in the experience of colonialism. We’ll move on to consider contemporary contexts: strains of Indian nationalism; migration and the growth of diasporic Hindu communities overseas; conversion and the transnational spread of modern guru movements; consumerism and globalization. Throughout we'll remain mindful of the question: Why is the theme of this class controversial? 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IS, WinterS. Sippy
RELG 257. Buddha Buddha, "the awakened," is the ideal being--and state of being--in all Buddhist traditions. This course will explore the contours of the Buddha-ideal as revealed in legendary narratives, devotional poems, ritual texts, visionary accounts, philosophical treatises, meditation manuals, and artistic representations. We will draw primarily on classical South Asian and Tibetan sources from the Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric traditions, but also will consider East Asian (e.g., Pure Land and Zen) conceptions of Buddha and modern reinterpretations of the idea. In addition, we will compare Buddha with the "ideal being" of other traditions, e.g., Brahman, the Dao, and God. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 258. Women and Buddhism This course explores various, often contradictory, images and roles of women in Buddhism from cross-cultural and comparative perspectives. First, we examine how women's sexuality and spiritual capacity are perceived in different strands of Buddhim that were developed in South and East Asian societies. Then we probe the ways in which Buddhist ideas both reflected and prescribed the gender roles practiced in these societies. Special attention will be given to women's efforts to understand and appropriate the resources of Buddhist traditions to address the social problems they encounter. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 259. Gandhi Mohandas Gandhi was among the most controversial and influential figures of the twentieth century. Whether as anti-colonial revolutionary, philosopher of non-violent resistance, proponent of social and religious tolerance, or reformer of Hindu traditions, he left a mark not only on India, but on the world at large. This course will seek to understand the complex relation among Gandhi’s religious, social, and political stances. We will explore the religious and cultural sources of his ideas, the way they played out in real historical events, and the influence they have had, in India and elsewhere, in the six decades since his death. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. SpringR. Jackson
RELG 261. Beyond Hindu and Muslim: The Lives of Indian Saints Charismatic teachers--Hindu and Sikh gurus and Muslim pirs--have been prominent as interlocutors between religious communities in South Asia. This course will examine how this cross-pollination produces a mutual flowering in the early modern period, with Bhakti and Sufism developing kindred concepts and attitudes, including a complementary mistrust of institutional authorities, a fondness for rhetorical paradox, and an emphasis on eroticism and mystical ecstasy. We will consider studies of the careers and cults of holy men and women from the medieval period to the present alongside critical readings of primary texts, including poems, songs, and films. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 262. Islamic Africa The goal of this course is to re-center Africa within Islamic studies and to re-center Islam and Arabic culture within African Studies. A Middle-East-centrism characterizes the academic study of Islam and misses the importance of Africa and other so-called "frontiers" in shaping the development of global Islamic thought and culture. On the other hand, African Studies has yet to fully integrate Islamic and Arab societies on the continent due to historical discord. This course explores the Sahara, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean as places of exchange, not barriers, examining several distinct Islamic cultures in Africa’s past and present. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 263. Sufism This course explores the Islamic devotional tradition known as Sufism. We will spend the semester both re-situating Sufism within the Islamic tradition of which it is a part (but apart from which it is too often studied) as well as disentangling Sufism from its common reduction to "Islamic mysticism." We will come to understand Sufism’s unique contributions to Islamic theology, liturgy, theories of religious knowledge, structures of religious authority and even political theory and jurisprudence. Further, we will examine a history of Sufism, paying particular attention to its development from an elite theosophical stance to a popular organized phenomenon. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. WinterN. Salomon
RELG 264. Islamic Politics The specter of Islamic politics haunts much policy discussion in the United States and abroad. Behind phrases such as "radical Islam," "political Islam," and "liberal Islam" do we understand what a political theory which draws its inspiration from an Islamic tradition means? Can Muslim political positions/institutions exist comfortably in a secular, democratic state or international order, or must they always necessarily be at odds with them? This course will examine scriptural paradigms in Muslim politics, several modern Muslim political theorists, and contemporary attempts at Islamic political formations in Iran, Sudan and Turkey to shed light on this complicated topic. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. SpringN. Salomon
RELG 265. Religion and Violence: Hindus, Muslims, Jews Whether seen on t.v. screens or in history books, the horror of war, genocide, terrorism, communal violence, and land disputes often prompts the question: is religion the problem? Conversely, one may point to the peaceful aspirations and non-violent social movements that have been led by religious leaders, and motivated by religious philosophies and impulses and ask: can religion be the solution? This course will explore the complex, and sometimes paradoxical roles religious ideas, practices, communities, and leaders play in both the perpetuation and cessation of violence. Case studies will be drawn from Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish conflicts in recent history. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 267. Contemporary Jewish Thought This course introduces students to contemporary (Post-World War II) Jewish theology. We will explore the creative and diverse ways in which modern Jewish thinkers have combined elements of modernity (e.g. the emphasis on autonomy and freedom) with traditional Jewish beliefs about God, revelation, and redemption. The course will include representative selections from rationalists and mystics, feminists, traditionalists and post-modernists. Prior study of religion and/or philosophy will be helpful. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 268. Encountering Islam: Dialogue and Difference This course explores discourses that emerged as Islamic traditions encountered other cultures, from the medieval and colonial to the modern. Reading texts--historical, fictional, and ethnographic--we will consider how different religious, political, civic and cultural formations (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Feminism and the Secular State) engage with Islam. Focused on questions about representation--the perception of Islam by "others," and Muslim self-representation--we will explore the nature of dialogue and alliance, both on the interfaith community and geo-political levels. Students will also explore Minnesota's varied Muslim populations and the nuances at work in contemporary American encounters with Islam. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 269. Jewish Ethics How do religious beliefs shape our moral perspectives? In this course we will examine the ways in which this has happened within the Jewish tradition, paying attention to both ethical theory (e.g., the relationship of law and ethics) and issues in applied ethics (e.g., war, sexual ethics, abortion). Both traditional and contemporary approaches to Jewish ethics will be examined. Prior study of religion and/or ethics will be useful, but is not required. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 270. Philosophy of Religion A study of classic issues in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. Possible topics include: the existence and nature of God; the status and nature of religious experience; the problem of evil; the meaning of faith, belief, and truth; definitions of the self and salvation; and the significance of religious pluralism for claims about truth and God. Readings are drawn from the work of modern and contemporary philosophers and theologians. Prerequisites: Previous work in religion or philosophy will be helpful but is not required. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 271. Religious and Moral Issues of the Holocaust This course explores the profound theological and moral issues raised by the Nazi policy of systematic genocide. Attention will be given to a wide range of issues, including Jewish and Christian responses to these events, collaboration with the perpetrators, spiritual resistance, whether there are "unforgivable" crimes, and the use of scientific data from experiments on concentration camp inmates. Permission of the instructor required. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 275. Law, Religion, and Morality Normative and descriptive accounts of the law, particularly in relation to politics, morality, and religion, will be the focus of this course. Philosophical literature, legal theory, ethnographies, political constitutions, human rights charters, court decisions, religious scripture, novels, and film will be studied in order to help us grasp how different traditions, from the Greek tragedians to American lawyers and artists, have distinguished the categories legal, political, moral, and religious from one another; understand how legal institutions and conceptions of the law shape our social reality; and articulate our own theories about how the phenomena in question relate, actually and normatively. 6 cr., HU, WR; SI, WR2, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 276. Nonviolent Social Change: Theory and Praxis Nonviolent direct action has effectuated major sociopolitical change in an impressive array of societies during the past century. India and the United States are prominent examples. In this class we will give attention to the historical conditions and events that led to the emergence of the theory of nonviolence (from Gandhi to Chavez) and the nonviolent activist tradition, and analyze the social movements that have informed the development of and been animated by theories of nonviolent social change. Examining the interrelationship and cross influences among members of the transnational tradition will be a key focus of our class discussions. 6 cr., HU; SI, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 278. Thoreau Carefully reading Henry David Thoreau’s work reveals an unmistakable religious aspect to his social and political philosophy. He watches nature. He reads religious scripture. He might be a lay monk. His sojourn at Walden’s Pond, for instance, was as much a spiritual retreat as anything else. Course participants will read Thoreau’s major texts and major texts about Thoreau in order to make sense of how Thoreau’s romantic theology undergirds his conceptions of moral rightness, the human person, individual moral responsibility, and political obligation. Through engaging Thoreau, course participants will gain a better understanding of Transcendentalism, abolitionism, and Gandhian nonviolence. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 279. Anarchism: Religion, Ethics, Political Obligation Anarchism emerged in the nineteenth century as an important transnational sociopolitical philosophy. Course participants will analyze anarchism as a political philosophy and as a social movement, from the nineteenth century labor movement to the ongoing global justice movement, with the objective of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the normative visions (i.e. a society without violently enforced political decisions) presented by anarchist theorists and groups and the means that anarchists (from Thoreau and Proudhon, Bakunin and Tolstoy, Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day and Murray Bookchin, and others) have prescribed and employed in order to realize their respective social visions. 6 cr., HU, WR; SI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 281. Performing Tradition: Art, Religion, and Globalization Visit a museum and it is not uncommon to find--along side visual displays--exhibitions of "culture" in the form of performances. Building upon the idea that "art is a bridge to understanding," festivals, fairs, and classrooms have become venues for artists and religious leaders to bring the global local. Tracing the history of exhibiting cultures, beginning in the late nineteenth century, we will consider how religions and traditions are represented in different contexts with a range of political and social implications. We will also work with artists-in-residence to consider the role performance plays in constructions of rituals, religions and cultures. 6 cr., HU; HI, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 285. Goddesses This class examines goddesses both ancient and modern, from Mesopotamia, Europe, South Asia, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It introduces some of the world’s most complex deified figures through their mythical narratives, visual representations, and ritual practices. This course places goddess worship within the context of human gender roles and relations and considers theoretical issues regarding the goddess's function as a role model for women. The course pays particular attention to issues of iconography, sacrifice, the political and social significance of goddess worship, the phenomenon of goddess possession, and what goddesses do for--and with--men. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 287. Many Marys The history of Christianity usually focuses on Jesus: the stories and doctrines that have revolved around him. This course will focus on Mary and the many ways she has contributed to the various lived traditions of Christianity. We will, for example, consider the mother of Jesus (Miriam, as she was first called) as she has figured in literature, art, apparition, and ritual practice around the world. We will also consider Mary Magdalene, her foil, who appears in popular discourse from the Gnostic gospels to The Da Vinci Code. Case studies, texts, images, and film will be our fare. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 288. Women and Religion: India and Abroad This course will address some of the most challenging questions facing the combined study of religion, gender, and post-colonialism today, using case studies from India, Europe and the United States as starting points. What do we mean when we talk about "religion" and its scholarly study? Do "women" constitute a legitimate category of analysis? How might women and men manipulate an inherited tradition to creative ends, and how might these ends be related to gender and power? We will concentrate on two religions--Hinduism and Christianity--while investigating other religions and regions as time allows. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 289. Global Religions in Minnesota Somali Muslims in Rice County? Hindus in Maple Grove? Hmong shamans in St. Paul hospitals? Sun Dances in Pipestone? In light of globalization, the religious landscape of Minnesota, like America more broadly, has become more visibly diverse. Lake Wobegon stereotypes aside, Minnesota has always been characterized by some diversity but the realities of immigration, dispossession, dislocation, economics, and technology have made religious diversity more pressing in its implications for every arena of civic and cultural life. This course bridges theoretical knowledge with engaged field research focused on how Midwestern contexts shape global religious communities and how these communities challenge and transform Minnesota. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, SpringS. Sippy
RELG 300. Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion This seminar is designed to acquaint junior religion majors with some of the basic theories, methods, and problems in the field of religious studies. 6 cr., HU; HI, WinterA. Sango
RELG 323. Scriptures and Hermeneutics: Class, Gender and Sexuality This theory seminar will attend to the key methods and questions that can be applied to religious texts, such as the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, when assessing the sexual moral economy they promote, presuppose, or have been interpreted to contain. Among issues covered: kinship systems, gendered poverty, sex and disability law, violence, the economics of caring labor, and racism as sexual ideology. Theory texts by Marcuse, Fanon, Rubin, Foucault, Irigaray, Butler, and Sandoval, among others, are surveyed for application in order clarify relationships between sexual hierarchies, religious systems, and the social and economic struggles of various groups for human dignity. 6 cr., HU; HI, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 325. Ritual, Transformation, Tradition Ritual connotes patterns and adherence to traditional pasts, and yet the workings of ritual often imply intentions to effect change, invoking the power of ritual transformation. In this, the study of ritual invokes central tensions animating the study of religion: continuity and change, social stability and transformation. This course explores "ritual" and "tradition" from a range of scholarly perspectives: theoretical; textual; anthropological; textual; sociological; political; and psychological. Working at the level of the individual and communal, or the cosmic and political, we will consider the processes of ritual preservation and innovation. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IDS, SpringS. Sippy
RELG 326. Approaching the Jewish Body Called the "People of the Book," it is no wonder that it is texts that most think of when they study Jews. But what of Jewish bodies--the importance of circumcision in making a covenanted body, of embodied rites (eating, immersing, praying), of "big noses" and "hidden horns" in stereotypes? This course will consider how Jewish bodies have been constituted ritually, textually, politically, and theologically. We will pay particular attention to matters of gender and sexuality, as we read classical and modern sources to consider the ways Jewish bodies have been made and represented (by themselves and others) over time. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 329. Theology, Pluralism, and Culture Is there one Christianity or are there many Christianities? Is Christianity separate from, or shaped by, its surrounding culture? Do religious traditions have boundaries? How and why do beliefs and doctrines change? How much should contemporary culture influence the ways we talk about God? In this course we analyze the complex relationship between theology and culture. We consider the influence of cultural identity on religious belief and practice, and we learn about theories of tradition and culture from a variety of disciplines. Throughout the term we explore the implications of relativism, pluralism, and diversity for theological reflection on the identity of Christianity. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 330. Radical Pacifism This advanced seminar will explore the emergence of pacifism as a modern tradition and the development of pacifist thinking and activism from the Mexican-American War to the War on Terror. Students will endeavor to understand the religious beliefs, ethical commitments, and ontological assumptions that inform pacifist criticism(s) of modern social order. And consider how pacifism relates to other modern social theories, including Marxism, anarchism, and feminism. Emphasis will be given to the writings of American pacifists, including William Garrison, Adin Ballou, Jessie Hughan, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King Jr., and to the histories and philosophies of major peace organizations. 6 cr., HU; HI, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 340. Contemporary Islamic Renewal This course will explore the intellectual origins and contemporary manifestations of movements of Islamic renewal. First, by reading the classical texts which undergird the theology and social action of revivalist trends while simultaneously examining how such texts attain new meaning in the present moment, we will problematize the oft-stated dichotomy between tradition and modernity. Next, through exploring ethnographic and sociological accounts of contemporary Islamic piety movements (of Sufi and Salafi varieties, and the unaffiliated) we will explore the relevance of religion to current debates about ethics, politics, gender, and the arts in the Islamic world and beyond. 6 cr., HU, WR; HI, WR2, IS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 344. Lived Religion in America The practices of popular, or local, or lived religion in American culture often blur the distinction between the sacred and profane and elude religious studies frameworks based on the narrative, theological, or institutional foundations of "official" religion. This course explores American religion primarily through the lens of the practices of lived religion with respect to ritual, the body, the life cycle, the market, leisure, and popular culture. Consideration of a wide range of topics, including ritual healing, Christmas, cremation, and Elvis, will nourish an ongoing discussion about how to make sense of lived religion. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 350. Emptiness An exploration of the central concept of Mahayana Buddhism, shunyata, translated as emptiness. We will trace prefigurations of emptiness in early Buddhism, then examine its classical expression in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras and the treatises of the Madhyamaka school, and its gnostic application in tantric traditions. Throughout, we will try to understand how the "emptiness factor" affects basic questions in Buddhist metaphysics, epistemology, meditation-theory, and ethics. Our primary focus will be on Indian and Tibetan texts, but we also will consider interpretations from East Asian and modern Buddhist writers, and reflect on emptiness vis à vis Western philosophies. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 358. Zen, Nationalism, and Orientalism To most people in the West, the term "Zen" means a religion of serene meditation, simple aesthetics, healthy food, or the key that unlocks the art of just about anything. We will challenge the commonly accepted images of Zen and reveal its active (and often problematic) engagement with social and political issues in modern and contemporary societies. Why did Japanese Zen monks justify and participate in Japan’s modernization, nationalism, and imperialism? How did they reinterpret Zen when trying to introduce it to the Western audience? How did Westerns, in turn, understand and represent Zen as a religion of mysterious orient? 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 362. Spirit Possession This course considers spirit possession in relation to religion, gender, and agency. Through surveying a number of works on spirit possession--recent and past, theoretical and ethnographic--we will analyze representations of the female subject in particular and arguments about agency that attend these representations. This class will explicitly look at post-colonial accounts of spirit possession and compare them to Euro-American Christian conceptions of personhood. We will consider how these Euro-Christian conceptions might undergird secular-liberal constructions of agency, and contribute to feminist ideas about the proper female subject. 6 cr., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 365. Mysticism Drawing from selected traditional texts and modern analyses, we will investigate the human encounter with ultimate reality. Questions we will consider include: What is the definition and typology of mysticism? Is mystical experience truly ineffable? What are its modes of expression? Do all mystics experience the same reality? Is unmediated experience possible? Do mystical experiences show us the truth? Is there a place for reason on a mystical path? What is the role of the body and brain in mystical practice? Does mystical experience make us good? Does it free us? Are mystics critics of institutional religion or social injustice? 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 371. The Poetics of Enlightenment Study of selected Asian and Western poetical texts that are purported to express the experience of spiritual illumination. The major focus will be on understanding a range of poems both in their cultural settings and as exemplars of human spirituality. We also will consider Asian and Western theories of "religious poetics;" cross-cultural views of the relation among poetry, holiness and madness; philosophical discussions of the connection between silence and speech; and studies of the nature of metaphor. 6 cr., HU, RAD; HI, FallR. Jackson
RELG 380. Radical Critiques of Christianity This course introduces students to some of the most radical critiques brought against the foundations of Christian theology (by philosophers and theologians, outsiders and insiders, alike) in the modern period. We examine critiques concerning the authority and historical veracity of scripture, the nature and status of Christian doctrines, the true meaning of faith, the relation between Christian theology and oppressive power, and the value of Christian morality. We also consider the work of Christian theologians who have embraced these critical perspectives and who have put them to use in their efforts to reform and redefine Christianity. Prerequisites: Prior coursework in philosophy or Christian theology is desirable, but there is no prerequisite for the course. 6 cr., HU; HI, Not offered in 2012-2013.
RELG 399. Senior Research Seminar This seminar will acquaint students with research tools in various fields of religious studies, provide an opportunity to present and discuss research work in progress, hone writing skills, and improve oral presentation techniques. Prerequisite: Religion 300 and acceptance of proposal for senior integrative exercise and instructor's permission. 6 cr., ND; HI, WinterM. McNally