Courses

  • RELG 100: Global Pursuit of Happiness

    We will study different conceptions of "happiness," as well as the practices related to its pursuit, found in both Western and non-Western religions and philosophies, posing such questions as: Is "happiness" a universal concept, pursued in all cultures of all times? Does religion, as Marx argued, only provide "illusory" happiness? Can "happiness" be quantifiably measured? Is happiness a psychologically-, socially-, or genetically-determined condition? In probing these questions, we will analyze not only scholarly writings but also cartoons, novels, films, and TED talks, and critically examine our own definitions of "happiness." 6 credit; Argument and Inquiry Seminar, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2014 · A. Sango
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015 · L. Pearson, K. Bloomer, A. Sango
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2015 · K. Bloomer
  • RELG 122: Introduction to Islam

    This course provides a general introduction to Islam, as a textual and lived tradition. Students will read the Qurân and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, engaging them both as historical resources and as dynamic and contested objects that have informed Muslim life in diverse ways throughout the centuries. Through following a thread from scripture, through the interpretive sciences (chiefly law and theology), and into an analysis of Muslim life in the contemporary world, students will explore answers Muslim thinkers have given to major questions of our shared existence, with both fidelity to the texts and flexibility to present demands. Though the focus of this course is not on Islam's role in current events, through attaining a solid introduction to the tradition--its sociology, its history, and its modes of reasoning--students will attain the knowledge necessary to begin to engage those events with a critical and informed mind. 6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2015 · N. Salomon
  • RELG 123: The Qur'an

    What is the Qur'an? Different people give different answers to this question. Muslims can regard the Qur'an as the literal revealed word of God. At the same time, non-Muslims can find such a view difficult to grasp. This course introduces students to major themes of scholarly discussion on the textual, interpretive, and experiential dimensions of the Qur'an. We will also discuss traditional Muslim accounts and challenges posed by contemporary critical scholarship. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2014 · M. McNally
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2015 · M. McNally
  • 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 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · K. Bloomer
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · A. 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 155: Religions of Southeast Asia

    This course explores the extraordinary color and diversity of religion as it is practiced and understood in Southeast Asia, with special reference to indigenous, Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian traditions. Beginning with an overview of the historical development and contemporary practice of Southeast Asian religions, the course examines how religious traditions have influenced, and been influenced by, the varied social, political, and cultural contexts and local traditions of Southeast Asia. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 161: Making Meaning of the Hebrew Bible

    Since antiquity, the Hebrew Bible has been read through various lenses and made meaningful to communities of readers through a range of interpretive methodologies and techniques. In this introductory class, we will survey different genres of literature found in the Hebrew Bible and consider how interpreters, classical and modern, have read the text and found it relevant in their lives. We will also consider creative, artistic and political interpretations of the Hebrew Bible--poetry, fiction, film, visual art and public discourse--as we examine how the Bible has endured as a text, and inspired devotion, critiques, political and social movements. Requires no previous knowledge and will use sources in translation. Students with background in Hebrew, who wish to use their language skills, will have the opportunity to look at primary textual sources. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2015 · S. Sippy
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 212: Televangelists and Cyber-Shaykhs: Explorations in Religion and Media

    Beyond the mystic ideal of approaching the divine without intermediary, all believers have encountered religious truth only by the use of certain material objects, certain media that act as tools to help the believer develop piety or communicate theological truth.  This course is interested in these "in-betweens," these media, objects and material that religious people use to approach the divine, as well as the impact of new medias (electronic or otherwise) on the development of modern religiosity. Students will be asked to roll-up their sleeves and delve into primary source material gathered from internet, television, popular literature and material culture. 6 credit; Social Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · N. Salomon
  • RELG 215: Muslim Misfits: Islam and the Question of Orthodoxy

    "Islam began strange, and it will return to being strange in the same way as it began. So good tidings to the strange one's!" So goes a famous saying (hadith) attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, placing the virtue of nonconformity at the very heart of what it means be Muslim. Islam's beginnings as something strange and rebellious within the context of its polytheistic Arabian birthplace, and the virtue of truth over numbers more generally, is seen by many not only as a noble past from which Islam emerged, but its inevitable future. This course will examine three non-conformist movements throughout Islamic history. The movements will be discussed for their unique contributions to Islamic theology, practice and social life as well as in regards to what they tell us about the orthodoxies against which they came to rebel, all within the context of submission to a higher power and truth. 6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · N. Salomon
  • RELG 221: Judaism 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2014 · S. 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 227: Liberation Theologies

    An introduction to liberationist thought, including black theology, Latin American liberation theology, and feminist theology through writings of various contemporary thinkers. Attention will be directed to theories of justice, power, and freedom. We will also examine the social settings out of which these thinkers have emerged, their critiques of "traditional" theologies, and the new vision of Christian life they have developed in recent decades. Previous study of Christianity is recommended but not required. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 233: Saints, Goddesses, and Whores: Sex and Gender in Hinduism and Christianity

    Across cultures and religious traditions, women have been portrayed as "good women" or "bad women" -- saints, goddesses, and/or whores -- in a plethora of texts, myths, and lived religious practices, as well as in daily, quotidian life. This course will consider expressions of Christianity and Hinduism in regard to this phenomenon across a variety of historical and geographic contexts around the globe. We will analyze relationships between varied, specific, portrayals of women, men, and androgynes in religious myth and ritual; and the relationships, if any, between such categories and people's lived practices and realities in daily life. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Fall 2014 · K. Bloomer
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 238: The Sacred Body

    The human body has been a focus of reflection throughout history and across traditions. This course will draw particularly on Hawaiian, South Indian, Native American, Euro-American-Christian, and ecological approaches to "the sacred body," from ancient to contemporary times. We will explore numerous ways of cultivating, imagining, representing, disciplining, inhabiting, and adorning the body--in daily life and in religious fields. Theoretically, we will consider the body in relation to gender, subjectivity, personhood, and performativity. We will also enjoy "live" visits ranging from a male Hawaiian hula halau (hula school), to a yoga teacher, and educational excursions in the Arb. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2014 · K. Bloomer
  • RELG 239: American Holy Lands

    From the fifteenth-century "discovery" of the New World to twenty-first-century construction of a "Holy Land" theme park in Orlando, this course explores how diverse religious, racial, and political communities have understood America as a "holy land." In particular, we examine how certain religious communities (e.g. Puritans, Mormons, Native Americans, Jewish immigrants) have re-centered sacred history--even the future--on the American continent. Examining "America" at a macro-level as well as exploring specific, local "sacred spaces," this course studies reoccurring themes of revelation, exodus, conquest, and pilgrimage, which frame America as "the promised land," but sometimes modern-day "Babylon." 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2015 · M. McNally
  • RELG 244: Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion: Music and the Religio-Political Imagination of the Black Atlantic

    Hip-hop and reggae are among the world's most popular musical art forms. While contextualizing the emergence of these cultural formations, students will interrogate the dynamic relationships between them and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic. The course will pay particular attention to the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to Christianity and contemporary arrangements of power. Listening to the religio-political perspectives expressed in these cultural formations students will question whether or not the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo of our political and economic arrangements. Giving attention to the music, from Otis Redding to Vybz Kartel, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding how it (if it) reflects a unique political imagination. Weekly, we will encounter material from a number of genres as we theorize the music. Assignments will include presentations, a music review, and two papers. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2014 · K. Wolfe
  • RELG 245: 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · R. Jackson
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 shariá 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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, while focusing on its history in Japan. In addition to its philosophy and practice, we will study its influence on various aspects of Japanese culture--ink painting, calligraphy, Noh theater, tea ceremony, samurai ethics, and martial arts. We will also consider Zen's participation in Japan's nationalism and wartime aggression as well as its place in America, where it has influenced art, literature, and religion for over a century. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 257: Shariá

    Shariá, or Islamic law, has played a vital role in the conduct of Muslims throughout time. What does it mean for modern Muslims in various political and cultural contexts to live their lives according to shariá? What does it mean that shariá is said to be divine law? To what extent can it adapt to modern realities? This course critically examines the relationship between Islamic law and Muslim life. Building a solid foundation in the substantive teachings of shariá which include ritual law, family law, criminal law, and constitutional law, the course explores major issues of Islamic legal discourse in modern times. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 260: Tantra: Secrecy, Sex, and the Sublime

    This course focuses on the esoteric South Asian approach to religion commonly known as "Tantra." Inspired by revealed texts called tantras, medieval Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains developed a rich, complex approach to spiritual life that focused not on ascetic transcendence of the world but on utilizing and sublimating bodily and mental processes, including sex, violence, death, and the imagination. We will explore the ideology, rhetoric, praxis, and social consequences of Tantra in its original Indic setting, and its echoes in Tibet, elsewhere in Asia, and the modern West--where it has been a source of fascination, revulsion, and much misunderstanding. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2015 · R. Jackson
  • RELG 261: Hearing Islam

    This course explores the ways in which religion, Islam in particular, has been conceived and represented through sound. How does hearing or saying affect the practice of religion? What makes a particular sound religious, with regard to either its production or its experience? Topics will include the call to prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, genres of Islamic music from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts (such as ghazals--love poems set as songs --and Islamic rap, for example), sermons, and other audio artifacts. The course will draw on both reading and listening assignments. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 263: Islamic Mysticism

    This course offers an overview of the mystical thought, concepts, and practices within Islam known as Sufism. In examining the development of this distinctive mystical tradition, we will come to understand its inextricable relationship to Islam, and to appreciate Sufi contributions to that broader tradition. Our study of Sufism will also grapple with definitional issues concerning mysticism more broadly in religious studies. We will pay particular attention to the historical development of Sufism from early ascetics through medieval thinkers to popular orders and practices in the modern world. 6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 266: Religion and the Senses

    Looking across a range of religious traditions, this course examines the modes of the human senses in relation to religious experience, drawing on both primary and secondary literature. We will ask such questions as: Are the senses acting as a means allowing for perception of the divine, or some kind of experience or contact? Are they a medium for self-discipline, in either a positive sense through the cultivation of a pious self, or negatively, through denial? Are the senses serving as a metaphor, and, if so, to what end? We will also interrogate the boundaries and relationships between senses. 6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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. Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor required. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
    Extended departmental description for RELG 271

    An application is required to sign up for RELG 271: Religious and Moral Issues of the Holocaust. Please download application form and return to Louis Newman (lnewman) via email. Applications accepted throughout the registration period.

  • RELG 274: Pessimism and the Affirmation of Existence

    In this course we will examine some of the cultural, intellectual, and religious transformations occurring in the nineteenth century that have given the turn of the twentieth century the reputation of being "the age of anxiety." We will engage Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophical pessimism, and wrestle with Friedrich Nietzsche's "affirmation of existence." Grappling with questions such as "Is life worth living?" and "If there is no God, is existence meaningless?" we will also turn to the U.S. context, looking at the ways some of the classical pragmatists contend with the specter of pessimism. 6 credit; Writing Requirement, Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Winter 2015 · K. Wolfe
  • 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 credit; Social Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Social Inquiry, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Social Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • RELG 280: The Politics of Sex in Asian Religion

    This course will explore the intersection of religion, sex, and power, focusing on Asian religions. Key questions include: In what ways do religions normalize certain constructions of sex, gender, and sexuality while marking others deviant and unnatural? How do they teach us to perform (and sometimes to overcome) "masculinity" or "femininity"? We will probe these questions by studying both traditional and contemporary examples--such as the erotic discourse of the Kama Sutra, concepts of "Women's Hell" in medieval East Asia, attitudes toward abortion in Buddhism, Confucian-influenced practice of foot binding, homosexuality in Japanese Buddhism, and queer Buddhists in North America. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · A. Sango
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, International Studies; offered Spring 2015 · S. Sippy
  • RELG 282: Samurai: Ethics of Death and Loyalty

    This course explores the history of the samurai, focusing on its connection with Japanese religion and culture. We will study how the warrior class emerged and formed its own government in medieval Japan, leading to rule by the Tokugawa shogunate, and investigate the origins of the purported ideals of the samurai--loyalty, honor, self-sacrifice, and even death--as represented most famously in the ritual suicide of "harakiri." We also will consider developments in the modern era, when samurai ethics was both embraced and criticized as the icon of Japanese national identity, as seen in films, novels, and other sources. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2015 · A. Sango
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2015 · M. McNally
  • 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; 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2014 · L. Pearson
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Spring 2015 · M. McNally
  • 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 á vis Western philosophies. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, International Studies; offered Winter 2015 · K. Bloomer
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; not offered 2014–2015
  • 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. Prerequisites: Religion 300 and acceptance of proposal for senior integrative exercise and instructor's permission. 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Winter 2015 · L. Pearson
  • RELG 400: Integrative Exercise

    3 credit; S/NC; offered Spring 2015 · Staff