Course Descriptions

Course Catalog for RELIGION
RELG 103
Biblical Hebrew Language and Culture I
This course will introduce students to elements of the religion and culture of ancient Israel through study of its language. How did Israelites name God? Was Biblical language sexist? Would we be able to understand King David if we met him today? Since the script originally just showed consonants, and not vowels, how do we even know how to pronounce the words? Through intensive study of the writing system, vocabulary and grammar of the Hebrew Bible students will, by the end of the sequence, be able to read basic prose texts like Genesis and understand how the language and culture of Israel interrelate.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 104
Biblical Hebrew Language and Culture II
This course is a continuation of RELG 103. This course will introduce students to elements of the religion and culture of ancient Israel through study of its language. How did Israelites name God? Was Biblical language sexist? Would we be able to understand King David if we met him today? Since the script originally just showed consonants, and not vowels, how do we even know how to pronounce the words? Through intensive study of the writing system, vocabulary and grammar of the Hebrew Bible students will, by the end of the sequence, be able to read basic prose texts like Genesis and understand how the language and culture of Israel interrelate.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Religion 103.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 105
Hebrew Bible: The Torah and the Origins of Israel
This course introduces the heart of the Bible: the foundational document of Judaism and probably the most influential literature ever written: the Torah, or Five Books of Moses. It tells how God created the world, how he chose Abraham and Moses to receive his covenant, and how he redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. But it tells most of those things twice: it is not only the most famous book from the ancient world but also the least coherent, and we will explore what its strange style says about ancient Israel's culture and literature. We will connect this with the historical origins of Israel and the tales of the conquest in Joshua and Judges.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 106
Hebrew Bible: Kings, Prophets and the Literature of Israel
This course introduces the literature of the Bible: stories of the rise and fall of kings like David, legends of miracle-working prophets, the love poetry of Solomon and the intimate prayer of the Psalms. We will examine how this literature arose in ancient Israel and how it was reinterpreted and given new life after the Babylonian conquest, laying the foundations for Judaism and Christianity. It stands on its own as an introduction to biblical literature, or taken after RELG 105 forms a complete year-long sequence in the Hebrew Bible.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 109
Jewish Tradition
A thematic introduction to the major concepts, ritual cycles, holidays, and beliefs of Judaism. Readings and course material will be taken from classic Jewish texts as well as modern secondary sources. (May be counted toward International Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 110
Introduction to Christianity
This course offers a survey of Christian thought from its origins to the present. Through the reading of a wide range of primary texts – encompassing different historical periods, literary genres, polemical concerns and religious sensibilities – the course demonstrates the rich diversity within Christianity. The course seeks to cultivate broad historical familiarity with the basic questions and debates in, as well as the central authors of, Christian thought. We will track the changing configurations of three sets of relationships that resurface variously throughout Christian history: the relationship between 1) faith and reason, 2) church and state, and 3) understandings of the identity and work of Jesus Christ and theories of redemption or salvation.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 150
Sanskrit Tutorial
An introduction to the grammar, vocabulary, and translation of classical Sanskrit. Subsequent semesters can be taken as independent studies. First-year studies focus on epic materials, second-year on the Bhagavad Gita. (May be counted toward Asian Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 151
Religions of Asia
An introduction to the major religions of Asia: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism, with special emphasis on how each of these modes of thought gives rise to a special vision of man in the universe, a complex of myth and practice, and a pattern of ethical behavior. (May be counted toward international studies/Asian studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 181
Introduction to Islam
This survey course explores the diversity of Muslim experiential and intellectual approaches to the key sacred sources of the religion, the Qur'an, and the figure of the Prophet. The course addresses pre-Islamic Arabia and the rise of Islam; Muhammad and the Qur'an; prophetic traditions and jurisprudence; theology and mysticism; art and poetry; basic beliefs and practices of the Muslim community; responses to colonialism and modernity; and Islam in the United States.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 184
Myth, Rite, and Sacrament
A phenomenological approach to the study of religion through an examination of the nature of religious consciousness and its outward modes of expression. Special emphasis is placed on the varieties of religious experience and their relations to myths, rites, and sacraments. Enrollment limited. (May be counted toward international studies/African studies and international studies/comparative development studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 186
Islam in America
An introduction to the history of Muslims in America, focusing on the themes of politics, race, class, gender, and cultural expressions. We will emphasize primary sources, such as music, films, poetry and novels, with special attention to the emergence of cyber-Islam.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 192
Roman Catholicism
An introduction to the main outlines of the Roman Catholic tradition through an examination of the highlights of historical and doctrinal development, devotional and liturgical expression, and the emergence of the Catholic church as a global entity within a diversity of world cultures.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 194
Eastern Orthodox Tradition
Freed from the restraints that bound them for much of the 20th century, the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe are flowering. Although unfamiliar to many in the West, Orthodoxy is the lasting legacy of the Byzantine Empire and remains the dominant form of Christianity in much of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The course offers an introductory survey of the Orthodox Christian tradition, which stretches unbroken from first century Palestine to 20th-century Russia, Greece, and Armenia. It treats the history of the church, and its distinctive approach to theology and worship (including iconography, church architecture, and sacred music).
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 209
Religions in the Contemporary Middle East
The impact of religion in contemporary Middle Eastern culture will be examined through the study of Middle Eastern monotheisms: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The course will focus on specific national settings where religion has played a decisive role: Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, and Israel. Internal divisions and tensions will be explored, as well as interreligious conflicts. (May be counted toward and International Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 211
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
Where did the Bible come from? This class will examine the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in its evolution and complexity. We will pay careful attention to the text's many powerful voices and striking literary features, its great figures such as Abraham, Moses, and David, and its relationship with the major historical events which shaped the life of ancient Israel and later Jewish and Christian tradition. (May be counted toward Jewish Studies and International Studies/Middle Eastern Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 212
New Testament
An examination of the New Testament in the context of the first century C.E. to study the formation and themes of these early Christian writings. The course will stress the analysis of texts and discussion of their possible interpretations. How did the earliest writings about Jesus present him? Who was Paul? Is it more accurate to call him the founder of Christianity instead of Jesus? How do we understand Gospels that are not in the New Testament? We will attend to these and other social, political, and historical issues for studying the New Testament and Early Christianity.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 214
Jews in America
A social and religious history of American Judaism from pre-revolutionary to contemporary times. After examining the era of immigration and “Americanization,” the course will focus on the ethnic, religious, and social structures of American Judaism: the community center, the synagogue, and the federation. (May be counted toward American studies and Jewish studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 216
Literature and Legacy of Genesis
An examination of a Biblical text that is foundational to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Along with mastery of the basic narrative details of Genesis, the course will focus on themes such as the troubled dynamics of sibling relations, ambivalence surrounding being the “chosen people,” depiction of the trials of coming of age, and the origins of sexual politics.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 218
Judaism in the 20th Century
This course focuses on two momentous events of Jewish history: the extermination of European Jewry and the establishment of a Jewish state. After examining the historical contexts and implications of these two events, the course will turn to the ongoing repercussions of the Holocaust and the state of Israel in contemporary Jewish theology and literature. (May be counted toward Jewish Studies.)
Prerequisite: C- or better in Religion 109.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 219
Mythic Foundations of Western Political Thought
This course introduces students to the 'divine' element of politics: why do we obey rulers we've never met? Are kings like God, and does government have a mythic dimension? If God has masculine gender, does that make politics male? We will study some very durable myths of foundation and order, beginning with the world's first states in Mesopotamia and their legacy in the Bible. In these myths God gains sovereignty by successfully performing his masculinity, a virile warrior who slays Leviathan, the cosmic dragon. We will analyze a few fundamental alternatives that Western political thought has created: are they more reasonable and better? Do they abolish Leviathan or replace it with their own myths?
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 221
Bible Zombies: The Afterlife, Underworld and Resurrection in the Bible and Ancient World
This course focuses on the afterlife, underworld and resurrection in the Bible and Ancient World. How old is the idea of life after death? Why were ancient Near Eastern zombies usually friendly? In this intensive class we’ll study the archaeology of death, as well the Bible, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Epic of Gilgamesh. We’ll find out where biblical ideas of the afterlife came from, learn why most ancient people would not have wanted to go to heaven, and find out what they wanted instead. Class will include field trips to an old local graveyard as well as the Met's amazing array of Greek and Egyptian funerary monuments.
0.50 units, Lecture
RELG 222
Voodoo, Zombies, and the Conjured Dead
This course focuses on those religious traditions known collectively as “Voodoo.” By examining powerful displays of spirit possession, rituals in which the ancestors raise from their graves to dance, and secretive ceremonies from which social criminals become walking zombies, students will explore the lived experiences of Voodoo practitioners from around the world. We will juxtapose Western imaginations and fantasies of Voodoo to the real-lived experiences of practitioners. In so doing, students will learn how, despite racial stereotyping and anti-Africa sentiments around the globe, Voodoo has become one of the world’s fastest growing global religions. Along with rich ethnographic texts, throughout the course students will engage with critical-race theory, theories of globalization, transnationalism, diaspora, and urban religious expansion.
0.50 units, Seminar
RELG 223
Major Religious Thinkers of the West: Heresy and Orthodoxy in Conflict
A study of the shared (and contested) sites of ancient and medieval Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thought. The course will focus on various topics including the construction of religious identity through the identification of the “other” as well as debates over proper interpretation of scripture, the name and the nature of God, and the relationship between reason and revelation. Readings include the Babylonian Talmud, Philo, Origen, Augustine, Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, and Luther.
This course is only open to Religion majors or Guided Studies students.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 224
The Survival of God
This course investigates how God has been kept alive in modern Western thought in the face of scientific rationalism, existentialism, the secularization of society, natural and man-made evil, social and moral crises, radical skepticism, and proclamations of God's death.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 226
Christian Mysticism
An inquiry into the phenomenon of mystical experience exemplified in the Christian tradition as direct encounter with God. The course offers psychological and theological analyses of mysticism and its specifically Christian manifestations. Students will read works from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Quaker, and sectarian mystics such as Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa, Bernard, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Jacob Boehme, George Herbert, Simone Weil, and contemporary mystics.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 229
Short Story in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)
A close reading of several “short stories” in the Hebrew Bible with attention given to literary artistry and theological insight. Along with gaining understanding for the rich texture and subtlety of the texts, students will be expected to master the data of the stories (who, what, where, when etc.). Questions of political, cultural, and compositional history will also be treated. Among the stories we shall consider are the Joseph “Novella,” David’s Fall, Esther, Ruth, Jonah, Judith.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 230
The Bible, Creation, and Evolution
The Bible has different and even conflicting accounts of creation. We will explore the creation myths in the Bible, how they relate to other ancient creation mythologies, and what social and political effects these myths had. We will also examine the social, political, and legal contours of the Bible, Creationism, and debates about evolution in American culture and public policy. What is going on when people talk about God, creation, and human origins – whether in biblical times or in American culture?
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 231
Christianity in the Making
This course will examine the philosophical, cultural, religious and political contexts out of which Christianity emerged from the time of Jesus through the 5th century. Emphasis will be placed on the complexity and diversity of early Christian movements, as well as the process that occurred to establish Christianity as a religion that would dominate the Roman Empire. Topics to be covered will include the writings of the New Testament, Gnostics, martyrdom, desert monasticism and asceticism, the construction of orthodoxy and heresy, women in the early Church, the formation of the biblical canon, and the identity and role of Jesus of Nazareth.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 238
Journeys to Heaven and Hell: An Introduction to Comparative Religion
From prehistory to today, people have taken journeys out of this world. These have served as the basis for the most important possible claims: about the afterlife, the end of the world, and the existence of God, in narratives ranging from those of Isaiah's induction in the Hebrew Bible and Muhammad's Miraj in the Qur'an and Hadith to Dante's inferno and the decidedly less reputable genre of UFO abduction memoir. Beginning with the empirical fact tht people have written about these experiences for at least 4,000 years, this class will lay the foundation for the empirical investigation of otherworldly journeys. We will examine Mesopotamian, Biblical, Jewish and Iranian text and ethnographic accounts from places with practicing shamans. Are otherworldly journeys everywhere and always the same? What do the different accounts have in common, and how do politics and culture redefine them?
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 247
Psychology of Religion
Is religious belief and practice just a comforting illusion? Or, could religion be the pinnacle of adult psychological development? These questions and many others are addressed. This course is an introduction to major theories, methods, thinkers, and trends in the psychology of religion.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 248
Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Religion
Why do particular embodiments render some people “other” within their religion? How are women represented in religious texts and images? How does gender determine what counts for religiously-sanctioned behavior? This course provides an overview of topics where issues of gender and sexuality intersect with particular religious traditions (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native American traditions). Topics include: purity and power, celibacy and virginity, marriage and reproduction, veiling and eating practices, violence and sacrifice, as well as the issue of religious leadership and ordination. This course may count towards the Women, Gender and Sexuality major.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 252
The Asian Mystic
An examination of the mystic in Asian religious traditions. Special attention will be given to mysticism and heresy, the psychological and theological sources of mystical experience, and the distinctive characteristics of mystical language. Readings from Indian, Tibetan, and Chinese sources. Enrollment limited. (May be counted toward International Studies/Asian Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 253
Indian and Islamic Painting
A survey of the history of miniature painting from the Persian, Mughal, and Rajput schools, with emphasis on their religious and cultural backgrounds. (May be counted toward art history, international studies/Asian studies, international studies/comparative development studies, and international studies/Middle Eastern studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 254
Buddhist Art
A survey of the art of Buddhism in Asia with special attention given to the development of the Buddha image, the stupa, and a wide array of deities and saints. Using painting, sculpture, architecture, and contemporary expressions of ritual, dance, and theater, the course will cover many of the traditions in South, East, and Central Asia. (May be counted toward international studies/Asian studies, art history, and international studies/comparative development studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 255
An introduction to the thought and practice of traditional Hinduism, with special emphasis on perceptions of the “self.” Topics covered will be the duties of ritual and caste morality, the meditations of the forest yogis, and the religious fervor of devotees to Shiva and Krishna. Readings include early myths, philosophical texts, devotional hymns, and modern novels. (May be counted toward International Studies/Asian Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 256
Buddhist Thought
An examination of fundamental concepts in Buddhist philosophy as they reflect an ongoing conflict between faith and reason: the non-self, dependent origination, karma, and nirvana. Special emphasis will be placed on the meaning of these concepts for the Buddhist way of life. Readings from classical Theravada and Mahayana texts. (May be counted toward international studies/Asian studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 258
Buddhist Texts: The Bodhisattva
An exploration of the Bodhisattva ideal as found in classical Asian texts, focusing on the recognition of enlightenment, the practice of perfections, and the dynamics of skillful means. Central to our discussion will be the use of compassion to realize wisdom, and we will pay special attention to Avalokiteshvara, Tara, Manjushri, and Jizo. We will use elect Indian, Tibetan, and Japanese texts.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 259
Early Chinese Religion and Philosophy
An exploration of the roots of Chinese philosophical and religious thought from the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BCE) through the beginnings of the Han Empire (206 BCE). Special emphasis will be placed on the so-called "hundred schools" of the Warring States period, which include Confucianism and Daoism. Through English translations of primary texts, the course will examine the evolving Chinese worldview and cosmology, as well as ideas about self-cultivation, ethics, divination, politics, religion, and social relations. Texts will include the I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Confucius' Analects, Chuang Tzu, Mencius, Hsun Tzu, and more. No previous knowledge of Chinese philosophy or religion is necessary.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 259
Hindu Texts: The Bhagavad Gita
An exploration of the great Indian devotional text, “The Song of God,” focusing on its context in the Mahabharata epic, its social teaching, and its understanding of the god Krishna. Central to our discussion will be Arjuna’s dilemma, the renunciation of attachment to the fruits of action, and the mind stabilized on the divine. We will use elect translations of the text and their commentaries.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 261
American Catholics
This historically oriented course will explore the struggle of Catholics in the United States to integrate being “Roman” with being “American.” It will survey the experience of an immigrant, authoritarian church in a country founded on belief in the excellence of Protestantism and dedicated to liberal and democratic ideals. Having arrived in the mainstream with the election of John F. Kennedy, that church now faces a new set of challenges, which will be the final consideration of the course. (May be counted toward American Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 262
Religion in America
The historical role of religion in shaping American life and thought, with special attention to the influence of religious ideologies on social values and social reform. (May be counted toward American Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 263
Religion and Spirituality in German Literature from Lessing to Brecht
As far back as the Protestant Reformation, religion has played an important role in shaping German political, cultural and linguistic identity. This course will examine the history of religion in German culture through the lens of literature written before, during and after the “long nineteenth century,” a period in which Germany went from being a European backwater to becoming a major political and economic power. By analyzing literary representations of faith and spirituality, our discussion will seek to illuminate the changing significance and function of religious belief against the backdrop of this broader transformation. We will also consider how such imaginings serve to inspire new paradigms of literary expression. Texts by Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Schleiermacher, Kleist, Nietzsche, Kafka, Brecht and others. Taught in English.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 264
Religion in America Today: A Regional Analysis
This course explores the place of religion in contemporary American civic culture. It will begin with an examination of religion and public life in each of eight regions of the country, stressing the significant differences in the religious history, demography, and politics of each region. On the basis of this regional analysis, the course will take up issues of national politics and public policy, including religion and political partisanship, abortion, faith-based social service provision, public school vouchers, the death penalty, and same-sex marriage.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 265
Religion and American Politics
Since the earliest days of the American republic, religion has played a significant role in the country’s politics. This course will trace that role, beginning with the Constitution’s proscription of religious tests for office to the current “God Gap” between the Democratic and Republican parties. Subjects to be covered include ethno-religious voting patterns, social movements, American civil religion, and religion in wartime.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 267
Religion and the Media
Western religion, and Christianity in particular, has always put a premium on employing the available techniques of mass communication to get its message out. But today, many religious people see the omnipresent “secular” media as hostile to their faith. This course will look at the relationship between religion and the communications media, focusing primarily on how the American news media have dealt with religion since the creation of the penny press in the 1830s. Attention will also be given to the ways that American religious institutions have used mass media to present themselves, from the circulation of Bibles and tracts in the 19th century through religious broadcasting beginning in the 20th century to the use of the Internet today. (May be counted toward American studies and public policy studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 269
Religion and Public Life
This course will consider the role of religion in public life, focusing primarily on the European and American experience, but dealing comparatively with other cultures as well. Attention will be given not only to formal legal and constitutional arrangements (church and state) but also to the influence of religions on public discourse, popular culture, and social norms. The validity of the secularization thesis and its usefulness for understanding modern society will be a central concern.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 270
Religion in America since World War II
This seminar will explore changes in American religion over the past 60 years by focusing on the role of religion in public life and society at large. Special attention will be given to popular culture and politics.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 275
Existentialism and Religion
This course engages some of the most basic questions of human existence, as understood by a wide variety of philosophers, artists, poets, and theologians in the 19th and 20th centuries. What does it mean to be human? How do we lead authentic lives? We examine the many ways in which existentialism can be understood as a critical engagement with basic philosophical, theological and social assumptions in regnant Western thought: rationalism, religion and moral positivism. We look at some of the major themes of existentialism (contingency, ambiguity, death and finitude, absurdity and authenticity) and how they constitute what it is to exist as a person. Finally, we examine different examples of religious existentialism.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 278
Atheism and the Eclipse of Religion
An examination of objections to religious belief and practice, especially those associated with atheism. Our primary concern will be to define those arguments which lead to a denial of God's existence or which reduce religious belief and practice to the irrational, primitive, or cowardly. The counter-arguments for religious belief will also be considered. Readings from Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre, Marx, Feuerbach, "death of God" theologians, deconstructionists, and others.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 279
Shia Islam
This course will introduce Shi’ism as an historical phenomenon. The course will concentrate on Twelver Imami Shi'ism (most prevalent in Iran); we will also look at other Shi'a communities such as the Ismailis and Zaydis. The class will cover the succession of Muhammad, the first Shi’a Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, Shi’a theology, philosophy and devotional practices, pre and post-Iranian revolution Shi’ism and the influence of Ayatollah Khomeini, and conclude with contemporary issues in Shi’ism found in Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Iran. We will examine both primary texts in translation, and secondary literature. This course does not require any prerequisites; however, basic knowledge in Islam will be beneficial.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 280
Approaching the Qur'an
The Qur'an, believed by Muslims to be the perfect Word of God, has played a central role in the life of the Muslim community since its appearance in the seventh century. This course will explore the sacred text of Islam through its foundational concepts and terminologies, history of the text and thematic development, literary style, connection to Jewish and Christian sacred texts, history and methods of interpretation, and role in Muslim ritual life. We will also explore manifestations of the Qur'an in the literature, visual arts, and music of the Muslim world.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 280
Muhammad and the Qur’an
This course examines the nature of revelation and prophetic authority in Islam through a close reading of the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Topics include the history of the sacred text, connection to Jewish and Christian scripture, history and methods of interpretation, its role in Muslim faith, rituals, and Islamic law. Questions of canon, translation, gender, and piety are also explored across a wide historic and geographic spectrum. We will also look at manifestations of the Qu’ran in the literature, visual arts, and music of the Muslim world.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 281
Anthropology of Religion
Introduction to the foundations of religion through an examination of religious phenomena prevalent in traditional cultures. Some of the topics covered in this course include a critical examination of the idea of primitivity, the concepts of space and time, myths, symbols, ideas related to God, man, death, and rituals such as rites of passage, magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and divination. (May be counted toward anthropology and international studies/comparative development.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 282
Modern Islamic Movements – Religion, Ideology, and the Rise of Fundamentalism
This course examines the rise and ideological foundation of modern Islamic movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbollah, Hamas, al-Qa’ida, and ISIS. We will study the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism in its historical and political context as well as major intellectual figures of these movements, and take a close look at the notion of jihad in classical and modern legal contexts.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 283
Readings in Islamic Ethics
This course will explore individual and communal ethics and moral choice in Muslim traditions. We will look at a diversity of perspectives on moral theory (in theology and philosophy) and lived ethics (in law, literature, and art). The course will also consider Islamic responses to contemporary ethical concerns, which could include the environment, gender, pluralism and medical ethics.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 284
Sufism: The Mystical Tradition of Islam
For over a thousand years, Sufism has been a dynamic expression of the inner quest for God-consciousness in Islam. Sufis have often expressed their devotion in literary form: from poetry and ecstatic utterances to metaphysical theoretical prose works. This class explores the emergence of Sufism from the Qur'an and the life and words or the Prophet Muhammad, and traces its historical development from the formative period to the age of trans-national Sufi orders. The course will study key constructs of this tradition: the relationship between God and humankind, the stages of the spiritual path, contemplative disciplines, the idea of sainthood, ethical perfection, the psychology of love, the idea of the feminine, and Sufi aesthetics. It also considers the modern expression (and transformation) of Sufism in the United States.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 285
Religions of Africa
This course is an exploration of the ways in which Africans make sense of their worlds through religion. By reading a wide range of ethnographic and historical texts, students will consider the challenges that post-colonial politics present to understanding religion in Africa and in the diaspora Students will examine a variety of African religious traditions ranging from indigenous practices to the ways in which Christianity and Islam have developed uniquely African beliefs. In so doing, students will frame African religions as global phenomena while considering the historical and contemporary salience of the many canonical themes found in African religion such as spirit possession, divination, healing, magic, witchcraft, sorcery, and animal sacrifice.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 286
Islam in America
Islam has become the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse religious group in the United States. This course is divided into two parts: the first provides an historical survey of Islam in America, from its discovery to the present; the second part examines contemporary issues of Muslim American communities and their interactions with American society at large. Topics include religious movements among African-American and immigrant groups, educational, cultural and youth initiatives, Sufism, civil rights groups, progressive Muslims, women's and feminist movements, and Islam in popular culture and in the media.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 287
Modern Trends in Islam Shi'ism
A study of modern trends in the Muslim world beginning with the 19th century. This course will discuss such questions as Islam and the West, religious fundamentalism, Islam and the question of women, Islam and the nation-state, Islam and mass media, and Islam and nationalism. Special attention will also be given to the major historical events of the modern Muslim world, the nature of indigenous movements and trends, and the impact of the West on Islamic society. (May be counted toward Middle Eastern Studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 288
Magic, Possession, and Spiritual Healing
An anthropological approach to religion and magic. A cross-cultural analysis of the forms of spiritual healing in traditional cultures. Emphasis is given to the manifestations of spiritual power, the role of possession, magic, shamanistic utterances, and hallucinogens in the process of spiritual healing. (May be counted toward international studies/comparative development studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 289
Religion and Culture Change
An anthropological study of the rise and development of cults in traditional cultures engendered by the impact of colonization, the spread of Christianity and Western technology in so-called Third World cultures. Among others, the course emphasizes the revival, the millenarian, the Cargo, and messianic cults. Special attention is given to the origin, the nature, the social functions and dysfunctions of these cults, as well as the methodology used to study them. (May be counted toward international studies/African studies, anthropology and international studies/comparative development studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 291
Religion & Humor: The Case of Islam
This course will explore the tradition of humor in Islamic literature (Qur’an, Prophetic traditions, religious law, ethics, spirituality and works of pure entertainment), and norms of humor in ritual contexts. We will analyze humor as a virtue; as entertainment and play; as a means of approaching God; as a pedagogical technique; and as upending conventions through the figure of the trickster and holy fool. We will also consider the boundaries and power-relations of humor, first in the case of contemporary Muslim-American comedians, who view comedy as dissent, and then in the European discourse of the “humorless Muslim” that portrays Muslim immigrants as unfit to live in Western secular liberal democracies. The class is grounded in psychological, sociological, and philosophical studies on the relationship of religion and humor.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 295
Contemporary Issues in Roman Catholicism
This course will explore the diversity of perspectives in Roman Catholic theologies of mystery, nature, grace, and being human in relation to contemporary ethical issues. It will apply these perspectives to concerns such as the natural environment, poverty, gender and the political common good
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 307
Jewish Philosophy
This course provides an introduction to the major themes and thinkers of medieval and modern Jewish philosophy. We will study how Plato, Aristotle, and other non-Jewish philosophers found their Jewish voice in the likes of Philo, Saadia Gaon, Judah Halevi, Maimonides, and Mendelssohn. Issues to be considered are the relationship between reason and revelation, the concept of monotheism, the nature of prophecy and the Jewish tradition, and the problem of evil. Extensive use of original sources in translation will be complemented by interpretive studies. (May be counted toward Philosophy.)
Prerequisite: C- or better in Religion 109.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 308
Jewish Mysticism
An examination of the secret speculative theologies of Judaism from late antiquity to the present. The course will touch upon the full range of Jewish mystical experience: visionaries, ascetics, ecstatics, theosophists, rationalists, messianists, populists, and pietists. Readings will include classical texts (such as the Zohar) and modern secondary studies.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Religion 109.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 310
Religious Language
This course is an introduction to the poetics and ethnography of sacred words and, through them, the social dimension of language. It is a fundamental role of religion to break normal rules of language: prayers talk to gods who do not seem to be present, possessed people ventriloquize spirits, and rituals thrive on repetitive or incomprehensible speech. Sacred words raise questions fundamental to the study of language: how do we evaluate words: according to their source? their form? their speaker? God has traditionally spoken through people, but how have people known it is actually God speaking, and what has this meant to them? We will focus on the language of religious experience in Biblical and Jewish traditions, with detours through reggae music, horror movies, and The Passion of the Christ.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 311
Prophecy, Ecstasy and Religious Experience from Isaiah to the Dead Sea Scrolls
Did the prophets really see God? How would we know? This course will explore the nature of religious experience from the biblical prophets through the Dead Sea Scrolls and the earliest predecessors of Jewish and Christian Mysticism. Topics will include the role of ritual, hallucination, and otherworldly cosmology.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Guided Studies 121, Religion 211, Religion 212, Religion 109, or permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 314
Ancient Ritual and Prayer
How did ancient people worship their gods? Did they believe in an afterlife? The Bible does not tell the whole story. This course will explore the realities of ancient Israelite and Near Eastern religion "on the ground," where people worshiped at both temples and graves, with incense, crackling fire and sacrifice. We will integrate ritual texts from the book of Leviticus, Babylonian, and Canaanite; recent archaeological discoveries; and comparative studies of ritual to develop a three-dimensional picture of ancient religion beyond the limits of the biblical text.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Guided Studies 121, Religion 184, Religion 212, or permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 315
Apocalyptic Literature: From Daniel to Revelation
A survey of a distinct literary genre in the religious and historical contexts of the second and first centuries B.C.E. and the first century C.E. The seminar will concentrate upon representative pieces of literature such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Enoch, and II Esdras and will search out the roots of apocalyptic in Hebrew scripture (Daniel) and its culmination in Christian scripture (Revelation). Consideration will also be given to its later manifestations in religious thought and groups, including millennial movements in American history.
Prerequisite: C- or better in Religion 211 or 212 or permission of the instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 318
Women in the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible commands laws and tells stories about women as war leaders, lovers, prophetesses and prostitutes, as well as ordinary daughters, mothers, and goddesses (possibly including God's wife!). Formed in an ancient Near Eastern society, these laws and stories are still drawn on today to make religious rules, social roles, and art. We will read these texts as works of art and factors in history: Who wrote them? What did these stories and laws say and do? What roles do their images carve out and what realities do they reflect and create? The texts will be read in English translation, drawing on cultural anthropology, feminist theory, linguistics, and archaeology to provide critical perspectives on ancient patriarchy and the state as well as modern secular-liberal notions of freedom and self.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 324
Suffering Religion: Pain and its Transformations
What does religion have to say about suffering and its function in the spiritual life – is it a “natural” part of human existence, divine gift or punishment, or a preventable tragedy? What does it mean when religion is experienced as suffering or as trauma? This course explores these questions within the Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian traditions. After introducing some of the classic texts on suffering, the course examines suffering as both a logical and a moral problem for religious thought. It then considers some of the resources that religious traditions have brought to bear on different kinds of suffering – physical pain, trauma, grief or loss, and mental suffering or depression.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 330
New Age Religious Movements in America
Through a close reading of Catherine Albanese's tome, A Republic of Mind and Spirit, the first book that demands recognition of the metaphysical in American life, this course will cover the history of Hermetica, Freemasonry, Mormonism, spiritualism, freethought, and various contemporary New Age movements.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 333
Hindu Views War and Peace
An examination of the competing ethics of war and non-violence as reflected in traditional understandings of duty, truth, rebirth, and the spiritual quest. Using readings from the Vedas, Buddhist and Jain sutras, and the Upanishads, this course will give special focus to the Bhagavad Gita, and to Gandhi’s understanding of this particular aspect of his Hindu heritage. Enrollment limited. (May be counted toward international studies/Asian studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 338
Christian Social Ethics
An in-depth exploration of the historical teachings of, and contemporary controversies within, Christianity on selected moral issues in sexuality, economics, business, medicine, ecology, race, war and pacifism, and foreign policy. Special attention will be given to problems in contemporary American society.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 339
Modern American Theology
This course will study the major theological movements, topics, and thinkers of American mainline Protestantism from the early 20th century to the present day, and American Catholicism from the 1950s to the present day. Major theological movements and topics will include evangelical liberalism, the Social Gospel movement, the modernist-fundamentalist controversy, Boston School personalism, Chicago School naturalistic empiricism, neo-orthodoxy and Christian realism, the ecumenical movement, the Civil Rights movement, secularism, process metaphysics, Vatican II, the death-of-God controversy, liberation theology, feminist theology, environmentalism, and postmodernism. Major theologians and philosophers will include Walter Rauschenbusch, Shailer Mathews, Edgar S. Brightman, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Martin Luther King Jr., Gregory Baum, Rosemary Radford Ruether, John B. Cobb Jr., J. Deotis Roberts, and Elizabeth Johnson.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 353
Buddhism in America
This seminar will focus on Buddhism in America, a phenomenon known as “the fourth turning of the wheel of the law.” We will look at the religions of Asian immigrants, the writings of the 19th-century Transcendentalists, and the influence of Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan teachers on American culture. Special attention will be given to assessing categories such as elite, ethnic, and evangelical Buddhism, to the variety of Buddhist practices and communities available, and to the broad range of Buddhist arts and literatures of contemporary America. Enrollment limited. (May be counted toward international studies/Asian studies.)
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 354
Religious Ideals in Asian Art
In this course, we will explore the relationship between artistic creations and human experience of them in three Asian settings. Focusing on the differences between the aesthetic experience (of the beautiful) and the religious experience (of the true or real), we will explore the Tibetan Buddhist mandala and deity visualization, Hindu art and the emergence of inner sentiments, and shamanic experiences in Southeast Asia that use design motifs in healing and funeral rituals.
1.00 units, Seminar
RELG 386
Islam in America
This course explores Muslim social and spiritual expression in the United States. We'll look at the teachings of representative groups and their founders, asking how each group presents Islam and why, how they discourse on Muslims in America, how they discourse on America, and how they position themselves as Americans. Topics include religious movements among African-American and immigrant groups, educational, cultural and youth initiatives, Sufism and new-age movements, civil rights groups, progressive Muslims, women's and feminist movements, and Islam in the media. The course requires that students participate in a community learning project to gain first-hand experience with the diverse Muslim community in Hartford.
1.00 units, Lecture
RELG 399
Independent Study
Advanced work on an approved project under the guidance of a faculty member. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
RELG 466
Teaching Assistantship
A teaching assistant works with a faculty member in the preparation and teaching of a course and receives academic credit for his or her work. See the Student Handbook for the specific guidelines. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
RELG 497
Senior Thesis
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for enrollment in this single-semester thesis.
1.00 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
RELG 498
Senior Thesis Part 1
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis. (two course credits are considered pending in the first semester; two course credits will be awarded for completion in the second semester.)
2.00 units, Independent Study
RELG 499
Senior Thesis Part 2
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor and chairperson are required for each semester of this yearlong thesis. (two course credits are considered pending in the first semester;two course credits will be awarded for completion in the second semester.)
2.00 units, Independent Study