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RELST 1998 : The Middle East in the News: Politics, Society, Religion and Culture
Crosslisted as: JWST 1998, NES 1998 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
The peoples, cultures, religions, and politics of the Middle East are never far removed from the front pages of the most influential journals and newspapers. This course will engage students in discussing current religious, political, and socio-cultural concerns and issues in the Middle East, including the intersection of American interests and policies in the region.
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RELST 2273 : Introduction to Religious Studies
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2273, NES 2273 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
This course introduces the academic study of religion. The topics vary from year to year.
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RELST 2297 : Muslims on the Silk Road
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2297, HIST 2797 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
The Crossroads of the World. The Pivot of History. The heart of the Silk Road. For all its grand nicknames and associations, Inner Asia remains a region little-studied in the West. This course endeavors to separate fact from fantasy while introducing the social, cultural, and political history of Inner Asia in the medieval and early modern periods. We will explore the impact of cross-cultural contacts on the region's diverse societies as we witness the rise and fall of empires, both nomadic and sedentary. We will focus especially on the histories of Muslim communities, as Islam has been the predominant religious tradition in the region for the last millennium. Special emphasis will be given to reading texts produced by Inner Asian authors, as we endeavor to consider the region's history not only from the vantage point of foreign observers and conquerors, but also from within.
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RELST 2299 : Buddhism
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2299 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
This course will explore the Buddhist tradition from its origins in ancient India to its migrations throughout Asia and eventually to the West. The first part of the course will deal with Indian Buddhism: the Buddha, the principal teachings and practices of his early followers, and new developments in spiritual orientation. We will then turn to the transmission of Buddhism to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, where at least one of the early schools has been preserved. Next we will look at Mahayana Buddhism as it moves north and east, encompassing China, Japan, and Tibet. While much of the course will be devoted to developments in traditional times, we will also look at some of the ways Buddhist cultures have responded to modernity.
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RELST 2577 : American Jewish Women and the Body of Tradition
Crosslisted as: JWST 2577, NES 2577 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Since the 1970s, Jewish women have remade American Judaism by putting their bodies front and center. In the face of a largely male rabbinic elite, they have created new models of ritual, communal leadership, and textual interpretation both within and outside existing Jewish institutions and denominations. How have women mobilized embodied practice and knowledge in efforts to reinterpret, reclaim, and reinvent Judaism? How have these changes reverberated in communities that explicitly reject feminism? And what can these women teach us about religion, gender, and sexuality in America more broadly? This course will engage the fields of religion; gender, sexuality, and the body; textual and material culture; and feminism within the context of American Jewish life. The course will focus the contemporary United States, but will also explore layers of Jewish tradition from ancient to modern times and will consider women's practices in Israel as well. Key themes will include the relationships between gender and power; bodies, texts and objects; individual Jewish practices and communal identity; biology and theology; secularism and spirituality; and the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, and conversion. Exploring how competing visions of Judaism reflect alternative understandings of gender and sexuality, we will probe the meaning of gender equality, how the Jewish experience compares to that of members of other faiths in America, and the challenge that these diverse Jewish projects pose to the American project of secularism.
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RELST 2617 : Islam and Politics: Between an Islamic State and Daily Life
Crosslisted as: GOVT 2807, HIST 2607, NES 2607 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
In the early twentieth century, a series of movements arose in the Middle East and South Asia, calling Muslims to return to Islam. Today, leaders and members of such groups –now known as Islamists –insist that one cannot live a fully Islamic life in the absence of an Islamic state. How and why did these movements come to focus on building an Islamic state? When did Islam come to be seen as indivisible from Politics, and what does it mean for Islam and Politics to be related? Are contemporary claims to Islam as the basis for political action consistent with the ways in which Muslims have understood their core texts historically? This course will introduce students to the study of Religion and Politics in Islamic History, beginning with the early Islamic community under the rule of the Prophet Muhammad, stretching through a period of rule that saw multiple Islamic Caliphates, and finally, reaching the present day. The bulk of this course, however, will focus on the diverse ways in which Muslims in the twentieth and twenty first centuries have laid claim to their religion as a template for political and social action. In particular, it will push students to consider how Muslim men and women live religion in their daily lives, whether through dress, prayer, or facial hair, and how these claims to religion shape political systems from the ground up.
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RELST 2630 : Religion and Reason
Crosslisted as: PHIL 2530 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
What must (or could) God be like, and what reasons do we have for thinking that a being of that sort actually exists? What difference would (or could) the existence of God make to our lives? Religion & Reason examines the idea, shared by several major world religions, that God must be an absolutely perfect being. What attributes must a perfect being have: must it have a mind, be a person, care for human beings? Is the concept of a perfect being coherent? Is the existence of a perfect being compatible with the presence of evil in the world, the existence of human freedom, the nature of the world as modern science understands it? Does what is morally right and wrong depend in any important way on the nature or will of a perfect being? Is a perfect being among the things that actually inhabit our universe? The course approaches these questions with the tools and methods of philosophical reason and through readings drawn from both classic texts and contemporary philosophical discussion.
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RELST 2640 : Histories of the Apocalypse: From Nostradamus to Nuclear Winter
Crosslisted as: HIST 2630 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Brexit, immigration, and the election of Donald Trump have all been recently heralded as signs of an imminent apocalypse. Films and fiction are saturated with images of zombies, environmental catastrophe, or nuclear disaster. Why are we so fascinated with the end of the world, and what is the genealogy of this imagery? What can visions of Armageddon tell us about past societal hopes and anxieties? How were they used to make claims about human nature and about who did and did not deserve salvation? This course traces apocalyptic thought from the Protestant reformation onwards, with a particular emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe. Case studies range from radical millenarian sects to Chernobyl, and readings include all from Dostoevsky to Czech New Wave cinema. 
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RELST 2644 : Introduction to Judaism
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 2644, JWST 2644, NES 2644 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Jewish communities have been established, flourished and often struggled for millennia, throughout much of the world, and in vital contact with a vast range of other peoples and cultures. This course examines the constant and dynamic tension between that which unites Jews in all these different times and places, and that which makes every Jew a person of his or her own time and place. Our whirlwind tour will take us from ancient Israel, through Babylonia and the world of early Islam, into the medieval origins of Ashkenazi Jewry, down to Ottoman North Africa, and all the way across the Indian Ocean. We will learn how Jewish and other diaspora communities overcome challenges to maintain their distinctive identities, how to engage critically with the ways contemporary scholars the records of these far-flung communities, and how to generate their own critical questions.
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RELST 2655 : Introduction to Islamic Civilization
Crosslisted as: HIST 2530, MEDVL 2655, NES 2655 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
At the beginning of the 7th century, a new religion, Islam, appeared in Arabia and by the end of the century, Muslims had defeated the Byzantines and Persians and created an empire that stretched from Spain to India. For the next millennium, Islam glittered. Its caliphs, courts, and capitals were grander, more powerful, and more sophisticated than those of any medieval king, duke or prince. In this course, we will trace the emergence and development of Islamic civilization from the birth of Muhammad ca. 570 to the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. We will read the Qur'an and listen to its recitation; examine the career of the Prophet Muhammad; follow the course of the Arab conquests; explore the nature of the conflict between Sunnis and Shi'is; learn about the five pillars of Islam, sharia law, theology, and Sufism; and assess the achievements of Muslim intellectuals in literature, art, architecture, science, and philosophy. Friday sections are devoted to the analysis of primary sources in English translation. No previous knowledge required.
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RELST 2662 : Daily Life in the Biblical World
Crosslisted as: ARKEO 2662, JWST 2662, NES 2662 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
This course will survey the common and not-so-common daily activities of the world of ancient Israel, with supplementary material from its neighbors in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Canaan. Many courses cover aspects of ancient political history or ancient literature, but these often focus on the activities of members of social elites (who produced most of the writing), at the expense of the activities of more average citizens. The focus of this class is on ancient technologies, human interactions with the environment and how these play into the creation and maintenance of social systems. It will provide a broad spectrum, spanning all social classes, and many different kinds of resources and activities. Material to be covered will include topics such as food production and processing, pottery production, metallurgy, glass making, cloth production and personal adornment, implements of war, medicine, leisure time (games and music), and others.
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RELST 3281 : The Bible as Literature
Crosslisted as: ENGL 3280 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
A knowledge of the Bible's images, stories and themes is crucial to understanding not only the art and literature of many cultures, but also ancient and contemporary world politics. It is the world's most widely read book and a sacred text of three great religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This course will offer students an introduction to the Bible's major historical, anthropological and literary contexts. Students will learn about the Bible's literary divisions and its main stories and characters as well as its ideas about faith, salvation, history and the end of time. We will use the New Oxford Annotated Bible for all course work.
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RELST 3310 : Heavens, Hells, and Purgatories: Buddhist and Christian Notions of the Afterlife
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 3310 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
This course will explore a variety of ways people have envisioned and prepared for the afterlife. We will concentrate on how Buddhists and Christians have described supreme states of bliss, have warned their followers of the perils of perdition, and have guided them through states in between. We will seek to understand both the religious doctrines and social practices that support and contest such notions so as to situate these views within their historical contexts.
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RELST 3331 : Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 3331, ASIAN 6631, FGSS 3331, FGSS 6331, LGBT 3331, LGBT 6331, PMA 3431 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Examines the new cinemas of Southeast Asia and their engagement with contemporary discourses of gender and sexuality. It pays special attention to the ways in which sexuality and gendered embodiment are at present linked to citizenship and other forms of belonging and to how the films draw on Buddhist and Islamic traditions of representation and belief. Focusing on globally circulating Southeast Asian films of the past 15 years, the course draws on current writings from feminism, Buddhist studies, affect theory, queer studies, postcolonial theory, and film studies to ask what new understandings of subjectivity might emerge from these cinemas and their political contexts. Films will be drawn from both mainstream and independent cinema and will include the work of directors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Danny and Oxide Pang, Yau Ching, Thunska Pansittivorakul, Garin Nugroho, and Jean-Jacques Annaud.
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RELST 3540 : On Paying Attention
Crosslisted as: FREN 3540 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
In the age of smartphones and Facebook, the competing claims made on our attention only seem to be multiplying. This course is an opportunity to think about and to enact certain practices of attentiveness and concentration, drawing largely from religious, literary, artistic, philosophical and anthropological sources. We'll be trying various kinds of exercises - from reading poems and looking at paintings to eating more slowly - as we read about the ways in which our seneses reach out to the world, and as we think together about how technology may be used in ways that are not, strictly speaking, technological. This course is for students at all levels, from all backgrounds, graduate and undergraduate, with the understanding that we all need an excuse to slow down and observe the world - and ourselves - a little more carefully.
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RELST 3677 : The Search for the Historical Muhammad
Crosslisted as: HIST 3677, MEDVL 3677, NES 3677, NES 6677 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
As the founder of Islam Muhammad is one of the most influential figures in world history. An important source for his life is the Sira of Ibn Ishaq (d. ca. 761), a biography that opens with Muhammad's birth ca. 570 and ends with his death in 632. If we take the narrative reports in this text at face-value, then Muhammad appears to have been born in the full light of history. But is the Sira a reliable source for the historical Muhammad? In this seminar, we will read this text in its entirely and analyze selected episodes from a critical historical perspective, with special attention to biblical and post-biblical models for the writing of sacred history.
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RELST 3747 : Staging Faith: Contemporary Theatre and Lived Religions
Crosslisted as: AMST 3747, ENGL 3947, FGSS 3747, PMA 3747 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Religious beliefs, practices, and conflicts shape our world and influence global politics.  Yet mediatized depictions of religion can be reductive and polarizing.  Moreover, these depictions may be different from what people experience in their everyday lives.  In the contemporary theatre, we have the opportunity to consider representations of individuals' lived religion, the complex questions of belief, and challenges to faith from within and outside religious communities.  Through close readings of plays and related materials engaging with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other faith traditions, we will explore and discuss together the religious motivations, tensions, and dilemmas facing us today.  Our texts include, among others, Jesus Christ Superstar, Disgraced, Angels in America, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
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RELST 3795 : Sin:Theory and Practice
Crosslisted as: SPAN 3795 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
What place does sin have in contemporary culture, from ethics to aesthetics?  How do we consider sin, as a condition, an act, a choice?  How does a particular community-religious, literary, ethnic-consider and use sin, for itself and against others?  What are the limits that sin establishes between different notions of the divine, of the self, and of the other?  How is sin used in literature or art to emphasize or condition behavior and interpretation?  As a brief historical and philosophical exploration of the concept of sin, we will trace the development of the list of seven deadly sins from Evagrius and Cassian to Gregory.  We will then explore the sins in a global Hispanic context through critical essays, works of art, literature, and film, and perhaps include a brief digression into music.
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RELST 4100 : Latin Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: LATIN 7262, MEDVL 4002, MEDVL 6020, PHIL 4002, PHIL 6020, RELST 6020 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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RELST 4462 : Religion, Colonialism, and Nationalism in South and Southeast Asia
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 4462, ASIAN 6662 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Taught as a seminar, the course engages recent theoretical literature on the relations between religion, colonialism and nation formation.  This theoretical literature is read in conjunction with historical and ethnographic materials from South and Southeast Asian contexts, which allow us to explore the intellectual promise and limitations of the theoretical work in question.
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RELST 4557 : Desert Monasticism
Crosslisted as: CLASS 4677, MEDVL 4557, NES 4557, NES 6557 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
How and why do landscapes come to inspire the religious imagination? And how do sensory landscapes, more specifically-territories of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell-inform, inflect, and engage the religious imagination? When and why do religious practices, rituals, traditions, and beliefs inhabit particular landscapes? This seminar treats these questions by focusing on a particular landscape-the "desert," both imagined and real-as it has shaped religious ascetic practice. Biblical notions of howling desert wastelands and subsequent ideas about deserts inhabited by terrifying and grotesque demons; paradise, a garden where angels' wings whir and pure light shines; valleys of rattling dry bones, sinews, and skins that breathe with new life; heavens clanging with the sound of war between seven-headed dragons and angels; demons coming in the forms of roaring lions and hissing serpents-the religious imaginary is shaped in striking ways by sensory landscapes. We will read widely from desert Christian monastic literatures, mostly from late ancient Egypt, to explore both the historical development of monasticism in Christianity and examine why the monastic impulse seems so closely tied to the "desert." In addition to reading saints lives, we will read early monastic rules, the desert fathers, and we will draw from archaeological sources to examine the varieties of ascetic practices in the deserts of late ancient Egypt, Gaza, Sinai, Palestine, and Syria. Throughout the course we will explore ancient and modern ideas about "wilderness" and we will explore parallels between ancient Near Eastern literatures and their nineteenth- and twentieth-century parallels in the American frontier and environmental literatures.
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RELST 4990 : Directed Study
Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
For undergraduates who wish to obtain research experience or do extensive reading on a special topic. Students select a topic in consultation with the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the course.
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RELST 4995 : Senior Honors Essay
Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
RELST 4995 is the first course in the Honors two-part sequence. The Honors Program is open to Religious Studies majors who have done superior work and who wish to devote a substantial part of their senior year to advanced, specialized, independent research and writing of a thesis. Successfully completing an honors thesis will require sustained interest, exceptional ability, diligence, and enthusiasm. While admissions to the Honors Program and completion of a thesis do not guarantee that students will be awarded honors in Religious Studies, most students find the experience as intellectually rewarding as it is rigorous.
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RELST 4996 : Senior Honors Essay
Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
RELST 4996 is the second course in the Honors two-part sequence. The Honors Program is open to Religious Studies majors who have done superior work and who wish to devote a substantial part of their senior year to advanced, specialized, independent research and writing of a thesis. Successfully completing an honors thesis will require sustained interest, exceptional ability, diligence, and enthusiasm. While admissions to the Honors Program and completion of a thesis do not guarantee that students will be awarded honors in Religious Studies, most students find the experience as intellectually rewarding as it is rigorous.
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RELST 6020 : Latin Philosophical Texts
Crosslisted as: LATIN 7262, MEDVL 4002, MEDVL 6020, PHIL 4002, PHIL 6020, RELST 4100 Semester offered: Fall 2017 Instructor:
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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