Course Selection: Fall 2020

April 1, 2020

Required for religious studies major

Religion and Ecology (RELST 2273) 

(crosslisted) ASIAN 2273 

MW 2:55-4:10  

3 credits. Letter grade.

J. Law 

This course serves as both an introduction to the academic study of religion and a survey of major topics in the intersections of religious communities and environmentally sustainable practices. Using real cases of environmentally sustainable, religiously oriented communities, we explore how myth, ritual, symbols, doctrines, and ideologies of time and space are activated in practical living decisions. This class involves readings of both primary sources, poetry and literature, secondary sources, films and site visits. 

History, Theory, and Methods in the Academic Study of Religion (RELST 4449)

(crosslisted) ASIAN 4449 

T 2:30-4:25 

4 credits. Letter grade.

This seminar will explore the development of and variety in the academic discipline of Religious Studies. We will consider the emergence of secular approaches to the study of religion arising out of the European Enlightenment, and more particularly, the methods in the academic study of religion based upon different theoretical approaches. We will be particularly concerned to reflect upon the category of religious experience in modern discourses from historical, social, hermeneutical, neurobiological points of view. 

New courses

Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (RELST 2852)

(crosslisted) HIST 2851, JWST 2851 

MW 8:40-9:55 

4 credits. Student option grading.  

Most people think of Christianity as the "daughter religion" of Judaism. In this course, we will see that what we now know as Judaism and Christianity both claimed ownership of the same textual tradition and emerged together from the same set of historical circumstances, shaped by political crisis, a radical transformation of the social order and the challenge of Graeco-Roman culture. Through close reading of the principal sources of Christian literature, such as Paul's letters to the first communities of gentile "believers" and the accounts of the life and death of the messiah, known collectively as the gospels, we will explore how and why the followers of Jesus first came to think of themselves as the "New Israel" and how a polemical engagement with their controversial interpretation of Hebrew prophecy shaped the development of the rabbinic movement in Roman Palestine.  

Jews, Christians, and Others in Late Antiquity (RELST 3888)


4 credits

J. Mokhtarian

This course explores the interactions between Jews, Christians, and other religious groups in late antiquity, especially in Sasanian Persia circa the first through seventh century C.E. Students pay particular attention to the portrayals of Christians in Jewish rabbinic literature, including Midrash and Talmud, but also draw from early Christian, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and other sources. There will be an emphasis on the reading of primary texts in translation in their appropriate historical contexts, and in comparison with one another. Students engage such questions as: How did Jews define themselves in relation to Christians, and vice versa? In what ways did Jews and Christians part ways with one another, as scholars often maintain, and what were the factors at play in their separation? And, lastly, what role did other religious and political groups, such as Gnostics, Zoroastrians, Romans, Mandaeans, Manichaeans, and early Muslims play in these developments?

Gnosticism and Early Christianity (RELST 4628) 

(crosslisted) CLASS 4636, JWST 4628, NES 4628 

T 12:20-2:15

4 credits. Student option grading. 

What is "Gnosticism" and why has it come to be so hotly debated among scholars and in our contemporary media? What is the Gospel of Judas and are its ideas "heretical"? Who wrote the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary and why were these Gospels not included in the New Testament canon? To what extent did Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code draw from ancient Christian gnostic sources? This seminar will explore answers to these questions and many others by focusing on the complex array of literary sources from late antiquity-primarily from a cache of manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945-that have long been associated with a so-called "Christian Gnosticism." Church Fathers condemned the "movement" on a variety of grounds, but in this course we will not simply read the condemnations written by the opponents of gnostic thought; rather, we will focus our attention on reading (in English translation) substantial portions of the "gnostic" texts written by the adherents themselves. We will give special attention to the ways in which conflicts about Gnosticism connected with conflicts about gender, heresy, power, and authority. To set these texts within a socio-historical context, we will discuss the possible Jewish and Hellenistic roots of early Christian Gnosticism and ties to Stoic and other ancient philosophical movements.  

Building Religion (RELST 4652) 

(crosslisted) RELST 6652, SHUM 4652, ASIAN 4482, VISST 4652 

R 2:30-4:25 

4 credits. Student option grading. 

A. Irwin 

This experimental seminar examines religious artisans and designers as central contributors to the religious worlds they help create. Reading across religious traditions and time periods, we will learn how devout people forming things with their hands simultaneously informs ethical systems, aesthetic regimes, and ways of accessing the divine. Members of this seminar will also explore artmaking as a mode of academic inquiry though a series of integrated artmaking workshops on the fundamentals of drawing and composition. Developing new hand-based skills while learning about religious makers will provide new insights into the world of material religion as lived phenomenon. For additional information visit the Society for the Humanities website

All course offerings (fall 2020 courses will be published April 15)

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