Courses

Courses by semester

Courses for Fall 2023

Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .

Course ID Title Offered
RELST1710 The Jewish Atlantic: 1492-Present
Who were the Jews that first settled in the Americas and around the Atlantic? How did their experiences intersect with processes of colonization, empire-building, racialization, and the formation of an interconnected Atlantic World? Why do half the world's Jews live currently in countries on the Atlantic littoral? How do they maintain trans-national bonds with other Jews around the world? This course will reconstruct the rise of the Sephardi Diaspora following the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain, their settlement patterns across Europe, Africa, and the Americas, their global economic activities, and the uneasy ways they mapped onto religious, political, and racial schema of the period. We will also explore the mass-migrations of European, Middle Eastern, and North African Jews in the 19-20th centuries that rejuvenated the Jewish Atlantic and will investigate how the formation of the State of Israel has impacted the bonds of solidarity within this multi-ethnic Jewish Diaspora.

Full details for RELST 1710 - The Jewish Atlantic: 1492-Present

Fall.
RELST2155 The Invention of Religion
Religion is a term with a rich history but without a precise definition. Everyone can describe a religious idea or a religious experience even though there is no agreement about what it is that makes an idea or an experience religious. How did this state of things come about? What is it that makes religion both one thing and many things? Why do we apply this concept to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and to the deep feelings we associate with secular forms of devotion and enthusiasm — for food, for love, for family, for art, for sport? In this seminar, we will discover that religion is a distinctly modern concept, developed to address the psychological and social needs of Europeans increasingly adrift from the traditional communal practices and moral commitments of their parents and grandparents. Tracing the history of "religion" — rather than the history of religions — from the age of Immanuel Kant to the age of Emmanuel Levinas, we will examine paradoxical connection between the rise of religion and the decline of faith.

Full details for RELST 2155 - The Invention of Religion

Fall.
RELST2273 Religion and Ecological Sustainability
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.

Full details for RELST 2273 - Religion and Ecological Sustainability

Fall.
RELST2299 Buddhism
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.

Full details for RELST 2299 - Buddhism

Fall.
RELST2515 Anthropology of Iran
This course explores the major debates that define the study of contemporary Iran. Drawing from ethnographic works, literary criticism, intellectual histories and more, we will examine historical events and cultural developments from a diverse set of theoretical approaches. Topics include the Iranian revolution in comparative perspective, the Iran-Iraq war and its continued legacy, media forms and practice, contemporary film and literature, women's movements, youth culture, religious diversity, legal systems, techniques of governance, and more. Of particular interest will be the intersections of religion and secularism in Iranian society. Ultimately, it is the objective of the course to explore the diverse cultural, political, and material worlds that shape collective life and individual subjectivity in Iran today.

Full details for RELST 2515 - Anthropology of Iran

Fall.
RELST2655 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
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.

Full details for RELST 2655 - Introduction to Islamic Civilization

Fall.
RELST3320 Buddhist Meditation Traditions
This course will examine both the practice of and the ideology surrounding forms of meditation in Buddhist traditions from South, Southeast, and East Asia in premodern and contemporary times. We will explore early canonical accounts of the practice as well as later formulations that emerged as central foci of specific sectarian traditions. We will also discuss some modern scientific explorations of meditation practice and its increasing role as a psychotherapeutic tool.

Full details for RELST 3320 - Buddhist Meditation Traditions

Fall.
RELST3344 Introduction to Indian Philosophy
This course will survey the rich and sophisticated tradition of Indian philosophical thought from its beginnings in the speculations of Upanishads, surveying debates between Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and materialistic philosophers about the existence and nature of God and of the human soul, the nature of knowledge, and the theory of language.

Full details for RELST 3344 - Introduction to Indian Philosophy

Fall.
RELST3795 Sin:Theory and Practice
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.

Full details for RELST 3795 - Sin:Theory and Practice

Fall.
RELST4110 Religion and Social Life
Global conflicts, raising children, electing presidents, praying for a loved one: from the mundane to the extraordinary, religion plays a significant role in social life, regardless of whether or not one considers oneself "religious." In this course we will investigate religion and its impacts in society from a sociological perspective. Questions we will ask include: How does religion "fit" into society? What are the contours of contemporary religion in the United States and around the world? How do religious identities interact with other aspects of social life, including gender, race and politics? In what ways have religions and religious life changed over time? As social scientists, how can we best study religion? The course will use examples from a variety of religious and secular traditions to help us understand religion's sociological significance in the contemporary world.

Full details for RELST 4110 - Religion and Social Life

Fall.
RELST4310 Methods in Medieval
Topic: Writing Through the Forest in Search of Trees. Hello, Humanities Student! Are you a plotter or a pantser? Not sure? Come and join us to find out, and to gain valuable insight into what kind of a writer you are, and how to manage that writer most effectively and productively. This theme-centered methods seminar, through a communal focus on trees, woods, glens, and copses in the pre-modern world, will hone in on the most indispensable tool in the humanist's belt: writing. From the generation of ideas, to their organization into an outline (or a blueprint, or whatever euphemism we, as a group or as individuals, decide to apply to the initial, tangled pile of yarn) to the first draft. Followed by frank and constructive criticism of the initial draft as a group and in pairs, and then on to the part that all students—really, all humanists…okay, all writers—find to be the greatest struggle: "Your paper has some good ideas, but it really needs a rewrite." Now what do you do? As we write, and rewrite, we will also read widely. In addition to primary sources, scholarly articles and essays, we will include criticism, personal essay, theory, excerpts from fiction, and more, in an effort to open students' writing up to a myriad of possibilities for persuasive and compelling written communication.

Full details for RELST 4310 - Methods in Medieval

Fall.
RELST4438 Islam in Asia: From Turkey to Japan
Why do mosques look so different across Asia? How come Malaysia is a global center for the halal industry? Why is "blue and white" the classic patter for Chinese porcelain, and how does it fit in a conversation about "Islam"? In this seminar we will explore the ways in which Islam and Asia have shaped each other's histories, societies and cultures from the seventh century to today. Challenging the assumed dominance of the Middle East in the development of Islam, we will discuss Asia's centrality in the development of global Islam as a religious, social and political reality. We will learn how and why Asia is central to the history of Islam, and vice versa, considering the impact of Asia's Muslims on Islam; and how Islam became an integral part of Asia, and its influence on local conceptions of power, the sciences, arts, and bureaucracy.

Full details for RELST 4438 - Islam in Asia: From Turkey to Japan

Fall.
RELST4451 Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema
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 in 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 are 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.

Full details for RELST 4451 - Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema

Fall.
RELST4990 Directed Study
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.

Full details for RELST 4990 - Directed Study

Fall.
RELST4995 Senior Honors Essay I
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.

Full details for RELST 4995 - Senior Honors Essay I

Multi-semester course: Fall, Spring.
RELST4996 Senior Honors Essay II
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.

Full details for RELST 4996 - Senior Honors Essay II

Multi-semester course: Fall, Spring.
RELST6020 Latin Philosophical Texts
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Full details for RELST 6020 - Latin Philosophical Texts

Fall, Spring.
RELST6221 Judeo-Arabic
This seminar presents an introduction to Judeo-Arabic through the study of selected classical texts and the study of its grammar and lexicon. Because Judeo-Arabic combines elements of Hebrew and Arabic the course will also study aspects of the two classical languages in comparative perspective and examine how the development of classical Arabic grammar established the study of classical Hebrew grammar.

Full details for RELST 6221 - Judeo-Arabic

Fall.
RELST6310 Methods in Medieval
Topic: Writing Through the Forest in Search of Trees. Hello, Humanities Student! Are you a plotter or a pantser? Not sure? Come and join us to find out, and to gain valuable insight into what kind of a writer you are, and how to manage that writer most effectively and productively. This theme-centered methods seminar, through a communal focus on trees, woods, glens, and copses in the pre-modern world, will hone in on the most indispensable tool in the humanist's belt: writing. From the generation of ideas, to their organization into an outline (or a blueprint, or whatever euphemism we, as a group or as individuals, decide to apply to the initial, tangled pile of yarn) to the first draft. Followed by frank and constructive criticism of the initial draft as a group and in pairs, and then on to the part that all students—really, all humanists…okay, all writers—find to be the greatest struggle: "Your paper has some good ideas, but it really needs a rewrite." Now what do you do? As we write, and rewrite, we will also read widely. In addition to primary sources, scholarly articles and essays, we will include criticism, personal essay, theory, excerpts from fiction, and more, in an effort to open students' writing up to a myriad of possibilities for persuasive and compelling written communication.

Full details for RELST 6310 - Methods in Medieval

Fall.
RELST6631 Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema
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 in 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 are 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.

Full details for RELST 6631 - Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema

Fall.
RELST6638 Islam in Asia: From Turkey to Japan
Why do mosques look so different across Asia? How come Malaysia is a global center for the halal industry? Why is "blue and white" the classic patter for Chinese porcelain, and how does it fit in a conversation about "Islam"? In this seminar we will explore the ways in which Islam and Asia have shaped each other's histories, societies and cultures from the seventh century to today. Challenging the assumed dominance of the Middle East in the development of Islam, we will discuss Asia's centrality in the development of global Islam as a religious, social and political reality. We will learn how and why Asia is central to the history of Islam, and vice versa, considering the impact of Asia's Muslims on Islam; and how Islam became an integral part of Asia, and its influence on local conceptions of power, the sciences, arts, and bureaucracy.

Full details for RELST 6638 - Islam in Asia: From Turkey to Japan

Fall.
RELST7758 Archaeology of Greek Religion: Theory, Methods, and Practice
What is "religion," and how can we use material culture to investigate ancient beliefs and rituals? This course (1) explores major themes and problems in the archaeology of ancient Greek religion, and (2) compares and critiques selected theoretical and methodological approaches to the "archaeology of cult" more generally. Students will consider and analyze ritual artifacts, cult sites, and other aspects of religious material culture, as well as primary textual sources (in translation). 

Full details for RELST 7758 - Archaeology of Greek Religion: Theory, Methods, and Practice

Fall.
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