Courses

Courses by semester

Courses for Fall 2022

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

Course ID Title Offered
RELST1110 Beginning Biblical Hebrew This course is designed to introduce students to the language, grammar, and vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. By the end of the semester students will be able to read and understand a number of biblical narrative passages, drawn from texts such as the stories of: creation in the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Joseph and his brothers, the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, David and Goliath, and others stories students are interested in reading in the original language. Emphasis will be placed on learning vocabulary in context so that students begin to understand the language of the Bible as a window on ancient Israelite religion, culture, and experience.

Full details for RELST 1110 - Beginning Biblical Hebrew

Fall.
RELST2248 Buddhists in the Indian Ocean Arena: Past and Present For millennia, Buddhist monks, merchants, pilgrims, diplomats, and adventurers have moved around the Indian Ocean arena circulating Buddhist teachings and powerful objects.  In doing so they helped create Buddhist communities in the places we now refer to as southern China, India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.  The course explores these circulatory histories by focusing on case studies in each of four historical periods: premodern (esp. early second millennium A.D.); the era of 19th-century colonial projects; mid-20th-century nation-state formation in South and Southeast Asia; and contemporary (early 21st century) times.  Drawing together materials from Indian Ocean studies, Buddhist studies, and critical studies of colonialism, modernity, and nation-state formation, this course attends to the ways in which changing trans-regional conditions shape local Buddhisms, how Buddhist collectives around the Indian Ocean arena shape one another, and how trade, religion, and politics interact.

Full details for RELST 2248 - Buddhists in the Indian Ocean Arena: Past and Present

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.
RELST2630 Religion and Reason 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.

Full details for RELST 2630 - Religion and Reason

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.
RELST2722 Of Saints, Poets, and Revolutionaries: Medieval and Modern Iran and Central Asia From the poet-kings of medieval Persia to the trading networks of the famed "Silk Road" to the wandering mystics of Herat to the constitutional revolution of Iran to the colonial and post-colonial occupations of contemporary Afghanistan, this course offers a broad cultural and political history of Iranian and Turkic Central Asia. In addition, we will explore the highly complex intellectual, artistic, and architectural trends and "cross-cultural" exchanges that formed the backbone of many disparate Iranian-Turkic cultures. 

Full details for RELST 2722 - Of Saints, Poets, and Revolutionaries: Medieval and Modern Iran and Central Asia

Fall.
RELST2724 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a repository of ancient Israelite religious, political, social, historical, and literary traditions. For the modern reader these ancient traditions are often obscured by a focus on the text as revelation. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the biblical world by reading the Hebrew Bible in translation, on its own terms, as a body of literature that evolved in an ancient Near Eastern context. The Bible itself will be the primary text for the course, but students will also be exposed to the rich and diverse textual traditions of the ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Moab, and Ugarit. In addition, this course will explore the impact of early biblical interpretation on shaping the monotheistic traditions inherited in the West. As participants in a secular course on the Bible, students will be challenged to question certain cultural assumptions about the composition and authorship of the Bible, and will be expected to differentiate between a text's content and its presumed meaning.

Full details for RELST 2724 - Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

Fall.
RELST3281 The Bible as Literature 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. The class counts toward the pre-1800 requirement for English majors.

Full details for RELST 3281 - The Bible as Literature

Fall.
RELST3536 Religions of Iran This course is an introduction to the religions of Iran from antiquity to the present. For over three millennia, Iran has been a hotbed and intercultural crossroads of religious activity as a result of its incredible ethnic and religious diversity, its many centuries of imperial rule, and its important geographical location between east and west. In this class, students survey the major religions of Iran, with an emphasis on those that originated there, including Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Mandaeism, Yezidism, and Bahaism. We will pay particularly close attention to the history of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest religions, whose adherents today, known as Parsis, reside mostly in India and Iran, and around the world. In addition to these native religions, students will also explore the impact that Iranian politics and culture have had on the presence of foreign religions in Iran, including on Judaism, Christianity, and Shi'ite Islam. Through a combination of lectures, secondary readings, and especially the close reading of primary sources in translation, students will not only gain a broad understanding of these religions, but also of Iranian history.

Full details for RELST 3536 - Religions of Iran

Fall.
RELST3618 Islamic History: The Beginnings of Islam: 600-750 An examination of Islamic history from 600-750, with special attention to historiography and interpretive issues. Topics to be discussed will include: Arabia and the Near East before Islam; the collection of the Qur'an, the biography of Muhammad, the Arab conquests, the Umayyad caliphs, and the Abbasid takeover.

Full details for RELST 3618 - Islamic History: The Beginnings of Islam: 600-750

Fall.
RELST3770 On Practice and Perfection Practice makes perfect, the old saying goes, but the nature of that connection remains opaque.  This course, conducted in English and intended as a sequel to FREN 3540 - [On Paying Attention], gives students the opportunity to engage with everyday material and spiritual practices, and to reflect upon the kids of things these practices "make."  What is the place of routine and repetition in our lives?  How can we open a conversation about our habits?  We'll look for models to the long history of writing on the subject, largely but not exclusively by Christian thinkers (e.g. Augustine, Benedict, Aelred, Francis, Ignatius), even as we develop new ways of accounting for, and developing, the practices that make our lives meaningful.  Artists, athletes, and introverts especially welcome.

Full details for RELST 3770 - On Practice and Perfection

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).
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.
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