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RELST 2155 : The Invention of Religion
Crosslisted as: HIST 2155, JWST 2155 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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.
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RELST 2209 : Daoist Traditions
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2289, CAPS 2209, HIST 2209 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
In this course we will examine the modes of philosophical and spiritual inquiry, varieties of spiritual/bodily cultivation and practice, and religious organizations and movements in China that we know as Daoist (or "Taoist"). We will examine the ways in which Daoism was used variously to contest or legitimate imperial political power, and how the procedures and ideologies of the imperial state in turn informed Daoist theory and practice.  Throughout, we will examine the ways in which standard modern western dichotomies, such as sacred/secular, spiritual/physical, and mind/body, break down when we try to apply them to the study of Daoism.  Course will focus on the period from the fourth century B.C.E. to the thirteenth century C.E. 
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RELST 2273 : Introduction to Religious Studies: Religion and Environmental Studies
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2273, NES 2273 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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.
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RELST 2299 : Buddhism
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 2299 Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 2330 : Religion and Social Life
Crosslisted as: SOC 2330 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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.
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RELST 2515 : Anthropology of Iran
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 2415, NES 2515 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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.
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RELST 2630 : Religion and Reason
Crosslisted as: PHIL 2530 Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 2018 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: JWST 2644, NES 2644 Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 2018 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.
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RELST 2724 : Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
Crosslisted as: JWST 2724, NES 2724 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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.
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RELST 3311 : Performing Islam in Southeast Asia
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 3311, ASIAN 6611, NES 3511 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
What role does Islam take in the politics, history, arts and rituals of Southeast Asia? Structured as a seminar, this course takes you on a journey through Southeast Asia, home to almost a quarter of the global Muslim population, to explore how centuries of cultural mixing and layering have shaped the regions' religious outlook. How are local traditions and universal Islamic precepts reconciled? How is this manifested in the performative arts and rituals? How does Islam play out in governance and the law? How is Islam deployed in the transnational sphere? Previous knowledge of Islam is an advantage, but not a requisite to succeed in this course. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of Islam as a religious system as well as a historical phenomenon throughout the course.
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RELST 3312 : Music in World Religions
Crosslisted as: MUSIC 3312 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
How does music relate to the divine? This class investigates the dynamic nexus of music, theology, and socio-cultural forces in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.  Students will acquire knowledge of a variety of musical systems and will think and write critically about topics including the role of gender in public and private worship, sacred song and protest, and artistic freedom and liturgical censure. Repertoire will range from Handel's Messiah to African American spirituals, 'cham (Tibetan ritual dance), tajwid (Qur'anic recitation), and bhajan (Hindu devotional music).  Semester-long projects in a religious tradition of each student's choice will combine traditional research methods with creative investigations tailored to individual skill sets (field work, composition, performance, analysis, …) Knowledge of Western notation not required.
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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 2018 Instructor:
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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RELST 4240 : The Sexual Politics of Religion
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 4490, ANTHR 7490, FGSS 4290, FGSS 6290, LGBT 4290, LGBT 6290, RELST 6290 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
Drawing on feminist and queer theory and ethnographic studies of ritual and devotional practices around the world this course will consider the relationships among the social organization of sexuality, embodiment of gender, nationalisms and everyday forms of worship. In addition to investigating the norms of family, gender, sex and the nation embedded in dominant institutionalized forms of religion we will study such phenomena as ritual transgenderism, neo tantrism, theogamy (marriage to a deity), priestly celibacy and temple prostitution. The disciplinary and normalizing effects of religion as well as the possibilities of religiosity as a mode of social dissent will be explored through different ethnographic and fictional accounts of ritual and faithful practices in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
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RELST 4449 : History, Theory, and Methods in the Academic Study of Religion
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 4449 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
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. 
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RELST 4451 : Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 4451, ASIAN 6631, FGSS 4451, FGSS 6331, LGBT 4451, LGBT 6331, PMA 4451 Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 4462 : Religion, Colonialism, and Nationalism in South and Southeast Asia
Crosslisted as: ASIAN 4462, ASIAN 6662 Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 4537 : Shi'ism: Debates and Discourses
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 4637, ANTHR 7637, NES 4537, NES 6537, RELST 6537 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
This course offers a broad survey of contemporary Shi'i beliefs, practices, and politics with a focus on Twelver or Imami Shi'ism. Through a close examination of ethnographies, intellectual and political histories, theological writings, and more we will investigate the themes which define the politics and cultural practices of contemporary Shi'ism. In particular, we will highlight the ways in which Shi'is utilize their theological beliefs to negotiate and respond to the socio-political context of the times in which they live.  The course begins by examining the early days of what would later be called "Shi'ism." We then examine the key theological concepts which distinguish Shi'ism from Sunnism, including themes of adalat (divine justice), shahadat (martyrdom), the Karbala paradigm, and the role of the imamate and clerical class. The rest of course is devoted to investigating the ways that Shi'ism informs and interacts with the social realm and vice versa, ranging from negotiations of the everyday to responding to moments of great civil and society unrest and to that which is called "sectarianism". Travelling from South Asia to the Middle East, from Africa to America, we will ultimately examine how Shi'i beliefs and identity act as a dynamic force for shaping the worlds in which they live today.
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RELST 4626 : Reinventing Biblical Narrative
Crosslisted as: CLASS 4626, CLASS 7626, JWST 4626, MEDVL 4626, MEDVL 6626, NES 4626, NES 6626, RELST 6626 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
Narratives, particularly sacred narratives, are not static or fixed but rather infinitely flexible and malleable.   Subject to multiple retellings—elaborations, modifications, and deletions—stories take on lives of their own even after they come to be written down. What happens to sacred stories when they are heard and read by different communities of interpreters? This is the broad question at the heart of this course, which will explore the diverse interpretations of biblical narratives (e.g., stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and his disciples, Joseph and Mary) found in Jewish and Christian literature from the second century BCE through the 6th century and beyond.  Writers like the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo and the Jewish historian Josephus, Jewish and Christian pseudepigrapha and apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, gnostic literature, early rabbinic literature, and Christian patristic writers—these are some of the sources that we will study in this class.    At the conclusion of the seminar, we will explore briefly the retellings of biblical stories and use of biblical characters in the early Islamic materials, especially the Qur'an.    Throughout the semester, we will consider the historical contexts of biblical interpretation and the production, transmission, and use of texts in antiquity, including questions about literacy and orality, education, and the physical forms of ancient books.
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RELST 4990 : Directed Study
Semester offered: Fall 2018 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 2018 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 2018 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 2018 Instructor:
Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.
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RELST 6290 : The Sexual Politics of Religion
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 4490, ANTHR 7490, FGSS 4290, FGSS 6290, LGBT 4290, LGBT 6290, RELST 4240 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
Drawing on feminist and queer theory and ethnographic studies of ritual and devotional practices around the world this course will consider the relationships among the social organization of sexuality, embodiment of gender, nationalisms and everyday forms of worship. In addition to investigating the norms of family, gender, sex and the nation embedded in dominant institutionalized forms of religion we will study such phenomena as ritual transgenderism, neo tantrism, theogamy (marriage to a deity), priestly celibacy and temple prostitution. The disciplinary and normalizing effects of religion as well as the possibilities of religiosity as a mode of social dissent will be explored through different ethnographic and fictional accounts of ritual and faithful practices in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
View course details
Description
RELST 6537 : Shi'ism: Debates and Discourses
Crosslisted as: ANTHR 4637, ANTHR 7637, NES 4537, NES 6537, RELST 4537 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
This course offers a broad survey of contemporary Shi'i beliefs, practices, and politics with a focus on Twelver or Imami Shi'ism. Through a close examination of ethnographies, intellectual and political histories, theological writings, and more we will investigate the themes which define the politics and cultural practices of contemporary Shi'ism. In particular, we will highlight the ways in which Shi'is utilize their theological beliefs to negotiate and respond to the socio-political context of the times in which they live.  The course begins by examining the early days of what would later be called "Shi'ism." We then examine the key theological concepts which distinguish Shi'ism from Sunnism, including themes of adalat (divine justice), shahadat (martyrdom), the Karbala paradigm, and the role of the imamate and clerical class. The rest of course is devoted to investigating the ways that Shi'ism informs and interacts with the social realm and vice versa, ranging from negotiations of the everyday to responding to moments of great civil and society unrest and to that which is called "sectarianism". Travelling from South Asia to the Middle East, from Africa to America, we will ultimately examine how Shi'i beliefs and identity act as a dynamic force for shaping the worlds in which they live today.
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RELST 6626 : Reinventing Biblical Narrative
Crosslisted as: CLASS 4626, CLASS 7626, JWST 4626, MEDVL 4626, MEDVL 6626, NES 4626, NES 6626, RELST 4626 Semester offered: Fall 2018 Instructor:
Narratives, particularly sacred narratives, are not static or fixed but rather infinitely flexible and malleable.   Subject to multiple retellings—elaborations, modifications, and deletions—stories take on lives of their own even after they come to be written down. What happens to sacred stories when they are heard and read by different communities of interpreters? This is the broad question at the heart of this course, which will explore the diverse interpretations of biblical narratives (e.g., stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and his disciples, Joseph and Mary) found in Jewish and Christian literature from the second century BCE through the 6th century and beyond.  Writers like the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo and the Jewish historian Josephus, Jewish and Christian pseudepigrapha and apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, gnostic literature, early rabbinic literature, and Christian patristic writers—these are some of the sources that we will study in this class.    At the conclusion of the seminar, we will explore briefly the retellings of biblical stories and use of biblical characters in the early Islamic materials, especially the Qur'an.    Throughout the semester, we will consider the historical contexts of biblical interpretation and the production, transmission, and use of texts in antiquity, including questions about literacy and orality, education, and the physical forms of ancient books.
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Description