Courses - Spring 2021

RELST 2204 Introduction to Quranic Arabic

This course is designed for students who are interested in reading the language of the Qur'an with accuracy and understanding. The first week (4 classes) will be devoted to an introduction of the history of the Qur'an: the revelation, collection, variant readings, and establishment of an authoritative edition. The last week will be devoted to a general overview of "revisionist" literature on the Qur'an. In the remaining 12 weeks, we will cover all of Part 30 (Juz' 'Amma, suuras 78-114) and three suuras of varying length (36, 19, and 12).

Distribution: (LA-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Munther Younes (may2)
Full details for RELST 2204 : Introduction to Quranic Arabic
RELST 2247 Controversy and Debate in Islam

Whether it is politics, society, the law, sexuality, popular culture or minorities' rights, the media are saturated with news on Islam. This course introduces topical issues in Islam as a religious, historical, cultural and political phenomenon. We will discuss this religion's manifold interpretations and investigate its multiple manifestations across the globe, giving special attention to Asia (from Iran to China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, Thailand, etc.). Key themes include religious devotion, the arts, Islamic law, gender, statehood, jihad, and sectarianism. No previous knowledge of Islam is required as the course covers the fundamentals of Islam as a religious system as well as a historical phenomenon.

Distribution: (HA-AS, ALC-AS, GLC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Chiara Formichi (cf398)
Full details for RELST 2247 : Controversy and Debate in Islam
RELST 2250 Introduction to Asian Religions

This course will explore religious traditions in South Asia (Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka) and East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) including Hinduism, Buddhism (South Asian and East Asian), Sikhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shintō. We will also encounter a wide range of religious expressions, including myth, ritual, pilgrimage, mysticism, meditation, and other spiritual technologies.

Distribution: (HA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Daniel Boucher (djb38)
Full details for RELST 2250 : Introduction to Asian Religions
RELST 2279 Chinese Mythology

Students will study Chinese myths from the earliest times. Focus will be on understanding how people have used myth to create and convey meaning, on examining the form Chinese myths take, and on considering how they are related to religion, literature, historical accounts, and intellectual trends.

Distribution: (LA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Robin McNeal (rm253)
Full details for RELST 2279 : Chinese Mythology
RELST 2599 Medicine, Magic and Science in the Ancient Near East

This course explores the history of medicine and other sciences in the ancient Near East, broadly defined. In addition to medicine, the other scientific disciplines covered in this course include mathematics, astrology, astronomy, alchemy, zoology, among others. Geographically, the course traces the transmission of scientific knowledge in ancient Babylonia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and beyond. As such, the course offers students a tour of different ancient civilizations and corpora. Students read selections from cuneiform Akkadian tablets, Egyptian Christian Coptic spellbooks, rabbinic sources such as the Talmud, among many other works. At the same time, students will be required to critically engage recent scholarship in the history of science and medicine as a way to help frame their analyses of the ancient materials. The course interrogates how ancient civilizations transmitted and received scientific knowledge, as well as the relationship between what we today tend to call science, medicine, magic, and religion. This course is intended not only for students in the Humanities and Social Sciences, but also for those majoring in science or medicine.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jason Mokhtarian (jsm467)
Full details for RELST 2599 : Medicine, Magic and Science in the Ancient Near East
RELST 2644 Introduction to Judaism

This course is an introduction to Jewish identities, values, and practices from the ancient to modern era. Organized thematically, it examines Judaism as a religious phenomenon, with a particular emphasis on its cultural and textual diversity across three millennia. Themes covered include creation, Sabbath, prayer, Jerusalem, pious customs, magic, reincarnation, revelation, among others. Throughout the semester students perform close readings of a wide selection of Jewish texts from the Bible, Talmud, kabbalah (mysticism), philosophy, liturgy, and modern Jewish thought. In what ways are these various traditions of Judaism interrelated and/or in tension with one another? In the face of the Jewish history's tremendous diversity, what is it that has unified Judaism and the Jewish people over the centuries? By exploring these types of questions, this course examines the appropriateness of defining Judaism as a religion, an ethnicity, a civilization, and/or a culture. Readings include introductory-level textbooks and essays, as well as a range of primary source materials in translation.

Distribution: (HA-AS, ALC-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jason Mokhtarian (jsm467)
Full details for RELST 2644 : Introduction to Judaism
RELST 2695 Introduction to Christian History

This course offers an introduction to the history of Christianity from the first century through the seventeenth and perhaps a bit beyond. Our emphasis will be on the diversity of Christian traditions, beliefs, and practices throughout history. We will explore the origins of Christianity within the eastern Mediterranean world, the spread of Christianity, the development of ecclesiastical institutions, the rise and establishment of monasticism, and the various controversies that occupied the church throughout its history. Throughout the course, we will supplement our reading of primary texts with art, archaeology, music, and manuscripts.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for RELST 2695 : Introduction to Christian History
RELST 3374 Gendering Enlightenment: Attitudes toward Women in Buddhist Traditions

Women have from the beginning been integral members of Buddhist traditions. But their voices have often been silenced by male clergy. This course will explore ways in which images of women and the feminine have been manipulated within normative literature to serve a variety of ends. We will also look at the lives of real Buddhist women in premodern and contemporary times as we think about the complex ways women have made space for their own interests.

Distribution: (CA-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Daniel Boucher (djb38)
Full details for RELST 3374 : Gendering Enlightenment: Attitudes toward Women in Buddhist Traditions
RELST 3420 Myth, Ritual, and Symbol

This course approaches the study of religion, symbols, and myth from an anthropological perspective. The centrality and universality of religion and myth-making in social and symbolic life has been fundamental in the development of cultural theory. Our aim is to understand with this is so. We begin by examining the classic theories of religion in the works of Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Mauss, and Freud, among others, followed by an exploration of how these theories have been influential in anthropological studies of symbolism, cosmology, ritual, selfhood, myth, sorcery, witchcraft, and pilgrimage. We conclude by examining the apparent persistence, revival and transformation of religious and magical beliefs and practices within modern, modernizing, and postcolonial states. We ask whether an increasing politicization and globalization of religious ideology through technological mediation poses significant challenges to the anthropological analysis of religion. In so doing, we also try to understand better the human experience of and identification with the spiritual, mythical, and religious in the contemporary moment. This, in turn, leads us to investigate the inherent volatility of such identifications and experiences within the larger national and global framework of cultural politics.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Andrew Willford (acw24)
Full details for RELST 3420 : Myth, Ritual, and Symbol
RELST 3535 Moses to Modernity

This course is an introduction to Jewish philosophy – from Biblical texts to 20th century work. Our inquiries will span metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy. We will reflect on questions such as the relation between philosophy or reason on the one hand, and religion and ethics on the other, on the possibility of knowledge of God, the ethics of human relations, the nature of suffering, and finally the nature of a tolerant and just society. We will read works by Maimonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Marx, Buber, Rosenzweig, Cohen, Arendt, Levinas, and Butler, among others.

Distribution: (KCM-AS, ETM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Karolina Hubner (kh753)
Full details for RELST 3535 : Moses to Modernity
RELST 3738 Identity in the Ancient World

Have you ever been asked 'who are you' or 'which group do you belong to'? You would have noted how the answer shifts according to who is asking, in which context, etc. While everyone is unique, the possible replies in any one situation are largely defined at the level of society. What is less often realized, however, is that identity shows in particular in ways of doing: what and how one eats; what one wears and when; how one moves in a space. Archaeology is in a unique position to investigate these questions, and the Greek and Roman worlds offer a fruitful test ground, both because of their varied evidence, and because of their peculiar echoing in the modern world and its manifold identities. This course will address current theories about identity and its formation, discuss the various facets of identity (e.g. gender, citizenship, ethnicity) in the Greek and Roman worlds, and introduce tools for studying identity in the past.

Distribution: (CA-AS, HST-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Astrid Van Oyen (av475)
Full details for RELST 3738 : Identity in the Ancient World
RELST 3747 Staging Faith: Contemporary Theatre and Lived Religions

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, Indecent, Angels in America, and Heroes of the Fourth Turning.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: J Gainor (jeg11)
Clark West (crw86)
Full details for RELST 3747 : Staging Faith: Contemporary Theatre and Lived Religions
RELST 3887 Understanding Uprising: The Iranian Revolution

This class analyzes the phenomenon of political uprising through the case study of the Iranian Revolution.  Undoubtedly one of the watershed moments of the twentieth century, it was declared by political scientist Richard Cottam as one of "the most popular revolutions in the history of mankind." Rather than employing a strictly historiographical approach, we will utilize a diverse set of methodologies – anthropological, sociological, feminist, neo-Marxist, etc -- in order to better understand not only the Revolution itself, but what unique perspective these disparate schools of thought may offer. Major themes include the relationship between religion and politics, class struggle, economic inequalities, foreign influence and colonialism, the use of violence, the impact of intellectuals, the role of women, tactics of political mobilization, comparisons with the Arab Spring, and more.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Seema Golestaneh (sg2327)
Full details for RELST 3887 : Understanding Uprising: The Iranian Revolution
RELST 4100 Latin Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Peter Osorio (pio3)
Full details for RELST 4100 : Latin Philosophical Texts
RELST 4310 Methods in Medieval

Topic: The Late Medieval Devotional Image. A commonplace in the scholarly literature surrounding late medieval visual culture in Spain is that it was always "late".  The Spaniards lagged behind the Italians -- so the story goes -- in getting a handle on perspective, and trailed after van Eyck and van der Weyden in mastering the niceties of oil painting and realistic effects.  Spain's visual production, in other words, is generally treated from a standpoint of connoisseurship and "history of styles," producing predictable results:  evaluations of how it does (or does not) conform to the models established for other European contexts whose appropriateness to late medieval Iberia is doubtful to say the least.  We will examine, through the contextually based study of the introduction of the retablo (altarpiece) into Iberian churches, chapels and palaces (these contexts, of course, included a significant consciousness, and often presence, of Jews, Muslims, or recent converts to Christianity from those latter two religions) in the early 15th century, both the problems enumerated above and the problematic culture of the religious image in Iberia.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Cynthia Robinson (cr94)
Full details for RELST 4310 : Methods in Medieval
RELST 4480 Projects of Modernity in Asia

Idea(l)s of modernity across the Global South have been largely rooted in Euro-American projections of "civilization", and "civilizational" projects. The colonial worldview in which only Western(ized) experiences could be modern is foundational to the multifarious ways in which scholarship and nation-builders have engaged with progress, whether aspiring to it, rejecting it, or appropriating it. In this seminar we explore how imperial authorities, nationalists, and scholars/intellectuals have interfaced with idea(l)s of progress and modernity in Asia, reading works ("one book a week") grounded in multiple disciplines and cultural settings. Core themes will include: health and hygiene, consumption, technology, gender, piety and devotion, imperialism and race, and nationalism.

Distribution: (CA-AS, GLC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Chiara Formichi (cf398)
Full details for RELST 4480 : Projects of Modernity in Asia
RELST 4618 Seminar in 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.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Powers (dsp4)
Full details for RELST 4618 : Seminar in Islamic History: The Beginnings of Islam: 600-750
RELST 4628 Gnosticism and Early Christianity

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.

Distribution: (HA-AS, HST-AS, SCD-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for RELST 4628 : Gnosticism and Early Christianity
RELST 4656 Religion, Emotion, and Imagination

We tend to think of emotions as private, unlearned, and biological. Though in much of antiquity, the emotions were primarily seen as public, performative, and cognitive. The cultivation and control of emotions were key concerns in ancient education, moral formation, gender roles, and ritual life in Mediterranean antiquity. This seminar focuses on Greco-Roman and Christian efforts to describe, direct, mix, and control the emotions in late antique moral philosophy and religious instruction. Following an introduction to ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish writings on the emotions, we shall turn our attention to ancient Christian efforts to foster, adapt, and redescribe emotions. For longer description and instructor bio visit The Society for the Humanities website.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Georgia Frank (gaf63)
Full details for RELST 4656 : Religion, Emotion, and Imagination
RELST 4659 The Fabrication of Biblical Israel

This course examines the raw materials and discursive processes by which Biblical scribes fabricated a history of ancient Israel that featured static and defensible geographic and genealogical boundaries. We will bring the tools of biblical criticism (philological, archaeological, literary historical) to bear on biblical narrative traditions that in different ways were essential in the process of inventing biblical Israel. We will focus on the modes and materials of textual production and on how modern historians engage biblical narrative in fabricating their own narrative histories of ancient Israel. We will also consider how ancient and modern historical writing on ancient Israel has been put into the service of contemporary political discourse on boundaries and borders in Israel-Palestine. For longer description and instructor bio visit the Society for the Humanities website.

Distribution: (CA-AS, ALC-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Lauren Monroe (lm283)
Full details for RELST 4659 : The Fabrication of Biblical Israel
RELST 4991 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.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for RELST 4991 : Directed Study
RELST 4995 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.

Academic Career: UG Full details for RELST 4995 : Senior Honors Essay I
RELST 4996 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.

Academic Career: UG Full details for RELST 4996 : Senior Honors Essay II
RELST 6020 Latin Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Peter Osorio (pio3)
Full details for RELST 6020 : Latin Philosophical Texts
RELST 6310 Methods in Medieval

Topic: The Late Medieval Devotional Image. A commonplace in the scholarly literature surrounding late medieval visual culture in Spain is that it was always "late".  The Spaniards lagged behind the Italians -- so the story goes -- in getting a handle on perspective, and trailed after van Eyck and van der Weyden in mastering the niceties of oil painting and realistic effects.  Spain's visual production, in other words, is generally treated from a standpoint of connoisseurship and "history of styles," producing predictable results:  evaluations of how it does (or does not) conform to the models established for other European contexts whose appropriateness to late medieval Iberia is doubtful to say the least.  We will examine, through the contextually based study of the introduction of the retablo (altarpiece) into Iberian churches, chapels and palaces (these contexts, of course, included a significant consciousness, and often presence, of Jews, Muslims, or recent converts to Christianity from those latter two religions) in the early 15th century, both the problems enumerated above and the problematic culture of the religious image in Iberia.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Cynthia Robinson (cr94)
Full details for RELST 6310 : Methods in Medieval
RELST 6618 Seminar in Islamic History: 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.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: David Powers (dsp4)
Full details for RELST 6618 : Seminar in Islamic History: 600-750
RELST 6656 Religion, Emotion, and Imagination

We tend to think of emotions as private, unlearned, and biological. Though in much of antiquity, the emotions were primarily seen as public, performative, and cognitive. The cultivation and control of emotions were key concerns in ancient education, moral formation, gender roles, and ritual life in Mediterranean antiquity. This seminar focuses on Greco-Roman and Christian efforts to describe, direct, mix, and control the emotions in late antique moral philosophy and religious instruction. Following an introduction to ancient Greek, Roman, and Jewish writings on the emotions, we shall turn our attention to ancient Christian efforts to foster, adapt, and redescribe emotions. For longer description and instructor bio visit The Society for the Humanities website.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Georgia Frank (gaf63)
Full details for RELST 6656 : Religion, Emotion, and Imagination
RELST 6659 The Fabrication of Biblical Israel

This course examines the raw materials and discursive processes by which Biblical scribes fabricated a history of ancient Israel that featured static and defensible geographic and genealogical boundaries. We will bring the tools of biblical criticism (philological, archaeological, literary historical) to bear on biblical narrative traditions that in different ways were essential in the process of inventing biblical Israel. We will focus on the modes and materials of textual production and on how modern historians engage biblical narrative in fabricating their own narrative histories of ancient Israel. We will also consider how ancient and modern historical writing on ancient Israel has been put into the service of contemporary political discourse on boundaries and borders in Israel-Palestine. For longer description and instructor bio visit the Society for the Humanities website.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Lauren Monroe (lm283)
Full details for RELST 6659 : The Fabrication of Biblical Israel
RELST 6678 Projects of Modernity in Asia

Idea(l)s of modernity across the Global South have been largely rooted in Euro-American projections of "civilization", and "civilizational" projects. The colonial worldview in which only Western(ized) experiences could be modern is foundational to the multifarious ways in which scholarship and nation-builders have engaged with progress, whether aspiring to it, rejecting it, or appropriating it. In this seminar we explore how imperial authorities, nationalists, and scholars/intellectuals have interfaced with idea(l)s of progress and modernity in Asia, reading works ("one book a week") grounded in multiple disciplines and cultural settings. Core themes will include: health and hygiene, consumption, technology, gender, piety and devotion, imperialism and race, and nationalism.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Chiara Formichi (cf398)
Full details for RELST 6678 : Projects of Modernity in Asia