Courses - Fall 2019

RELST 2157 Tolstoy: History and Counter-Culture

Tolstoy is impossible. An aristocrat who renounced his wealth. A man of titanic appetites who repeatedly swore off meat, alcohol and sex. A Christian who didn't believe in God. An anarchist who ruled his own estate like an ancient patriarch. A writer of genius who thought literature was evil and a waste of time and referred to his greatest book as "garbage." An inexhaustible skeptic who wanted nothing but mere faith. In Tolstoy's imaginative universe, we may find the origin of many modern contradictions and anxieties, about money, about sec and about power. But Tolstoy's modern consciousness was not created in Paris or New York. Tolstoy was made in late imperial Russia - notoriously, the least modern country in nineteenth-century Europe. How, then, did Tolstoy happen? How can we account historically for his epic project of self-fashioning? In this seminar, we will see Tolstoy at work in the creation of an heroic counter-cultural persona, writing against the social and political currents of his own time.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Olga Litvak (ol76)
Full details for RELST 2157 : Tolstoy: History and Counter-Culture
RELST 2273 Introduction to Religious Studies: Religion and Ecology

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.

Distribution: (KCM-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jane-Marie Law (jml16)
Full details for RELST 2273 : Introduction to Religious Studies: Religion and Ecology
RELST 2299 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.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Daniel Boucher (djb38)
Full details for RELST 2299 : Buddhism
RELST 2523 Islamophobia and Judeophobia

Islamophobia and Judeophobia are ideas and like all ideas they have a history of their own. Although today many might think of Islamophobia or Judeophobia as unchangeable---fear of and hatred for Islam and Muslims or Judaism and Jews---these ideas and the social and political practices informed by them have varied greatly over time and place. They even intersected during the Middle Age and in Ottoman times when "the Jew" was frequently represented as allied with "The Muslim". The first part of this course traces the history, trajectory, and political agency of Judeophobia and Islamophobia in texts and other forms of culture from late antiquity through the present. The second part of the course is devoted to modernity and the present especially in Europe and the United States focusing on representational practices---how Muslims/Islam and Jews/Judaism are portrayed in various discourses including the media, film and on the internet. We will investigate how these figures (the Muslim, the Jew) serve as a prism through which we can understand various social, political and cultural processes and the interests of those who produce and consume them.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for RELST 2523 : Islamophobia and Judeophobia
RELST 2655 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.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: David Powers (dsp4)
Full details for RELST 2655 : Introduction to Islamic Civilization
RELST 2666 Jerusalem the Holy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Jerusalem is a holy city to the adherents of the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For most of its existence it has also been a national capital or major provincial center for the many states and empires which vied for control of the vital land bridge connecting Africa, Europe and Asia. Thus many of the pivotal events which shaped western civilization were played out in the streets and structures of Jerusalem. This class will explore the history, archaeology, natural topography and role of Jerusalem throughout its long life, from its earliest remains in the Chalcolithic period (ca. 4000 B.C.E.) to the 19th century, including Jebusite Jerusalem, Jerusalem as the capital of the Davidic dynasty, the Roman era city of Herod and Jesus, the Crusaders and medieval Jerusalem, and Ottoman Jerusalem as the city entered the modern era. Students will examine the original historical sources (e.g. the Bible, Josephus, the Madeba map, etc.) which pertain to Jerusalem. PowerPoint lectures will be used to illustrate the natural features, man-made monuments, and artifacts which flesh out the textual material, providing a fuller image of the world's most prominent spiritual and secular capital.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Jeff Zorn (jrz3)
Full details for RELST 2666 : Jerusalem the Holy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam
RELST 2770 Islam and Gender

This course explores the role of gender and sexuality in shaping the lives of Muslims past and present. Through a close examination of ethnographies, intellectual histories, and religious treatises, we will analyze the key debates and discourses surrounding the intersection of gender and Islam. We begin by investigating Quranic revelations and hadith concerning gender and sexual ethics, female figures of emulation in early Islam, and feminist exegeses of the Quran. Continuing onward, we focus upon the everyday lives of Muslim women and non-binary individuals in medieval, colonial, and post-colonial contexts, highlighting the ways in which people negotiate and respond to the sexual politics of the times in which they live as we ask what, if anything, is specifically "Islamic" about the situations under discussion? Following this, we embark upon a history of sexuality within Islam, tracing the ways in which the categories of "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" came to exist in the Muslim world, as well as the history and positionality of trans communities past and present. We then continue with an exploration of Islamic feminism as it exists today, looking to the ways in which Muslim feminists have critically engaged both religious texts as well as Western feminist theory. Finally, the course concludes by analyzing the relationship between the study of Islam, gender, and empire.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Seema Golestaneh (sg2327)
Full details for RELST 2770 : Islam and Gender
RELST 2851 Sex and Power in Jewish History

Jewish men and women in early modern Europe lived their lives within a gendered social order inherited from the Talmudic period. The relationship between sex and power remained fundamental to Jewish communal discipline until the eighteenth century. The explosion of vernacular publishing, increasing economic and geographic mobility and the coming of emancipation challenged existing gender norms and liberated Jewish desire - well, almost. As we will see, modernity has an ambiguous effect on Jewish sexual expression and Jewish sexual politics. It is not clear that the emancipation of Jewish men had the same emancipatory effect on Jewish women. Jewish patriarchy proved unexpectedly resilient. In this course, we will explore why - despite Judaism's reputation for liberal attitudes to sex - neither most Jewish men nor many Jewish women embraced the possibilities of personal liberation from a reproductive regime of rigid self-control and near compulsory heterosexual monogamy.

Distribution: (HA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Olga Litvak (ol76)
Full details for RELST 2851 : Sex and Power in Jewish History
RELST 3639 Cultural History of the Jews of Spain

This course is intended to provide a survey of the cultural history of the Jews in Spain from the late Visigothic period until the converso crisis of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the expulsion. It will focus on the interaction of Jewish with Muslim and Christian cultures and the stable yet evolving sense of a Sephardic identity. The course will establish historical and literary-critical frames for reading primary sources in translation, including secular and synagogal poetry, philosophy and kabbalah, biblical hermeneutics, historiography and polemics.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Ross Brann (rb23)
Full details for RELST 3639 : Cultural History of the Jews of Spain
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, religion, ethnicity) in the Greek and Roman worlds, and introduce tools for studying identity in the past.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Astrid Van Oyen (av475)
Full details for RELST 3738 : Identity in the Ancient World
RELST 3770 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.

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Cary Howie (csh34)
Full details for RELST 3770 : On Practice and Perfection
RELST 4100 Latin Philosophical Texts

Reading and translation of Latin philosophical texts.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Scott MacDonald (scm8)
Full details for RELST 4100 : Latin Philosophical Texts
RELST 4215 Topics in Medieval Philosophy

Advanced discussion of a topic in medieval philosophy.

Academic Career: UG Instructor: Scott MacDonald (scm8)
Full details for RELST 4215 : Topics in Medieval Philosophy
RELST 4451 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 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.

Distribution: (LA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Arnika Fuhrmann (aif32)
Full details for RELST 4451 : Gender and Sexuality in Southeast Asian Cinema
RELST 4557 Desert Monasticism

How and why do landscapes come to inspire the religious imagination?   And why do religious practices, rituals, traditions, and beliefs take place in particular landscapes? This seminar treats these questions by focusing on the desert, both imagined and real, as it has shaped religious ascetic practice, especially the development of Christian monasticism in the Middle East.  We will read widely from monastic literatures, mostly from late ancient Egypt, to explore both the historical development of monasticism in Christianity and examine why the monastic impulse seems so closely tied to the "desert." In addition to reading saints lives and the stories of hermits, we will read early monastic rules, the desert fathers, and we will draw from archaeological sources to examine the varieties of ascetic practices in the deserts of late ancient Egypt, Gaza, Sinai, Palestine, and Syria. Throughout the course we will explore ancient and modern ideas about "wilderness" and we will explore parallels between ancient Near Eastern literatures and their nineteenth- and twentieth-century parallels in the American frontier and environmental literatures.

Distribution: (CA-AS)
Academic Career: UG Instructor: Kim Haines-Eitzen (kjh10)
Full details for RELST 4557 : Desert Monasticism
RELST 4990 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 4990 : 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: Scott MacDonald (scm8)
Full details for RELST 6020 : Latin Philosophical Texts
RELST 6210 Topics in Medieval Philosophy

Graduate seminar covering a topic in medieval philosophy.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Scott MacDonald (scm8)
Full details for RELST 6210 : Topics in Medieval Philosophy
RELST 6746 Aesthetics of the Sacred in Classical Antiquity

This course will explore archaeological and literary evidence for the production, display, ritual treatment, and cultural reception of sacred images in ancient Greece. We will focus on some of the most fertile and problematic themes relating to the representation of divine beings in material form, such as the potential and limitations of anthropomorphism; the use of alternative modes of material manifestation such as aniconism and theriomorphism (the representation of gods as animals); the relationship between "cult" and "votive" images; the replication and adaptation of cult statues to new contexts of display; and shifting attitudes to image-worship within polytheistic and monotheistic traditions. Students in Classics, Art History, Religious Studies and Anthropology should find this course of particular interest.

Academic Career: GR Instructor: Verity Platt (vjp33)
Full details for RELST 6746 : Aesthetics of the Sacred in Classical Antiquity