Graduate Courses

Fall 2016 / Spring 2016

Fall 2016

REL-R 551 RELIGIONS OF SOUTH ASIA / TOPIC: Women and Gender in South Asian Religious Traditions Literature of India

Instructor: Manring, R.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: TR 1:00p-2:15p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 330 and INST-I 380, INST-I 580

What do South Asian religions tell us about what it means to be a woman? We will explore women’s lives with four different perspectives in mind:

1. Descriptive: women’s own voices and their contributions to the shaping of the various traditions we will study.
2. Critical: women’s subordination, marginalization, and invisibility in religious history.
3. Comparative: how do women in South Asia handle issues, for example, of purity and pollution?
4. Methodological: how can we as scholars locate the gendered experience of religion? In other words, in a field once dominated by philology, how have some scholars managed to shift their emphasis to hear the voices that have rarely been recorded, the voices of women?

Class format will blend lecture and discussion, with students expected to participate fully in class meetings. We will develop the skills to help us evaluate the trustworthiness of our sources as we compare and contrast diverse and sometimes conflicting primary sources for a single issue. In this course we will frequently be dealing with ambiguity and contradiction! You will learn to identify the main issues raised in the week’s assigned readings so that you can raise questions for discussion. You'll be working in groups, with each group responsible for leading discussion twice during the semester. We will use a number of film clips illustrating relevant topics to help us understand women’s lives in South Asia.

REL-R 552 STUDIES IN BUDDHISM / Topic: East Asian Buddhism

Instructor: Blair, H.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: TR 11:15a-12:30p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 310

This discussion/lecture course introduces students to East Asian Buddhism (that is, China, Korea, Japan, and the East Asian cultural diaspora). We will explore how East Asian Buddhists past and present have used religion to imagine and interpret the physical, social, and supernatural worlds that they inhabit. The course is divided into four units. First, we will examine Buddhist cosmology, that is, the ways the world, from the heavens down to the hells, is imagined. Next we will explore the monastery as a site for dedicated practice by religious specialists (mostly, but not exclusively, monks and nuns). Then we will look at the question of how rulers have used Buddhism for political purposes. Finally, we will study pilgrimage, which brings people from all walks of life to sacred places. Course materials draw from both primary and secondary sources, and range from the classical to the contemporary. There are no pre-requisites for this course; however, those with no background in Buddhism or East Asian cultures are especially encouraged to come to office hours and may need to put in some extra effort, particularly at the beginning of the semester.

REL-R 554 RELIGIONS OF EAST ASIA / Topic: Early Chinese Thought

Instructor: Stalnaker, A.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: MW 9:30a-10:45a
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 374

This course provides an introduction to the early development of Chinese thought, from the oracle bone divination of the Shang Dynasty to the religious, ethical, and political theories of classical Confucianism, Mohism, and Daoism, through the unification of China in 221 BCE. We will concentrate on early debates over human nature and the best practices of self-cultivation, the general nature of the cosmos and the human role in it, and the proper ordering of society. The different positions articulated by these early Chinese figures greatly influenced later Chinese intellectual and social history, including the development of Buddhism, and influenced developments in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam as well. Thus, understanding these early debates is an important stepping-stone for understanding East Asian thought and culture generally. No knowledge of classical Chinese is required. Readings are in English translation.

REL-R 571 STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS ETHICS / Topic: Self Cultivation and Spiritual Exercises

Instructor: Stalnaker, A.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: MW 1:00p-2:15p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-D 430

Can anyone ever really change who they are? Religions tend to answer this question with an emphatic yes. And it does seem that religions can transform people: some believers even become selfless servants of the poor, or suicide bombers. But how and why might this happen? Similar circumstances push people in quite different ways; “good intentions” alone are not sufficient for real conversion to some difficult new form of life. This class focuses on how religious commitments are conceived, articulated, and nurtured through methodical practices that give followers specific direction, guiding them through alternative territories of sin and salvation, ignorance and wisdom, or suffering and bliss.

Examining practices of personal formation sheds new light on the broader question of how flawed and frail human beings can actually become good, and perhaps even heroic, sagely, or saintly. It also provides a unique window into the psychosocial mechanisms of religious power. All readings will be in English or English translation.

REL-R 661 RELIGION AND SOCIAL CRITICISM

Instructor: Furey, C.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: M 4:00p-6:00p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class open to graduates only.

“What is spirituality?” Michel Foucault asked during the first hour of his 1982 seminar, published in English as The Hermeneutics of the Subject. Foucault’s question about spirituality—and his interest in asking it—provides a clear example of how modern theories of selfhood continue to be bound up with an enduring interest in spirituality. “One of the great problems of Western culture,” he observed, “has been to find the possibility of founding the hermeneutics of the self not, as it was the case in early Christianity, on the sacrifice of the self but, on the contrary, on a positive, on the theoretical and practical, emergence of the self.” These two poles—self-sacrifice, on the one hand, and self-emergence, on the other—structure most modern theories of the subject. In this course we will examine the intersection between these theories and the study of religion. How might religious texts and traditions affirm, contradict, or otherwise complicate this account of subject formation? Readings will include work by Foucault, Judith Butler, Saba Mahmood, and others still to be determined.

REL-R 662 CROSS CULTURAL STUDIES OF RELIGION / TOPIC: Religion as/and Fantasy

Instructor: Blair, H.
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: R 4:40p-6:40p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class open to graduate students only

Above class meets with REL-R 761

This graduate seminar examines the relationship of religion and fantasy in two ways. It asks whether religion is—or can be—a type of fantasy, and it examines how fantasy makes use of—and often acts like—religion. We will be reading essays by “classical” theorists like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, as well as more recent academic work on play and fan culture. We will also be watching films and reading novels from the science fiction and fantasy genres. The main requirements for this course are regular, active participation in class discussions and completion of an independent research project.

REL-R 665 INTERPRETATIONS OF RELIGION

Instructor: Sullivan, W
Course Duration: 8/22/16 - 12/16/16
Day & Time: W 4:00p-6:00p
Credit Hours: 4

Above class open to graduate students only

Above class meets with REL-R 762

What is religion? What does it mean to interpret religion? Broadly conceived, this is a conversation that stretches across human history. This class is not a survey or a methods course: the goal is not to introduce you comprehensively to the study of religion or equip you with a toolkit of ideas and methods. Nor is it intended to enable you to identify the “best” theory of religion or to learn the decisive reasons for rejecting most of the ambitious theories from the past. It is instead an invitation to think deeply about what we mean by religion through thoughtful encounters with some contemporary theorists of religion with particular attention to the legal and political structuring of religion.

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Spring 2016

REL-R 511 RELIGIONS OF ANCIENT ISRAEL / TOPIC: Jews, Christians, Others

Instructor: Mokhtarian, J.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 1:00p-2:15p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 316 and JSTU-J 316

This course explores the interactions between Jews, Christians, and other religious groups in antiquity, especially in Roman Palestine and Sasanian Persia circa the first through seventh centuries C.E. In this class we pay particular attention to the portrayals of Christians in ancient Jewish literature, but we also draw from early Christian and other sources. In this course students explore such questions as: How did Jews define themselves in relation to Christians, and vice versa? In what ways did Jews and Christians part ways with one another, as scholars often maintain? And, lastly, what role did other groups play, such as Zoroastrians, Gnostics, and Manichaeans, in this development? This course assumes no prior background in religious studies.

REL-R 531 STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY / TOPIC: Right Belief: a History of Orthodox Christianity

Instructor: Michelson, P.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time:/ 9:30a-10:45a TR
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 355

This course offers an in-depth study of modern Orthodox Christianity, the second largest Christian denomination in the world. Students will explore the various experiences of Orthodox believers, and the ways they interprete those experiences, in the context of religious rivalry, war, revolution, and oppression. Here we will see a faith community confront Antichrist and atheists, heretics and heathens, radicals and revolutionaries, all in an effort to defeat the “synagogue of Satan” and realize the Kingdom of God.

REL-R 532 STUDIES OF RELIGION IN AMERICAN CULTURE / TOPIC: Evangelical America

Instructor: Brown, C.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 11:15a-12:30p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-C 330

From eighteenth-century Great Awakening revivals to twenty-first-century presidential campaigns, evangelicals—and Pentecostal and Charismatic movements within evangelicalism—have played a vital role in shaping American cultural, social, and political institutions. Who are evangelicals? What do they believe, and how do they behave? Should non-evangelicals be worried about them? This course explores the causes, nature, and implications of evangelical influence through the lenses of history, literature, and religious studies—drawing upon fiction, poetry, autobiography, music, television, film, ethnography, and food.

REL-R 535 STUDIES IN GRECO-ROMAN RELIGIONS / TOPIC: The Age of Constantine

Instructor: Schott, J.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 6:50p-7:40p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 420

A focused study of the textual and material sources for the study of religion, culture, and politics in the age of Diocletian and Constantine (roughly 280-340 CE), Readings will be in English translation, though students with background in Latin or Greek may elect to do some work in original languages. Throughout the course. the members of the class will collaborate in prod ucing an online resource, “Constantinian Texts and Documents,” a webpage that will collect key documentary and literary sources directly related to Constantine and his court (e.g. imperial letters, speeches, etc.). Students will help to produce scholarly notes and commentaries on these sources. Topics covered in the course will include: persecution and martyrdom, religion and Roman law, political philosophy/theology, and late-ancient historiography. Texts/authors covered in the course will include: Eusebius of Caesarea, Lactantius, Scriptores Historiae Augustae, and various documentary sources (letters, inscriptions, etc.). There are no prerequisites; however, it is recommended that students have taken previous coursework on any aspect of the ancient world, religious studies, or literature.

REL-R 551 RELIGIONS OF SOUTH ASIA / TOPIC: Exploring the Bhagavad-Gita

Instructor: Haberman, D.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 2:30p-3:45p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 420

The Bhagavad Gita is sometimes referred to today as the “Bible” of Hinduism. This text has been favored by many Hindus (it was Gandhi’s favorite text), and even non-Hindus such as the New England Transcendentalists (Thoreau and Emerson). Almost every major Hindu thinker has written a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. This text, however, was composed in a specific cultural context and expresses a very particular religious philosophy. This seminar involves a close reading and deep exploration of the Bhagavad Gita, examining it for both universal themes and distinctive cultural expressions. It also aims to teach students to generate and pursue textual questions, thereby empowering productive readings of religious texts.

REL-R 571 STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS ETHICS / TOPIC: Nietzsche in Religious Imagination

Instructor: Swan Tuite, J.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 4:40p-7:00p R
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-D 430

Since his death in 1900, Friedrich Nietzsche has rapidly become one of the most influential and controversial writers in western philosophical and religious thought. And, while most interpreters identify his continuing significance with his critique of the western religious and moral practice, there is little agreement on the substance and methods of his critique. The first part of this course examines the central themes and concepts in Nietzsche’s writings (e.g., genealogy, power, nihilism, perspectivism, eternal recurrence, ressentiment, bad conscience, and ascetic ideal) and how these inform his conceptions and critique of religious and moral practice. Primary readings are drawn from Nietzsche’s mature works including but not limited to Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, The AntiChrist and selections from his late notebooks. The second part of the course considers how Nietzsche’s writings bear on prominent themes in contemporary religious studies including religious imagination, affectivity and moral practice, subjectivity, social life, and critical inquiry.

REL-R 635 NORTH AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY / TOPIC: Evangelical and Charismatic Christianity in the Americas

Instructor: Brown, C.
Course Duration: 1/11/16 - 5/6/16
Day & Time: 9:00a-11:00a M
Credit Hours: 4

Above class meets with REL-R 735

From eighteenth-century Great Awakening revivals to twenty-first-century presidential campaigns, evangelicals—and in the last century Pentecostal and Charismatic movements (Protestant and Catholic)—have played a critical role in shaping North American, Latin American, and global cultural, social, and political institutions. Who are evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics? What do they believe, and how do they behave? Should non-evangelicals be worried about them? How has evangelicalism reflected and shaped larger patterns of globalization? This graduate seminar explores the causes, nature, and implications of evangelical influence. Discussions engage scholarly monographs that describe and interpret the historical emergence and dramatic recent growth of evangelical and pentecostal Christianity. Seminar participants will receive substantial feedback on a book review, multi-stage research paper, and mock conference presentation.

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