Graduate Courses

Fall 2019

REL-R 521 ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY: CONSTANTINE TO MOHAMMED

Instructor: PROF. JEREMY SCHOTT
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: MW 4:00-5:15P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-A 325.

How did Christians, a small minority cult, become a world religion? How did early Christians define relationships between church and state? What did they think about marriage and family? How was the Mediterranean and Near East “Christianized”? And how did Christians react to the rise of Islam in the early 600s? In this course, students explore these and other questions through readings of ancient and medieval texts in English translation. Students will come away from this course with a greater appreciation for the emergence, diversity, and complexity of early Christianity as its various communities engaged the world around them.

REL-R 531 THE DEATH OF GOD

Instructor: PROF. PATRICK MICHELSON
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: TR 9:30-10:45A
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-D 301.

What does it mean to say that God is dead? Does it mean that God was once alive, but is now deceased? Does it mean that God is alive, but hidden, absent, or silent and, thus, dead to humans? Does it mean that God has never existed, but humans are only recently becoming aware of this fact? Is God dead to some people, but alive to others? And what are the consequences of God’s death? Does it obliterate the possibility of truth, morality, and order? This course examines these and other questions by engaging the atheistic claim that “God is dead” and the various religious responses to it. To do so, we will read several of the major texts in the death of God literature, with the intent of exploring how competing claims about the death of God challenge our understandings of culture, knowledge, life, and death.

REL-R 532 RELIGION, ILLNESS, AND HEALING

Instructor: PROF. CANDY BROWN
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: MW 11:15A-12:30P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-C 402.

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 551 THE MAHABHARATA: ETHICAL DILEMMAS IN ANCIENT INDIA

Instructor: REBECCA MANRING
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: TR 2:30-3:45P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-B 300.

What is our duty as human beings? How do we know what’s the right thing to do in a difficult situation? This course explores how ancient Indians answered this question in the Mahābhārata, a foundational text of Indian civilization. This classical Indian epic offers tremendous mythic and psychological insight into the human condition. We’ll read significant excerpts from the epic itself, alongside recent scholarship on its literary, religious and historical contexts. We’ll also consider it as performance by watching several modern stagings of the Mahābhārata, as well as by reviewing recent novels that draw upon this classic epic.

REL-R 552 EAST ASIAN BUDDHISM

Instructor: PROF. HEATHER BLAIR
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: TR 4:00-5:15P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-B 310.

This discussion-oriented course introduces students to Buddhism in China, Korea, Japan, and the East Asian diaspora. The course is organized into four units. First, we examine the structure of the Buddhist multiverse, from the heavens down to the hells. We then explore the monastery as a site for dedicated practice by religious specialists (mostly, but not exclusively, monks and nuns). Next we look at how rulers have used Buddhism for political purposes. Finally, we study pilgrimage, which brings people from all walks of life to sacred places. Course materials range from the classical to the contemporary, and from scripture to poetry to film.

REL-R 552 EMBODYING NIRVANA

Instructor: PROF. RICHARD NANCE
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: TR 9:30-10:45A
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-B 410.

Nirvana is routinely understood as the ultimate end point of Buddhist practice, but the nature of this end point has long been an object of controversy among Buddhists. What, they ask, is lost in attaining awakening, and what is gained? How is nirvana embodied? And what does it mean to be a Buddha? Some Buddhists hold that Buddhas are simply human beings who are no longer afflicted by greed, hatred, and delusion, while others understand Buddhas in non-human (or super-human) terms: as beings who simultaneously possess multiple bodies, are omniscient, can shape-shift, disappear and reappear at will, speak multiple languages at the same time, and emanate whole universes without breaking a sweat. This course will explore these questions and complexities through an engaged reading of Buddhist texts about nirvana.

REL-R 554 THE POETICS OF TAO YUANMING

Instructor: PROF. MICHAEL ING
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: MW 1:00-2:15P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-B 460.

Tao Yuanming (365–427AD) is one of the most recognized Chinese poets in the world. This discussion-oriented course engages in a close reading of Tao’s poetry with an eye toward questions such as: What makes us happy? What things in life are worthy of grief if we do not have them? How ought we to respond to situations where our righteous desires are thwarted? How do we confront our own mortality? Previous coursework on Chinese philosophy, history, or religion is strongly recommended. All readings are in English, with the possibility of an extra session for those who read classical Chinese.

RREL-R 561 CRACE, RELIGION & ETHNICITY IN AMERICAS

Instructor: PROF. STEPHEN SELKA
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 10/17/19 (8 WEEK-1)
Day & Time: MW 4:40-7:10P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-C 325.

Our starting point in the course is the idea that religion, race, and ethnicity are not given or stable categories, but concepts that change over time, vary across contexts, and are often constructed in relation to one another. We will explore these ideas across the Americas by looking at three major topics: religion and immigration, African American and African Diaspora religions, and religion and national identity.

REL-R 563 RELIGION AND/AS FANTASY

Instructor: PROF. HEATHER BLAIR
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: TR 1:00-2:15P
Credit Hours: 3

This course meets with REL-D 375.

This discussion-intensive seminar looks at 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 theoretical works by thinkers like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, as well as exploring recent academic articles, science fiction stories, fantasy novels, and films.

REL-R 662/762 HOW BLACKNESS THINKS

Instructor: PROF. JAY CARTER
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: T 4:00-6:30P
Credit Hours: 3

This seminar explores blackness and the human within black studies/black critical theory and how black study as a way of thinking and being with the earth bears on questions of religion, the secular, and the sacred. Possible topics are: black feminism, black poetics and ecocriticism, black marxism, afro-pessimism, black optimism, and queer-of-color criticism.

REL-R 665 INTERPRETATIONS OF RELIGION

Instructor: PROF. WINNIFRED SULLIVAN
Course Duration: 8/26/19 — 12/20/19
Day & Time: W 4:00-6:30P
Credit Hours: 3

What is religion? What does it mean to interpret religion? Broadly conceived, this is a conversation that stretches over time and space. 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 studies of religion with particular attention to the legal and political structuring of religion.

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