Graduate Courses

Fall 2014 / Spring 2014

Fall 2014

REL-R 531 STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY / Topic: Russian Orthodoxy 1721-1918

Instructor:Michelson, P
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: TR 9:30a-10:45a
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-R 300

The conventional image of Russian Orthodoxy is that of monolithic religion marked by ritualistic formality and exotic piety, exemplified most commonly in icon veneration, flowing priestly garments, incense, candles and bells, and monastic severity. But Russian Orthodoxy is also a historical religion that operates in and responds to the political, social, and intellectual world around it. This course offers an approach to understand the Russian Church along those lines by concentrating on the various ways in which Russian Orthodox clergy, theologians, and lay religious thinkers responded to the challenges of empire and revolution during the last two centuries of the Russian empire (1721–1918). For it was during that period that the Russian Church first responded to the challenges of modernity, namely the rise of the absolutist, interventionist state that seeks to use the Church as an instrument of secular power and the advent of new ideas and ideologies that seek to undermine or destroy the institutional and cultural authority of the Church. It is these challenges and the responses to them that constitute the focus of this course.

REL-R 532 STUDIES OF RELIGION IN AMERICAN CULTURE / Topic: Religion, Illness, and Healing

Instructor: Brown, C
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: MW 11:15a-12:30p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-c 401 and AMST-G 620

Is illness good or evil? Can religion be good or bad for your health? How should healthcare providers and administrators respond to the religious beliefs of patients and their families? What ethical and legal questions arise when spiritual healing is integrated with (or replaces) conventional healthcare? Does inclusion of spiritual healing in public schools violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution? Does commercialization of spiritual healing make the practices less authentic—or less religious? This course will explore these and other questions surrounding religion, illness, and healing in America.

We will emphasize Christian beliefs and practices (e.g. valorization of suffering or prayer for divine healing) and forms of complementary and alternative medicine connected with religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, or Western metaphysical spirituality (e.g. yoga, martial arts, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and anticancer diets).

REL-R 552 STUDIES IN BUDDHISM / Topic: Buddhism Philosophy in India

Instructor: Nance, R
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: TR 4:00p-5:15p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 414

This course surveys the historical development of Buddhist philosophy in India. We will begin by briefly reviewing some of the basic contours of early Indian Buddhist philosophical reflection. Following this review, we will read and discuss several texts by thinkers of seminal importance to Buddhist tradition, focusing on how these thinkers posed and attempted to answer questions regarding the self, reality, reasoning, knowledge, belief, conduct, and liberation. Students who enroll will be expected to participate in extensive in-class discussions and to write a final paper, the topic of which will be developed in consultation with the instructor.

REL-R 553 STUDIES IN ISLAM / Topic: Life and Legacy of Muhammad

Instructor: Jaques, R
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: TR 2:30p-3:45p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 485

The Life and Legacy of Muhammad will explore the ways in which sacred biography is used in various contexts to develop theories of authority and history. The course will begin by examining a number of different theories of religious authority and then move on to how biography is formative in developing “orthodox” methods of interpreting revelation as a means of understanding the relationship between humans and God. We will then focus specifically on the biography of Muhammad (d.632 CE) written by Ibn Ishaq (d. 767). We will explore the development of Muhammad biographical traditions in Islam and how particular forms of biography (legal and quasi-legal traditions that relate specific information thought to originate with Muhammad) were used by Ibn Ishaq in various contexts and how changing cultural circumstances in the early Abbasid period influenced the evolution of popular understandings of Muhammad’s life. Specifically, we will focus on how Ibn Ishaq used various pre-existing cultural and religious themes and motifs common in late antique and early medieval Mediterranean culture to create an image of Muhammad as a prophetic authority.

REL-R 554 RELIGIONS OF EAST ASIA / Topic: East Asian Buddhism

Instructor: Blair, H
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: TR 2:30p-3:45p
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 571 STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS ETHICS / Topic: From Christian Ethics to Social Criticism I

Instructor: Swan-Tuite, J
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: TR 11:15a-12:30p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-D 330

This is the first half of a two-semester survey of the history of Christian ethics and religious social criticism. I The survey has two objectives. First, the course aims to give an overview of major thinkers in key periods of Christianity and to acquaint students with different genres of ethical literature. The underlying argument of the course is that the tradition of Christian ethics is not a single, monolithic entity. It is rather a patchwork of subtraditions that have produced literatures, arguments, and standards for human conduct in response to problems that have emerged in different cultural, social, and institutional contexts. We will explore that variety in this course. Materials for the first semester will draw from biblical sources and early Christian teachings, the patristic period, Augustine, Abelard, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, radical reformers, and Spanish Scholasticism.

Second, given the diversity of materials we study, we will examine the idea of a tradition, and will ask what a tradition comprises. That is to say, we will step back from the survey and ask which materials seem obvious to include in a tradition of Christian ethics, and what those decisions suggest about how a tradition is constructed (and revised).

REL-R 661 RELIGION & SOCIAL CRITICISM / Topic: Religion and Subjectivity

Instructor: Furey, C
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: W 4:00p-6:00p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class open to graduate students only

How do people come to understand themselves, and to act, as subjects? How is this process—the formation of subjectivity—influenced by religious ideas and practices? Subjectivity is a critical issue in the study of religion. It is central to theories of gender and sexual identity, to claims about the importance of institutional power and powerful ideas, and to arguments about the importance of bodily practices and communal rituals. In this course we will assess the way interest in subjectivity has influenced the study of religion and how religion in turn has figured in theories of subjectivity by focusing on three influential approaches: Michel Foucault’s emphasis on subjectivation and the hermeneutics of the subject; Judith Butler’s theory of gender and sexual identity; and psychoanalytic notions of desire. Readings will include work that specifically applies one or more theories to the study of religious phenomena. The last section of the course will explore work that seeks to shift the focus from subjectivity to intersubjectivity and relationally. Work will include short weekly responses, a class presentation, and a final conference-length paper (8-10 pages) and presentation.

REL-R 665 INTERPRETATIONS OF RELIGION

Instructor: Sullivan, W
Course Duration: 8/25/14 - 12/19/14
Day & Time: W 4:00p-6:00p
Credit Hours: 3

Above class open to graduate students only

In this course we will read and analyze twentieth-century texts that shape the way religion is studied today, texts from a variety of disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds: sociology, anthropology, psychology, phenomenology, hermeneutics, critical theory. Our analysis of these works will enable us to compare different ways of thinking about central methodological issues: how do we locate and delimit “religion” or “religious” phenomena? Do we seek to explain or to interpret what we study? What is the most fruitful way to analyze individual actors, interpretive communities, and the interplay between the two? What is learned or obscured by viewing religion as a product of the human psyche? As a source of social cohesion? As a symbolic system? As a mechanism of social oppression or political power? Requirements will include active participation, short response papers, and an 8-10 page paper suitable for a conference presentation.

Return to top

Spring 2014

REL-R 511 RELIGION OF ANCIENT ISRAEL / Jews, Christians, And Others Late Antiquity

Instructor: Mokhtarian J
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: TR 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
Credit Hours: 3

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 521 CHRISTIANITY, 50-450 c.e.

Instructor: Schott J
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: MW 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 325

This course surveys the history and literature of ancient Christianity from its origins as a Jewish sect in Palestine to its establishment as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. Topics include persecution and martyrdom, scripture, Gnosticism, theological controversies over the Trinity and the nature of Christ, Constantine and the establishment of Catholic orthodoxy, the rise of monasticism, and important figures such as Augustine. The course will emphasize the variety of early Christian groups and will provide a good foundation for the study of Christianity in any later period. It is something of a sequel to Rel A220 (“Introduction to the New Testament”), but there are no prerequisites, and no previous study of Christianity is assumed.

REL-C 532 STUDIES OF RELIGION IN AMERICAN CULTURE /TOPIC: Religion, Illness and Healing

Instructor: Brown C
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: MW 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-C 401 AND AMST-G 620

Is illness good or evil? Can religion be good or bad for your health? How should healthcare providers and administrators respond to the religious beliefs of patients and their families? What ethical and legal questions arise when spiritual healing is integrated with (or replaces) conventional healthcare? Does inclusion of spiritual healing in public schools violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution? Does commercialization of spiritual healing make the practices less authentic—or less religious? This course will explore these and other questions surrounding religion, illness, and healing in America.
We will emphasize Christian beliefs and practices (e.g. valorization of suffering or prayer for divine healing) and forms of complementary and alternative medicine connected with religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, or Western metaphysical spirituality (e.g. yoga, martial arts, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and anticancer diets).
There are no prerequisites for enrollment. This course will be conducted as a discussion seminar, with limited lecturing and extensive student participation and shared leadership. Pre-med, pre-law, and business/management students will find material of use to them, but so too will other students interested in course subjects. In lieu of examinations, each student will develop a term project (5,000 words for undergrads, 7,500 words for graduate students).

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

Instructor: Brown C
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: MW 11:15 AM - 12:30PM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-c 330 and AMST-G 620

From the Great Awakening to the 2012 presidential campaigns, evangelicals—and in the last century Pentecostal and Charismatic movements within evangelicalism—have played a critical 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 and cultural studies. Assignments and classroom activities incorporate a wide variety of cultural artifacts, including fiction, poetry, autobiography, music, television, film, ethnography, and food. The course is organized thematically and chronologically. Topics include: religious revivals and reform; separation of church and state; race and gender; Billy Graham; science, evolution, creationism, and Intelligent Design; Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity; hymns, Contemporary Christian Music, and Holy Hip Hop; politics; Catholicism; mass media and megachurches; apocalypticism; and globalization. We will read two novels: Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps (1896) [the inspiration for WWJD: “What Would Jesus Do?”] and Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s Left Behind (1995).

REL-R552 STUDIES IN BUDDHISM / TOPIC: Buddhism and Popular Culture

Instructor: Blair H
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: TR 11:15 AM - 12:30PM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-b 412

Students in this discussion-intensive course explore the ways in which Buddhism animates and is transformed by popular culture through units focusing on Buddhist doctrine, Buddhist modernism, Zen, kung-fu, and the Dalai Lama. We will watch Hollywood and art house films, read a comic book, a novel, academic essays, and selections from classical Buddhist texts. Requirements include regular participation in class discussions and a research paper, which students complete gradually over the course of the semester. To enroll in this course, students must have completed Rel B210, Rel B310 or Rel B360. Alternatively, with permission of the instructor, students may substitute Rel R153, Coll C 103, or another course with content in Buddhist studies.

REL-R 553 STUDIES IN ISLAM / TOPIC : The Politics and Cultures of Islamic Education

Instructor: Ibrahim N
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: TR 4:00PM - 05:15PM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 470

REL-R 554 RELIGIONS OF EAST ASIA / TOPIC: Xunzi and other Confucian texts

Instructor: Ing M
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: MW 4:00 PM - 5:15PM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-B 460

REL-R 554 RELIGIONS OF EAST ASIA / TOPIC: Religions of Japan

Instructor: Blair H
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: TR 4:00 PM - 5:15PM
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-b 360

In Japan most people say that they are not religious, and yet the cities are full of temples and shrines, the calendar is peppered with festival days, and most people have some kind of charm clipped to their handbag, mobile phone, or briefcase. This course is built on the understanding that religion has played and continues to play a major role in Japanese culture, but that we may need to re-think just what “religion” is and how it works when we think about religion in Japan. Therefore we will be reading not only about Zen but also about baseball, and we will be working with a variety of materials, including literature, ethnography, and film as we explore major issues and themes within the diverse religious cultures of Japan. Course requirements include two papers and four quizzes, as well as regular participation in class discussions. There are no pre-requisites for this course.

REL-R 662 CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF RELIGION / TOPIC: Politics of Religious Freedom

Instructor: Sullivan W
Course Duration: 1/13/14 — 5/9/14
Day & Time: T 3:35 PM - 5:35PM

Above class open to graduates only

In a surprisingly short period of time it has become accepted that religious freedom is necessary to the establishment of a peaceful and productive world. Qualification for membership in the civilized world increasingly requires endorsement of religious freedom as prior to other social goods. This class explores the sources and perduring structures of this narrative. We will consider the possibility that the indiscriminate promotion of a singular legal and cultural tool to address difference and discrimination across societies and cultures forecloses possibilities and, at times, generates the very violence its promotion is intended to prevent. We will consider a range of accounts, often of local contexts, in which peaceful co-existence is imagined without legal enforcement of religious freedom as commonly understood today.

Return to top