Graduate Courses

Fall 2018 / Spring 2018

Fall 2018

REL-R 531 Studies in Christian History: The Right Belief: History of Orthodox Christianity

Instructor: Michelson, P.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 1:00-2:15pm TR
Credit Hours: 3

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 interpret 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 552 Studies in Buddhism: East Asian Buddhism

Instructor: Blair, H.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 4:00-5:15p TR
Credit Hours: 3

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. Course requirements include regular attendance, participation in discussion, four quizzes, and three papers (3 to 7 pages).

REL-R 552 Studies in Buddhism: Buddhist Philosophy in India

Instructor: Nance, R.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 9:30-10:45am TR
Credit Hours: 3

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.

REL-R 553 Studies in Islam: Seeing Islam through Muslim Fiction

Instructor: Jaques, R.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 5:45-7:00pm MW
Credit Hours: 3

This course is ideal for students interested in fiction, religion, and/or Islam. No prior study of Islam is necessary. The purpose of the course is to explore contemporary Muslim religious experiences through fiction written by Muslim authors. By using genres as diverse as romance, historical fiction, spy thrillers, and fantasy the course will examine how Muslim authors have used fiction to represent different religious ideas and worldviews in the 20th and 21st centuries such as immigrant and refugee experience, Muslim identity and the “West,” and the use of gender as a way of describing the dynamics of Muslim feelings of threat and repression.

REL-R 553 Studies in Islam: Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Islam

Instructor: Ibrahim, N.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 4:00-5:15p TR
Credit Hours: 3

Utilizing the critical lenses of anthropology and ethnography, this course examines the ways that Islam influences culture and society in the contemporary world. We will draw upon scholarship of different social contexts, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and the Western world, to investigate the contributions made by Islam in fields as diverse as art and aesthetic production, finance and banking, organ transplantation and other medical procedures, law and politics, resource extraction and environmental protection, and expressions of gender identity and sexual preferences. Students will acquire some familiarity with critical concepts such as tradition, self-cultivation, embodiment, everyday religion, and global assemblages. In addition to our theoretical focus, we will also pay close attention to the politics of representing Islam in the contemporary context. As such, we will supplement our reading of academic texts with an analysis of popular sources like documentaries, cartoons, comics, newspapers, and magazines.

REL-R 662 Cross Cultural Studies of Religion: Matter Matters: a Reconsideration of Idolatry and Anthropomorphism

Instructor: Haberman, D.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 4:00-6:00pm T
Credit Hours: 4

This course involves a historical investigation of the related concepts of idolatry and anthropomorphism in the interpretation of religions, particularly as they relate to human interaction with embodied forms of divinity. Discourses about idolatry were common currency in virtually every intellectual movement in the early modern period. The concept of idolatry became embedded as a routinized interpretive strategy in the very foundation of the comparative study of religion that emerged from the religious conflicts of sixteenth-century Europe. Anthropomorphism has drawn scholarly attention for a long time, but until recently the great majority of this attention has been unreservedly negative. One of the major aims of the course is to understand how the twin concepts of idolatry and anthropomorphism shaped the dynamics of hierarchical assessments of religions, especially as part of colonial agendas. This course also tracks some efforts to reevaluate these interpretive approaches in the study of religion that have led to present-day reconsiderations of the worship of religious objects found in many religious traditions religions.

REL-R 663 Textual Interpretation: Critical Approaches to Religion, Textuality, an Cultural Imagination

Instructor: Harriss, C.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 4:00-6:00pm M
Credit Hours: 4

A primary inspiration for “Religion, Textuality, and Cultural Imagination” at IU is “Religion and Literature” (elsewhere dubbed “Arts, Literature, and Religion” by the AAR, or “Religion, Literature, and Culture” by the International Society for Religion, Literature, and Culture), a subfield whose prominence in religious studies waned institutionally near the end of the 20th century, yet whose primary logic—that all texts, even putatively “secular” ones, are shot through with religious significance—remains vital across disciplinary lines. This graduate seminar serves two purposes: 1) To orient students to classic themes, figures, and texts in the study of Religion and Literature and 2) to encourage students to develop a strong sense of how their own research both continues and innovates this project for 21st-century contexts. Assignments include regular reading and discussion as well as the development of a significant research paper that serves as the basis for seminar leadership near the end of the semester. N.B., “religion” and “literature” are intended as broad and inclusive terms in this course, and innovations that expand more ordinary assumptions about what qualifies as “text” and “literature,” as well as projects that push beyond modern, western religious and cultural contexts are especially encouraged (but by no means required).

REL-R 665 Interpretation of Religion

Instructor: Sullivan, W.
Course Duration: 8/20/18 - 12/14/18
Day & Time: 4:00-6:00pm W
Credit Hours: 4

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.

Return to top

Spring 2018

REL-R 511 Religion of Ancient Israel: Jews, Christians, And Others in Late Antiquity

Instructor: Mokhtarian, J.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 2:30p-3:45p 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 532 Studies of Religion in American Culture: American Preaching: Word, Preformance, and Media

Instructor: Harriss, M.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 4:00p-5:15p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL--C 401

There is no more significant historical influence on the development of American language and literature, political oratory, musical/entertainment styles, and the refinement of media and technology—all of which is to say “American culture”—than preachers and their preaching. This course begins with an historical overview of the diversity of American preaching before tracing its contributions to presumably “secular” culture considered in three categories: word (literature, rhetoric, and authority), performance (music, oratory, symbolic action, embodiment, affect), and media (pamphlets, radio, television, internet, and other technologies). In the process we’ll consider religious dimensions of cultural production, questions of authority and identity, and the critical possibilities for theology, homiletics, and other confessional “data” within the study of religion and culture.

REL-R 532 Studies of Religion in American Culture: Evangelical America

Instructor: Brown, C.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
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 551 Religions of South Asia: Yoga

Instructor: Manring, R.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 1:00p-2:15p TR
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-D 325

In this class we will explore the origins of yoga in ancient Indian philosophy through close reading of excerpts from the Upanishads, Sāmkhya, and Patañjali’s Yogasūtra. We will see what early Indian thinkers meant when they used the word “yoga” and how they instructed others in the subject. Students will contemplate how yoga moved from a set of mental, philosophical practices to the physical movements with which we associate the term today. We will move from its earliest days to an exploration of how and when yoga moved out of India into European and American consciousness, and how yoga is currently practiced in India and why the current prime minister of India instituted “World Yoga Day.” Is yoga a religion? Is it religious? Is it uniquely Hindu?

REL-R 553 Studies in Islam: Islamic Theology

Instructor: Jaques, R.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 11:15a-12:30p MW
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-A 480

Knowing the Will of God in the Islamic tradition is one of its most important theological and legal issues. How is it that Muslims know what God wants them to do? What are the implications of getting it wrong? And, what happens if you get it right? The course will examine issues such as 1) the nature and scope of revelation, 2) the nature of good and evil, and 3) free will vs. predestination. The course will also explore Muslim views of creation, cosmology (the nature of God, angels, jinn, demons, and Satan, life after death, especially the issue of martyrdom), and eschatology (the end times). Course Requirements: there will be weekly one page essays that discuss the readings, one midterm take-home essay, and a final written research paper that explores of the topics discussed during the class (12-15 pages).

REL-R 553 Studies in Islam: Life and Legacy of Muhammad

Instructor: Jaques, R.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 2:30p-3:45p MW
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: Religions in Japan

Instructor: Blair, H.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 2:30p-3:45p TR
Credit Hours: 4

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 571 Studies in Religious Ethics: The God Species: Ethics in the Anthropocene

Instructor: Sideris, L.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 1:25p-4:25p R
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-D 430

“We are as gods, and we’d better get good at it,” writes American environmentalist Stewart Brand. For many, this godlike portrait of humans captures the essence of the Anthropocene, or the Age of the Human. The term Anthropocene was first used by chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000 to suggest a new geological epoch in which humans have acquired geophysical agency to reshape the planet on an unprecedented scale. Proponents of the “good” Anthropocene are optimistic that human ingenuity, smart technology, and new forms of conservation will bring skillful management of nature and reduced human impacts. Others worry about the hubris and techno-optimism that attends these visions of the future. This course will examine arguments from religious thinkers, philosophers, scientists, environmentalists, and bioethicists about the way in which Anthropocene transformations impact our frameworks of meaning and value, and alter humans’ relationship with nature and with divinity. We will consider how acquiring god-like agency changes our understanding of ethical decision-making and our perception of human limits and moral boundaries. Anthropocene debates have great relevance for ethics and religion, and specifically for questions of human dominion or stewardship of other beings. Course topics will likely include Anthropocene perspectives on: climate change and geoengineering, “de-extinction” and “re-wilding” programs, social justice, wilderness preservation, animal studies, bioethics, and biopolitics. We will also consider the relationship of Anthropocene discourse to ethical and affective dispositions such as hope, humility, restraint and prudence, and wonder and awe.

REL-R 661 Religion and Social Criticism: Religion, Power, and Authority

Instructor: Stalnaker, A.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 12:20p-3:20p T
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-R 761
Above class open to graduate students only

Is religious authority oppressive and dominating, or inspiring and liberating? Perhaps it is both, either at once or at different times and places? Or even more protean, subtle, and pervasive? In this course we will examine classic and more recent works on the many intersections of religion, power, and authority, drawing from disciplines such as anthropology, history, sociology, philosophy, and religious studies. Readings and discussions will track a number of important themes: conceptions of power, freedom, and constraint; charisma and institutional structure; the role of authority and resistance to authority in self-formation and community regulation; cultural or ideological “hegemony” and possible “tactics” of resistance; the inevitable creativity required by even the most earnest obedience; the interplay of social relations, habitual behavior, “discourse,” and ideas; and various virtues (or vices) such as reverence, deference, obedience, and awe.

Comparative historical and anthropological studies should shed light on the accuracy and broader applicability of the mostly European-derived theoretical accounts, and help refine a cross-cultural understanding of the relations of religion, power, and authority. All readings will be in English, in translation as necessary.

REL-R 663 Textual Interpretation

Instructor: Velazquez, S.
Course Duration: 1/8/18 - 5/4/18
Day & Time: 1:25p-4:25p W
Credit Hours: 3

Above class meets with REL-R 763
Above class open to graduate students only

This seminar will ask students to think methodologically about the characteristics of different media not only in the expression of religion as content but as forms of communication and representation inflect how we think about religion itself. We will consider questions of definition (what is an image; what is a text? What does an image/text do and for whom?), practice (how does iconoclasm become the staunchest form of idolatry? What are the politics of translation?) and scholarship (how do we approach religious phenomena? Are critique/analysis/interpretation perfectly synonymous and interchangeable? Are there other options of scholarly approach?).

Return to top