Course Offerings

Winter 2015

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Introduction to Religion

REL 100 - Kosky (Multiple Sections)

Through consideration of texts in a diversity of humanistic and social scientific disciplines, this course explores the nature, function, and meaning of religion in individual and collective experience. It also explores texts, practices, and symbols from a variety of world religions. Students who have taken REL 210 are ineligible for taking REL 100.

Judaism

REL 106 - Marks (Multiple Sections)

Through a variety of sources, including Talmudic debate, fiction, drama, liturgy, memoirs, film, and history, this course introduces the main concepts, literature, and practices of the classical forms of Judaism that began in the first centuries C.E., and then examines how Judaism has changed during the past two centuries, in modernist movements (Reform, Neo-Orthodoxy, Zionism) and contemporary fundamentalist movements (Ultra-Orthodoxy, messianic settler Zionism), as well as current ideas and issues.

Buddhism

REL 131 - Lubin

A survey of the historical development of the doctrines and practices of Buddhism. After a discussion of the Hindu origins of Buddhism, the course focuses on the development of the Theravada, Vajrayana and Mahayana traditions. A class trip to at least one Buddhist center is included.

Magic, Science, and Religion

REL 225 - Lubin

How do religious and scientific explanations and methods of inquiry differ? What are the roles of reason and authority in each case? This course draws together materials from antiquity to the present, from the West and from Asia, to illustrate a variety of types of "systems of knowledge." Theoretical readings are balanced with diverse case studies from diverse contexts: religious doctrines, mystical practices, alchemy, astrology, sorcery, "traditional medicines," and modern religious movements. Students research a system of their choice and analyze its claims and methods in comparison with those of other traditions covered in the course.

God and the Holocaust

REL 275 - Marks

Through drama, poetry, theology, memoir, book-inspired films, and short fiction composed by Holocaust victims and later writers, this discussion-centered course explores how Jews have addressed the question, "Where was God during the Holocaust?" Their answers range from acquiescent faith to angry rejection, and to paradoxical wrestling with an absent God. We begin with the biblical books of Job and Lamentations as well as traditional Jewish writings about national catastrophes and the Messiah, to learn how they addressed the problem of undeserved suffering. We compare these ancient ideas with our main topic of study: the ideas and experiences of modern Jews confronting the theological problem of the Holocaust.

Gender, Sexuality, and Islam

REL 284 - Blecher

How have issues of gender and sexuality in Medieval and Modern Islamic societies been debated across the Middle East, South Asia, and the West? Students examine scholarly and public discussions of gender and Islam, and they build a vocabulary in which to talk about women. queer, and intersex history as they concern Muslim societies and their foundational sources in their regional and historical contexts. No prior knowledge of Islam is necessary.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 295 - Fruchtman Hannah

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

REL 295-01: Martyrdom: From the Maccabees to ISIS (3). his class explores martyrdom as a historical, literary, and religious phenomenon. It offers critical tools for deciphering martyrdom discourse in other contexts, such as interreligious conflicts and American popular culture. While maintaining a focus on historical circumstances surrounding martyr narratives, we also establish some thematic commonplaces, including witness, sex, gender, power, dreams, memory, community, blood, violence, torture, sacrifice and death. Martyrdom is a powerful and potentially dangerous discourse. This class helps students appreciate the full significance of its use. (HU) Fruchtman

REL 295-02: Augustine, Descartes, and the Literature of Self and Soul (3). This course explores western conceptions of the human self or soul and its place and purpose in the world, or lack thereof. It is framed by consideration of two key figures: St. Augustine and René Descartes. A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of its transformation into the certain self by Descartes' philosophy. After reading these two inter-related figures, we consider literary, religious, and/or scientific literature that lets us reflect on the state of the soul in a world centered on selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world... and whether there might be other options. (HU) Kosky

REL 295-03: Authority and Gender in the Middle Ages (3). This course explores the various ways that texts, traditions, institutions, and individuals asserted, acquired, and maintained authority (or failed to do so) in the Middle Ages, with particular attention to issues of gender. We discuss the gendered reality of historical figures and the impact of that reality on claims to authority, and investigate how discourses of masculinity and femininity served to legitimize both religious and secular authority in the period from Constantine to Luther. (HU) Fruchtman

Spring 2015 topic:

REL 295: Christianity in Contemporary American Political Discourse (4). This course asks students to select an issue of focus and to trace public discourse on that issue across a variety of Christian perspectives. Students will explore the Interpretation history of biblical passages, use digital tools to help analyze their sources, and create a detailed concept map of the discourse surrounding their Issue. Combined with readings designed to introduce them to Christianity's complex history and to the analysis of language and rhetoric, these projects will help students appreciate the diversity of Christianity in America today as well as the pervasiveness of Christian discourse in the public sphere. (HU) Fruchtman. Spring 2015 

Fall 2014 topic:

REL 295A-01: Heidegger and being in the world (3). This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select literary and/or film artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in his 1927 Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. Short works from Heidegger's critics help us see the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary and cinematic work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the meaning and importance of his thinking about being in the world. Artists considered may include Terrence Malick, Cormac McCarthy, Milan Kundera, and others. (HU) Kosky.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 295 - Kosky

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

REL 295-01: Martyrdom: From the Maccabees to ISIS (3). his class explores martyrdom as a historical, literary, and religious phenomenon. It offers critical tools for deciphering martyrdom discourse in other contexts, such as interreligious conflicts and American popular culture. While maintaining a focus on historical circumstances surrounding martyr narratives, we also establish some thematic commonplaces, including witness, sex, gender, power, dreams, memory, community, blood, violence, torture, sacrifice and death. Martyrdom is a powerful and potentially dangerous discourse. This class helps students appreciate the full significance of its use. (HU) Fruchtman

REL 295-02: Augustine, Descartes, and the Literature of Self and Soul (3). This course explores western conceptions of the human self or soul and its place and purpose in the world, or lack thereof. It is framed by consideration of two key figures: St. Augustine and René Descartes. A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of its transformation into the certain self by Descartes' philosophy. After reading these two inter-related figures, we consider literary, religious, and/or scientific literature that lets us reflect on the state of the soul in a world centered on selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world... and whether there might be other options. (HU) Kosky

REL 295-03: Authority and Gender in the Middle Ages (3). This course explores the various ways that texts, traditions, institutions, and individuals asserted, acquired, and maintained authority (or failed to do so) in the Middle Ages, with particular attention to issues of gender. We discuss the gendered reality of historical figures and the impact of that reality on claims to authority, and investigate how discourses of masculinity and femininity served to legitimize both religious and secular authority in the period from Constantine to Luther. (HU) Fruchtman

Spring 2015 topic:

REL 295: Christianity in Contemporary American Political Discourse (4). This course asks students to select an issue of focus and to trace public discourse on that issue across a variety of Christian perspectives. Students will explore the Interpretation history of biblical passages, use digital tools to help analyze their sources, and create a detailed concept map of the discourse surrounding their Issue. Combined with readings designed to introduce them to Christianity's complex history and to the analysis of language and rhetoric, these projects will help students appreciate the diversity of Christianity in America today as well as the pervasiveness of Christian discourse in the public sphere. (HU) Fruchtman. Spring 2015 

Fall 2014 topic:

REL 295A-01: Heidegger and being in the world (3). This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select literary and/or film artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in his 1927 Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. Short works from Heidegger's critics help us see the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary and cinematic work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the meaning and importance of his thinking about being in the world. Artists considered may include Terrence Malick, Cormac McCarthy, Milan Kundera, and others. (HU) Kosky.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 295 - Fruchtman Hannah

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

REL 295-01: Martyrdom: From the Maccabees to ISIS (3). his class explores martyrdom as a historical, literary, and religious phenomenon. It offers critical tools for deciphering martyrdom discourse in other contexts, such as interreligious conflicts and American popular culture. While maintaining a focus on historical circumstances surrounding martyr narratives, we also establish some thematic commonplaces, including witness, sex, gender, power, dreams, memory, community, blood, violence, torture, sacrifice and death. Martyrdom is a powerful and potentially dangerous discourse. This class helps students appreciate the full significance of its use. (HU) Fruchtman

REL 295-02: Augustine, Descartes, and the Literature of Self and Soul (3). This course explores western conceptions of the human self or soul and its place and purpose in the world, or lack thereof. It is framed by consideration of two key figures: St. Augustine and René Descartes. A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of its transformation into the certain self by Descartes' philosophy. After reading these two inter-related figures, we consider literary, religious, and/or scientific literature that lets us reflect on the state of the soul in a world centered on selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world... and whether there might be other options. (HU) Kosky

REL 295-03: Authority and Gender in the Middle Ages (3). This course explores the various ways that texts, traditions, institutions, and individuals asserted, acquired, and maintained authority (or failed to do so) in the Middle Ages, with particular attention to issues of gender. We discuss the gendered reality of historical figures and the impact of that reality on claims to authority, and investigate how discourses of masculinity and femininity served to legitimize both religious and secular authority in the period from Constantine to Luther. (HU) Fruchtman

Spring 2015 topic:

REL 295: Christianity in Contemporary American Political Discourse (4). This course asks students to select an issue of focus and to trace public discourse on that issue across a variety of Christian perspectives. Students will explore the Interpretation history of biblical passages, use digital tools to help analyze their sources, and create a detailed concept map of the discourse surrounding their Issue. Combined with readings designed to introduce them to Christianity's complex history and to the analysis of language and rhetoric, these projects will help students appreciate the diversity of Christianity in America today as well as the pervasiveness of Christian discourse in the public sphere. (HU) Fruchtman. Spring 2015 

Fall 2014 topic:

REL 295A-01: Heidegger and being in the world (3). This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select literary and/or film artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in his 1927 Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. Short works from Heidegger's critics help us see the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary and cinematic work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the meaning and importance of his thinking about being in the world. Artists considered may include Terrence Malick, Cormac McCarthy, Milan Kundera, and others. (HU) Kosky.

Directed Study in Sanskrit

REL 299 - Lubin

Instruction in Sanskrit language and literature. For students at the elementary level, the course presents all the basic grammar of the language over the course of a year, with readings of gradually increasing difficulty from the first class. Recitation and the use of spoken Sanskrit to analyze grammatical forms will be taught. At the intermediate level, the course gives more attention to syntax, the use of compounds, and metrics. All readings are taken from original Sanskrit works, beginning with easy epic passages and fables in prose and verse. At the advanced level, the course guides students in the reading, analysis, and interpretation of important works in Sanskrit (chosen in accordance with the students' interests), providing historical, religious, and cultural background, as well as a consideration of the relevant secondary literature. Opportunities for reading from manuscripts are offered. May be repeated for degree credit when the levels of instruction are different. Only the fifth term of study (third-year level) may be used to a meet a major requirement.

Directed Study in Sanskrit

REL 299 - Lubin

Instruction in Sanskrit language and literature. For students at the elementary level, the course presents all the basic grammar of the language over the course of a year, with readings of gradually increasing difficulty from the first class. Recitation and the use of spoken Sanskrit to analyze grammatical forms will be taught. At the intermediate level, the course gives more attention to syntax, the use of compounds, and metrics. All readings are taken from original Sanskrit works, beginning with easy epic passages and fables in prose and verse. At the advanced level, the course guides students in the reading, analysis, and interpretation of important works in Sanskrit (chosen in accordance with the students' interests), providing historical, religious, and cultural background, as well as a consideration of the relevant secondary literature. Opportunities for reading from manuscripts are offered. May be repeated for degree credit when the levels of instruction are different. Only the fifth term of study (third-year level) may be used to a meet a major requirement.

Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Kosky

Honors Thesis.

Fall 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

New Testament

REL 102 - Fruchtman Hannah (Multiple Sections)

An introduction to the history, literature and interpretation of the New Testament.

The Qur'an

REL 108 - Blecher (Multiple Sections)

This course approaches the Qur'an from a range of modern and pre-modern perspectives: as an oral recitation; as a material object; as a historical document; as a literary text; as it relates to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; as a foundation for Islamic law, theology and mysticism; and as a source for ethics and social activism. Particular attention is devoted to issues of gender and politics raised by the Qur'an, supplemented by a number of film screenings. Prior knowledge of Islam is not required.

FS: First-Year Seminar

REL 181 - Marks

. Fall 2014 topic:

REL 181-01: Death and Dying (3). First-year seminar. Prerequsite: First-year standing. A comparison of ways in which various religious traditions, as well as modern secular writers, describe and conceive of  death and the meaning of life in the face of our human mortality. Students study memoirs, philosophy, poetry, novels, scripture, essays, and film, and write a journal and essays. Includes guest speakers and visits to a funeral home and cemetery. Marks

Law and Religion

REL 222 - Lubin

Drawing on examples from diverse periods and legal cultures, this seminar addresses "law" and "religion" as two realms of life that have much shared history and continue to intersect in the modern world. Several important topics in comparative law and jurisprudence are covered, including authority and legitimacy, the relation between custom and statute, legal pluralism, church-state relations, and competing models of constitutional secularism. A selective survey of legal systems and practices rooted in particular religious traditions is followed by an examination of how secular legal systems conceptualize religion and balance the protection of religious freedom with their standards of equity and neutrality.

Early Christian Thought: Orthodoxy and Heresy

REL 250 - Fruchtman Hannah

An exploration of the uncertain boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy in early Christian movements. Questions addressed include, "Who decides what is orthodox and what is heretical, how are these decisions made, and what impact do they have on institutional structures? What perennial problems in Christian thought and practice emerge in the early debates about orthodoxy and heresy, and how are those problems being addressed today?" Readings include selections from the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, "Gnostic gospels" and other so-called heretical texts, writings from the Church Fathers (with special attention to St. Augustine) and recent scholarly treatments of orthodoxy and heresy.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 295A - Kosky

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Winter 2015 topics:

REL 295-01: Martyrdom: From the Maccabees to ISIS (3). his class explores martyrdom as a historical, literary, and religious phenomenon. It offers critical tools for deciphering martyrdom discourse in other contexts, such as interreligious conflicts and American popular culture. While maintaining a focus on historical circumstances surrounding martyr narratives, we also establish some thematic commonplaces, including witness, sex, gender, power, dreams, memory, community, blood, violence, torture, sacrifice and death. Martyrdom is a powerful and potentially dangerous discourse. This class helps students appreciate the full significance of its use. (HU) Fruchtman

REL 295-02: Augustine, Descartes, and the Literature of Self and Soul (3). This course explores western conceptions of the human self or soul and its place and purpose in the world, or lack thereof. It is framed by consideration of two key figures: St. Augustine and René Descartes. A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of its transformation into the certain self by Descartes' philosophy. After reading these two inter-related figures, we consider literary, religious, and/or scientific literature that lets us reflect on the state of the soul in a world centered on selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world... and whether there might be other options. (HU) Kosky

REL 295-03: Authority and Gender in the Middle Ages (3). This course explores the various ways that texts, traditions, institutions, and individuals asserted, acquired, and maintained authority (or failed to do so) in the Middle Ages, with particular attention to issues of gender. We discuss the gendered reality of historical figures and the impact of that reality on claims to authority, and investigate how discourses of masculinity and femininity served to legitimize both religious and secular authority in the period from Constantine to Luther. (HU) Fruchtman

Spring 2015 topic:

REL 295: Christianity in Contemporary American Political Discourse (4). This course asks students to select an issue of focus and to trace public discourse on that issue across a variety of Christian perspectives. Students will explore the Interpretation history of biblical passages, use digital tools to help analyze their sources, and create a detailed concept map of the discourse surrounding their Issue. Combined with readings designed to introduce them to Christianity's complex history and to the analysis of language and rhetoric, these projects will help students appreciate the diversity of Christianity in America today as well as the pervasiveness of Christian discourse in the public sphere. (HU) Fruchtman. Spring 2015 

Fall 2014 topic:

REL 295A-01: Heidegger and being in the world (3). This course explores the work of Martin Heidegger and the development of its themes in the work of select literary and/or film artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. A close reading of the magisterial account of being in the world in his 1927 Being and Time is followed by careful study of representative essays from his later work. Short works from Heidegger's critics help us see the possibilities and/or problems that his account of being in the world poses for ethical, religious, and existential concern. After our reading of Heidegger, we consider the literary and cinematic work of major 20th- and 21st-century artists who let us reflect on the meaning and importance of his thinking about being in the world. Artists considered may include Terrence Malick, Cormac McCarthy, Milan Kundera, and others. (HU) Kosky.

Directed Study in Sanskrit

REL 299 - Lubin

Instruction in Sanskrit language and literature. For students at the elementary level, the course presents all the basic grammar of the language over the course of a year, with readings of gradually increasing difficulty from the first class. Recitation and the use of spoken Sanskrit to analyze grammatical forms will be taught. At the intermediate level, the course gives more attention to syntax, the use of compounds, and metrics. All readings are taken from original Sanskrit works, beginning with easy epic passages and fables in prose and verse. At the advanced level, the course guides students in the reading, analysis, and interpretation of important works in Sanskrit (chosen in accordance with the students' interests), providing historical, religious, and cultural background, as well as a consideration of the relevant secondary literature. Opportunities for reading from manuscripts are offered. May be repeated for degree credit when the levels of instruction are different. Only the fifth term of study (third-year level) may be used to a meet a major requirement.

Directed Study in Sanskrit

REL 299 - Lubin

Instruction in Sanskrit language and literature. For students at the elementary level, the course presents all the basic grammar of the language over the course of a year, with readings of gradually increasing difficulty from the first class. Recitation and the use of spoken Sanskrit to analyze grammatical forms will be taught. At the intermediate level, the course gives more attention to syntax, the use of compounds, and metrics. All readings are taken from original Sanskrit works, beginning with easy epic passages and fables in prose and verse. At the advanced level, the course guides students in the reading, analysis, and interpretation of important works in Sanskrit (chosen in accordance with the students' interests), providing historical, religious, and cultural background, as well as a consideration of the relevant secondary literature. Opportunities for reading from manuscripts are offered. May be repeated for degree credit when the levels of instruction are different. Only the fifth term of study (third-year level) may be used to a meet a major requirement.

Directed Study in Sanskrit

REL 299 - Lubin

Instruction in Sanskrit language and literature. For students at the elementary level, the course presents all the basic grammar of the language over the course of a year, with readings of gradually increasing difficulty from the first class. Recitation and the use of spoken Sanskrit to analyze grammatical forms will be taught. At the intermediate level, the course gives more attention to syntax, the use of compounds, and metrics. All readings are taken from original Sanskrit works, beginning with easy epic passages and fables in prose and verse. At the advanced level, the course guides students in the reading, analysis, and interpretation of important works in Sanskrit (chosen in accordance with the students' interests), providing historical, religious, and cultural background, as well as a consideration of the relevant secondary literature. Opportunities for reading from manuscripts are offered. May be repeated for degree credit when the levels of instruction are different. Only the fifth term of study (third-year level) may be used to a meet a major requirement.

Senior Seminar

REL 399 - Marks

This course begins with consideration of the nature of the study of religion. The remainder of the course is devoted to the writing of an independent research project. Students will continue to meet for discussion of work in progress and instruction in the craft of researching and writing a long, multi-source independent research project.

Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Kosky

Honors Thesis.

Spring 2014

See complete information about these courses in the course offerings database. For more information about a specific course, including course type, schedule and location, click on its title.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 195 - Onishi

A course offered from time to time in a selected problem or topic in religion. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Spring 2014 Topic:

REL 195: Christianity and Contemporary Culture (3). This course offers an examination of Christianity's relationship to contemporary culture by way of exploration of several contentious cultural issues in the United States and globally. While we gain a historical and theological understanding of Christianity's relationship to culture, we also take the opportunity to speak with Christian leaders, activists, and scholars in the area. Neither a course on the history of theology, nor on the theology of culture, our focus is on understanding how and why various Christian groups have formed such divergent interpretations of contemporary political, social, and ethical matters. (HU) Onishi. Spring 2014

 

Fall 2013 topic:

REL 195: Death and Dying (3). Not open to students who have taken this topic as REL 180, 181 or 213. A comparison of ways in which various religious traditions, as well as modern secular writers, describe and conceive of death and the meaning of life in the face of our human mortality. Students study memoirs, philosophy, poetry, novels, scripture, essays, and film. (HU) Onishi.

The Sacred in Music: The Liberal Arts as Portal to the Sacred

REL 201 - Brown

This course offers an immersion in the sacred music of the West, viewed through the lens of the liberal-arts tradition and considers the liberal arts as a portal to the sacred. We begin with Pythagoras and his monochord in the portal of Chartres Cathedral and progress through the development of melody, harmony, and rhythm from early chant (Hebrew and Christian) to Bach choral music (The Passion According to John) and finally to the American forms of Spiritual, Sacred Harp, and American Opera. While attentive to contributions from science, philosophy. psychology and religious theory concerning the connection of music to religious experience, we also take advantage of musical performances in the area and, with the help of professional conductors and musicologists, perform music ourselves.

Meditation and Self-Knowledge

REL 333 - Lubin

For 2,500 years, Hindus and Buddhists have promoted meditation as a means to attain insight and liberation from suffering, a state sometimes understood in terms of divinity or Buddha-nature. Meditation has also been adopted by some in the West during the last century, often for psychological or physical benefits apart from any devotional context. What had traditionally been a practice of ordained monks was popularized in the West, a trend that then caught on in Asia as well. We look at the origins of meditative practices in Asian traditions using primary sources, social context, and personal experience of basic meditative techniques. The course concludes by noting that some contemporary neuroscientists are looking to meditation to better understand mind, brain, emotion, and cognition.