Course Offerings

Fall 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.

New Testament

REL 102 - Brown (Multiple Sections)

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

Introduction to Islam

REL 105 - Blecher

This course familiarizes students with the foundations of the Islamic tradition and the diverse historical and geographical manifestations of belief and practice built upon those foundations. Throughout the course, the role of Islam in shaping cultural, social, gender, and political identities is explored. Readings are drawn from the writings of both historical and contemporary Muslim thinkers.

Buddhism

REL 131 - Lubin (Multiple Sections)

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.

Beginning Biblical Hebrew I

REL 175 - Marks

Graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. In this course, students develop an introductory knowledge of classical (biblical) Hebrew grammar and vocabulary, and of how biblical language expresses itself in selected biblical passages. Student learn to read and translate simple narrative prose from the Hebrew Bible, and gain a more nuanced understanding of the life and thought of the ancient Israelites through their own language.

FS: First-Year Seminar

REL 181 - Marks

A seminar for first-year students.

Fall 2015 topic:

REL 181-01: FS: Perspectives on Death and Dying (3). 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 scripture, poetry, memoirs, novels, essays, and film, and write a journal and essays. Includes several guest speakers and visits to a funeral home and cemetery. Note: Should not be repeated in the future as REL 213. (HU) Marks.

Special Topics in Religion

REL 195 - 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.

Fall 2015 topic:

REL195: Special Topic in Religion: Introduction to Christian Thought and Culture (3). Readings in key primary texts and important secondary works introduce students to major theological issues in the history of Christian thought and important forms of life and culture in the history of Christianity. (HU) Kosky. Fall 2015

Approaches to the Study of Religion

REL 210 - Brown

A study of approaches to understanding religious life and thought as found in selected writings in anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theology, and comparative religion.

Religion and Existentialism

REL 214 - Kosky

A consideration of the accounts of human existence (faith and doubt; death and being-in-the-world; anxiety, boredom, and hope; sin and evil; etc.) elaborated by philosophers, theologians, and literary figures in the 19th and 20th centuries. The central figures considered are Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Attention is paid to their significance for future philosophers, theologians, artists, and literary figures, and consideration may also be paid to forerunners in earlier centuries.

Yogis, Ascetics, and Holy People

REL 231 - STAFF / Lubin

Yogis, ascetics, and other holy people pursue extraordinary paths that invert the normal aims and values of society. This course surveys ideas on mental and physical training; their conceptual basis; the range of techniques used; and their philosophical development. Course material is drawn from a diverse range of religions that may include Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Islamic, and Christian. The course seeks to answer such questions as: "What is the purpose of these teachings and for whom were they designed?" "What roles do yogis and ascetics play in religious life?" and "What is their ethical status in the world?"

Senior Seminar

REL 399 - Kosky

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 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.

Caste at the Intersection of Economy, Religion, and Law

REL 136 - Silwal / Lubin

Social stratification touches every aspect of life, and South Asia's traditional caste structure is a special case: this highly complex, strictly-adhered-to system has been religiously legitimized and criticized over a 3,000-year history, and is nowadays seen as being at odds with the modern world. Yet it remains a crucial factor in social identity, economic roles, legal status, and religious practice. This course offers a 360-degree survey of caste both historically and in practice today in Nepal. The course addresses four themes, respectively providing for each a combination of historical background, social scientific analysis of the modern situation, and direct field experience for the students. 

Special Topics in Religion

REL 195 - Blecher

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 2015 topic:

REL 195: Lost in Translation: Arabic and Religious Literature (4). Can the literature of sacred languages--the Arabic Qur'an, for example--be translated across cultures and times? This course considers the promises, pitfalls and puzzles of translation in religious literature through an immersive introduction to the Arabic language. Conceived most broadly, translation addresses issues of continuity and change over time, adaptation and abandonment of founding documents and figures, creativity and fidelity. After mastering the Arabic alphabet and the basic elements of Qur'anic rhetoric, students engage in independent projects in which they choose a work of Arabic literature (in English) to "translate" into other media, genre, times, and/or cultures. No prior knowledge of Arabic or Islam required. (HU) Blecher. Spring 2015

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.

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 

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

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.


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.

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 

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

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 295B - 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.

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 

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

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 Individual Study

REL 403 - Fruchtman Hannah

Subject to departmental approval and available departmental resources, this course provides an opportunity for individuals to pursue significant lines of independent study in the field of religion. May be repeated for degree credit with permission and if the topics are different.

Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Kosky

Honors Thesis.