Course Offerings

Winter 2020

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, Jeffrey L.

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.

New Testament

REL 102 - Chalmers, Matthew J.

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


REL 131 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

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.

Augustine and the Literature of Self, Soul, and Synapses

REL 219 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

A careful reading of the depiction of the restless soul in Augustine's Confessions is followed by study of fictional, philosophical, religious, and/or scientific literature. Students reflect on the state of the soul in a world made of selves or the fate of the self in a soulless world ... and whether there might be other options

Religions of the Silk Road: Gods in Transit

REL 235 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

An examination of how deities and religious ideas and practices spread from one place to another through cultural, commercial, and political networks and interactions in the ancient and medieval world, and how this constituted a form of premodern globalization. The history of religions, from antiquity to the present day, is full of cases of a religion traveling from one place to another. The circumstances vary: it may happen as part of a conquest or colonization, or more peacefully through the work of missionaries or wandering monks, or as a by-product of trade or professional contacts. We highlight a series of case studies drawn from the full sweep of the Silk Road, from the eastern Mediterranean and Near East to eastern Central Asia, along with the parallel network of Indian Ocean routes

Gender, Sexuality, and Islam

REL 284 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

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 295A - Chalmers, Matthew J.

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 2020, REL 295A-01: Rise of Religion and Fall of Rome (3). Over the first six centuries CE, a disparate assortment of texts from the eastern Mediterranean - eventually known as the New Testament - were written, composed, collected, and became authoritative for communicating a religious identity: Christian. Simultaneously, Jewish communities from Spain to Central Asia went on living their lives, with the communities of Palestine and Babylonia ultimately producing a regulatory literature - the Talmud - that would revolutionize Jewish religion. Neither existed in a vacuum. This is an exploration of some of our earliest and richest opportunities for understanding how Christianity and Judaism became global phenomena. We focus on vibrant local and trans-local narratives: martyrs, magic, the Holy Land, halakha, magicians, and heretics. We travel not only the traditional hunting grounds of this period (Italy, Gaul, and what became northern Europe) but also late Roman Syria, Egypt, Palestine, and Ethiopia. How were the important events in the period relived and rewritten by those who followed, including Iraqi clerics and the first women playwright of the Middle Ages? And what can we learn by rethinking the big questions we ask of this period - of decline, fall, rise, conquest, and religious competition? (HU) Chalmers.


Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

Honors Thesis.

Fall 2019

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.

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

REL 101 - Chalmers, Matthew J.

An introduction to the history, literature and interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

Special Topics in Religion

REL 195A - Chalmers, Matthew J.

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 2019, REL 195A-01: Special Topic: Corporeal Religion: The Body in Judaism (3). Bodies matter. This is true for Jewish identity as well, both in terms of traditional practices (such as circumcision and menstrual impurity) and body-related discourses (like the process by which American Jews became racially white). This course explores the traditions and practices of Jewish life, as well as the problems and possibilities of Jewish identities, through a specific focus on the body: how it has been perceived, how it has been targeted for violence, how it has been shaped and formed within Jewish tradition, and how it intersects with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. (HU) Chalmers.

Nature and Place

REL 207 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

Through a consideration of work drawn from diverse disciplines including philosophy, religious studies, literature, art, and anthropology, this course explores a variety of ideas about and experiences of nature and place.

Religion and Existentialism

REL 214 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

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.

Law and Religion

REL 222 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

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.

Ancient Greek Religion

REL 223 - Laughy, Michael H., Jr.

In this course, we examine the strange and wonderful world of ancient Greek religion, beginning with stories of the gods that all Greeks knew: Homer and Hesiod. We then study religion on the ground, examining how religion functioned at a number of sanctuaries and shrines in Greece. Topics covered in this course include ancient conceptions of the cosmos; the nature of Greek deities and heroes; the distinction between myth and religion; the art and architecture of sanctuaries; ritual performances and festivals; ritual sacrifice; sacred games; oracles; the underworld; sacred mysteries; women and religion; and the socio-political role of Greek ritual practice.

Sufism: Islamic Mysticism

REL 283 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

This course explores the mystical expressions and institutions known as Sufism within the Islamic community. Topics include the elaboration of Sufism from the core tenets of Islam; Sufi practices of ecstasy and discipline; the artistic and literary products of the Sufi experience; the institutions of Sufi orders, saints, shrines, and popular practices; and the debates among Muslims over the place of Sufism within the greater tradition of Islam.

Introduction to American Indian Religions

REL 285 - Markowitz, Harvey J.

This class introduces students to some of the dominant themes, values, beliefs, and practices found among the religions of North America's Indian peoples. The first part of the course explores the importance of sacred power, landscape, and community in traditional Indian spiritualities and rituals. It then examines some of the changes that have occurred in these traditions as a result of western expansion and dominance from the 18th through early 20th centuries. Lastly, the course considers some of the issues and problems confronting contemporary American Indian religions.

Senior Seminar

REL 399 - Kosky, Jeffrey L.

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.

Spring 2019

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.

Muslims in the Movies

REL 172 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

An examination of the history of visual representation of Islam and Muslims in classical and modern cinema. We approach movies produced by both Muslims and non-Muslims over the last century as historical sources: visual monuments that have captured the specific cultural and political context in which they were produced. We examine a selection of these movies through the lens of critical theory and the study of religion in order to pay attention to how questions surrounding identity and representation, race and gender, Orientalism and perceptions of difference have historically influenced and continue to influence cinematic images of Islam.

Caste at the Intersection of Economy, Religion, and Law

REL 246 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim) / Silwal, Shikha B.

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 295 - Sonia, Kerry M.

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 2019, REL 295-01: Special Topics in Religion: Who Owns the Bible? (3). Where does the Bible come from? How did different texts come together to form the biblical canon? Who oversaw these processes? What is at stake—politically and theologically—in these processes? This course considers such questions and examines the composition and transmission of the Bible, as we know it today. In particular, the course focuses on the materiality of the Bible, including the surviving manuscripts and artifacts that help us reconstruct the ways in which biblical texts circulated from ancient times to the present day. We analyze the problems posed by the discovery of such objects, either through archaeological excavation or purchase on the antiquities market, and why such factors matter. The course culminates in a critical analysis of the recently opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., which, since its inception, has been plagued by controversies, including the illegal smuggling of ancient artifacts into the United States and the display of fake Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts. Ultimately, the course uses this case study to consider the relationship between canon, commerce, and religious authority in American culture. The course includes a field trip to the Museum of the Bible. (HU) Sonia.

Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland

REL 387 - Brown, Alexandra R. / Conner, Marc C.

This course immerses the student in the literature, religious traditions, history, and culture of Ireland. The primary focus of the course is on Irish literary expressions and religious beliefs and traditions, from the pre-historic period to the modem day, with a particular emphasis on the modem (early 20th-century) Irish world. Readings are coordinated with site visits, which range from prehistoric and Celtic sites to early and medieval Christian sites to modem Irish life. Major topics and authors include Yeats and Mysticism, St. Brendan's Pilgrimage, Folklore and Myth, Lady Gregory and Visions, Religion in Irish Art, the Blasket Island storytellers, the Mystic Island, and others.