Course Offerings

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.

Winter 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.

New Testament

REL 102 - Brown, Alexandra R.

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

The Qur'an

REL 108 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

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.

War and the Bible

REL 120 - Sonia, Kerry M.

From the battle of Jericho to the apocalyptic wars in the Book of Revelation, the Bible is full of violent conflict. Wars are waged between nations, peoples, and even gods. What ideologies of war underlie these depictions? How does the Bible understand warfare and its many facets? What is a just or holy war? Are there war crimes in the ancient world? What is the role of divine beings in these conflicts? Does the God of the Bible ever lose? Through close readings of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, we consider the different ways in which war is depicted by biblical texts in different historical periods. We also examine the ongoing influence of biblical warfare on later discourses about violent conflict around the world.

God and Goddess in Hinduism

REL 132 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

This course explores the many ways in which Hindus visualize and talk about the divine and its manifestations in the world through mythic stories, use of images in worship, explanations of the nature of the soul and body in relation to the divine, and the belief in human embodiments of the divine in Hindu holy men and women. Topics include: the religious meanings of masculine and feminine in the divine and human contexts; the idea of local, family, and "chosen" divinities; and differing forms of Hindu devotion for men and women.

Death and Immortality in the Ancient World

REL 226 - Sonia, Kerry M.

According to Egyptologist Jan Assmann, "All culture is a struggle against oblivion." How, then, might different cultures respond to the potential oblivion caused by death - the loss of personhood, the deterioration of the body, and the fading memories of those who have die? What rituals and ideologies preserve memories of the dead among the living? Is this commemoration a kind of immortality? In this course, we explore such questions and critically examine the nature of memory as it relates to ancient conceptions of death and afterlife. Through close analysis of epic narrative, ritual texts, and material culture, we compare traditions from different regions, including Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, in order to better appreciate the rich diversity of human responses to death in the ancient worlds. All ancient texts are read in translation.

Yogis, Monks, and Mystics in India

REL 231 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

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?"

Islam in America: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

REL 271 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

From the discourse on the War on Terror, to debates about Muslim women's dress, Islam in America has attracted the attention of journalists, activists, government officials, and scholars of religion. This course takes a critical-historical approach to the topic by examining key themes in the history of Islam in America: the lives of enslaved African Muslims in the Antebellum period and the Founding Fathers' visions of Islam; the immigrant experience of Arab Muslims at the turn of the 20th century; the role of Muslim organizations in the Civil Rights movement; and, the changing representations of American Muslims after the Gulf War and post-9/11. In interrogating the history of Islam in America, we specifically pay attention to the ways in which religion, gender, class, race, and citizenship continue to inform representations of Muslims in the U.S.

Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

Honors Thesis.

Fall 2018

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 - Sonia, Kerry M.

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

Introduction to Islam

REL 105 - Atanasova, Kameliya N.

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.

FS: First-Year Seminar

REL 180 - Sonia, Kerry M.

First-year seminar. Topics vary by term.

Fall 2018, REL 180-01: FS: Exodus and Exile: Oppression, Liberation, and Diaspora in Jewish Tradition (3). First-Year Seminar. Prerequisite: First-year class standing only. Assumes no prior knowledge of the Bible, and all readings are in English translation. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is bookended by two epic stories, the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and, later, their exile to Babylon. These ancient stories confront important political and ideological questions of their time: what is the role of God in warfare? Why do God's people sometimes suffer defeat? What happens to a people uprooted from their homeland? Indeed, these issues continue to resonate among religious communities today. This course traces the interpretation of the biblical Exodus and Exile by writers working in different historical periods, examining these interpretations through the lenses of myth and memory—how do writers in these periods use the biblical narratives to construct their own history of Israel, Jews, and themselves? What are the social and political factors that shape such interpretations? Beginning with a close reading of the biblical stories in their ancient context, we consider the reinterpretation of the Exodus and Exile among later writers working in the Hellenistic, Roman, Late Antique, and Medieval periods. We conclude by examining the role of these biblical stories in American religious traditions, including the Passover Seder and the Civil Rights Movement. (HU) Sonia .

Whose Law? Pluralism. Conflict, and Justice

REL 220 - Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

Society is made up of schools, corporations, religions, guilds, associations, tribes, etc., each defined by a set of more-or-less formal rules that apply in various ways depending on the status of each member. Individuals are thus subject to overlapping obligations and claims, so authorities often come into conflict. This is legal pluralism. This seminar explores the various ways in which such interactions can play out in a range of social, religious, and political environments, and how they can affect people of different statuses differently. Examples range from the Roman empire, the Middle East and South Asia, past and present, to the modern United States and Europe. In each case, we examine the ways in which legal status is defined in relation to the state, religious community, ethnicity or race, and social class. Given different, overlapping, conflicting claims to authority, rights, and obligations, how is justice to be defined, and how can it be served?

Truth, Belief, Dissent: Defining Insiders and Outsiders in Ancient, Medieval and Modern Religion

REL 250 - Brown, Alexandra R.

Who decides what is orthodox [acceptable thought] and what is heretical [unacceptable], how are these decisions made, and what impact do they have on societal definitions of "insider" and "outsider?" What perennial questions emerge in debates about orthodoxy and heresy -- e.g., the powers of states to enforce religious orthodoxy, the joining of political ideologies with religious interests -- and how are those questions addressed in modernity? This course explores the shifting and perpetually uncertain boundaries of truth and identity in religion. The focal religion is Christianity, but comparative religions are in view. 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), medieval heresy trials, a contemporary American novel, and recent scholarly treatments of the boundaries that define "insiders" and "outsiders."

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.

Seminar in Biblical Studies

REL 351 - Brown, Alexandra R.

An exploration of a topic in Biblical studies, focusing on ancient texts and their interpreters from antiquity to the present. May be repeated for degree credit if the topics are different.

Fall 2018, REL 351-01: Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Literature Antiquity to the Present (3). Prerequisite: Previous coursework in religion, classics, philosophy or ancient history recommended. A study of the texts, movements and other cultural manifestations of end-time expectations in Jewish and Christian antiquity with attention to prominent legacies of apocalypticism in medieval and modern times. Contemporary apocalyptic expressions in art, music, and film (e.g., hip-hop, zombie apocalypses, dystopian fiction) also considered. (HL) Brown.

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.

Honors Thesis

REL 493 - Kosky, Jeffrey L. / Lubin, Timothy (Tim)

Honors Thesis.