Religion

Professors: Betsy Halpern–Amaruab, Lawrence H. Mamiyaa, Deborah Dash MooreabAssociate Professors: Mark S. Cladis (Chair), Judith Weisenfeld; Assistant Professors: Marc Michael Epstein, E.H. Rick Jarowab, Lynn R. LiDonnici, Michael Walsh; Lecturer: Tova Weitzman.

The concentration in religion is intended to provide an understanding of major religious traditions, an exposure to a variety of approaches employed within the study of religion, and an opportunity for exploration of diverse problems that religions seek to address.

Requirements for the Concentration: 11 units, including Religion 270, 271, three seminars at the 300–level, and a senior thesis or project. It is recommended that students take Religion 270 in the sophomore or junior year. Students are expected to pursue a program of study marked by both breadth and depth. Courses in Hebrew, 206 and 305 may be counted toward the concentration. After declaring a concentration in religion, no courses taken under the Non–Recorded Option serve to fulfill the requirements.

Senior–year Requirements: Religion 271 and a 300–level senior thesis or project.

It is possible to integrate the study of religion with another concentration by means of a correlate sequence in religion.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence: 6 units: 1 unit at the 100–level, 3 at the 200–level and two seminars at the 300–level. Various tracks within the correlate sequence may be devised in consultation with a department adviser. After declaring a correlate sequence in religion, no courses taken under the Non–Recorded Option serve to fulfill the requirements.

Advisers: Mr. Epstein, Mr. Cladis, Mr. Jarow, Ms. LiDonnici, Mr. Mamiya, Ms. Moore, Mr. Walsh, and Ms. Weisenfeld.


I. Introductory

102a. Love: The Concept and Practice (1)

A study of love (in classical and modern texts and in film) that explores a host of religious and ethical issues. Topics include the potential conflict between divine and human love, and the nature of friendship, romance, and marriage. Focus is on love in the Western world, but the Kamasutraand other Eastern texts furnish a comparative component. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Simone Weil, and Alice Walker. Mr. Cladis.

105a. Selected Topics (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 105) Topic for 2001/02: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Open only to Freshmen. Satisfies requirement for a Freshman course.

121. In the Beginning (1)

Western thought has developed for centuries in spoken and unspoken dialogue with the texts of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures. Biblical myths and histories still provide for us many basic categories of thought and reaction, whatever our specific religious affiliations might be. In this course, we focus upon some of the most influential narrative sections in Biblical literature, including the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, the Abraham, Jacob, Saul, and David cycles, the Exodus from Egypt, the Elijah cycle, the Gospels, and the Revelation of John.Through study and discussion of these texts, we trace their transformations through the matrix of culture, time, and interpretation. Ms. LiDonnici.

Open only to freshmen. Satisfies college requirements for a Freshman course.

150a and b. Western Religious Traditions (1)

An historical comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The course focuses on such themes as origins, development, sacred literature, ritual, legal, mystical, and philosophical traditions, and interactions between the three religions. Ms. LiDonnici, and instructor to be announced.

Open to all students.

152a and b. Eastern Religious Traditions (1)

An introduction to the religions of Asia (including Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions) through a study of their basic doctrines, sensibilities, and practices. The focus is comparative as the course explores numerous themes, including creation (cosmology), revelation, action, fate and destiny, human freedom, the existence of evil, and ultimate values. Mr. Walsh.

Open to all students.

160b. Religion and American Film (1)

An examination of relationships between religion and American film, with particular attention to interactions between American religious institutions and the film industry, issues of race and gender, and representations of religious beliefs, practices, individuals, and institutions. Films may include:Broken Blossoms, The Jazz Singer, Hallelujah, The Ten Commandments, Gentleman's Agreement, the Exorcist, Daughters of the Dust, the Apostle. Ms. Weisenfeld.


II. Intermediate

[201b. Religion Gone Wild: Spirituality and the Environment] (1)

(Same as Environmental Studies 201) A study of the dynamic relation between religion and nature. Religion, in this course, includes forms of spirituality within and outside the bounds of conventional religious traditions (for example, Buddhism, Christianity, and Jainism, on the one hand; ecofeminism, the literature of nature, and Australian Aboriginal religion, on the other). Topics in this study of religion, ethics, and ecology may include: religious depictions of creation, nature, and the position of humans in the environment; religious aspects of environmental degradation and contemporary ecological movements; environmental justice; and environmentalism as a religion. Mr. Cladis.

Prerequisite: one unit in religion or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[203a. The Origins and Development of Islamic Literature] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 203) Ms. Berkley.

Not offered in 2000/01.

[205b. Modern Problems of Belief] (1)

Some say it is impossible to be both a modern and a religious person. What are the assumptions behind this claim? The course explores how religion has been understood in the context of the eclipse of religion in Western culture from the Enlightenment to the present. Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Neitzsche, Freud, and Buber are some of the thinkers whom we study. Mr. Cladis.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in philosophy or religion, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[211a. Religions of the Oppressed and Third–World Liberation Movements] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 211) Mr. Mamiya.

Not offered in 2001/02.

215a. Religion and the Arts (1)

An exploration of various aspects, spiritual and political, of the interdependence of art and religious culture from the dawn of human consciousness through postmodernity. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes. Mr. Epstein.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion at the 100–level, or by permission of instructor.

[220. Text and Tradition] (1)

Study of selected oral and written text(s) and their place(s) in various religious traditions. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

225b. The Hebrew Bible (1)

The books of the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) are about a very long and tempestuous relationship between a people and a God. But who are these people, and where did they come from? Why were they chosen, and by whom? What were they chosen for? Where did the biblical books come from, and why are they so influential? In this course we examine these and other questions that relate to the interpretation of one of the most important books of Western civilization. Ms. LiDonnici.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion, or by permission of instructor.

227a. The New Testament and Early Christianity (1)

The Christian Scriptures speak with many different voices. Some advocate peace, some rebellion; some praise duty, others a radical rejection of family and all it represents. What was the earliest Christian message, and how did it evolve? How do the texts of the New Testament both reflect and shape the developing Christian communities? This course examines these unique texts and relates them to the religious, cultural, and intellectual realities found by individuals and groups in the Mediterranean world from the first century b.c.e. through the third century c.e. Ms. LiDonnici.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion, or by permission of instructor.

[231. Hindu Traditions] (1)

An introduction to the history, practices, myths, ideas and core values that inform Hindu traditions. Beginning with the pre–Vedic period, the course traces major religious practices and developments up to and including the contemporary period. Among topics examined are yoga and upanishadic mysticism, the spiritual paths (marga) of action (karma) knowledge (jnana) and love (bhakti), the worship of (and ideologies surrounding) gods and goddesses, and issues of gender, caste, and ethnicity in both pre– and postmodern times. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisite: Religion 152 or by permission of instructor.

Alternate years: not offered in 2001/02.

233b. Buddhist Traditions (1)

An introduction to Buddhist traditions, beginning with the major themes that emerged in the first centuries after the historical Buddha and tracing the development of Buddhist thought and practice throughout Asia. The course examines how Buddhist sensibilities have expressed themselves through culturally diverse societies, and how specific Buddhist ideas about human attainment have been (and continue to be) expressed through meditation, the arts, political engagement, and social relations. Various schools of Buddhist thought and practice are examined including Theravada, Mahayana, Tantra, Tibetan, East Asian, and Zen. Mr. Walsh.

Prerequisite: Religion 152 or by permission of instructor.

Alternate years: offered in 2001/02.

[236a. Christian Traditions] (1)

An exploration of the variety of perspectives within Christian self–understanding as it has developed in the course of Western history. Particular attention is paid to expressions of spirituality both in terms of the individual and of the Christian community. Ms. Amaru.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or history, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

243a. Islamic Traditions (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 243). The religion of Islam in its historical expressions, including sectarian developments and Sufi mysticism. Special attention is given to the role of Islam in Africa through Arabic conquest and to the impact of Islam with the Black Muslim movement in American culture. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Religion 150, 152, or by permission of instructor.

Alternate years: offered in 2001/02.

[248a. Out of the Ghetto] (1)

(Same as History 248) Starting in the seventeenth century, Jews gradually moved out of the physical, political, social, and religious ghettos to which Christian Europe had consigned them. The course explores the implications of such an exodus. It looks at Jewish piety and politics, individuality and community in Europe, North America and northern Africa. Topics include changing gender roles, migration, hasidism, religious reform, and antisemitism. Ms. Moore.

Prerequisite: Religion 150, or 1 unit in history, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[249a. The Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century] (1)

(Same as History 249) The twentieth century shattered and transformed Jewish life throughout the world altering our understanding of evil and challenging accepted meanings of modernity. This course explores the rise of political and racial antisemitism and its culmination in the Holocaust; the growth of Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel; the transformation of Jews from a largely small–town people into a highly urbanized one. The implication of these eventswhat it has meant for Jews to live in a post–Holocaust world, how Jews interpret political sovereignty, the Jewish response to American lifeform the second part of the course. Ms. Moore.

Prerequisite: Religion 150, or 1 unit in history, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

250a and b. Across Religious Boundaries: Understanding Differences (1)

The study of a selected topic or theme in religious studies that cuts across the boundaries of particular religions, allowing opportunities for comparison as well as contrast of religious traditions, beliefs, values and practices. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

Topic for 2001/02a: Myth and Ritual in Film. Through ten important films of the 20th century this course seeks to explore, cross-culturally, the theme of the heroic quest in its various forms (e.g. the Christian, Shinto, Taoist, psychological, Atheist or techno quest) as a vital element in mythology and religious ritual. This theme would encompass other concepts such as human's confrontation with mortality, the idea of good vs. evil, and pilgrimage. The course would begin with an examination of selected theories of myth and ritual and their importance to the study of religion. Throughout the semester the class continues to examine and question film as a cultural object and a viable cross-cultural medium for the study of religion. TBA

Topic for 2001/02b: Religion and the Body. What is the importance of the body in different religious traditions? How do "bodies" shape religions and how do religions shape "bodies"? What ideological role do religious traditions have in forming understandings of gender? The concept of a "religious body" is prevalent in many religious practices and beliefs. In this course we examine the creation, imagination, and function of the body in different religious cultures such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism, Zoroastrianism, and so forth. We also address the importance of ritual in "creating religious bodies" and shaping the way humans, in diverse cultural contexts, experience and understand this world and other worlds. Mr. Walsh.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion.

255b. Western Mystical Traditions (1)

Textual, phenomenological and theological studies in the religious mysticism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes.

Topic and instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: one 100–level course or by permission of instructor.

260b. African–American Religion (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 260b.) A survey of the history of religion among Americans of African descent from slavery to the present. Major topics include: African religious backgrounds and transformations in the Atlantic world, religion under slavery, the rise of independent black churches, black women and religion, new religious movements, folk traditions, music, and religion and the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Weisenfeld.

266a. Religion in America (1)

An historical introduction to the study of religion in America, focusing on religious innovation and change, especially the introduction and creation of new religions and religious movements and redefinition of boundaries of margins and mainstream in American religious life. Topics include the role of religion in politics, culture, ethnic group life, and the social construction of gender. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion, or by permission of instructor.

[267a. Religion, Culture and Society] (1)

An examination of the interaction between religion, society, and culture in the work of classical theorists such as Freud, Marx, Durkheim and Weber, and in the writings of modern theorists like Berger, Luckman, Bellah, and Geertz. Students learn to apply theoretical concepts to the data of new religious movements in American society. Mr. Mamiya.

Prerequisite: 1 unit at the 100–level in religion, 1 unit at the 100–level in anthropology or sociology, or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2001/02.

268b. Sociology of Black Religion (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 268 and Sociology 268) Mr. Mamiya.

270b. Departmental Colloquium (1/2)

Joint exploration of methods in the study of religion. The department, Mr. Cladis.

Permission required.

One two–hour period during the first half of the semester.

271a. Advanced Methods in the Study of Religion (1/2)

A continued exploration of methods in the study of religion and their application to research questions. Mr. Cladis.

Senior religion majors only. Permission required.

One two–hour period bi–monthly.

280 Visionary Realms: Buddhism in India and Tibet (1)

This course is a selective survey of Buddhist literature in India and Tibet. We read several Buddhist scriptures (Sutras) and biographical materials that demonstrate the importance of imagination and visionary experience in the formation of later Buddhist literature. These texts show how the pragmatic considerations of Buddhist practice are interwoven with the otherworldly orientation of enlightenment, i.e., mysticism. Readings include some selections from secondary literature that frame the cultural and historical contexts of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.Mr. Pettit

Prerequisites: Religion 152 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75–minute periods.

285. Religious Traditions of China (1)

This course introduces the vast range of religious beliefs and practices of China. We look at the myriad worlds of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism and meet with ghosts, ancestors, ancient oracle bones, gods, demons, Buddhas, dragons, imperial politics, the social, and more, all entwined in what became the traditions of China. Some of the questions we try to answer include: how was the universe imagined in traditional China? What did it mean to be human in China? What was the meaning of life? What cultural impact did religious traditions have on Chinese culture. What do we mean by "Chinese religions"? How should Chinese culture be represented? What was /is the impact of Chinese religions on the "West" and vice versa? Mr. Walsh.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

Supervised field work in the community in cooperation with the field work office. The department.

By permission, with any unit in religion as prerequisite and work in other social sciences recommended.

Reading Courses

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or as specified.

Permission required.

[297.01. Feminism and Theology] (1/2)

Mr. Cladis.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[297.03. Buddhist Texts in Translation] (1/2)

Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisite: Religion 233.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[297.04. Hindu Texts in Translation] (1/2)

Mr. Jarow.

Prequisite: Religion 231.

Not offered in 2001/02.

297.06. Religion and the Black Experience (1/2)

Mr. Mamiya.

297.07. The Method to Our Madness: Introductory Methods in the Study of Religion (1/2)

Ms. LiDonnici.

297.08. Quran in Translation (1/2)

Ms. Leeming.

Prerequisite: permission of the intructor.

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

The department.

Prerequisite: One semester of appropriate intermediate work in the field of study proposed. Permission of instructor required.


III. Advanced

Prerequisite for all 300–level courses unless otherwise specified: 1 unit at the 200–level or permission of instructor.

300b. Senior Thesis or Project (1)

An essay or other project in religion written under the supervision of a member of the department. Normally taken in the second semester, and in the first only under special circumstances.

Permission required.

[301b. Religion and Critical Thought] (1)

An examination of philosophical and social theoretical issues in religious thought and practice. Topics may include the rationality of religious belief, attempts to explain the origin and persistence of religion, or problems in the interpretation of religion. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

Not offered in 2001/02.

[310b. Politics and Religion: Tradition and Modernization in the Third World] (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 310) An examination of the central problem facing all Third–World and developing countries, the confrontation between the process of modernization and religious tradition and custom. Along with social, economic, and political aspects, the course focuses on the problems of cultural identity and crises of meaning raised by the modernization process. Selected case studies are drawn from Africa and Asia. Mr. Mamiya.

Prerequisite: Sociology/Religion 261 or Africana Studies 268, or 2 units in Religion or Africana Studies at the 200–level, or by permission of instructor.

Alternate years: not offered in 2000/01.

320b. Studies in Sacred Texts (1)

Examination of selected themes and texts in sacred literature. May be taken more than once when content changes.

Topic for 2001/02: Gnostic Literature. Gnostic belief is based in paradox, and Gnostic groups themselves present an historical paradox; both fiercely exclusive and widely popular; both ascetic and libertine. The debate about Gnosticism shaped the development: of almost every variety of Christianity, altering the direction of many discussions, especially about grace, the human body, belief, and salvation.

In this course, we study the main sources of Gnostic literature in the historical context of the first four Christian centuries, and analyze both the beliefs of the Gnostics themselves, and the sharply negative reactions of their opponents. Through this we work towards an understanding of the nature of Christian Gnosticism and its impact on the shape of the Christian tradition. Instructor to be announced.

Prerequisite: Some study of the Christian tradition or Jewish mysticism.

Permission of instructor required.

346b. Studies in Jewish Thought and History (1)

Advanced study in selected aspects of Jewish thought and history. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

350a. Comparative Studies in Religion (1)

An examination of selected themes, issues, or approaches used in illuminating the religious dimensions and dynamics within particular cultures and societies, with attention to the benefits and limits of the comparative method. Past seminars have focused on such topics as myth, ritual, mysticism, and iconography. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes.

Topic for 2001/02: The Politics of Sacred Centers. This course examines how "sacred centers" are produced, maintained, and how they function in different religious environments. In focusing on specific cultic objects, temples, sacred places, etc., we study culturally complex centers such as Banares in India, Beijing in China, Jerusalem in Israel, and Washington D.C. in America, and raise questions about their sacrality and role in their respective religious environments. Some of our questions include: what is a sacred center? Are places inherently sacred or are they made that way through human action? What roles do sacred centers play in both local and global cultures? Mr. Walsh.

350b Earthly Gods and Heavenly Gardens: City Garden Spaces as Religious Reflections of Society (1)

This seminar explores the concept of the "garden" through time and across various cultures to reveal a space that is more than a country vegetable patch or House and Garden display. The garden, especially the city garden, is a space where monuments are built, death is immortalized, displays of imagination and power are the rule, and beauty becomes an earthly reflection of "divine" values. The ephemeral space of the garden becomes the perfect playground for leaders, and sometimes their constituents, to experiment, often in the name of religion, in the production of an ideal image of their society. This course examines various city parks and gardens such as the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., the gardens of Kyoto, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the gardens of Versailles, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Ms. Leeming

Prerequisite: One unit of 200 level work in Religion or permission of the instructor.

One 2–hour period.

365. Gods of the City: Religion in New York (1)

An exploration of the relationship between religious expressions and urban life using New York as a case study. Particular attention is given to ethnic and religious diversity in 20th century New York City. Students have the opportunity to visit sites in New York. Ms. Weisenfeld.

[382. Religion and Constructs of Race] (1)

An examination of ways in which "race" has functioned in the American context as a prism through which people have understood and experienced their own religious lives and interpreted the religions of others. Topics include American explanations of race in the Bible, religion and slavery, religious constructions of whiteness, religion and race in popular culture, and the comparative example of religion and race in South Africa. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Not offered in 2001/02.

383 Buddhism in America (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 383) Is Buddhism with its doctrine of no-self compatible with American culture, individualism, and capitalist market theory? What was the initial attraction of Buddhism to Americans and what do American practitioners expect from Buddhism? Can we credit the Buddhism of the Beat Generation as an authentic form of Buddhism or mere illusion? Can Buddhism provide religious ethics and a sense of meaning of purpose to Americans? This course tries to answer these questions, among others, by examining the nature and characteristic features of American Buddhism- how it shares grounds with Buddhism in Asia and where it diverges from it- and how it constructs the meaning of religion in American culture. Ms. Park