Religion Department

Professors: Mark S. Cladisab, Lawrence H. Mamiya, Deborah Dash Mooreb;Associate Professors: Marc Michael Epstein, Lynn R. LiDonnici, Judith Weisenfeld (Chair); Assistant Professors: E.H. Rick Jarow, Michael Walsh; Lecturer: Tova Weitzman; Adjunct Instructors: Hartley Lachter, Margaret Leeming.

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

 

I. Introductory

 
101b.   The Religious Dimension
(1)
Is religion best described as a personal, inward experience or as a communal, social activity? The course explores the relation between religion, society, and the individual. The second half of the course investigates the ways religions, as social institutions, shape particular notions of the self. Mr. Lachter.
 
[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 Kamasutra and other Eastern texts furnish a comparative component. Authors include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Simone Weil, and Alice Walker. Mr. Cladis.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
[121.   In the Beginning]
(1)
Western thought has developed for centuries in spoken and unspoken dialogue with the texts of the Hebrew Bible. Biblical myths and histories still provide many basic categories of thought, reaction, and self-understanding, whatever our specific religious affiliations might be. However, the Bible is a notorious shape-shifter, and any given passage can yield many meanings, depending on the strategy of reading employed, and the point of view of the reader. In this course we focus upon some of the most influential narrative sections in biblical literature and upon some of the many meanings that have been created from them. Through study and discussion of these texts, we trace their transformations through the changing perspectives of culture, time, and interpretation. Ms. LiDonnici
       Open only to Freshmen. Satisfies college requirements for a Freshman course.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
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. Mr. Epstein and Ms. LiDonnici.
       Open to all students.
 
152a and b.   Eastern Religious Traditions
(1)
This course is an introduction to the religions of Asia (Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Zen, Shinto, etc.) through a study of practices, sites, sensibilites, and doctrines. The focus is comparative as the course explores numerous themes, including creation (cosmology), myth, ritual, action, fate and destiny, human freedom, and ultimate values. Mr. Walsh and Mr. Jarow.
       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, theExorcist, Daughters of the Dust, the Apostle. Ms. Weisenfeld.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
 

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 2002/03.
 
202a.   Perspectives of the Study of Religion
(1)
"Method," in the context of religious studies, is actually a process of self-discovery through which we become conscious of underlying attitudes and predispositions, both in ourselves and in our authorities. These influence our thinking, research, and understanding of the phenomenon "religion" - in all its many forms. In this course, we learn, and have a chance to evaluate, some of the basic ideas and approaches to the study of religion that have appealed to scholars of religion throughout history. We examine how many of these approaches continue to affect our own processes of thought and interpretation today. Ms. LiDonnici.
 
[203a.   The Origins and Development of Islamic Literature]
(1)
(Same as Africana Studies 203) Ms. Berkley.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
211b.   Religions of the Oppressed and Third-World Liberation Movements
(1)
(Same as Africana Studies 211) Mr. Mamiya.
 
215b.   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 2002/03.
 
221.   Voices from Modern Israel
(1)
(Same as Hebrew and Jewish Studies 221) Ms. Weitzman
 
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.
 
231a.   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: offered in 2002/03.
 
232b.   Imagining the Dao: Daoism and Chinese Culture
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 232) Daoism is frequently described as being the indigenous religious tradition of China. As a tradition Daoism has shaped and been shaped by a number of cultural forces. This course explores some of the imaginings of what Daoism is, what is the dao, and who are Daoists. We study Daoist health practices, sociopolitical visions, spells for controlling ghosts and deities, cosmic wanderings, and intense monastic practice. Mr. Walsh.
       Two 75-minute periods.
 
233b.   Buddhist Traditions
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 233) 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 2002/03.
 
235a.   Religions of China
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 235) 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.
 
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. Weisenfeld.
       Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or history, or by permission of instructor.
 
243a and b.   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. Ms. Leeming and Mr. Mamiya.
       Prerequisite: Religion 150, 152, or by permission of instructor.
       Alternate years: offered in 2002/03.
 
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.
 
249b.   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 events - what it has meant for Jews to live in a post-Holocaust world, how Jews interpret political sovereignty, the Jewish response to American life - form the second part of the course. Mr. Lachter.
       Prerequisite: Religion 150, or 1 unit in history, or by permission of instructor.
 
250a.   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 2002/03a: Psychology of Religion East and West. This course explores "varieties of religious experience" through the perspective of Eastern and Western psychological disciplines and also considers the interactive dynamic between religious and psychological discourse. The focus of the course is on the phenomenology of the "religious self" as we seek to understand how various and sometimes opposing teachings have reflected on the relationship between "mind" and "soul." Readings include James, Freud, Jung, Hillman, Lacan, Yoga-Sutras, Zen, Tibetan Buddhist, and Shamanic teachings. Mr. Jarow.
       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.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
[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.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
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. Moore.
       Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion, or by permission of instructor.
 
267a.   Religion, Culture and Society
(1)
(Same as Sociology 267) 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.
 
[268b.   Sociology of Black Religion]
(1)
(Same as Africana Studies 268 and Sociology 268) Mr. Mamiya.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
270b.   Departmental Colloquium
(1/2)
Joint exploration of methods in the study of religion. The department, Ms. Weisenfeld.
       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. Ms. Weisenfeld.
       Senior religion majors only. Permission required.
       One two-hour period bi-monthly.
 
283b.   The Dialogue Between Sufism and Islamic Fundamentalism
(1)
The class begins by exploring the roots of the terms "Sufism" and "Islamic fundamentalism" in the western scholarly tradition, the Islamic scholarly tradition, and in the media. The course briefly traces both the development of classical Sufism and the roots of its modern manifestations, and also the development of changes in the forms of what is referred to as "Islamic Fundamentalism." The study of various historical incidents reveal these heterodox movements in the conversation and conflict with orthodox Islam. These important dialogues, debates, and even violent confrontations inform our understanding of Islam in the modern context. Ms. Leeming.
 
[286.   Religion, War, and Peace]
(1)
The global cross-cultural examination of religious traditions in relationship to the activities of war and peace. Case studies are drawn from historical and modern examples involving the five major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The ethical stances are compared in waging war and making peace. Mr. Mamiya.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
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.

 

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.
 
301a.   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. Mr. Lachter.
 
310a.   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: offered in 2002/03.
 
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 2002/03b: Historical Jesus. Christian communities have always differed from each other in their theologies of Christ, but our times have seen the extension of these debates into historical writing and secular humanism. In this course, we examine the sources. We also focus upon the many modern biographies of Jesus, and on how a secular Christ is being constructed in a postmodern world. Ms. LiDonnici.
       Prerequisite: 200-level course work in the Christian tradition or Early Judaism. Permission of the 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.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
350a and b.   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 2002/03a: Isaac Bound and Rebound: Jews, Christians and Muslims Read Scripture. The seminar explores the biblical cycle of the life of Isaac, Genesis 18- 22, from Isaac's annunciation to his near-sacrifice in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thought, art, literature and culture. Both the sources and their subversions and reinscriptions are examined and ramifications for the relationship between the three monotheistic faiths are addressed. Mr. Epstein.
 
350b.   Earthly Gods and Heavenly Gardens
(1)
       Topic for 2002/03b: Dreams, Myths, and Visions in the Religious Imagination.This seminar focuses on the understanding and utilization of dreams and myths in Eastern and Western religious traditions. It explores dream and visionary passages in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic works as well as traditional interpretations of dreams, and their attendant myths in India and Tibet. In addition to working with traditional commentaries and interpretations, the course considers contemporary theoretical approaches from structuralist and post-structuralist sources, depth psychology, and cognitive science. Readings include passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Revelation, the Qur'an, the Bhagvata-Purana, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Critical materials include the works of Tsong Kha Pa, Freud, Jung, Laberge, and others. Mr. Jarow.
 
355b.   The Politics of Sacred Centers
(1)
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.
 
[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 twentieth-century New York City. Students have the opportunity to visit sites in New York. Ms. Weisenfeld.
       Not offered in 2002/03.
 
[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 2002/03.
 
384a.   Literature of India
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 384) Mr. Jarow.