Religion Department

Professors: Mark S. Cladis, Lawrence H. Mamiya (Acting Chair), Deborah Dash Moore;Associate Professors: Marc Michael Epstein, Lynn R. LiDonnici, Judith Weisenfeld ab;Assistant Professors: E.H. Rick Jarow, Michael Walsh a; 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. Of the 11 units required for the concentration, no more than two may be at the 100-level. No more than 1 1⁄ 2 units of field work, independent study, and/or reading courses may count 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. 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? This course explores the classical approaches to the study of Religion that have developed over the course of the twentieth century. 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.
 
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, Ms. Leeming.
       Open to all students.
 
152a and b. Religions of Asia
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 152) 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. Jarow, 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. Mr. Moore.
 
181a. God
(1/2)
(Same as Jewish Studies 181) Whether we are furious with it, love it, or think it does not exist, the figure that western civilization calls “God” is one of our most powerful root metaphors, an intellectual category that requires interrogation and understanding. As a literary figure, God has a personality, a biography, and a history; and like all of us, a great deal to say (in literature) about how he has been understood and misunderstood. Through analysis of primary materials—biblical, Ugaritic, Canaanite, and Mesopotamian, we explore this complicated figure. Ms. LiDonnici.
       One 2-hour period for six weeks during the first half of the semester.
 
182b. Satan
(1/2)
Satan is “good to think” with: a binary opposite for the ultimate good (however it is defined); a tricky lawyer whose job is to trip men up; a counter cultural figure representing both rebellion against hegemonic power, and our feelings about that rebellion. Satan is also, in religious literature, sometimes a useful stand-in for one’s enemies, taking on their shape and opinions. In this course, we trace the development of the figure of Satan through biblical, early Jewish, early Christian and other mythological sources. Ms. LiDonnici.
       One 2-hour period for six weeks during the first half of the semester.
 

II. Intermediate

 
[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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[203a. The Origins and Development of Islamic Literature]
(1)
(Same as Africana Studies 203) Ms. Berkley.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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 and challenged in the context of Western intellectual thought from the Enlightenment to the present. Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud, and Buber are some of the thinkers whom we study. Mr. Cladis.
 
[211b. Religions of the Oppressed and Third-World
(1)
Liberation Movements]
       (Same as Africana Studies 211) Mr. Mamiya.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
220a, b. 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.
       Topic for 2003/04a: Religion and Culture of Ancient Egypt. (Same as Africana Studies 220a) Ancient Egyptian religion is an organic growth out of the life of the people along the Nile, impossible to discuss in isolation from it. This course is an integrated survey of daily and religious life in ancient Egypt in Pharaonic times, focusing equally on royal and on individual forms of religious expression. We make extensive use of preserved Egyptian texts, an enormous body of literature that expresses a unique outlook upon the world, on human life, on the nature of divinities, and on the meaning of death. Ms. LiDonnici.
       Topic for 2003/04b: Magic in Antiquity. This course examines the secret side of the religions of the ancient Mediterranean: the private texts and rituals that reflect the counter-cultural and forbidden desires and fears of people from all strata of ancient society. We focus on magical texts and objects from Jewish, Christian, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman polytheistic sources, examining both the social function of forbidden religious practices and the private concerns that only magic could satisfy. Ms. LiDonnici.
       Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or by permission of instructor.
 
221b. Voices from Modern Israel
(1)
(Same, as Jewish Studies 221 and Hebrew 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. Christian Origins
(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: not offered in 2003/04.
 
[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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
233a. 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. Jarow.
       Prerequisite: Religion 152 or by permission of instructor.
 
[235b. 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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
243b. Islamic Traditions
(1)
An exploration of Islamic history, with special attention to issues of prophecy, religious leadership, mythology and sacred scriptures. Among the topics examined are Islamic law, theology and philosophy, as well as the varied expressions of Islamic religious values and ritual, especially Shi’ism, Sufism, and orthodox Sunnism. Particular attention is given to women in Islam and to Islamic architecture. Ms. Leeming.
       Prerequisite: Religion 150, 152, or by permission of instructor.
       Alternate years: offered in 2003/04.
 
248a. Out of the Ghetto
(1)
(Same as History 248 and Jewish Studies 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.
 
249a. The Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century
(1)
(Same as History 249 and Jewish Studies 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. Ms. Moore.
       Prerequisite: Religion 150, or 1 unit in history, or by permission of instructor.
 
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 2003/04a: Myth and Ritual in Film. Through ten important films of the twentieth 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 encompasses other concepts such as humans’ confrontation with mortality, the idea of good vs. evil, and pilgrimage. The course begins 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. Ms. Leeming.
       Topic for 2003/04b: Zen And The West: Buddhist Encounters With Post-Modernity. This course focuses on the encounter between Buddhist ideas and postmodern paradigms in both Science and the Humanities. How do Buddhist theories of perception relate to current paradigms in Theoretical Physics and Cognitive Science? What light does the Buddhist encounter with the West shed upon issues of gender, equality, and social justice? How have Buddhist teachings related to the teachings of major Western religions? Mr. Jarow.
       Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion.
 
255a and b. 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. Mr. Lachter, Ms. Leeming.
       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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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.
 
270b. Departmental Colloquium
(1/2)
Joint exploration of methods in the study of religion. The department, Mr. Mamiya.
       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. Mamiya.
       Senior religion majors only. Permission required.
       One two-hour period bi-monthly.
 
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.
 

Reading Courses

Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion or as specified.
Permission required.

 
[297.01. Feminism and Theology]
(1/2)
Mr. Cladis.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[297.03. Buddhist Texts in Translation]
(1/2)
Mr. Jarow.
       Prerequisite: Religion 233.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[297.04. Hindu Texts in Translation]
(1/2)
Mr. Jarow.
       Prequisite: Religion 231.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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)
 
297.08. Quran in Translation
(1/2)
Ms. Leeming
       Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.
 
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.
 
[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.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
[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: not offered in 2003/04.
 
[320b. Studies in Sacred Texts]
(1)
Examination of selected themes and texts in sacred literature. May be taken more than once when content changes.
       Prerequisite: 200-level course work in the Christian tradition or Early Judaism. Permission of the instructor required.
       Not offered in 2003/04.
 
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. Mr. Lachter and Mr. Moore.
       Topic for 2003/04a: Gender and Sexuality in Judaism. In this course we examine some of the basic assumptions about the nature of gender and sexuality, with a particular focus on the role that these issues play in the history of Judaism. Starting with the Bible and ending with the contemporary period, we examine how questions about gender difference, gender roles, sexuality, embodiment, and sexual empowerment have influenced Judaism over the course of its history. Mr. Lachter.
       Topic for 2003/04b: New York Jews in the Ghetto of Eden. (Same as Jewish Studies 346) At the beginning of the twentieth century Jews from around the world migrated to New York city bringing their diverse dreams, traditions, and folkways. Together they created a new American Judaism and-the grammar of American Jewish Life. This course explores the philosophies, politics, religious movements, and culture industries that made New York the preeminent Jewish city of the twentieth century. Ms. Moore.
 
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 2003/04a: Courtly Visions: The Religious and Palatial Architecture of Medieval India, Turkey and Persia. After exploring the biographical and autobiographical works of the founders and builders of the Mughal, Ottoman and Safavid empires, the class examines the palatial and religious architecture (particularly mosques) which reflect a ruler’s and often society’s conceptions of the human relationship with the divine, the inconography of death, paradise and the very constructed image of the sultans as God’s Shadow on Earth. Throughout the seminar the class reads European encounters with and perceptions of the “strange”, “exotic”, “breathtaking” and sometimes “barbaric east”. Ms. Leeming.
 
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 2003/04.
 
384b. Literature of India: Healing Tradtitions and Texts of India and China
(1)
(Same as Asian Studies 384) Mr. Jarow.