Religion Department

Professors: Marc Michael Epstein, Lawrence H. MamiyaabAssociate Professors: E.H. Rick Jarow, Lynn R. LiDonnici, Michael Walsh (Chair); Assistant Professors: Jonathon Kahn, Christopher WhitebSenior Lecturer: Tova Weitzman; Visiting Instructor: Margaret Leeming;Adjunct Instructor: Evan Pritchard.

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: 12 units, including Religion 200, 270, 271, three seminars at the 300-level, and a senior thesis or project. It is required that students take Religion 200 and 271 by the end of their junior year and highly recommended that they take these courses in their sophomore year. Students are expected to pursue a program of study marked by both breadth and depth. Of the 12 units required for the concentration, normally no more than two may be at the 100-level. However, students may petition for an additional 100-level to be counted toward the concentration. No more than 1 unit of field work and/or independent study 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 270 and Religion 300 (Senior Thesis or Project). The thesis will be graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory. Petitions for exemption from these requirements, granted only in special circumstances, must be submitted to the chair in writing by the first day of classes in the A semester of the senior year.

Requirements for the Correlate Sequence: The Religion Department offers a correlate sequence in the study of religion which allows students to pursue study in an area of significant interest outside of their field of concentration. The sequence requires 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. Epstein, Mr. Jarow, Mr. Kahn, Ms. Leeming, Ms. LiDonnici, Mr. Mamiya, Mr. Walsh, and Mr. White.

I. Introductory

101a. 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. Kahn.

[ 105a. Issues in Africana Studies ](1)

(Same as Africana Studies 105) Topic for 2008/09: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement. This course examines the ways in which religious belief, practices, and institutions helped to shape the modern Civil Rights Movement. Topics include, theologies of non-violent resistance, spirituals and freedom songs, religion and gender in the movement, critiques of religious motivated activism, and of non-violent resistance. Mr. Mamiya and Mr. Kahn.

Not offered in 2009/10.

150a and b. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam(1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 150) 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. White; Mr. Epstein.

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, sensibilities, 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 except seniors.

II. Intermediate

200b. Regarding Religion(1)

The study of religion is a methodological process of self-discovery, through which both individuals and modern society become conscious of the underlying attitudes and predispositions involved in the phenomenon of religion itself, and in academic inquiry about it. In this course we study and critique the basic approaches to the unique problems presented by the study of religion, tracing the ways they continue to affect processes of thought and interpretation today. Mr. Kahn.

Required for all majors.

201b. Jewish Textuality(1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 201b. and Women's Studies 201b.) Jewish tradition consists of a series of developments from the biblical stratum of text and practice through rabbinic interpretations and medieval, modern and postmodern revisions, reforms and even rejections of those interpretations. This course examines themes in Jewish life and thought from their biblical roots to their postmodern reinventions or reclamations.

Topic for 2009/10: Women in Judaism: Oppressed, Rebellious, Empowered. An exploration of key moments in the experience of Jewish women throughout history, building on an analysis of primary sources (Hebrew Bible and the corpus of rabbinic literature) custom, and non-religious cultural factors, and the implications and repercussions of all of these for the lived experience of women in a variety of Jewish societies up to and including the postmodern era. All sources in translation. Instructor: Ms. Veto


Jewish Studies 101 or by permission

205b. Religion and Its Critics(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. Kahn.

207a. Christian Ethics and Modern Society(1)

This course is an introduction to Christian ideals of faith, conduct, character, and community, and to modern disputes over their interpretations and applications. Our emphasis is on how Christian thinkers have negotiated the emergence of modern values about authority, rights, equality, and freedom. In what ways have Christian beliefs and moral concepts been consonant with or antagonistic to democratic concerns about gender, race and pluralism? Some of the most prominent Christian ethicists claim a fundamental incompatibility with this democratic ethos. We examine these claims and devote special attention to how Christian thinkers have dealt with the ethics of war, sexuality and the environment. Mr. Kahn.

[ 210b. Does the Secular Exist? ](1)

Is there a distinct realm called the secular, which is free of and from the religious? As sons and daughters of the Enlightenment, we've come to think that there is. What sort of philosophical and historical moments have led to the public insistence on a non-religious space? What projects in ethics, politics, and identity have the insistence on the secular authorized? This class both analyzes and contests modern assumptions about secularism and the religious, and asks whether the ideals of secularism have materialized. Is it possible or even desirable to create realms scrubbed free of the religious, in our politics, in our public institutions, or in ourselves? Mr. Kahn.

Not offered in 2009/10.

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

(Same as Africana Studies 211) A comparative socio-historical analysis of the dialectical relationship between religion and the conditions of oppressed people. The role of religion in both suppression and liberation is considered. Case studies include the cult of Jonestown (Guyana), the Iranian revolution, South Africa, slave religion, and aspects of feminist theology. Mr. Mamiya.

Not offered in 2009/10.

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 post modernity. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes. Mr. Epstein.

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

217b. Film, Fiction and the Construction of Identity -- Israeli and Palestinian Voices(1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 217b and Hebrew 217b) This course explores the emergence and consolidation of collective identities in modern Israel and Palestine. Through a close examination of Israeli and Palestinian literary texts in translation and select movies students are introduced to an array of competing and complementing narratives that Israelis and Palestinians have relied on to understand themselves and their relationship to the other. Special attention is given to issues related to class, gender, ethnicity, religion and ideology. Ms. Weitzman.

220b. Islamic Autobiography(1)

In the wake of September 11 a mass of scholarship and media attention has attempted to define "Islam" and the "Muslim". We are all guilty of participating in a conversation that produces definitions of Islam as the "Other" in relationship to "Us". This course examines autobiographies written by men and women who identify themselves as Muslims and who consider their relationship to Islam and the non-Muslim. Through themes important in the study of Islam, such as pilgrimage, dissidence, women's Islam, and identity, we consider the following questions: "Are there specific characteristics of religious self-reflection?"; "What distinguishes a factual or fictional depiction of the self?"; "Does the narrative structure define the autobiography or the "facts" revealed?". Texts are drawn from different periods and places and include non-fiction, fiction, and filmic depictions. Ms. Leeming.

Prerequisite: Religion 150, 243, 255 or 204 or permission of the instructor.

[ 221b. Voices from Modern Israel ](1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 221 and Hebrew 221) An examination of modern and postmodern Hebrew literature in English translation. The course focuses on Israeli voices of men, women, Jews, Arabs, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, to investigate such topics as memory, identity, alienation, the "other," community, and exile. Authors may include Yizhar, Yehoshua, Oz, Grossman, Kanafani, Almog, Katzir, Liebrecht, Ravikovitch, Zelda, Zach, Amichai, Darish and el-Kassim. Ms. Weitzman.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 225a. The Hebrew Bible ](1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 225) The Bible is one of the most important foundational documents of Western civilization. This course surveys the literature of the Hebrew Bible (Christian ‘Old Testament') within the historical, religious and literary context of ancient Israel and its neighbors. What social and religious forces created these books, and how did they shape the lives of the ancient Israelites, their descendants, and all those they influenced for three thousand years? All texts are read in English translation. Ms. Vet˝o.

Not offered in 2009/10.

227b. Revolution, Heresy and Messianim: the Earliest Christians(1)

This course examines the religious/cultural background, social movements and texts that shaped Christianity from its origins in the first century of the Common Era through its consolidation as a state religion in the Roman Empire by the fourth and fifth centuries. Was Christianity really revolutionary? To what extent did it differ from Judaism in its earliest manifestations? And if it was radical, did it lose its "revolutionary" qualities once it became established as a state religion? How did the early Christian community and the church it created relate to dissent, heresy and, revolution and messianism, and to what extent can we identify the persecuted church with that of Rome? Ms. Vetó.

[ 230b. Creole Religions of the Caribbean ](1)

(Same as Africana Studies 230) The Africa-derived religions of the Caribbean region—Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Santeria, Jamaican Obeah, Rastafarianism, and others—are foundational elements in the cultural development of the islands of the region. This course examines their histories, systems of belief, liturgical practices, and pantheons of spirits, as well as their impact on the history, literature, and music of the region. Ms. Paravisini-Gebert.

Not offered in 2009/10.

231b. Hindu Traditions(1)

(Same as Asian Studies 231) 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.

[ 233b. Buddhist Cultures ](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.

Not offered in 2009/10.

235a. Religion in China(1)

(Same as Asian Studies 235a) An exploration of Chinese religiosity within historical context.  We study the seen and unseen worlds of Buddhists, Daoists, and literati, and encounter ghosts, ancestors, ancient oracle bones, gods, demons, buddhas, dragons, imperial politics, the social, and more, all entwined in what became the cultures of China.  Some of the questions we will try to answer include: how was the universe imagined in traditional and modern China?  What did it mean to be human in China?  What is the relationship between religion and culture?  What do we mean by ‘Chinese religions’?  How should Chinese culture be represented?  Mr. Walsh.

243a. 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.

250b. 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 2009/10b: 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 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. Ms. Leeming.

Prerequisite: one unit in religion.

255a. 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 for 2009/10a: Sufism. Through a selection of medieval and modern primary sources in translation, fiction that uses Sufism as its subject matter and also secondary source studies this class introduces the subject of Sufism or Islamic Mysticism. The course begins with a brief introduction to Islam. In conjunction with the study of material from early, medieval and modern Sufis the course examines foundational concepts in Islam that have shaped and continue to shape the ideas, beliefs and practices of Sufism. Some of the major themes we encounter in the class are monotheism, creation, God, love, cooking, drunkenness, poetry, ritual, and ecstasy. Ms. Leeming.

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

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. Mr. White.

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.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 268b. Sociology of Black Religion ](1)

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

Not offered in 2009/10.

270a. 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. Walsh.

Senior Religion majors only. Permission required.

One two-hour period bi-monthly.

271b. Departmental Colloquium(1/2)

Joint exploration for majors of methods in the study of religion. The department, Mr. Walsh.

Permission required.

One weekly two-hour period during the first half of the semester.

280a. Native American Religions: A Survey of Native Spirituality in North America(1)

This course provides an overview of Native American spirituality, respectfully investigating what can be learned in an academic context about the wide variety of religious experiences, practices and beliefs, in North American culture. The course focuses on aboriginal nations of North America east of the Rockies. It will examine the developments from individual core shamanism through esoteric philosophies, through various lodges, movements and interactions with missionaries, to today's native trends and churches. Mr. Pritchard.

280b. Magicians, Madmen and Messiahs: The Jewish Search for Redemption(1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 280b.) The pervasive tension in Jewish culture and society between the acceptance of the world as it is, with all its flaws, and the desire for a new and better society, or, alternately, a "return to the Garden" has bred in Jews a tendency to imagine, to seek and to attempt to construct ideal and utopian societies. Hopes for the realization of this dream have often been attached to great personalities, from the biblical Queen Esther to Bar Kokhba, Jesus of Nazareth, and Saul/Paul, to Theodore Herzl and the Lubavitcher Rebbe; from the humble and pious to the megalomaniacal. The ideas and ideals of these figures and the movements that crystalized around them are the subject of this course, which examines biography, autobiography, contemporary accounts, visual sources and sociological, philosophical and theological texts on the subject of redemption and redemptivist movements in Jewish history. Mr. Epstein 

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.

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.

Senior Thesis or Project

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.

302b. The Blegen Seminar(1)

Topic for 2009/10: Greek and Roman Religion. (Same as Classics 302b.)What does it mean to have a pantheon of gods? How do mythology and religion differ? What did the ancient Greeks and Romans believe, since their religions were not revealed, and they produced no doctrinal or liturgical texts? Using a wide range of sources, including literary texts, archaeological evidence, and visual texts, such as coins and paintings, this courses addresses the historical, cultural and social significance of both public and private worship in Greece and Rome, with some discussion of Bronze Age Greece, the Etruscans, and the emergence of Christianity during the Roman Empire. Ms. Holland.

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

(Same as Africana Studies 310b) 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.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 315a. Religion and American Culture. ](1)

Advanced study in selected aspects of the history of religions in the United States. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 320a. Studies in Sacred Texts ](1)

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

Prerequisites: I unit at the 200 level or permission by the instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 330. Religion, Critical Thought and Politics ](1)

Advanced study in selected aspects of religion and contemporary philosophical and political theory. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 345a. Violent Frontiers: Colonialism and Religion in the Nineteenth Century ](1)

(Same as Asian Studies 345) What is the relationship between religion and colonialism and how has this relationship shaped the contemporary world? During the nineteenth century the category of religion was imagined and applied in different ways around the globe. When colonialists undertook to ‘civilize' a people, specific understandings of religion were at the core of their undertakings. By the mid-nineteenth century, Europe's territorial energy was focused on Asia and Africa. Themes for discussion include various nineteenth-century interpretations of religion, the relationship between empire and culture, the notion of frontier religion, and the imagination and production of society. Mr. Walsh.

Not offered in 2009/10.

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

(Same as Jewish Studies 346) Advanced study in selected aspects of Jewish thought and history. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

Prerequisites: 1 unit at the 200 level or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.

350b. 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 2009/10b: Earthly Gods and Heavenly Gardens: City Garden Spaces as Religious Reflections of Society. This seminar explores the concept of "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 al-Hambra in Medieval Spain. Ms. Leeming.

[ 355b. The Politics of Sacred Space ](1)

This course examines the relationship between notions of spatial and temporal orientation and connects these to the fundamental importance of sacrality in human action and existence. Some of our questions include: what is sacred space? What is a sacred center? How are places made sacred through human action? To what extent is sacrality a matter of emplacement? What role does sacred space play in local and global environments? Mr. Walsh.

Not offered in 2009/10.

380a. American Prophets, Radicals and Religious Revolutionaries(1)

This course introduces students to American prophets, utopian reformers and religious revolutionaries who have shaped modern American history. We explore how these American reformers draw on religious symbols to justify violence, buttress visions of revolution or critique dominant American values. Under what circumstances is violence permissible? Can revolution be morally or religiously justified? Does religion make society (and democracy in particular) more or less stable? Do religious visions promote or prevent violence? What kinds of personal qualities (virtues) must Americans cultivate in order to hold together a society where the people rule? This class looks at a spectrum of reformers, from religious feminists and environmentalists on the left to Christian Fundamentalists and others on the right. Mr. White.

Asian Healing Traditions

(Same as Asian Studies 385b) This seminar offers a comprehensive view of the traditional medical systems and healing modalities of India and China and examines the cultural values they participate in and propound. It also includes a "laboratory" in which hands-on disciplines (such as yoga and qi-gong) are practiced and understood within their traditional contexts. From a study of classical Ayur Vedic texts, Daoist alchemical manuals, shamanic processes and their diverse structural systems, the seminar explores the relationship between healing systems, religious teachings, and social realities. It looks at ways in which the value and practices of traditional medical and healing systems continue in Asia and the West. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisites: Religion 231 or permission of instructor.

386a. Exodus and Revolution:Violence and Religious Narrative(1)

(Same as Africana Studies 386) This seminar will explore the way a single biblical story, the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, has influenced politics, literature, and identity formation. Central to the class will be political philosopher Michael Walzer's claim that the Exodus provides a paradigm of social democratic politics. We will interrogate Walzer's claim by examining the story's in an array of contexts. We will consider the role that Exodus played in the construction of American political identity and Latin American liberation theology. Particular attention will be paid to the role of Exodus in African American political and religious traditions. Finally, the class will broach more theoretical questions about the role of violence and religion in creating conceptions of nation and peoplehood. Does the demand for a paradigm, particularly a paradigm like Exodus with its emphasis on chosenness and messianism, produce distasteful politics in the process?  Mr. Kahn.
Offered in 2009-10.

[ 388b. The Spiritual Gifts of Modern India ](1)

(Same as Asian Studies 388) Since Swami Vivekananda brought the message of "raja yoga" to the Parliament of World Religions on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1893, a number of spiritual teachers from India have achieved notoriety on the world stage and have had a major impact in the formulation of a world and secular "spirituality" in our time. Through phenomenological and historical studies, as well as through close reading and study of primary texts, this course considers the works of these major figures, including Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Ananda Mayi Ma, and Bhagavan Sri Osho Rajneesh. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisites: Religion 152 and/or 231, or permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2009/10.