Requirements for the Concentration: A minimum of 11 units, including Religion 200. Three seminars are required (two 300-level courses and the Senior Seminar, Religion 300). Students are required to take Religion 200 by the end of their junior year and it is 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 11 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 course to be counted toward the concentration. No more than 1 unit of fieldwork 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: All Seniors are required to take Religion 300, the Senior Seminar, in the Fall semester of their senior year.
Thesis Option: If a senior elects to do a thesis and has departmental approval they can do so by completing Religion 301. The thesis option is a year-long undertaking and should develop the work begun in the Senior Seminar. Students who complete a thesis are eligible for departmental honors. The Senior Seminar receives a letter grade. The Senior Thesis is 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.
100a. Religion, Media & American Popular Culture (1)
How does the mass media change religious values and behaviors? How might we understand the relationship between American Christians and American culture? Has sports, television or entertainment replaced religion? Is popular culture hostile to faith or is it religious in wholly new and unexpected ways? In this course we explore these questions by looking in detail at American television, film, popular literature and the internet. We also examine how specific religions and religious symbols are expressed in popular culture, what happens when traditional religions borrow pop cultural forms or ideals, and how the American media is abetting a trend towards religious eclecticism and hybridity. Mr. White.
Two 75-minute meetings.
101. An Examined Life: Religious Approaches to Enduring Questions (1)
What is a good life? How do we understand dying and death? Does God exist? Is there evil? Why do we suffer? How do we love? What’s the proper way to treat one’s neighbor? This class will explore the variety of ways that religious thinkers have responded to these ancient, persistent, and troubling questions about the nature of human existence. Our focus will be on philosophical texts, however we will also consider filmic representations of these problems. Mr. Kahn.
125b. The Hebrew Bible (1)
(Same as Jewish Studies 125) 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. LiDonnici.
Not offered in 2011/12.
127a. The New Testament and Early Christianity (1)
(Same as Jewish Studies 127a.) This course examines the conflicts, social movements, theologies, texts and individuals that shaped early Christianity during its formative period, from the first through the fifth centuries CE. How did the ecstatic mysticism of a small, obscure minority group become the official religion of the Roman Empire? How did this "success" affect the way Christianity developed afterward, and its attitude toward difference, heresy, and authority?. Ms LiDonnici
150a. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (1)
(Same as Jewish Studies 150a.)
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. Leeming.
Two 75-minute meetings.
152. a 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.
187a. Touching the Sacred: Religion and Visual Culture (1)
Both religion and visual culture share a preoccupation with the transcendent and the inexpressible and also with the quotidian and down- to-earth. We explore various aspects, spiritual and political, of the interdependence of art and religious culture from the dawn of human consciousness through postmodernity. We discuss the representation (and the prohibition of the representation) of divinity; points of contact between religion, gender and art; artworks that "come to life;" a variety of queer and marginal worlds; cultures on the edge; divine sexuality in pre-modern art and in modern oblivion; ways in which aspects of visual and material culture can be read as "texts;" and the re-orientation of traditional forms in modern and postmodern contexts. Our aim will be to learn new ways of seeing art and new ways of thinking about religion and religious culture. Mr. Epstein.
Two 75-minute meetings.
Fulfills the College Requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.
188a. Graffiti, Saints, and Song: Muslim Expressions of the Holy(1)
This course examines how different Muslim communities creatively relate to
Islam’s sacred source material: Qur’an and Hadith. After a basic introduction to these texts and the variety of classical approaches to exegesis, the bulk of the class explores more unorthodox attempts (through alternative kinds of “texts”) to come closer to Allah and achieve a meaningful personal understanding of Islam. We attempt to answer one or more of the following questions. What is orthodox Islam in the contemporary period? How is orthodoxy adapted to changing times and contexts? What are the orthodox responses to the heterodox? Senegalese Sufi healing practices, revolutionary poster art, Malaysian pop music, human “divinity”, anti-sorcery pamphlets, Qur’anic treatments, and Muslim punk are some of the examples explored in the class. Ms. Leeming.
Two 75-minute periods.
Open only to freshmen; satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.
189b. Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in America (1)
A continuous, diverse, and uneven production of research, fiction, film, and media coverage of Islam has emerged since September 11, 2001. This seminar examines an under-studied American demographic, crucial in terms of the future role and place Islam will have with this country: Muslim youth. After a very brief introduction to foundational features of Islam as understood and accepted by most Muslims as well as a basic familiarization with Islam’s history in North America, we turn to basic stereotypes that continue to surround and define “Islam in America” for non-Muslims. Close readings of three coming-of-age stories constitute the bulk of this seminar. These very different stories potentially open doors to deeper and broader discussions about inter-, and perhaps more importantly, intra-religious diversity in the United States. The Autobiography of Malcolm X not only powerfully portrays African-American religious experience and its indigenous Muslim expressions, but also introduces a pivotal text for a wide spectrum of American youth, including American converts to Islam. Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, a semi-autobiographical but fictional story of a Syrian immigrant growing up in a devout Muslim family in Indiana, traces the trans-national Muslim experience and a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with being an explorer of the borders between generations, religious observance and “secular” pressures, and Muslim/American. Finally, Michael Muhammad Knight’s unusual journey to and in Islam—unusual in that he comes from a very small demographic of Caucasian male converts with close links to both the Muslim punk scene and a youth offshoot of the Nation of Islam, The Five-Percenters—blows apart many of the initial stereotypes about Islam explored earlier in the semester. One of his autobiographies (he is only in his 30s) Impossible Man and his controversial and incredibly influential novel and now film The Taqwacoresround out the semester. Ms. Leeming.
Fulfills the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.
200b. Regarding Religion (1)
To study religion is to study culture and society, as well as to critically engage and participate in the humanities and social sciences. In this course we compare and critique different approaches to the study of religion and think about the category of religion in relation to other topics and social concerns. Mr. Walsh Required for all majors.
Prerequisite: permission of the instructor is required.
204b. Islam in America (1)
(Same as Africana Studies 204b.) Islam in America This course examines the historical and social development of Islam in the U.S. from enslaved African Muslims to the present. Topics include: African Muslims, rice cultivation in the South, and slave rebellions; the rise of proto-Islamic movements such as the Nation of Islam; the growth and influence of African American and immigrant Muslims; Islam and Women; Islam in Prisons; Islam and Architecture and the American war on terror. Ms. Leeming.
Prerequisite: unit in religion or by permission of instructor
205. 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.
206b. Social Change in the Black and Latino Communities (1)
(Same as Africana Studies and Sociology 206b.)
An examination of social issues in the Black and Latino communities: poverty and welfare, segregated housing, drug addiction, unemployment and underemployment, immigration problems and the prison system. Social change strategies from community organization techniques and poor people's protest movements to more radical urban responses are analyzed. Attention is given to religious resources in social change. This course is taught to Vassar students and incarcerated men at the Otisville Correctional Facility. Mr. Mamiya.
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.
210. Secularism and Its Discontents (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.
211. Religions of the Oppressed and Third-World Liberation Movements (1)
(Same as Africana Studies 211b.) 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), Central America, the Iranian revolution, South Africa, slave religion, and aspects of feminist theology. Mr. Mamiya.
212a. The Celestial Sphere: Astrology and Mythpoetics (1/2)
This six week course critically examines one of the major languages of Western Esotericism, Astrology. Beginning with its historical evolution, it investigates the archetypes, folklore, psychology, and esoteric practices associated with the traditions of the planets, signs, and houses: an excellent preparation for the Spring seminar, Dreams, Myths, and Visions. Mr. Jarow.
Prerequisite: One 100-level course in Religion.
213b. The Experience of Freedom (1/2)
(Same as Asian Studies 213) This six week course looks at the four paths of freedom that have emerged from Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian thought. Concepts and practices we will consider include: karma (the yoga of action), jnana, (the yoga of knowledge), bhakti, (the yoga of love) and tantra, (the yoga of imminent awareness). The focus of this course is on practice in a contemporary context. Mr. Jarow
Prerequisite: Religion 152.
215b. Religion, Art and Politics (1)
Nowadays, we accept the idea that religion, like so much else, is political. It makes sense, then, that visual culture, which can be used, situated, manipulated and exploited in the service of religion can serve to affirm and in some cases to subvert the political messages of religion. This class will explore examples of the collusions of religion, art and politics, as well as their collisions in the productions of majority and minority culture in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the West, from antiquity to postmodernity. Mr. Epstein.
Prerequisite: Any 100 or 200-level course in Art or Religion.
Two 75-minute meetings.
216. Religion and the Civil Rights Movement (1)
(Same as Africana Studies 216)
This course examines the ways in which religious beliefs, 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.
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 films and literary texts in translation 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.
218b. Spiritual Seekers in American History & Culture 1880-2008(1)
This course examines the last 120 years of spiritual seeking in America. It looks in particular at the rise of unchurched believers, how these believers have relocated "the religious" in different parts of culture, what it means to be "spiritual but not religious" today, and the different ways that Americans borrow from or embrace religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. We focus in particular on unexpected places of religious enchantment or "wonder" in our culture, including how science and technology are providing new metaphors for God and spirit. Mr. White.
Not offered in 2011/12.
219b.New and Alternative Religious Movements in the United States (1)
All religions, new and old, have a beginning, and all religions change over time. Even the most established and popular religions today, like Islam and Christianity, began as small, marginalized sects. In this class, we think carefully about how religions develop and change by examining closely religious movements in one of the most vibrant religious nations in world history, modern America. We study radical prophets, doomsday preachers, modern messiahs, social reformers and new spiritual gurus and we talk about how their new religious movements developed and interacted with more mainstream religious currents in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. This course proceeds in a roughly chronological fashion, beginning with new and alternative religions in the nineteenth century and moving on to more recent groups. Some of the questions we consider as we proceed are: Why do new religions begin? Why do people join them? How do they both challenge and conform to wider American norms and values? How should the American legal system respond to them? How do more mainstream believers respond to them? Mr. White.
220. a and b. Text and Traditions (1)
Study of selected oral and written texts and their place in various religious traditions. May be taken more than once for credit when content changes.
Topic for 2011-12a: Religion and Culture of Ancient Egypt. 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 from Pharaonic times through Late Antiquity, focusing equally on royal and on individual forms of religious expression. We will 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.
Open to all students.
Prerequisite: Religion 127, 225, 227, or permission of the instructor.
Two 75-minute meetings.
Not offered in 2011/12b.
221. 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.
230. Creole Religions of the Caribbean (1)
(Same as Africana Studies 230b. ) 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.
231b. Hindu Traditions (1)
(Same as Asian Studies 231b.) 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.
233a. Buddhist Cultures (1)
(Same as Asian Studies 233a.) 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.
235. Religion in China (1)
(Same as Asian Studies 235) 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.
Not offered in 2012/13.
240. The World of the Rabbis (1)
(Same as Jewish Studies 240).
243. 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.
250. a 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 Fall 2011-2012a: Yoga and the West: Asian Spiritual Traditions/Post-Modernity This course begins by exploring the historical movement of Asian religious traditions into the West and goes on to focus on the encounter between Hindu and Buddhist ideas and practices with post-modern paradigms in the Sciences and Humanities. The following issues are considered: The guru in America, the adaptation of Hindu goddess worship by neo-pagans in America, Buddhism and the Beat Generation, the influence of Buddhist sensibilities upon issues of social and environmental justice, the interfacing of the “dharma” with the teachings of major Western religions and philosophies, the emergence of “Hindu rock” and other hybrid art forms, and the adaptation of Asian teachings and practices to Western societies. Mr. Jarow. Prerequisites: Religion 231, 232, 233, 235, or instructor permission.
Topic for 2011-2012b: Religion 250: Dangerous Scriptures: Radical Interpretation in the Western Tradition. Scriptural interpretation is often viewed as a conservative enterprise designed to arrive at predetermined conclusions that support existing structures of religious hierarchy. But for centuries, Jews and Christians have been interpreting scripture in ways that decentered the expected narrative, re-working scripture to serve various unconventional and unexpected purposes. From prophetic literature to midrash to kabbalah to Hassidism; from early Christianity's reading of the Hebrew Bible, to the visions of Christian saints and mystics, we will explore the quirky, individualistic and often transformative world of radical scriptural interpretation. Mr. Epstein
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 2011-12a:Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism. An exploration of esoteric trends in Judaism, from antiquity through the 21st century, with an emphasis on mystical exegesis of scripture, meditation techniques, theosophical practices and metaphysical visionary encounters with divinity and its agents, as well as magical practices and techniques, both theoretical and practical. All texts in translation. Mr. Epstein.
Prerequisite: one 100-level course or by permission of instructor.
266b. Religion in America (1)
What are the major cultural and intellectual forces shaping religions in America? How have religious Americans encountered people of other faiths and nationalities? Why have they seen America as both a promised land and a place of bondage, conflict or secularization? What are the main ways that religious Americans think about faith, spirituality, religious diversity and church and state? How might we understand the complexity of these and other issues in a country of so many different religious groups---Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim? Mr. White.
Prerequisite: 1 unit in religion, or permission of the instructor.
267. 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.
268a. Sociology of Black Religion (1)
(Same as Africana Studies 268a. and Sociology 268a.) Mr. Mamiya.
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)
Prerequisite: One semester of appropriate intermediate work in the field of study proposed.
Permission of instructor required.
300a. Senior Seminar (1)
An exploration of critical issues in the study of Religion. Mr. Walsh.
Senior Religion majors only.
One 2-hour meeting.
301b. Senior Thesis (1/2)
Written under the supervision of a member of the department; taken in the Spring semester.
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.
315. 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.
320a. 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 2011-12a: The Great Flood (Same as Jewish Studies 320) Ideas about a world-encompassing flood occur in the religious literature of several societies, as cautionary tales about human sin, as accounts of the origin of evil, and sometimes as a metaphor for perfect lives that can never be again. In this course we will study the sources of the biblical account of the flood and its transformations through early Jewish and Christian interpretation, along with myths of Atlantis and other world flood traditions. We will focus both upon the ancient texts and on their role in contemporary debates about the teaching of modern scientific archaeology, biology and geology, creation science, and intelligent design. Ms. LiDonnici.
Prerequisites: I unit at the 200 level or permission by the instructor.
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.
345. 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.
346. 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.
Topic for 2012/13b: Jews and Visual Culture. This course examines the relationship of Jews with the arts from ancient times through the postmodern period. Topics addressed include the definition of Jewish art and the attitude of Jewish tradition toward art, iconism, and aniconism, Jews as artists, Jewish patronage, and Jewish scholarship concerning both Jewish and non-Jewish art. The Jewish experience with art is set against the wider backdrop of minority politics and its relationship with art. We discuss the role of identity politics in the artistic and art historical world, as well as self-definition, self-presentation and self-hatred among artists, patrons, and scholars of art history. Mr. Epstein. Prerequisites: 1 unit at the 200 level or permission of instructor.
350. a 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 2011-12a:Science, Religion and Mysticism: A History of Anglo-American Speculation about Infinity, the Fourth Dimension and Alternate Universes, 1850-2009.This course examines the cultural history of American and British speculations about infinity, other dimensions and the physical and metaphysical energies that undergird the universe. We examine the history of math and physics, how American and British religious thinkers appropriate this scientific literature, and how ideas about infinite spatial dimensions are taken up in popular novels, science fiction and fantasy. There are no prerequisites for this course. Mr. White.
Topic for 2011-12a: Foundational Islamic Texts: Qur'an, Hadith and Tafsir.Without assuming prior knowledge of the Islamic textual and interpretive traditions, this course begins with an introduction to the Qur’an as an historical, literary, and devotional text in Islam. With this firm grounding, the course spends the remainder of the semester exploring interpretive traditions of the Qur’an beginning with the prophet Muhammad’s own explanations of the revelation and moving through examples of medieval and modern tafsir or interpretation of the Qur’an (including traditional, islamist, Sufi and feminist exegesis). The final portion of the class traces some of the results of these exegetical traditions in the production of fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence. While this course does not require its participants to have a background in Islam, some knowledge of Islam or another religious textual tradition would be helpful. Ms. Leeming.
Not offered in 2011/12.
Topic for 2011-12b: 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 will explore 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 will consider 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.
Topic for 2011-12b: Western Esotericism. Westerners have tended to look east in their quest for enlightenment, often ignoring substantial Western mystical and esoteric traditions of long standing and with claims of venerable pedigree, including astrology, tarot, magic, alchemy, Christian Qabala and Masonry from the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and into the New Age. We will explore these and other paths, situating them within the spectrum of esotericism in general, examining their claims of connection with ancient Greece and Egypt, biblical and medieval Judaism and earliest Christianity, exploring their influence on literature and the arts, and evaluating their structure, their phenomenology and their abiding attraction. Mr. Epstein.
355. 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.
380. 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.
385. Asian Healing Traditions (1)
(Same as Asian Studies 385) 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.
386. 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.
388. 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.