Religion Department

Professors: Lawrence H. Mamiya, Judith Weisenfeld; Associate Professors: Marc Michael Epstein, E.H. Rick Jarow, Lynn R. LiDonnici (Chair); Assistant Professors: Jonathon Kahn, Michael Walsh; Lecturer: Tova Weitzman.

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

Requirements for the Concentration: 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 270 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, no more than two may be at the 100-level. 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 271 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. LiDonnici, Mr. Mamiya, Mr. Walsh, and Ms. Weisenfeld.

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 2007/08: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement. 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. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Open only to Freshmen. Satisfies requirements for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

150a and b. Western Religious Traditions (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. Instructor to be announced.

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 except seniors.

180a. American Religious Radicals (1)

In what ways do religious teachings and practices inform social radicalism? This course examines this question by looking at the lives and the writing of several American religious figures whose socially radical visions were based upon religious experiences and ideals. These figures include Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist, Quaker, and African American gay man; Dorothy Day, a socialist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement; and A.J. Muste, an influential pacifist and Protestant minister. Class discussions and writing assignments explore connections between these individuals, religious lives and their commitment to social change and examine theories of social justice, non-violence, and civil disobedience alongside religious traditions of mysticism, prophecy, and spiritual contemplation. Ms. White.

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. Walsh.

Required for all majors.

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

(Same as Africana Studies 203) Mr. Mhiri.

Not offered in 2006/07.

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.

206a: Screening American Religion (1)

In this course we explore the politics of representing religion at various moments in American film history. Topics include censorship, representations of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities, gender and religion, and the filmmaking strategies of contemporary religious groups. Films may include: The Jazz Singer, Hallelujah, The Ten Commandments, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Exorcist, Daughters of the Dust, Left Behind, and The Passion of the Christ. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Prerequisites: I unit in Religion or permission of the instructor.

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.

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

(Same as Africana Studies 211) Mr. Mamiya.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[220. Text and Tradition] (1)

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

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

Not offered in 2007/08.

221b. Voices from Modern Israel (1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 221 and Hebrew 221) Ms. Weitzman.

[225. 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. LiDonnici.

Not offered in 2007/08.

227b. The Kingdom of God and the Empire of Rome (1)

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.

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.

231a. 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.

[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 2007/08.

[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.

Not offered in 2007/08.

235a. Religions of China (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 235) This course introduces the vast range of religious beliefs and practices of China. We look at the myriad worlds of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism and meet with ghosts, ancestors, ancient oracle bones, gods, demons, Buddhas, dragons, imperial politics, the social, and more, all entwined in what became the traditions of China. Some of the questions we try to answer include: how was the universe imagined in traditional China? What did it mean to be human in China? What was the meaning of life? What cultural impact did religious traditions have on Chinese culture. What do we mean by “Chinese religions”? How should Chinese culture be represented? What was /is the impact of Chinese religions on the “West” and vice versa? Mr. Walsh.

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. Instructor to be announced.

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

Alternate years: offered in 2007/08.

[245a. Jewish Traditions] (1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 245) An exploration of Jewish practice and belief in all its variety. The course traces the evolution of various “Judaisms” through each one’s approaches to the text of scripture and its interpretations, Jewish law and the observance of the commandments. It analyzes the Jewish life-cycle, calendar and holidays from a phenomenological perspective, and traces the development of the conceptualization of God, Torah, and the People and Land of Israel in Jewish life, thought, and culture from antiquity through the present day. Mr. Epstein.

Prerequisites: Religion 150, Jewish Studies 101, 201 or permission.

Not offered in 2006/07.

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 2007/08a: To be announced.

Topic for 2007/08b: 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 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, Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisite: one unit in religion.

[255b. Western Mystical Traditions] (1)

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

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

Not offered in 2007/08.

266a. Religion in America (1)

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

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

267a. Religion, Culture and Society (1)

(Same as Sociology 267) An examination of the interaction between religion, society, and culture in the work of classical theorists such as Freud, Marx, Durkheim and Weber, and in the writings of modern theorists like Berger, Luckman, Bellah, and Geertz. Students learn to apply theoretical concepts to the data of new religious movements in American society. Mr. Mamiya.

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

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

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

Not offered in 2007/08.

270b. Departmental Colloquium ( 1/2)

Joint exploration for majors of methods in the study of religion. The department, Ms. LiDonnici.

Permission required.

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

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

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

Senior religion majors only. Permission required.

One two-hour period bi-monthly.

280b. Religion and Sexuality (1)

Religion and sexuality are often seen as antithetical, a perception reinforced by images of abstemious monks and chaste martyrs who renounced earthly pleasure in pursuit of higher matters of the spirit. But even traditions that have strict prohibitions regarding sexual practice often celebrate a spiritual life suffused with erotic metaphors. What places do bodies and their desires have within the practice and piety of a religious community? In what ways do sexual proscriptions and restrictions inform central expressions of devotion and ritual? What aspects of religion emerge when approached from the special vantage point of sexuality? Ms. Whilte.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Alternate years: not offered in 2007/08.

315b. Religion and American Culture. (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 315 and American Culture 315) 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.

Topic for 2007/08b: Evangelicalism in America. Evangelical Protestantism has had a powerful impact on the religious, political, and popular cultures of the United States. This course explores the variety of theological and institutional manifestations of Evangelicalism, with particular attention to the participation of evangelicals in American politics, evangelical popular culture, gender and sexuality, evangelical approaches to religious diversity, and racial diversity within Evangelicalism in the United States. Ms. Weisenfeld.

Prerequisites: Religion 150, 227, or 266 or by permission of the instructor.

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 2007/08a: Satan. Satan is a multifaceted symbol: a binary opposite for the ultimate good (however this is defined); a tricky lawyer whose job is to trip us up; a countercultural figure representing rebellion against hegemonic power, our feelings about that rebellion, or sometimes the power itself. In literature, rhetoric, and the imagination, Satan is also a useful stand-in for our enemies, taking on their shape and opinions—which sometimes look just like our own. In this seminar, we trace the development of the figure of Satan through biblical, early Jewish, early Christian, early modern, and contemporary sources. Ms. LiDonnici.

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

330a. 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.

Topic for 2007/08a: Religion, Race, and Democracy in American Pragmatism. How can religion be salvaged when we can no longer rely on supernatural certainty? In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a group of American thinkers, the Pragmatists, were seized by this crisis of religious uncertainty, a dilemma with which a set of African American thinkers also grapple. Their answers, classical and contemporary, give rise to a variety of frameworks for thinking about the morals of both democratic participation and of race. This class asks how Pragmatism’s discourse on religion makes it especially good terrain for articulating these concerns, and how pragmatic conceptions of religion influence the identity labels we use to create political community. Readings include William James, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Cornel West. Mr. Kahn.

[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 2007/08.

350a. Comparative Studies in Religion (1)

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

Topic for 2007/08: Violent Frontiers: Colonialism and Religion in the Nineteenth Century. What is the relationship between religion and colonialism and how has this relationship shaped the contemporary world? During the nineteenth century the concept 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 violent undertakings. By the mid-nineteenth century, Europe’s territorial energy was focused on Asia and Africa, two vast regions where religious and colonial practices collided and often colluded in fascinating ways. This seminar explores some of the ways religion was construed in the nineteenth century—and how this impacted the way in which we think with and use the term today—as well as look at specific case studies of religious-colonial interactions in China and Southern Africa. Themes for discussion include among others various nineteenth-century interpretations of religion, the relationship between economic and capitalist ideologies, the notion of frontier religion, and the imagination and production of society. Mr. Walsh.

[355a. 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.

Not offered in 2007/08.

[365b. Gods of the City: Religion in America] (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 365) An exploration of the relationship between religious expressions and urban life in the United States. This course asks what happens to religion in American cities and whether there are distinctly urban religious experiences and practices. It inquires about the relationship between religious behavior and urban popular culture, religious power and urban politics, religious idioms and the routines of daily urban life. Particular attention is given to ethnic and religious diversity. Ms. Weisenfeld.

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

Not offered in 2007/08.

385b: Asian Healing Traditions (1)

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: Hindu Traditions (Religion 231) or permission.