Religion Department

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.

I. Introductory

100b. 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 periods.

101a. 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.

104a. Religion and the Civil Rights Movement (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 104) 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.

This course is taught at the Otisville Correctional Facility.

105a. Issues in Africana Studies (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 105)

Not offered in 2009/10.

125. 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.

127b. The New Testament and Early Christianity (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.

150a and b. Jews, Christians, and Muslims (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 among the three religions. Mr. Epstein and Ms. Leeming.

Two 75-minute periods.

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. Walsh and Mr. Jarow.

Open to all students except seniors.

Two 75-minute periods.

185a. The Golden Age - Jewish Culture in Muslim Spain (1)

This course will examine the cultural exchanges between Arab-Muslims and Jews of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. A period celebrated for its intellectual, scientific, and artistic accomplishments, the Golden Age was a time of relative religious tolerance when dominant and minority cultures were in a constant dialogue. Looking at a variety of texts that reflect those symbiotic relationships, we will try to understand the communal life, world views and aesthetic tastes of Sefaradi Jews of the time as well as how they are imagined by modern writers. T. Weitzman.

Open to freshman only. Satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

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 periods.

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.

II. Intermediate

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. Ms. LiDonnici. Required for all majors.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

204. Islam in America (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 204) 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: one unit in Religion or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

206. Social Change in the Black and Latino Communities (1)

(Same as Africana Studies and Sociology 206) 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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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.

Prerequisite: one 100-level Religion class.

Two 75-minute periods.

210b. 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 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), Central America, the Iranian revolution, South Africa, slave religion, and aspects of feminist theology. This course is taught at the Otisville Correctional Facility. Mr. Mamiya.

Special permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

212a and b. Western Esotericism (1/2)

(Same as Asian Studies 212) Topic for 2012/13a:Emerson and the Tradition of Conscience. This half semester course looks at the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson within the context of New England Transcendentalism and the post-Reformation emergence of one's "inner voice" as a person's most authentic and authoritative spiritual guide. The primary focus of the course is on Emerson's essays (Self-RelianceNatureThe Oversoul, etc.). Critical literature on Emerson's position in contemporary spirituality will be considered as well. Emerson's writings engage a wide variety of Asian philosophies. Mr. Jarow.

Topic for 2012/13b: Spiritual Gifts of Modern India. 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.

Prerequisite: one 100-level course in Religion.

First 6-week course.

213. 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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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 periods.

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

(Same as Jewish Studies and Hebrew 217) 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.

218. 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 2012/13.

219. 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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

220b. 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.

Open to all students.

Topic for 2012/13b: The End of the World. Apocalyptic destruction is a perennial subject of fascination, a powerful symbol that individuals and groups use to paint their vision of the world on a universal canvas - sometimes with horrifying consequences, both personal and political. Why do people predict the Last Days so confidently from time to time, and what happens to them on the day after? Why do some people project the End Times as a fearful doom, while others long for them and even take actions to bring them about? In this class we will study the roots of apocalyptic belief in Biblical prophetic texts and commentaries and use those to contextualize this contemporary preoccupation. Ms. LiDonnici.

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

Two 75-minute periods.

221. Voices from Modern Israel (1)

(Same as Jewish Studies 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 2012/13.

230. 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 2012/13.

231. 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 permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

233. The Buddha in the World (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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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 permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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 2012/13a: Celestial Sphere: Astrology & Mythopoetics. This course focuses on the powers, limitations, structures, and nuances of myth through a critical examination one of the major languages of Western Esotericism, Astrology. Beginning with an investigation of diachronic (historical evolution) versus synchronic (present symbolic system) visions of the zodiac, the course investigates the archetypes, systems of folklore, psychologies, and esoteric practices associated with astrology, repeatedly returning the semiotic question: “How and why does these things mean what they are purported to mean.” Mr. Jarow. Prerequisites: None (preference will be given to students who have taken Religion 150 or 152)

Topic for 2012/13a: Myth and Ritual in Film. Through ten important films of the 20th 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.

Topic for 2012/2013b: 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.

Topic for 2012/2013b: Interpreting Religious Fits, Trances and Visions. This course is an introduction to ways of understanding and interpreting religious experiences. The course analyzes religious experiences from a variety of (mostly American) contexts, with attention to how religious people themselves describe experiences and how scholars try to account for them. It examines moments of sudden conversion, insight or inspiration, nature mysticism, and ritual practices that are performed by Muslims, Christians and others. Mr. White.

255. 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 permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

266. 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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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: one unit at the 100-level in Religion, one unit at the 100-level in Anthropology or Sociology, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

268b. Sociology of Black Religion (1)

(Same as Africana Studies and Sociology 268) A sociological analysis of a pivotal sector of the Black community, namely the Black churches, sects, and cults. Topics include slave religion, the founding of independent Black churches, the Black musical heritage, Voodoo, the Rastafarians, and the legacies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. This course is taught to Vassar students and incarcerated men at the Otisville Correctional Facility. It will be taught at the Otisville Correctional Facility. Mr. Mamiya.

Special permission required.

280a. Nat (1)

Sex and gender are very important and controversial themes of our culture and are rooted in and informed by a religious discourse. This course examines the origins of the current Christian and Jewish approaches to these themes. We will focus on the textual foundations of these approaches. All texts are read in English translation. Agi Veto.

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

300a. Senior Seminar (1)

An exploration of critical issues in the study of religion. Mr. Walsh.

Senior Religion majors only.

One 2-hour period.

301b. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Written under the supervision of a member of the department; taken in the Spring semester.

Permission required.

310. 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 two units in Religion or Africana Studies at the 200-level, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

317a. The Bible as Book: Manuscript and Printed Editions (1)

(Same as History and Media Studies 317) The Bible has been one of the most influential texts in Western history. Yet there are great differences in what constituted “the Bible” and how it has been produced, disseminated, read, and discussed across the centuries and across cultures. Drawing from the perspective of the history of the book, this seminar provides an opportunity to examine and consider key moments in the production and transmission of biblical texts from Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine in Antiquity, to editions of the bible produced in Europe, England, and America, from the early middle ages to the present. Examples include Codex Sinaiticus, the Vienna Genesis, Codex Amiatinus, the Lorsch Gospels, the Winchester Bible, Bible Moralisée, the Biblia Pauperum, the Wycliffe Bible, the Gutenberg Bible, translations of Erasmus and Luther, the Geneva Bible, the King James Bible, the Eliot Indian Bible, the Woman’s Bible, bibles of fine presses, family bibles, childrens’ bibles, and recent translations. We discuss current scholarship relating to these and other editions, but our approach is largely empirical; by looking closely at books and considering all aspects of their makeup (such as scribal tendencies, binding and format, typography, illustrations, texts and translations, commentaries and paratexts), we try to gain an understanding of the social, economic, cultural and political factors behind the appearance of particular bibles, and also the nature of their influence in particular places. In order to “go to the source,” we rely heavily on examples from the Bible Collection in the Archives & Special Collections Library. Ms. Bucher and Mr. Patkus.

Prerequisite for advanced courses is ordinarily two units of 200-level work in history, or permission of the instructor. Specific prerequisites assume the general prerequisite.

320. Studies in Sacred Texts (1)

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

Not offered in 2012/13.

330b. Religion, Critical Theory 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 2012/13b: Unquantifiable Goods: Religion and Democratic Life. This seminar in religious ethics will examine the way certain goods of human life; i.e., grief, love, hope, reverence, beauty, anger, human rights, resist easy quantification and are deeply relevant to our public lives together. How do humans struggle to articulate and express these goods to each other? Given that these goods are not facilely quantifiable, how are they appropriately expressed publically and politically? Texts by Reinhold Niebhur, Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, and Cornel West will all be considered. Mr. Kahn.

340. Women in the Classical Jewish Tradition (1)

Not offered in 2012/13.

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.

Not offered in 2012/13.

346. Studies in Jewish Thought and History (1)

Advanced study in selected aspects of Jewish thought and history. May be taken more than once for credit when the content changes.

Not offered in 2012/13.

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 2012/13a: Tantra: The Serpent Power. (Same as Asian Studies 350) This seminar offers the opportunity to study one text, the Sat Cakra Nirupana, translated by Arthur Avalon as The Serpent Power. By going through this work line by line, and by looking at critical works on Tantra as well, we closely examine esoteric Indian theories of language and the power of mantra, visualization, the relationship of mind and body, yogic anatomy and energy dynamics, and the place and purpose of imagination in spiritual practice. Mr. Jarow.

Prerequisite: either Religion 231 (Hindu Traditions) or 250 (Yoga in the West).

Topic for 2012/13a: 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 will examine the history of math and physics, how American and British religious thinkers appropriate this scientific literature, and how ideas about infinite spacial dimensions are taken up in popular novels, science fiction and fantasy. Mr. White.

Prerequisite: one course in Religion, one in Modern American History or one in American Culture; or permission of the instructor.

Topic for 2012/13b: 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.

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

One 2-hour period.

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.

380b. 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.

381a. Martin and Malcolm: Religion and Social Change in America (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 381) The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Minister Malcolm X have been the towering figures of African American history over the past sixty years. This course examines their social class background, life histories, autobiographies, writings, speeches and actions. Relevant biographies and FBI documents also are examined. The unusual circumstances of their assassinations are probed. The course highlights the role of religion in their lives and their strategies for social change in America. This course is taught at the Otisville Correctional Facility. Mr. Mamiya.

Special permission of the instructor is required.

385b. 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.

Prerequisite: Religion 231 or permission of the instructor.

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 (231 gets priority) or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2013/14.

399. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)