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This course will examine the ways different religious beliefs and practices are represented in a variety of print, film, television, and other media in our culture and the ways in which those representations may function to influence opinions, actions, and policy. Analysis of media content will accompany an introduction to the study of religions presented and misrepresented in popular culture. Meets general academic requirement HU.
Gender and sexuality as fundamental aspects of human experience play important roles in all major religious systems whether explicit and positive or suppressed and denigrated. In this course we will explore how the varied understandings of gender and sexuality in different cultures and at different times have influenced religious practice and belief and how, in turn, religions have affected these understandings. We will also consider how this interaction between gender and sexuality and religion has affected the status of men and women in their various roles and orientations. Meets general academic requirement HU and DE. Offered as a Cluster with BIO 283.
From Genesis’ depiction of the divine organization of the universe in the Hebrew Bible to Hindu traditions of creation’s emanation from Brahma, narratives concerning the origin of the world have attracted devotional and scholarly attention from around the globe since ancient times. In this course, we will use the comparison of creation stories as an introduction to the study of myth, its relationship to ritual, and its place and function in religious traditions. Furthermore, we will critically examine the ways in which different cultures have used stories of origins to address questions regarding contemporary political, social, or religious contexts. Particular emphasis will be placed on creation stories from the ancient Near East and Bible, and the symbolic and literary connections between them. Meets general academic requirement DE and HU.
Why is travel almost universally understood to hold the potential for significant transformation? How do various communities and individuals define sacred travel through their own practice, and how does it define them in turn? This course employs the many methodologies of Religion Studies in investigating pilgrimage around the world. We will look to a number of modern theoretical interpretations of sacred journey, and will examine ethnographic accounts of pilgrimage primarily in the contexts of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Pilgrimage will serve as our window onto these traditions’ ethical systems, cosmologies of space and time, religious art and aesthetics, and views of the body’s agency and power, and in some cases, onto the contested space of multiple traditions’ holy ground. Meets general academic requirement DE and HU.
This class will study the lives of Jewish women across a broad spectrum of historical, cultural, and geographic contexts. We will examine how the study of women reshapes our understanding of Jewish history and experience, and how Jewish women’s history relates and contributes to the broader field of women’s history. Through close reading of both primary and secondary texts, class discussions, and writing assignments, this class will explore the engagement of women in Jewish religious life, as well as in Jewish communities, economic structures, and politics. Meets general academic requirements HU and W.
Starting in the 1950s, scholars subscribed to the notion that an increasingly modern society would witness a decline in religion variously understood in terms of secularity, secularism and secularization. This course is an exploration into the concepts of “religion” and “the secular” and the complex relation between them. We will begin by asking: What is modernity, and does it in fact mark the end of religion? If not, what form does religion take in modernity? Is there a modernity to religion? In order to answer some of these questions, we will consider both classical accounts of the secularization thesis, as well as recent reformulations of and challenges against previous understandings of secularism. We will examine the relationship between secularism and the modern liberal values of tolerance, freedom, equality, autonomy and democracy, and ask whether the former ensures and/or is necessary for the latter. The course will move across several disciplinary boundaries including sociology, religion studies, political science, philosophy and anthropology. Meets general academic requirements HU and DE.
In this course, students explore the methodological and theoretical frameworks that define the academic study of religion. Coverage includes analysis of multiple disciplinary perspectives including sociology, anthropology, history, phenomenology, and psychology. Additionally, students will put the theoretical into practice by using the methods studied in class to analyze the beliefs and practices of various religious traditions. Meets general academic requirements HU and W
This course seeks to introduce students to the diversity of religious thought and practice in India from its earliest manifestations in recorded history to the present. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of four of the world’s religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism—and also home to a large population of Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians. In this survey course, we will examine the emergence of these traditions within their specific socio-historical contexts and explore the dynamic interactions and resemblances between them. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between traditions as they are expressed and understood in texts and as they are lived and experienced in everyday life. We will read primary sources in translation including the great Indian epic, the Rāmāyana and draw on material from various disciplines that inform the study of religion including history and anthropology, as well as film. No prior knowledge of India or Indian religions is required. Meets general academic requirements HU and DE.
This course will address the origins and development of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and trace the interactions of these religions as they have shaped the spiritual and ethical environment that exists in China today. The course will also consider material culture, popular forms, and folk traditions and, finally, the unique challenges posed by the modern Chinese political situation. Meets general academic requirements HU and DE.
The Jewish religion includes a fascinating array of rituals, laws, holidays, and life-cycle events. This course is designed to introduce Judaism as it exists today around the world, including Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, Middle Eastern and African Jewish communities, and diverse Jewish communities in the U.S. Meets general academic requirement HU.
This course studies the distinctive scriptural foundation of Christianity in its literary, historical, and theological contexts. Topics may include Jesus as an historical figure and as the object of early Christian faith; the relationships of various early Christian communities to one another and to contemporary Judaisms, Greek religions, and philosophies; the place and role of Paul; the gospel genre and its several examples; the definition of the canon; approaches to interpreting the New Testament. No prior study of the New Testament is expected. Meets general academic requirement HU.
The Qur'an is the primary Islamic sacred text, considered by Muslims the verbatim word of God and the basis for all Islamic belief and practice. While Muslim extremists interpret the Qur'an to justify horrific actions, moderate Muslims find in it a call for peace and even pluralism. Yet it is an incredibly difficult text to access: complex, varied and often opaque. In this class, we will read the Qur'an and its interpreters in an attempt to understand how it has shaped and continues to transform Islamic beliefs and practices. We will also consider the Hadith, reports of the life and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and its relationship to the Qur'an. This class is writing-intensive which will provide opportunity to reflect not only on our own writing but also on the nature of the Qur’an’s textuality. Meets general academic requirement HU, DE and W.
This course will examine the Holocaust and its historical context by considering both the pre-war position of Jews in Europe and the factors that led to the destruction of European Jewry during WWII. Religious context and responses to these events within affected communities will be studied through a variety of sources, including literature, film and memoirs. Meets general academic requirement HU. Offered as a Cluster with HST 114
Buddhism conceptualized as a religion of monks, as a story about male enlightenment and divinity, or as void of sex, emotion and family ties, ignores much of the richness of the world’s Buddhist traditions. This course offers both a corrective to traditionally male-oriented narratives of Buddhist history and follows Ursula King's injunctive to "take up a more gender balanced and more dialogical methodology." We will explore Buddhist understandings of gender, Buddhists' negotiations of the power of sexuality and sexual discipline, the lives of significant Buddhist women and the intersection of environmental concerns, race, gender, literacy and economics within contemporary feminist Engaged Buddhism both within geographic Asia and among diasporic and non-Asian communities. Meets general academic requirements HU and DE.