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Religious Existentialism (EC)

An in-depth study of the existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, Martin Heidegger, Hans Jonas, and Emmanuel Levinas. Most broadly, we will consider arguments about the relations between philosophy and existence, reason and revelation, divine law and love, religion, ethics and politics, and Judaism and Christianity. More particularly, we will focus on arguments about the meanings of different affective and cognitive states such as anxiety, boredom, and enjoyment as well as about historical and individual suffering and trauma.

Instructors
Leora F. Batnitzky
The Making of Hinduism (HA)

Hinduism is often regarded as one of the world's most ancient living religions, and its oldest scriptures were composed more than 3000 years ago. It may therefore come as a surprise that people did not start calling themselves Hindus until the 15th century. How should we understand the late appearance of this term as a self-referential category, and what does it tell us about religion in South Asia? In this course, we will trace Hinduism's roots from the earliest period up to the 15th century, examining not only continuity in religious thought and practice but also diversity in the traditions that came to form a single Hindu community.

Instructors
Guy T. St. Amant
Sympathy for the Devil: Satan in American Religious Thought from Contact to Q (EM)

Every story needs a villain. This seminar explores the figure of Satan and the concept of the demonic in American theology, history, and art over five centuries. Satan has always been about much more than theological notions of sin and transgression, serving as a tool for invoking perceived threats and for marginalizing political, racial, and cultural others. Some, on the other hand, have embraced the character of Satan to liberatory or comedic effect. Looking at sources both scholarly and artistic, we will attempt to assess the stakes of "demonic" rhetoric and take the measure of the most despised major player in American religious history.

Instructors
Seth A. Perry
Poetry and Transcendence in some Western Christian Mystical Theologies (EM)

The "mystical" as understood in the Western Christian traditions refers to experience of the divine pressing on the limits of language, and poetry is often its natural expression. This course examines some poetic expressions of the mystical from the Hebrew Song of Songs through Dante, John of the Cross, George Herbert, to Hopkins, and TS Eliot.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Buddhism in Japan (HA)

This course will examine representative aspects of Buddhist thought and practice in Japan from the sixth century to the present. We will focus on the major Buddhist traditions--including Lotus, Pure Land, esoteric Buddhism, and Zen--as well as Buddhism and the literary arts, modern challenges to traditional Buddhism, and contemporary Buddhist movements. Readings will include scriptures, sermons, tales, and philosophical essays, as well as selected secondary sources. Some background in either Japan or Buddhism is strongly recommended.

Instructors
Jacqueline I. Stone
Japanese Mythology (CD or HA)

Myths are powerful. The stories we will read were first recorded around 1,300 years ago and continue to be told in the present day. We will ask why people -- both in Japan and humans more generally -- tell these types of tales. To answer this question, we will explore comparative approaches that search for universal patterns, myths as "ideology in narrative form" used as tools of legitimization, and appropriation of myths for new purposes in original contexts including feminist critiques.

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Japanese Mythology (CD or HA)

Myths are powerful. The stories we will read were first recorded around 1,300 years ago and continue to be told in the present day. We will ask why people -- both in Japan and humans more generally -- tell these types of tales. To answer this question, we will explore comparative approaches that search for universal patterns, myths as "ideology in narrative form" used as tools of legitimization, and appropriation of myths for new purposes in original contexts including feminist critiques.

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Mind and Meditation (EC)

This course examines the philosophy, history, and methods of Buddhist meditation. Primary readings will be Buddhist works on the nature of the mind and the role of meditation on the path to liberation (nirvana). We will ask how traditional Buddhist views have been reshaped by modern teachers, and we will interrogate the significance of current research on meditation in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and the philosophy of mind. In addition to other coursework, students will be practicing meditation and keeping a log and journal.

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Mind and Meditation (EC)

This course examines the philosophy, history, and methods of Buddhist meditation. Primary readings will be Buddhist works on the nature of the mind and the role of meditation on the path to liberation (nirvana). We will ask how traditional Buddhist views have been reshaped by modern teachers, and we will interrogate the significance of current research on meditation in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and the philosophy of mind. In addition to other coursework, students will be practicing meditation and keeping a log and journal. Some coursework in Philosophy or Religion is expected.

Instructors
Christopher Kelley
Mind and Meditation (EC)

This course examines the philosophy, history, and methods of Buddhist meditation. Primary readings will be Buddhist works on the nature of the mind and the role of meditation on the path to liberation (nirvana). We will ask how traditional Buddhist views have been reshaped by modern teachers, and we will interrogate the significance of current research on meditation in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and the philosophy of mind. In addition to other coursework, students will be practicing meditation and keeping a log and journal.

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Gender Trouble: Transing and Transpassing in Muslim Societies (SA)

This seminar explores the ways in which complex gendered identities have been articulated, challenged, and lived in Muslim societies, past and present. Topics include: gender and "gender trouble" in Classical Islamic thought; intersexed and trans identities; same-sex relationships; colonial and post-colonial gendered discourses; being Muslim and LGBTQ; gendered Western responses to Muslim refugees and migrants. We will address these topics through close reading of primary texts in translation, critical readings of modern scholarship, as well as in explorations of literature, art and media from the Muslim world.

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Women and Gender in Islamic Societies (SA)

What were/are the representations of gender and sexuality in Muslim societies in the past and present? Is there one Islam or Islams? What are the domestic, ritual, economic, and political roles that Muslim women have played/play? What about the body, sex and "gender trouble"? What can we learn about the daily lives of Muslim women in past/present? How have modern Muslim women challenged gender roles and male religious authority? Material include: Qur'an, legal texts, medieval and modern literature; newspapers; letters; films; novels; internet sites. Guest speakers. No prior background in Islam or Gender Studies required.

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Women and Gender in Islamic Societies (SA)

Inter-disciplinary seminar makes use of texts in translation including: Qur'an and hadith, legal treatises, documents, letters, popular literature, autobiography, novels and subtitled films. These texts are supplemented by scholarly literature from religious studies, anthropology, history, gender studies, and sociology. Topics include: women in the Qur'an and hadith, sexuality and the body, woman and law, gendered space, marriage and the family, nationalism and feminism, gender and post-colonial societies, women's voices, women and Islamic revivalism. No prior background in gender studies or Islamic studies required.

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Women and Gender in Islamic Societies (SA)

What were/are the representations of gender and sexuality in Muslim societies in the past and present? Is there one Islam or Islams? What are the domestic, ritual, economic, and political roles that Muslim women have played/play? What about the body, sex and "gender trouble"? What can we learn about the daily lives of Muslim women in past/present? How have modern Muslim women challenged gender roles and male religious authority? Material include: Qur'an, legal texts, medieval and modern literature; newspapers; letters; films; novels; internet sites. Guest speakers. No prior background in Islam or Gender Studies required.

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Buddhism and Politics (EM)

A study of Buddhist traditions of social and political thought, traditional and modern. We will ask how Buddhist thinkers and political actors have imagined, shaped, and critiqued their societies, and how Buddhists have challenged, and been challenged by, modern and contemporary political conversations. What is the role of a Buddhist ruler? Is the monastic community best understood as a model society, a social force, or an escape from politics? When is Buddhism a motivation for war, and when for denouncing violence? When have Buddhist traditions supported social divisions, and when have they sought to transcend them?

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Interpreting the Qur'an: Text, Context, and Materiality (EC)

This course will involve a close reading of the Qur'anic text and its interpretive traditions. The course will also go beyond approaching scripture as a bounded, collected, literary text, by examining the ritual, experiential and material encounters between the Qur'an and Muslim communities. How does the Qur'an operate within societies? What are its multiple functions? How are the controversial verses often associated with the Qur'an interpreted? Through a critical engagement with categories like "scripture," and "interpretation" students will be introduced to larger debates on hermeneutics and material culture within the study of religion.

Instructors
Tehseen Thaver
Interpreting the Qur'an: Text, Context, and Materiality (EC)

This course will involve a close reading of the Qur'anic text and its interpretive traditions. The course will also go beyond approaching scripture as a bounded, collected, literary text, by examining the ritual, experiential and material encounters between the Qur'an and Muslim communities. How does the Qur'an operate within societies? What are its multiple functions? How are the controversial verses often associated with the Qur'an interpreted? Through a critical engagement with categories like "scripture," and "interpretation" students will be introduced to larger debates on hermeneutics and material culture within the study of religion.

Instructors
Tehseen Thaver
God's Messengers: Prophecy and Revelation in the Islamic Tradition (HA)

Prophecy and revelation are the foundations of Islam. What is the meaning of revelation and of scripture in Islam? Why is the Qur'an considered to be the final revelation? How has the Prophet Muhammad been understood and represented by Muslims in the past and in the present? What role do Muhammad's "brother prophets," including Abraham, Moses and Jesus, play in the Qur'an and in Islamic tradition? Was Mary, mother of Jesus, a prophet? This seminar explores these questions through primary sources in translation as well as through the lens of ritual, sacred geography, images, novels, and film.

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Slavery, Sex and Empire in Muslim Societies (HA)

This course explores the theory and practice of slavery in Muslim societies from the 8th century up through the 20th. We use case studies; read primary sources in translation; explore the intersection of sex, gender and slavery; and try to recover the experiences of the enslaved. Who were the Islamic abolitionists? Why did many European colonial authorities actively perpetuate slavery? Why did legal slavery last until 1962 in Saudi Arabia? What is the legacy of slavery in Muslim societies? How are the formerly "invisible" descendants of African slaves in the Middle East advocating for recognition?

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
The Jews in Ancient Egypt (HA)

The Jews of Egypt were one of the first diaspora communities in antiquity, and, from the fourth century BCE until the second century CE, undoubtedly the best documented. This course will examine the rich body of texts that allows us to trace the development of Judaism in Egypt, including works such as the Septuagint (the translation of the Torah into Greek) and the biblical commentaries of Philo of Alexandria, who combined Platonic philosophy with Judaism, as well as documentary papyri that illumine the everyday lives of Egyptian Jews. It will also look at how other Egyptians responded to a community whose central text was so anti-Egyptian.

Instructors
Martha Himmelfarb