Undergraduate Courses Spring 2024

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The Religions of China (EM)
Subject associations
REL 226 / EAS 226

A thematic introduction to Chinese religion, ranging from ancient to contemporary. The first half focuses on classics of Chinese philosophy (Book of Changes, Analects of Confucius, Daoist classics, etc.). The second half utilizes journalism, ethnography, films, social media, and author interviews to consider contemporary China, popular movements, state control of religion, cosmology, gods, saints, divination, gender, and ritual.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Stephen F. Teiser
Spring 2024
Sacrifice: From Moses to the Modern Era (HA)
Subject associations
REL 234 / JDS 234 / NES 206

This course is an interdisciplinary introduction to the idea of sacrifice in ancient Israel. We will examine sacrifice as a religious practice through literature, history, archaeology, and theology. Students will also study material artifacts related to sacrifice, and learn about the histories of excavating, acquiring, and curating those artifacts for public display. The focus of this course will be on ancient Israelite religion, but we will discuss related Mesopotamian, ancient Greek, Christian, and Jewish materials. At the end of the course, we will critically analyze multiple representations of sacrifice and temples in the modern world.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Liane M. Feldman
Spring 2024
Introduction to Islam (SA)
Subject associations
REL 236 / NES 236

This course is a survey of Islamic civilization and culture in both historical and in contemporary times. We cover major themes of Islamic religious thought including the Quran and its interpretation, the intellectual history of Islam, Sufism, Islamic law, and Muslim reform. Through the utilization of both secondary and primary sources (religious and literary texts, films), we examine Islam as an ongoing discursive tradition. In addition to gaining an understanding of the problems associated with the study of Islam, this course should equip you with the tools required to analyze broader theoretical issues pertinent to the study of religion.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Tehseen Thaver
Spring 2024
The New Testament and Christian Origins (HA)
Subject associations
REL 251 / HLS 251 / MED 251

How did the earliest followers of Jesus understand his life and death? What scriptures did they read and how do those texts relate to the New Testament? Where did they hold their secret meetings? How did women participate in leadership? What did early Christians do when Jesus did not return? Why did Jesus' followers suffer martyrdom? This course is an introduction to the Jesus movement in the context of the Roman world. We examine major themes and debates through an array of relevant sources, such as lost gospels, Dead Sea scrolls, and aspects of material culture.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Jonathan K. Henry
Spring 2024
Mapping American Religion (HA)
Subject associations
REL 255 / AAS 255 / HIS 255

This course merges research in American religious history with creating an archive using digital and deep mapping practices. It explores the politics of mapping, geography and race before delving into a place-based exploration of American religious communities during the late 19th century. The course investigates extant archives of postemancipation southern Christian communities and applies strategies of historical analysis to explore the formation and transformation of American religious community.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions in the Americas

Instructors
Nicole M. Turner
Spring 2024
Religion and Film (HA)
Subject associations
REL 257 / AMS 397

This course explores how the religious is depicted and engaged, even implicitly, in feature films. Movies selected are considered significant with respect to director, script, music, cinematography, impact in film history, influence in wider culture, etc., aside from any religious dimensions but then also because of how, why, and in what ways something is conveyed about religion - critically or affirmatively (or both). The first portion of the course will examine the presentation of specific religions. The second portion will explore religious concepts such as love, evil, fate, justice, heroes, [extraordinary] power, freedom, etc.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions in the Americas

Instructors
Garry Sparks
Spring 2024
Biomedical Ethics (EM)
Subject associations
REL 303 / CHV 303

This course investigates ethical assumptions and problems in medicine, nursing, biomedical research and engineering. Readings are philosophical and theological, and we evaluate a host of perspectives on issues and cases. We first consider accounts of human life and biological evolution and how they bear on our understanding of God and neighbor. We then examine some key definitions, virtues, and principles. Next we address these topics: assisted reproduction, genetic control, abortion, euthanasia and the right to die, informed consent, paternalism, confidentiality, just allocation of scarce resources, limits on research protocols, and cloning.

Additional description

Area of Study Stream Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Timothy P. Jackson
Spring 2024
Buddhist Literature: Scripture in Stone (HA)
Subject associations
REL 326

This course in Buddhist literature is centered around Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, from ninth century central Java, Indonesia. Borobudur's thousands of relief panels depict some of the most conceptually rich and historically important pieces of classical Buddhist literature. We will study this monumentalized literary corpus, and interrogate the choices made in representing Buddhist stories, principles and practices in different forms. And, we will place Borobudur in context, to develop broader understandings of the textual and physical worlds of premodern Buddhism across Asia.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Guy T. St. Amant
Spring 2024
Through Muslim Eyes: Lived Islam in Pre-Modern Times (HA)
Subject associations
REL 332 / NES 313

How do we find a window into the lives of ordinary Medieval Muslims? How did the ethics, language and rituals of Islam inform their daily lives? What can we learn about emotions, struggles, material culture, relationships, and lived religion? Course materials include translated letters, petitions, contracts, court cases, tombstone inscriptions, graffiti, and excerpts from chronicles and legal texts. We will also make use of artefacts, images, archaeological evidence and coins. Two class sessions will be held in Rare Books and Special Collections. The class will make a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Spring 2024
Who's Out and Who's In: Ancient Jews Defining Community, Belonging, and Identity (SA)
Subject associations
REL 348 / JDS 348

Defining the boundaries of a community inherently involves identifying those who belong and those who do not. In antiquity, Jews grappled and debated the contours of their community. Some envisioned pathways through which people who were not Jewish could become Jewish. Others were focused on separating themselves not only from non-Jews but from other Jews as well, marking them as Outsiders and denying their legitimacy. In this course we will analyze diverse frameworks employed in ancient Jewish texts to conceptualize "Otherness," to cultivate community, to establish group boundaries, and to define Jewish identity.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Yedidah Koren
Spring 2024
Love and Justice (EM)
Subject associations
REL 364 / HUM 364 / GSS 338

Analysis of philosophical, literary, and theological accounts of love and justice, with emphasis on how they interrelate in personal and public life. Is love indiscriminate and therefore antithetical to justice, or can love take the shape of justice? What are the implications for law, politics, and social criticism? Particular attention will be given to discussions of virtue, tragedy, forgiveness, friendship, and happiness.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Eric S. Gregory
Spring 2024
Buddhist Stuff: Material Culture and Worldly Desire (LA)
Subject associations
REL 382 / EAS 382

Our world is filled with stuff. Some people have too much. Others want more. Advertisers promise happiness through possessions, while psychologists tell us there's a limit to how much pleasure wealth can bring. Meanwhile trash heaps overflow, creating environmental disasters. How do we live in a material world? Do objects bring us happiness or cause hardship? What is the value of stuff? This class explores how Buddhists have responded to these questions over the last 2,500 years through readings as well as hands-on learning using rare books and precious works of art in the Princeton University Art Museum and Library collections.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Spring 2024
What is Scripture? (EC)
Subject associations
REL 383

What is (a) scripture? How does a text become one? How does scriptural authority succeed or fail, and for whom? We will explore these questions through 1) readings in religious studies and genre theory; 2) case studies of both "new" and "old" scriptures such as The Book of Mormon, Dianetics, and the Bible; and 3) activities designed to develop an understanding of scripturalization in social life beyond the realm of "religion." Emphasis will be on reading scripturalized texts as primary sources, investigating their internal logic, discursive influences, and rhetorical effects to think about how communities have formed around them.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions in the Americas

Satisfies Critical Approaches (CA) Requirement for Majors

Instructors
Seth A. Perry
Jae Pi
Spring 2024
Islamic Political Thought (EM)
Subject associations
REL 415 / NES 415

This seminar provides a survey of Islamic political thought from its beginnings in the 7th century to the present. What are the key debates in the history of Islamic political thought - on conceptions of government, on religion and politics, on power, on non-Muslims? How did political thought develop in various Arab, Iranian, and Indian contexts? What transformations has it undergone since the late 19th century? How does the legacy of political thought inform political and religious contestations among Muslims today? These are among the questions we will address in this seminar.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Muhammad Q. Zaman
Spring 2024

Cross Listed Courses

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Great Books of the Jewish Tradition (HA)
Subject associations
JDS 202 / REL 202

This course is intended to introduce students to the classical Jewish tradition through a close reading of portions of some of its great books, including the Hebrew Bible, the Midrash, the Talmud, the Passover Haggadah, Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, the Zohar, and Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise. We will pay particular attention to the roles of reading and interpretation in forming the Jewish tradition.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Ra'anan S. Boustan
Spring 2024
Religion and Ethics in Environmental Justice Activism (CD or SA)
Subject associations
ENV 204 / REL 204 / AMS 204

To what degree has religion shaped the environmental justice movement? This course in environmental humanities and social sciences examines the impact of religious ideas, persons, practices, and institutions on the values and strategies of environmental, food, and climate justice activists. It also grapples with the significance of this impact for environmental thought and policy. Students engage with primary sources, media, scholarship, and community organizations to study cases in the US South, New Jersey, the tropics, and the planet as a whole, culminating in a collaborative project with a community partner.

Instructors
Ryan Juskus
Spring 2024
Philosophy, Religion, and Existential Commitments (EM)
Subject associations
PHI 211 / CHV 211 / REL 211

The choice of a kind of life involves both fundamental commitments and day-to-day decisions. This course is interested in zooming out and zooming in: how should we adopt commitments, and how do we realize them in ordinary life? What is the purpose of life, and how can you fulfill it? Should you live by an overall narrative, or is your life just the sum of what you actually do? Are commitments chosen or given to you? Are the decisions we think of as high stakes important at all? When should you relinquish what you thought were your deepest commitments? What should you do when commitments clash?

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Lara M. Buchak
Andrew Chignell
Spring 2024
Anthropology of Religion: The Afterlives of Religion (CD or SA)
Subject associations
ANT 217 / HLS 216 / REL 218

While 20th c. proclamations on the death of religion were clearly ill-conceived, the concept of religion has languished in anthropology for some time. This course provides a post-mortem, while also exploring new ways of understanding the influence of mystery and divinity on social life. We begin with classic theories of religion and major critiques before exploring traditions like Orthodox Christianity, Santería/Ocha and Hinduism alongside UFO cultures and immortalist associations. Readings pair ethnography from the Mediterranean to Melanesia with new theoretical approaches, asking students to read religion and non-religion against the grain.

Instructors
Clayton Goodgame
Spring 2024
Professional Responsibility & Ethics: Succeeding Without Selling Your Soul (EM)
Subject associations
EGR 219 / ENT 219 / REL 219

The course objective is to equip future leaders to successfully identify and navigate ethical dilemmas in their careers. The course integrates ethical theory and practice with practical tools for values-based leadership and ethics in professional life (e.g., public policy, for-profit and non-profit, business, tech, and other contexts). It also considers the role of religion as a potential resource for ethical formation and decision-making frameworks. The class explores contemporary case studies and includes guest CEOs and thought leaders from different professional spheres and backgrounds.

Instructors
David W. Miller
Spring 2024
Jesus and Buddha (EM)
Subject associations
HUM 290 / REL 282

This course invites us to compare the stories, teachings, lives, deaths, and communities associated with Jesus and Buddha. While respecting each tradition's unique and distinctive sources, cultures, ideas and legacies, it invites us to deepen our understanding of each tradition by looking through the lens of the other. Course readings include accounts of the lives of Jesus and Buddha, what each taught about how to live and create society, and how they articulate the meaning of life and death, suffering and salvation.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Does NOT satisfy sub-field requirement; does count as departmental.

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Elaine H. Pagels
Spring 2024