Undergraduate Courses Fall 2023

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Religion and the Public Conversation (CD or SA)
Subject associations
REL 100

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary study of religion and its engagement with society and culture. We will identify where and how religion operates in the public conversation, especially in, but not limited to, the United States. Classes will be focused around topics that intersect with religion in the public conversation such as place, media, race, body, art, and law. Students will develop recognition of the different ways people use religion to construct meaning, boundaries, and identity and will demonstrate the ability to engage in informed dialogue around issues of religion.

Additional description

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

Instructors
Jenny Wiley Legath
Fall 2023
Who Wrote the Bible (HA)
Subject associations
REL 230 / JDS 230

This course introduces the Hebrew Bible (Christian "Old Testament"), a complex anthology written by many people over nearly a thousand years. In this class, we will ask questions about the Hebrew Bible's historical context and ancient meaning, as well as its literary profile and early reception. Who wrote the Bible? When and how was it written? What sources did its authors draw on to write these stories? And to what circumstances were they responding? Students will develop the skills to critically analyze written sources, and to understand, contextualize, and critique the assumptions inherent in modern treatments of the Bible.

Additional description

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

Instructors
Liane M. Feldman
Fall 2023
Ancient Judaism (HA)
Subject associations
REL 246 / JDS 246

In this course we will learn about the diverse world of ancient Jews and discover not one, but many ancient "Judaisms." The course will cover a broad timespan, from the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple under Persian rule in the sixth century BCE, to the compilation of the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds sometime in the fifth and sixth centuries CE. This eventful millennium witnessed imperial conquests, revolts, and much inner-Jewish strife. We will examine literary and material sources, produced by Jews in Egypt, Palestine, and Babylonia, including stories, philosophical writings, amulets, and burial inscriptions.

Additional description

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

Instructors
Yedidah Koren
Fall 2023
African American Religious History (HA)
Subject associations
REL 256 / AAS 256

This course explores the history of Black religions from the colonial times to the present. We study African American religions within and in relation to the African Diaspora and how various forces of modernity have shaped Black religions and the resilience and ingenuity of Black people across the centuries. Students will come away with an enhanced sense of the complexities of Black religious life through explorations of race and religion, religion and resistance, and the emergence of New Religious Movements like the Black Hebrews, Buddhists and Hip Hop.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religion in the Americas

Instructors
Nicole M. Turner
Fall 2023
Christian Ethics and Modern Society (CD or EM)
Subject associations
REL 261 / CHV 261

With a focus on contemporary controversies in public life, this course surveys philosophical and theological perspectives on the ethos of liberal democracy oriented toward rights, equality, and freedom. For example, what do Christian beliefs and practices imply about issues related to feminism, racism, nationalism, and pluralism? What is the relationship between religious conviction, morality and law? Special emphasis on selected political and economic problems, bioethics, criminal justice, sexuality, the environment, war, immigration, and the role of religion in American culture.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Satisfies Critical Approaches (CA) Requirement for Majors

Instructors
Eric S. Gregory
Fall 2023
Religion and its Modern Critics (EC)
Subject associations
REL 263

The most penetrating critiques of Christianity have the power to unsettle our sense of self and disrupt our most natural ways of being - for Christians and non-Christians alike. For these critiques don't focus on attacking religious beliefs alone; rather, they target many of the deepest values, attitudes, and tendencies at the core of Christianity and Christian-molded cultures, and perhaps even at the core of our humanity. This course explores some of the key 19th and 20th century critiques of Christianity. It will involve opening ourselves up to the self-reckoning demanded by the likes of Kierkegaard, Emerson, Nietzsche, Baldwin, and Butler.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Fall 2023
Christianity and the Holocaust (EM)
Subject associations
REL 308 / HUM 308

This class will wrestle with an enormous evil that deeply implicates Christianity, both theoretically and practically - from its scriptures and creeds to its ecclesiology and history. We will examine how Christians, male and female, both contributed to and resisted the Nazi genocide that came to be known as the Holocaust, as well as the theological and moral dimensions of anti-Semitism more generally. The approach is inter-disciplinary and pluralistic, with readings including historical, sociological, and ethical analyses by Jews, Christians, and non-religious authors. Specific issues addressed include the nature of sin, especially hatred.

Additional description

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

Instructors
Timothy P. Jackson
Fall 2023
The Making of Hinduism (HA)
Subject associations
REL 313 / SAS 313

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.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Guy T. St. Amant
Fall 2023
Slavery, Sex and Empire in Muslim Societies (HA)
Subject associations
REL 337 / NES 357 / GSS 448

This course explores the theory and practice of slavery in specific Muslim societies from the 8th century up through the 20th. Our goal is to recover the lives of the enslaved and to explore intersections of sex, gender and slavery. Students will read primary sources in translation: papyri, letters, chronicles, coins. Why did some former slaves become rulers? What role did the sexual/reproductive labor of female slaves play in the family? Why did European colonial authorities perpetuate slavery in the modern period? What is the legacy of slavery in Muslim societies?

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Fall 2023
Indigenous Expressions: Scriptures and Ethnohistory (HA)
Subject associations
REL 359 / LAS 388

This class will concentrate on some of the earliest and most extensive religious and historical texts authored by Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, specifically by the Maya, Mexica (Aztec), Hopi, and Diné (Navajo). This set will allow for a critical and comparative study of Native rhetoric, mythic motifs, notions of space and time, morals, and engagements with non-Native peoples and Christianity.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religion in the Americas

Instructors
Garry Sparks
Fall 2023
Eliminating Suffering: Netflix, Drugs, and Spiritual Practice (EM)
Subject associations
REL 361 / GHP 370

We suffer. Sometimes more, sometimes less - but we all suffer, and often profoundly. What is it about the human condition that seems to make suffering inevitable? What can we do to deal with it? One approach is to try to change the external conditions causing the trouble. A very different approach sees the most important change as being within ourselves. Can we eliminate - or at least assuage - our suffering by changing the way we direct our attention (Netflix...), by changing the way we experience (drugs...), or by changing our manner of desiring (spiritual practices...)? We will approach these questions practically and theoretically.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Gabriel M. Citron
Fall 2023
Race and Religion in America (CD or SA)
Subject associations
REL 377 / AAS 376 / AMS 378

In this seminar we examine how the modern constructed categories of "race" and "religion" have interacted in American history and culture. We explore how religious beliefs and practices have shaped ideas about race and how American racialization has shaped religious experience. We consider the impact of religion and race on notions of what it means to be American and how these have changed over time. Topics include race and biblical interpretation; religion and racial slavery; religion, race, and science; popular culture representations; race, religion, and politics; and religious resistance to racial hierarchy.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religion in the Americas

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld
Fall 2023
Junior Colloquium
Subject associations
REL 399

First semester junior majors participate in a colloquium with a member or members of the faculty. In addition to assignments throughout the term that prepare majors to research and write a junior paper (JP), students are expected to produce a five to seven-page JP proposal.

Additional description

Required Colloquium for Junior Majors     

Instructors
Seth A. Perry
Fall 2023
Kant: Ethics, Religion, Politics (EM)
Subject associations
REL 402 / PHI 402 / CHV 407

A seminar on Kant's ethics, metaphysics, and social/political philosophy insofar as they relate to his thinking about religion. Kant famously criticizes traditional theistic proofs as illegitimate speculation, but his own positive project involves God in important ways, even in the Critical period. In this course, we look at the pre-Critical theology, the Critical arguments against dogmatic and ecclesiastical religion, the positive arguments for "practico- theoretical" and "moral" faith, and the roles played by the concepts of evil, grace, hope, and progress in an enlightened, moral religion.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Andrew Chignell
Jason M. Yonover
Fall 2023
Senior Departmental Exam
Subject associations
REL 983

Instructors
Staff
Fall 2023
Senior Thesis
Subject associations
REL 984

Instructors
Staff
Fall 2023

Cross Listed Courses

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Muslims and the Qur'an (EM)
Subject associations
NES 240 / REL 240

A broad-ranging introduction to pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Islam in light of how Muslims have approached their foundational religious text, the Qur'an. Topics include: Muhammad and the emergence of Islam; theology, law and ethics; war and peace; mysticism; women and gender; and modern debates on Islamic reform. We shall examine the varied contexts in which Muslims have interpreted their sacred text, their agreements and disagreements on what it means and, more broadly, their often competing understandings of Islam and of what it is to be a Muslim.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Muhammad Q. Zaman
Fall 2023
Ancient Greek Religion (HA)
Subject associations
CLA 319 / REL 301 / HLS 308

Living as we do in a culture that is primarily either secular or monotheistic and in which the sacred and profane are largely kept separate, how can we possibly understand the world of ancient polytheism? The ancient Greeks did not have a word for "religion", nor did they conceive of "religion" as a distinct domain of human experience. Rather, the practices, beliefs, and rituals that we would term "religious" were embedded in every aspect, public and private, of life. We will explore how people interacted with their gods in their everyday lives, both individually and collectively, and how this interaction shaped and structured Greek society.

Instructors
Michael A. Flower
Fall 2023
Indigenous Peoples and Christianity (CD or HA)
Subject associations
HUM 353 / REL 304 / AMS 314

The momentous encounter of Europeans and Indigenous peoples had shattering consequences for the worldview and identity of both groups. The encounters raised a host of existential questions that seemed to demonstrate the inadequacy of each culture's traditional religious models of the world. This course explores the effects of contact from early 17th-centruy encounters in Canada and North America into the residential schools of the 19th and 20th centuries. The course explores the effects of contact: contrasting prescriptive Christian ideals of conversion with the descriptive reality of mutual change and influence.

Instructors
Emma J. Anderson
Fall 2023
Introduction to Islamic Theology (HA)
Subject associations
NES 339 / REL 339

This course is a general survey of the main principles of Islamic doctrine. It focuses on the Muslim theological discourse on the concepts of God and His attributes, man and nature, the world to come, revelation and prophethood, diversity of religions, and the possibility and actuality of miracles.

Instructors
Hossein Modarressi
Fall 2023
Islam in South Asia through Literature and Film (LA)
Subject associations
SAS 345 / REL 345

This course is a survey of Islam in the Indian subcontinent. We begin with the earliest Muslim descriptions of India and the rise of Persian poetry to understand how Muslims negotiated life at the frontiers of the Islamic world. Next we trace patterns of patronage and production at the Mughal court and the development of Urdu as a vehicle of literary composition including a discussion of the Progressive Writer's Movement and the "Muslim Social" genre of Hindi cinema. The course concludes with an examination of contemporary novels from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Students will gain an informed perspective on Islam beyond the headlines.

Instructors
Sadaf Jaffer
Fall 2023