Undergraduate Courses Spring 2023

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Black Religions in Slavery and Freedom (SA)
Subject associations
REL 356 / HIS 348

This course explores how enslaved and free Black people created and sustained religious communities in the United States during the eras of slavery and freedom. It explores the resonances of African traditions and the roles of conjure, Islam and Christianity in sustaining Black people through slavery and postemancipation transformations. The course challenges the paradigm of Black religion as always pointing toward freedom and explores how the transition in status from enslaved to free was reflected in and influenced by Black religious practices and communities.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religion in America

Instructors
Nicole M. Turner
Spring 2023
Ethics of Eating (EM)
Subject associations
CHV 395 / PHI 399 / REL 396

We are what we eat--morally as well as molecularly. So how should concerns about animals, workers, the environment, and the local inform our food choices? Can we develop viable foodways for growing populations while respecting ethnic, religious, class, and access differences? The goal of this course is not to prescribe answers to these questions, but to give students the tools required to reflect on them effectively. These tools include a knowledge of the main ethical theories in philosophy, and a grasp of key empirical issues regarding food production, distribution, and disposal. Includes guest lectures, instructor-led small-group sessions.

Instructors
Andrew Chignell
Spring 2023
Great Books of the Jewish Tradition (HA)
Subject associations
JDS 202 / REL 202

An introduction to some of the major works of Jewish thought and literature that survive from antiquity until the early modern era. We'll closely read a wide array of primary texts in translation, from the Hebrew Bible to Spinoza, discuss the worlds in which the people who produced them lived, and consider some of the ways in which they add up to an ongoing tradition across time and space - and some of the ways in which they don't. Students with reading knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic are warmly encouraged to use them, but this is optional; nor prior knowledge of Judaism is required.

Instructors
Eve Krakowski
Spring 2023
Healing & Justice: The Virgin Mary in African Literature & Art (CD or LA)
Subject associations
AAS 314 / COM 398 / REL 303 / AFS 321

The Virgin Mary is the world's most storied person. Countless tales have been told about the miracles she has performed for the faithful who call upon her. Although many assume that African literature was only oral, not written, until the arrival of Europeans, Africans began writing stories about her by 1200 CE in the languages of Ethiopic, Coptic, & Arabic. This course explores this body of medieval African literature and paintings, preserved in African Christian monasteries, studying their themes of healing, reparative justice, & personal ethics in a violent world. It develops skills in the digital humanities & comparative literary studies.

Instructors
Wendy Laura Belcher
Spring 2023
How to Change the World: A Seminar on US Christianity and Social Movements (SA)
Subject associations
REL 397 / AMS 297

Have you ever wanted to change the world? So have lots of other people. In this course, we'll explore how American Christians have participated in social movements since the early 20th century, and we'll see how religion fits into their mobilization strategies. We'll focus on four case studies: the Catholic Worker movement; Black church women during the Civil Rights movement; the early Christian Right; and advocacy around HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ rights. This course centers ethnographic research methods in the study of religion, and students will learn skills such as data coding, participant observation, and qualitative interviewing.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religion in America

Instructors
Lauren R. Kerby
Spring 2023
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities: Justice Then and Now (EM)
Subject associations
HUM 470 / CLA 470 / REL 470

This course examines ancient texts that have been central to modern conceptions of justice. We will analyze these texts in their own context, understanding both their own arguments and those that they criticize; look at how they have functioned to support different positions in the more recent past; and interrogate whether they should continue to have a role in shaping our notions of justice, and if so, what role that should be. The seminar will include discussions with justice-impacted individuals, as well as the potential for interested students to carry out a community-based project.

Instructors
Joshua H. Billings
Moulie Vidas
Spring 2023
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

Traditions Stream Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Muhammad Q. Zaman
Spring 2023
Japanese Mythology (CD or HA)
Subject associations
REL 323 / EAS 358

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.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religions of Asia

Satisfies Critical Approaches (CA) Requirement for Majors

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Spring 2023
Jesus: How Christianity Began (EC)
Subject associations
REL 252 / CLA 252 / HLS 252

Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What do we know and how do we know it? This course takes up these questions and surveys the diverse history of interpretation of the life and teachings of Jesus and how this history shaped and continues to shape contemporary views of and debates about politics, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, and civil rights. Throughout the course, we will consider both historical material such as early gospels, letters, and Jewish and Roman sources as well as modern contexts of interpretation in theology, film, art, and music. This course is designed and open to all regardless of (or no) religious background.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Lydia C. Bremer-McCollum
Spring 2023
Philology and History of Jewish Sources (HA)
Subject associations
REL 403

This course offers to students with significant background in Jewish Studies orientation to the critical tools for studying the Jewish tradition and its development in multiple geographical and historical contexts. We begin with the Hebrew Bible, go through Rabbinic Literature, continue through Kabbalah and the Early Modern period. Knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic and background in Bible and Talmud is necessary.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions

Instructors
Yaacob Dweck
Moulie Vidas
Spring 2023
Politics and Religion (EM)
Subject associations
POL 309 / REL 309

We revisit some of the basic normative questions to do with religion and democratic politics: how can democratic polities be protected from religion, and how can religion be protected from politics? Might certain forms of democratic politics depend on religious sources? In particular, might liberal democracy actually "live off" religious sentiments in ways that many liberal theorists fail to acknowledge? Does even the religiously neutral state need a "civil religion" of some sort or other to preserve its moral foundations?

Instructors
Jan-Werner Müller
Spring 2023
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 2023
Religion and Reason (EC)
Subject associations
REL 264 / CHV 264 / PHI 264

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Staff
Spring 2023
Religion and the City (EM)
Subject associations
HUM 339 / REL 398 / URB 339

This course introduces students to the socio-historical and political processes through which religion is represented, contested, and managed in the built environment. The course pays particular attention to the way that claims of religion implicate questions of diversity, difference, and justice in contemporary cities. Students will study the conceptual and historical debates on the role and place of religion in the public sphere and analyze empirical cases of how spatial decisions regulate or enable expressions of religious difference in urban settings.

Instructors
Babak Manouchehrifar
Spring 2023
Religious Existentialism (EC)
Subject associations
REL 311

An in-depth study of the existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierkegaard, Simone Weil, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. The course begins with a reading of Ecclesiastes and then focuses on the category of "existence" in its relation to time, revelation and eternity. The course also focuses on the existential meanings of different affective and cognitive states such as anxiety, boredom, and enjoyment as well as historical and individual suffering and trauma.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Leora F. Batnitzky
Spring 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 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?

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Shaun E. Marmon
Spring 2023
South Asian Utopias (CD or EM)
Subject associations
SAS 365 / COM 399 / REL 389

We live in uncertain times, marked by ever-escalating crises. It's no surprise that the moment has seen a revival of utopian thought: a casting about for radical solutions, a quest for dramatic reinvention. Historically, utopia has largely been seen as a Western construct. But what models -and by extension potential solutions- does the non-Western world offer? This course examines utopia from a South Asian perspective. Considering a range of examples (the nation state, Maoist revolution, environmental movements, intentional communities), it asks how change occurs, and what cautionary lessons history offers those seeking a more perfect world.

Instructors
Staff
Spring 2023
Sufism: The Mystical Tradition of Islam (EM)
Subject associations
REL 239 / NES 239

In Western media and popular discourse, Sufism, or the mystical tradition in Islam, is often portrayed as the 'soft-side' of Islam and contrasted with the harsh 'legalism' of the Shari`a or Islamic law. In this class, we will try to interrupt this portrayal through a rigorous exercise of textual and conceptual interrogation. We will explore the institutional and intellectual history, meditation and disciplinary practices, poetry and literature, as well as orientalist and neo-imperialist representations of Sufism. A major emphasis of this course will be on closely reading and analyzing Sufi texts from a range of genres in translation.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Islam

Instructors
Tehseen Thaver
Spring 2023
Sympathy for the Devil: Satan in American Religious Thought from Contact to Q (EM)
Subject associations
REL 320

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.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religion in America

Instructors
Seth A. Perry
Spring 2023
Tantric Religion in South Asia (EM or HA)
Subject associations
REL 395 / SAS 395

This course introduces students to the Tantric traditions of premodern India through a close study of the idealized religious careers of Tantric initiates. It uses primary sources (in translation) to reconstruct the milestones, practices, and experiences that defined what it meant to be a member of a Hindu or Buddhist Tantric community. We will consider especially the broader religious context, Tantric initiation, and post-initiatory rituals involving yogic exercises, sexual practices, and violent sorcery. Students will also gain an understanding of the relationship between Hindu and Buddhist forms of Tantric scripture and practice.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Guy T. St. Amant
Spring 2023
The Power of Images in Late Antiquity: Jewish Art in Its Historical Contexts (LA)
Subject associations
JDS 224 / REL 217

This course explores the long and rich tradition of Jewish image making and the history of Jewish thought on the power of images in religious life, from the Hebrew Bible through the end of antiquity. We concentrate particularly on Jewish engagement with the visual cultures of the surrounding Greek, Roman, and Christian societies. In spring 2023, we will focus on the new archaeological discoveries in the Roman village of Huqoq in the Galilee, which have transformed our understanding of the place of art in Judaism. Students who take the course will have the opportunity to participate in the Huqoq Excavation Project in summer 2023.

Instructors
Ra'anan S. Boustan
Spring 2023
Tibetan Buddhism (EM)
Subject associations
REL 227

This course is a survey of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, focusing on the doctrines and practices of the main schools of tantric ritual and meditation. Topics covered include: the formation and maintenance of institutionalized lineages; lives of Buddhist saints, scholars and reincarnate lamas; politics and religion; and Tibet through the lenses of the Chinese, and the West.

Additional description

Traditions Stream Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Spring 2023

Undergraduate

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