An encounter with the different sacred books of the world’s major religions. Both the books and differing attitudes in these traditions towards sacred books are examined. Books investigated include the Bhagavad Vita, the Analects of Confucius, the Qur’an and the Jewish and Christian Bibles. (HU)
Introduces students to the study of religion through an exploration of what different religious traditions have to say about the great mystery that we all face, death. Because we all must die, all religions must deal with the challenge and sense of crisis provoked by the deaths of those close to us, of innocent victims of disaster, disease and crime, and our own imminent deaths. Death thus provides an excellent point of comparison among the various religious traditions. (HU)
Introduction to philosophical and religious modes of moral thinking, with attention given to ethical issues as they arise cross-culturally in and through religious traditions. The course will reference the United Nations Millennium Goals to consider family life and the role of women, social justice, the environment, and ethical ideals. Particular focus varies but may include one or more of the following: abortion and reproductive health, the death penalty, religiously motivated violence, and problems of personal disorder (heavy drinking, anorexia, vengeance).
How do sociologists, psychologists and philosophers answer such questions as: Why and how do religions arise? Why and how do people develop beliefs in God? Where do religious scriptures come from? Why do people ascribe authority to religious traditions? Why has religious faith declined in modern society?
Past and present responses to nature in world religions. Contemporary topics include the animal rights debate, ecofeminism, and the development of environmental ethics. Is "the end of nature" at hand? Why is the environment a religious issue?
Origins and early development of religions, with focus on interactions of religion, art, and technology in the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Special attention to the emergence of patriarchal social forms and the figure of the goddess. Interdisciplinary methods with a consideration of feminist theories of cultural development.
A comparative survey of spiritual traveling-from overland pilgrimages to inward journeys in search of truth. Through autobiographies, diaries, poetry and films, students encounter the experiences of seekers from diverse religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
This course explores the principal religions of Asia, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and Shinto. What is each tradition's view of human potential? How is ultimate reality depicted and experienced? What do home altars, boisterous festivals, and silent meditation halls have in common? Several primary texts are read in translation.
Examines the role of food in religious life through the study of feasts, holy foods and forbidden foods. Case studies may include the Eucharist, the Passover Seder, Ramadan, and Buddhist teachings on vegetarianism. The class will attend special events such as a Moravian Love Feast and the Iftar meal during Ramadan. If possible, the class will cook together, ending the semester with a Ukrainian twelve-course meatless Christmas Eve meal.
The contemporary world is replete with social phenomena that resemble religious thought and practice - sports fandom, trekkies, nationalistic rituals, online gaming, military comraderie and codes, environmental activism, etc. In this course we will explore and discuss many of these "virtually" religious phenomena through the lens of the study of religion. (HU)
Rapper KRS ONE once stated that, “Rap is something you do and Hip-Hop is something you live.” This course thinks through the global evolution of Hip-Hop culture and the public and academic study of Black Religions as responses to structural and historical inequality and the search for meaning in culture by considering themes of resistance, constraint, power, the body, deviance, and morality over and against race, class, gender, and sexuality from a range of academic and cultural sources.
A thematic introduction to the foundational religious traditions of South Asia: Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam. Students explore the social and spiritual dimensions of these religious worlds through scripture, ritual practices, narrative and teaching traditions, music and art.
Course critically investigates inter-religious dialogue, and important issue in the contemporary academic study of religion. The course will focus on the problem of inter-religious encounter; the limitations of the eight different models of dialogue; the questions of power and identity as they arise both within religious traditions and between religious people who intentionally engage in conversation about their religions with those from other traditions. Course description
A survey of Japan’s diverse religious heritage and its impact on contemporary culture. Japanese approaches to the self, the world, and the sacred are considered in comparative perspective. Topics covered include: Shinto, Buddhism, Zen, Confucianism, the way of the warrior, folklore, and postwar movements.
This course explores the history and culture of Japan from the sixth century to the nineteenth century. How did Japan develop its distinct sense of itself? What aspects of Japanese culture have gained recognition on an international scale? Special consideration is given to the rise of the warrior class, the flowering of religious expression, and the dynamics of family life.
Judaism is both a textual tradition and a lived religion. Students read basic Jewish texts-Bible, Talmud, Midrash-and study the ways Jews sanctify the life cycle through rites of passage, and the round of the year through the festival cycle. (HU)
Introduction to the Christian tradition from its early variety and subsequent classical definition in the church councils up to the enlightenment. Special emphasis will be placed on the multiform interpretations of the Christian message.
Reading passages from the Bible with an eye toward distinguishing and understanding different sorts of questions that can be asked of them and various perspectives that can be adopted when reading them. What are these stories about? What do they mean, when, and to whom?
A thematic introduction to Islamic history, doctrine, and practice. Topics include: Qur'an; prophecy and sacred history; ritual practices; community life; legal interpretation; art and aesthetics; mysticism; politics and polemics. (HU)
A survey of the religious themes that entered fantasy literature in the 1950s in the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and the humanist resistance to those themes in works by J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, or others.
We will explore the religious, existential, political, and ethical dimensions of RAP in relation to the work of Tupac Shakur. We will analyze Tupac’s work—alongside classic memoirs, documentaries, and social theory texts—with an interest in understanding the conceptions of God, justice, love, the sacred, and the profane reflected in them, and how these conceptions connect to and reflect American and African American cultural practices and traditions. Graded assignments will include oral presentations, creative expression projects, and analytical essays.
In this course we will examine the way that archaeological work might inform the study of the Bible. We will also study the way that archaeological data have been used either to confirm or falsify the biblical texts. As part of our study, we will examine in detail several archaeological sites in order to understand better the difficulties in interpreting the material remains that archaeologists dig up. (HU)
Science fiction is sometimes society’s most compelling portrait of our hopes and fears about new scientific advances. This course will use novels, films and philosophic analysis to focus on ethical issues in human enhancement (aka “genetic engineering,” “designer babies”). Texts will include Ronald M. Green, “Babies by Design”, and sci fi by writers such as Octavia Butler and Marge Piercy. (HU)
Examines the mysterious and beautiful tales told by Hasidim, participants in the movement of spiritual revival which arose within 18th century Judaism. Compares Hasidic tales to European fairy tales, and shows how later writers transformed Hasidic narratives to express their own religious or literary meanings. (HU)
Reading passages from the Bible with an eye toward distinguishing and understanding different sorts of questions that can be asked of them and various perspectives that can be adopted when reading them. What are these stories about? What do they mean, when, and to whom? (HU)
Advances in biological science give rise to ethical issues: genetic research; medicine; reproductive technology; contraception; access to health care; the list is endless. In this class we will challenge ourselves by picking a different issue in the news every week. Students will present possible news articles, the class will vote, and we will discuss our favorites at the next class. We will have to be fast on our feet, and each week will be a surprise, but we will have fun and learn a lot. There will be two short papers but the grade will depend heavily on class participation.
Longtime rapper KRS ONE, aka, “The Teacha” once stated that,“Rap is something you do and Hip-Hop is something you live.” Traditionally seen as a response to racism, poverty, and urban social decay, hip hop culture is now considered a global, local, and trans-cultural phenomenon. Similarly, religions of the “oppressed” – that is, those that arise from within and among communities seen as “marginal” – are often viewed as responses to similar social problems.
Is God dead? Some people think so. Do you? Come decide for yourself. This course looks at the philosophical and theological death of god movement(s) with particular attention to its origins, its popularity in certain historical moments, and future prospects and directions of this movement, with particular attention to the changing shape of the movement in light of area studies and contemporary identity politics. Posed as an ongoing question—is god dead?—the course is for anyone interested in the idea of god past, present, and future. (HU)
From Aeschylus to contemporary thinkers like Richard Dawkins, for thousands of years many have tried to "kill" the idea of god. But can an idea ever really "die"? This course examines Atheistic formations, the rise of secularism, and voices throughout the ages to the contemporary "New Atheist" movement.
The search for immortality by Monkey, kongfu master and mischievous monk, is one of the most popular tales in Asia. A combination of comedy and religious quest, the traditional novel "Journey to the West" is filled with tricks and lively storytelling that teach without preaching. The class will read the entire novel looking carefully at the social context of its production but also its timeless lessons for transcendence. (HU)
This course will explore the rise of fundamentalist religious movements and their involvement in violent conflicts. Topics to be considered will include the relationship between fundamentalist religious ideologies and terrorism, and the kinds of responses that fundamentalist religious movements present to the development of a global marketplace and the spread of secular nationalisms. (HU)
"You in the presence of a King, scratch that you in the presence of a God," says rapper Jay Z in the song "Crown." From Illuminati based conspiracy theories of black expressive culture to the rhetorical use of "devils" "monsters" and "demons" that proliferate in American discourse surrounding marginal identities, this course takes a cue from hip hop's rhetorical signifying on god to examine the relationship between contemporary cultural production, identity formation (race, religion, gender, sexuality, class), privilege/marginality, and the "operational acts of identification" used in proce
This course explores the diversity of new black religious movements in the contemporary Diaspora by employing multiple disciplinary approaches-utilizing popular cultural forms such as film, television, music, dance, comedy, and fashion. A range of religions will be sampled-with focus on themes such as identity, evil, pain, oppression, marginalization, suffering, justice, home, memory and embodiment. Special attention is given to historical context in which religions emerge and the significance of embodiment in black religious thought. (HU)
In the tradition of the Arabs, poetry is born of song, and song is in turn the ultimate expression of intense erotic joy and longing. This course introduces students to the captivating musical experience of being "carried away" by a musical performance, whether you are the listener or the musician. Students will explore the history and the development of "Aghaanii Tarab" (Tarab songs), as they get "carried away" by the rich and pervasive musical legacy of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon in the modern age. (HU)
This course will examine both the history and the central texts and ideas of the Jewish mystical tradition. We will read a broad range of texts, including the ancient Sefer Yetzirah or Book of Creation, the Zohar, the works of Isaac Luria and his disciples, and the writings of some of the 18th and 19th century Hasidic rabbis. We will also explore the contemporary emergence of Kabbalah and the activities of the Kabbalah Center in contemporary America. (HU)
This course will introduce students to Buddhist practices, philosophical systems, and cultural forms, from Buddhism’s Indian origins to its spread in East Asia and Tibet. Students will explore how Buddhists have approached the problem of death, the possibility of freedom, and forms of social and individual love and concern. Course materials include poetry, biographies, philosophical writings, art, and film.
A survey of the religious themes that entered fantasy literature in the 1950s in the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and the humanist resistance to those themes in the works of J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman. (HU)
Is The Thing Jewish? What does Superman have to do with the bible? Do Orthodox Jewish girls fight trolls? In this course, we will closely examine comic books and graphic novels in order to expand our understanding of what Jewishness might mean. With a POW! and a BAM!, we will consider many topics “from Krakow to Krypton,” including American Jewish history, how representations of Jews are gendered, global Jewish traditions, monsters and mutations, Jewish baseball players, and more!
This course explores the relationship between religion and violence through an in-depth study of five discrete historical events: the wars of religion in Europe, the Sepoy rebellion in British India, the shinto nationalism of pre-WWII Japan, the rise of the Arab empire in late antiquity, and religious sentiments at play in the American civil war. (HU)
The religious expression of the Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews as found in the Jewish Scriptures (TANAK/Christian Old Testament). Near Eastern context of Hebrew religion, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the monarchy, prophecy, Exile and Return. Emphasis on historical, literary, critical problems, and newer socio-historical methods.
The variety of approaches to Judaism in the period following the Babylonian exile through the second century C.E. The literature studied will include Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. (HU)
Early Christianity from its beginnings until the end of the second century. Coverage includes the Jewish and Hellenistic matrices of Christianity, traditions about the life of Jesus and his significance, and the variety of belief and practice of early Christians. Emphasis on encountering primary texts. (HU)
A study of the origins, development and consequences of religion from a psychological perspective. Attention will be given to classic and contemporary sources, with a focus on major psychoanalytic theorists of religion (Freud, Jung, Erikson); psychological analyses of religious experience (e.g., Wm. James, Victor Frankl); and the diverse cultural and religious forms that structure the connection between religion and psychology (e.g., Buddhist psychology, Japanese Morita therapy).
Moral issues that arise in the context of health care and related biomedical fields in the United States today, examined in the light of the nature and foundation of moral rights and obligations. Topics include: confidentiality, informed consent, euthanasia, medical research and experimentation, genetics, the distribution of health care, etc. (HU)
The new millennium has seen the emergence of new forms of Judaism and of Jewishness in North America: Jewish hip hop music, graphic novels, zines, performance arts, blogs, earth-based spirituality, and ecological activism. The course will examine the roots of these phenomena in Jewish traditions and texts and in American popular culture, and explore the uses of hybridity and pastiche in the forms of Jewish identity they create. (HU)
Ancient sources that claim to provide information about Jesus of Nazareth. Approaches taken to Jesus’ life and career; early Christian interpretations of the significance of Jesus; methodology in assessing evidence for the historical Jesus and his message.
A critical look, from a philosophical perspective, at some fundamental provlems of religion: The nature of religious experience and belief, reason and revelation, the existance and anture of God, the problem of evil, and religious truth. (HU)
A critical look, from a philosophical perspective, at some fundamental problems of religion: The nature of religious experience and belief, reason and revelation, the existence and nature of God, the problem of evil, and religious truth. (HU)
How have thinkers within the three major Abrahamic traditions handled ethical questions and dilemmas throughout history? This course will focus on many issues including but not limited to violence and pacifism, debates concerning revelation versus reason, the different accounts of justice and peace, the nature of scripture and the divine. We will look comparatively both within and across these traditions. (HU) Junior Writing Intensive
How major Jewish thinkers from the first to the 20th centuries confronted questions at the intersection of religion and philosophy: the existence and nature of God, free will, evil, divine providence, miracles, creation, revelation, and religious obligation.
Examines the mysterious and beautiful tales told by Hasidim, participants in the movement of spiritual revival which arose within 18th century Judaism. Compares Hasidic tales to European fairy tales, and shows how later writers transformed Hasidic narratives to express their own religious or literary meanings.
An exploration of alternative religious beliefs and practices in the late 21th century. Topics include the new pluralism, adaptations of Asian traditions, goddess religion, and spiritual environmentalism. What distinguishes a religion from a cult? What goes awry when violence is perpetrated in the name of religion?
Contributions of, and limitations on, women at different stages of Jewish history, using both primary sources and secondary material. Experience of modern Jewish women, and the contemporary feminist critique of traditional gender roles.
Examines the transformation of folk and popular Judaism from the Old World, through the period of immigration to America, to ethnic and later forms of American Jewish culture. Attention paid to concept of folklore revivals and their meanings. Four case studies: folk tales and storytelling, klezmer music, life-cycle rituals, and food.
An introduction to Islamic philosophy in the medieval era, the Golden Age of Islamic civilization. The course focuses on primary sources. Readings include both expositions and critiques of philosophical doctrines and argument, selected from the writings of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, Ibn Tufayl, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
Comparative exploration of the nature and meaning of religious and artistic experience as reflected in shamanism (both prehistoric and tribal), mystic traditions (especially Taoism and Christianity), and contemporary self-taught artistic visionaries (e.g., Jean Dubuffet, Howard Finster, Mr. Imagination, Lonnie Holley, Norbert Kox). Various disciplinary perspectives will be employed including comparative religions, anthropology, art history, and psychology.
Examines how numerous Muslim thinkers-religious scholars, modernists, and Islamists-have responded to the changes and challenges of the colonial and post-colonial eras. Special emphasis is placed on the public debates over Islamic authority and authenticity in contemporary South Asia.
A survey of the dynamic encounter between Islamic and Indic civilizations. Topics include: Islamic identity, piety and practice; art and aesthetic traditions: inter-communal exchange and conflict; the colonial legacy; and the politics of contemporary religious nationalism.
A survey of the dynamic encounter between Islamic and Indic civilizations. Topics include: Islamic identity, piety and practice; art and aesthetic traditions; inter-communal exchange and conflict; the colonial legacy; and the politics of contemporary religious nationalism. (HU)
Explores the Muslim world's diversity and dynamism in multiple cultural contests-from the Middle East and North Africa, to Asia and America-through literature, ethnography, and films. Topics include: travel and trade networks; education; women and gender; Islam and cultural pluralism; colonialism; and identity politics.
This course will focus on developments in Islamic thinking and ethics that emerge from the modern encounter between Muslim societies and the West. We will discuss Islamic modernism and fundamentalism through short primary texts from a variety of modern Muslim thinkers.
Fundamental theses in the experience of modern Jewry; confrontation with secular culture; crisis of religious faith; Zionism and the renewal of Jewish nationalism; the problem of Jewish identity in America; and the impact of the Holocaust.
Diverse cultural and social forms through which American Jews express their distinct identity. Is American Jewry an example of assimilation and decline or creative transformation? What, if anything, do American Jews share in common? Compatibility of Judaism with individualism, pluralism, and voluntarism. How have the Holocaust and the State of Israel shaped the self-understanding of American Jewry?
What factors explain the current growth of spirituality in American Jewish life? How does Spirituality differ from conventional religion? What is the impact of Jewish spirituality in contemporary Jewish worship? How does the growth of Jewish spirituality relate to the broader issues of Jewish identity? What accounts for the growing interest in Buddhsim among Jews? What is the impact of feminism on Jewish spirituality? How does the growth of spirituality among Jews relate to the growth of spirituality in general American culture?
The breakup of the religious culture of medieval Christian Europe in the reformation movements of the sixteenth century. The origins and varieties of Protestantism; the intersection of religious ideas and politics in Germany, Switzerland, Britain, France and the Netherlands; the "wars of religion" and the emergence of the European state system.
Consideration of the religious and cultural significance of Taoism in its various historical forms. Primary attention will be given to a close reading of some of the most important texts of the early philosophical tradition (e.g. Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu) and of the later religious tradition (e.g. Pao P’u Tzu and other selections from the Tao Tsang). Contemporary implications of Taoist thought will also be considered (e.g. "The Tao of Physics", "a Taoist on Wall Street", and "the Tao of Japanese Management").
History, doctrines, and practices of Zen Buddhism in China, Japan, and the West. Monastic life, notable Zen masters, Zen’s cultural impact, and enlightenment. Current aspects of the Zen tradition. (Optional meditation workshop.)
Examines a contemporary international movement that applies Buddhist teachings and practices to social, political, and environmental issues. Topics include: important thinkers, forms of engagement, and areas of controversy.
Explores contemporary Buddhism in Asia, America, and Europe. Topics include the plight of Tibet, Buddhist environmentalism, and the emergence of a socially engaged Buddhism. How are Westerners adapting this ancient tradition to address present-day concerns?
An Introduction to the sociology of religion. Covers classical and contemporary approaches to defining and studying the role of religion in society. Emphasis on understanding religious beliefs and practices in the United States, the sources and contours of religious change, and the effects of religion on individuals and society.
Gender differences as one of the basic legitimations for the unequal distribution of power in Western society. Feminist critiques of the basic social structures, cultural forms, and hierarchies of power within religious communities, and the ways in which religious groups have responded.
This course examines the emergence of distinct forms of Jewish culture in the modern age that challenge or depart from traditional Jewish sources and authority. Included are an examination of Freud’s psychology, Chagall’s paintings and Wood Allen’s films.
Impact of the scientific and technological culture on the Western religious imagination. Roots of science and technology in religious ideas and images. Ways of knowing and concepts of experience in religion and science.
Religious themes in the modern novel or the spiritual autobiography. Melville, Tolstoy, Camus, Updike, Walker, and Morrison; or Woolman, Tolstoy, Malcolm X, Wiesel, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Kukai.
To what extent does the process and production of artistic images relate to visionary experience in the history of world religions, and expose a religious dimension in life? In what sense is an artistic vocation similar to the religious vocation of a shaman, prophet, or saint? In what way do artists and religious figures respond to, change, and create the "real" world?
Students in this course will learn something about the foundations and (nontechnical) workings of the American system of justice, and will combine that understanding with a focus on various topics in bioethics, from the "right to die" to the gene-patenting. A key point will be the understanding that, as science and medicine continually move forward, there are always new challenges to existing legal understanding. How should the law respond to new questions, e.g. inheritance rights of posthumously conceived children? ONLINE COURSE. (HU)
What does it mean to “be” a white American? How does whiteness relate to blackness, or brownness, redness, or yellowness? What’s behind America’s preoccupation with race? Will Americans ever get out of their own way when it comes to addressing past and contemporary racial disparities?
Participants will examine key events, figures, religious dimensions, philosophies, tactics, and consequences of the African American freedom struggle. The period from 1949-1965 will receive special attention, but the roots of the struggle and the effect on recent American history will also be considered. Studying primary and secondary source documents, film, fiction, and music will facilitate understanding of perhaps the most effective mass protest movement in modern America. Emphasis will be placed on the centrality of religion for the social ethics of key participants. (HU)
An examination of the relationship of religion to American law and the United States Constitution. Course will focus on Supreme Court decisions involving the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses of the First Amendment. Attention will also be given to the intellectual, historical, religious and theological background behind the American experiment in “church-state” separation, including the thought of Roger Williams, the Founders (Washington, Jefferson, Madison), and contemporary analysts (e.g., M. Nussbaum). (HU)
Thinking about how the world will end was an important feature of certain types of Early Judaism. Early Christianity took over many of these ideas, and they became fundamental to later Christian theologies, including many that continue to be advocated today. This course will look at ancient Jewish and Christian texts that speak about the end and will trace some of these ideas through more recent developments in these two religious traditions. (HU) Junior Writing Intensive
As identities proliferate, re-imagine, and retool themselves - so does the ongoing battle for recognition, power and authority in an increasing globalized culture. From conflicts about race, religion, citizenship, sexuality, the law, class, gender and so on - much of society seems engaged in an endless struggle over and for authenticity, access, control, and influence in competing spheres of significance (i.e., popular culture, academic discourse, virtual reality, fashion, politics, etc.).
As identities proliferate, so does the battle for recognition, power and authority. From race, religion, citizenship, sexuality, law, class, gender, etc., – societies around the world engage in an endless struggle over and for authenticity, access, control, and influence in competing spheres of significance (i.e., popular culture, academic discourse, virtual reality).
This course explores various ways in which the categories and contexts of 'religion' and 'youth (sub)culture' have been configured and engaged across a variety of fields as elements of urban environments. We examine how these categories are constructed through various lenses including social order and change, delinquency, ethics, appropriation, and the construction of personal and social meaning. Drawing on sociology, and anthropology, cultural studies, and
Religious experience of the Roman people from prehistory to end of the empire. Nature of polytheism and its interactions with monotheism (Christianity, Judaism). Theories of religion. Emphasis on primary source materials.
Sacred scriptures of Asia and an introduction to the religions they represent. What do these texts teach about reality, humanity, divinity, and society? How is the path of spiritual practice presented in the different traditions?
Selected thematic and comparative issues in different Asian religious traditions. May include Buddhism and Christianity, religion and martial arts, Asian religions in America, Taoist meditation, Zen and Japanese business, Buddhist ethics. May be repeated for credit.
Analysis of various moral problems and social value questions. Possible topics include: environmental and non-human animal ethics; medical ethics; drug and alcohol abuse; spiritual meaning of anorexia.
An investigation into the way religion and morality shape interpretations of plague and pandemics. Three specific pandemics are examined: the bubonic plague of the 14th century, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and the current global AIDS crisis. Moral issues provoked by institutional, political and social responses to pandemic disease are also considered.
What is religion? Does it have a universal, cross-cultural and trans-creedal essence? Drawing on numerous academic disciples, the course engages the major issues and most influential authors in the academic study of comparative religions.
While many people know that the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") is a foundational scripture for Judaism, fewer are familiar with the post-biblical Jewish classics. Yet these works shaped the understanding of God, the identity of the Jewish people, and the vision of history and of the ethical life that inform Judaism as we know it today. As students read the Talmud, Midrash, and traditional prayer-book, they will become familiar with the wisdom of the rabbinic sages, and the central concepts of Jewish tradition.
This course examines Buddhist visions of a better world. Present-day Buddhist teachers, most notably the Dalai Lama, propose "zones of peace," advocate "a policy of kindness," and extol "compassionate consumption." Are there wiser ways to pursue happiness? What is the relation between individual transformation and social transformation? Can we imagine a community guided by altruism and nonviolence? The process of contemplating alternative societies is also a way to achieve a clearer understanding of one's own highest ideals.
Religion has become a renewed political force on the world stage in recent years. This course will focus on how religion has often provided both the ideological language and the organizing principles for many modern nationalisms. Our exploration of this topic will take the form of case studies from various parts of the world, including but not limited to Pakistan, Isreal, No. Ireland, India, Iran and the USA.
This course examines the complexity of globalization and its multi-layered impact on religious identity and piety. Though comparative in methodology and historical framework, the class will give special attention to Islam and Hinduism in South Asia. Topics include: European colonialism; Orientalism and its legacy; religious nationalism; Islamophobia; and the Internet and mass media.
Sufism, the inner or 'mystical' dimension of Islam, has deep historical roots and diverse expressions throughout the Muslim world. Students examine Sufi doctrine and ritual, the master-disciple relationship, and the traditions's impact on art and music, poetry and prose. (HU)
Buddhism's intellectual, ethical, and spiritual resources are reexamined in light of contemporary environmental problems. Is Buddhism the most green of the major world religions? What are the moral implications of actions that affect the environment? Prerequisite: One prior course in religion, environmental studies, or Asian studies.
Many modern thinkers find modernity and its forms of social organization and politics to be deeply troubling. Including both religious and non-religious critiques, this course will explore the varying meanings of modernity and how these thinkers challenge such meanings. Critics including but not limited to Gandhi, Hannah Arendt, Reinhold Neibuhr, Sayyid Qutb, Alasdair MacIntyre and Ruhollah Khomeini.
This course will explore the American and global contemporary Jewish experience through poetry, fiction and memoir. We'll read Nobel prize-winners, American masters, Russian and Sephardic immigrants, and cutting-edge experimentalists. Readings, films and guest speakers will offer provocative springboards from which to discuss ethnic literatures, Jewish responses to the Holocaust, tradition and assimilation, gender roles, Jewish literature itself, and what it means to be a Jew in the contemporary world. May be repeated for credit as title varies.
Addresses broad questions about the roles that religion, magic, and witchcraft play in human life, as philosophical systems of meaning, as useful tools for understanding, and as practical and moral guides for human action. Special focus on the role of witchcraft and magic in the modern world, especially in the lives of disempowered people.
In this course we approach Buddhism as a lived tradition rather than as a textual tradition. We examine how Buddhist practices are integrated into local traditions and how religious practices become part of the larger social, political, and value systems. Societies examined may include Thailand, Nepal, Japan, China, and the United States. Students will develop a comparative framework that inclues Theravada, Tibetan, and Zen Buddhism.
An examination of the writings of key figures in the history of American religious thought (such as Edwards, Emerson, Bushnell, Peirce, James, Royce, Dewey and the Niebuhrs). Attention will be directed both to the historical reception of these writings and to their contemporary significance.
This research seminar attempts to identify the conditions under which religious parties arise and become influential, how religion influences popular understandings of secular politics and the extent to which religion is a necessary feature of modern public discourse. These topics are explored through country specific cases from around the world.
A capstone seminar for departmental majors. Considers the methodologies of religious studies and assesses current issues in the field. Offers opportunities for in-depth work on a particular tradition under the guidance of a faculty member. Offered in Spring Semester. May be repeated for credit. (HU)
What do we know about the Christian Right? Who are they? What do they believe? Where do they come from? Seminar explores answers to such questions through a focus on the history of the Christian Right as well as its ideologies and beliefs, the people who are a part of it, and its evolving relationship to the American political system. Topics include some of the most divisive social issues of our time: abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, pornography, taxes, education, and the separation of church and state.
This interdisciplinary seminar (drawing on fiction, biography, critical theory, film, essays, and memoirs) will explore how certain African American artists, activists, and religionists have resisted, represented, and reinterpreted sex, sexuality, and gender norms in the context of capitalist, white supremacist, male supremacist, and heteronormative cultures. Participants will examine the visions and lives of an exemplary cast, including but not limited to, Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Peter Gomes, Alice Walker, and bell hooks. (HU)
In this course, we will examine representations of women in the Old and New Testaments, including Eve, Susannah, Judith, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. Comparing ancient and medieval textual and interpretive traditions, this course will reflect on the ways in which writers reshape familiar narratives of biblical women to reflect different cultural expectations. This transhistorical comparative approach emphasizes the flexibility of biblical narrative traditions and their relationship to changing norms of idealized and demonized femininity. (HU)