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100-level courses are open to all students. They are either broad-based introductory courses that address multiple traditions or courses that have a more narrow focus.

200-level courses are specific to a tradition or methodology. They are open to all students and do not have prerequisites, unless otherwise indicated.

300-level courses have prerequisites as specified.

A reading knowledge of foreign languages, both modern and classical, is highly desirable for those students planning to major in religion. For more information on language study, see Language Courses under the requirements for the major.

100-Level Courses

REL 110 Colloquium: The Holy Land
TTh 1 - 2:50 pm
This course will examine the concept of the “Holy Land” according to the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will explore the ways the Holy Land has been defined and sanctified in scripture and in works of art, architecture, literature, poetry, and film. It will also explore the ways that political monarchs have tried to tap into the sanctity of the Holy Land to promote their own legitimacy. The course will emphasize the significance of the common heritage of the Holy Land, as well as how it has inspired religious and political conflict. Enrollment limited to 20. {H} 4 credits
Suleiman Mourad

200-Level Courses

Religious Studies: Philosophical, Critical, and Comparative

REL 203 Colloquium: Religion in Literature
M 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Literature, like religion, is a systematic effort to make sense of the human experience. Through the creation of narrative and character, writers discover various ways of defining the truth that underlies our relationship with the world and each other. We surrender to the fictive drama of literature because it resonates with our personal narratives -- the stories we weave to redeem our experience. This course explores a series of literary works that confront the problem of meaning in our lives. There are reading and discussion. Enrollment limit of 20. Meets first half of the semester only. {L} 2 credits
William Hagen

REL 208 The Inklings: Religion and Imagination in the Works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Circle
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am
The Inklings were a group of Oxford intellectuals who met in the Magdalen College rooms of the literary historian, apologist, and fantasist C.S. Lewis to read aloud and discuss their works in progress (The Lord of the Rings, Out of the Silent Planet, All Hallow’s Eve, among others). This course examines the Inklings’ shared concerns, among them mythology, philology, recovery of the Christian intellectual tradition, and resistance to “the machine.” Readings include essays and letters by Tolkien, Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and quasi-Inkling Dorothy Sayers, as well as selections from their major works of fiction, theology, and criticism. Enrollment limited to 35. {H/L} 4 credits
Carol Zaleski

Biblical Literature

REL 211 What is the Good Life? Wisdom from the Bible
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm
Critical reading and discussion of Wisdom texts in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha (Job, selected Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, etc.) as well as some of the shorter narrative and poetic texts that one finds in the Writings such as Ruth, Esther and Song of Songs. {L} 4 credits
Joel Kaminsky

REL 214 Women in the Hebrew Bible
MWF 11 am - 12:10 pm
This course focuses on the lives of women in ancient Israelite society through close readings of the Hebrew Bible. We look at detailed portraits of female characters as well as the role of many unnamed women in the text to consider the range and logic of biblical attitudes toward women, including reverence, disgust and sympathy. We also consider female deities in the ancient Near East, women in biblical law, sex in prophetic and Wisdom literature, and the female body as a source of metaphor. {L} 4 credits
Joel Kaminsky

Jewish Traditions

REL 225 Jewish Civilization: Food and Foodways
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm
Same as JUD 225. An introduction to Jewish civilization from a variety of perspectives (religion, history, politics, philosophy, literature, and culture) organized around different themes; the theme for spring 2016 is Food and Foodways. Consideration of core ideas, texts, and practices that have animated Jews and Judaism from antiquity to the present, with attention both to classical and modern formulations. {H/L} 4 credits
Lois Dubin

Christian Traditions

REL 230 Jesus
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am
"Who do you say that I am?" Reportedly posed by Jesus to his disciples, this question remained no less relevant to future generations of his followers as well as their detractors, and it continues to challenge views of Christianity's Christ to this day. This course examines some of the most prominent texts, images, and films that have informed understandings of Jesus over the past two millennia and have contributed to making Jesus one of the most well known yet controversial figures in history. Enrollment limited to 35. Open to first-year students. {H/L} 4 credits
Vera Shevzov

REL 235 The Catholic Philosophical and Spiritual Tradition
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm
Faith and reason, worship and the intellectual life, the meaning of redemption and the nature of Catholicism according to major thinkers in the Catholic tradition. Readings from Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Simone Weil, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre and others. {H} 4 credits
Carol Zaleski

REL 242 The Russian Icon: Culture, Politics and the Sacred
TTh 1 - 2:20 pm
Same as RES 242. As devotional object, political symbol and art commodity, the Russian icon has been revered as sacred, vilified as reactionary, and displayed and sold as masterpiece. This course examines the complex and multifaceted world of the Russian icon from its Byzantine roots to its contemporary re-emergence in the public sphere of post-Soviet Russia. Consideration of the iconographic vocation and craft; beauty and the sacred; devotions and rituals; the icon and Russian national identity; the “discovery” of the icon by the modern art world; controversial images and forms of iconoclasm. In addition to icons themselves, sources include historical, devotional, liturgical, philosophical and literary texts. {H/L} Credits: 4
Vera Shevzov

Islamic Traditions

REL 246 Islamic Thought and the Challenge of Modernity
MW 9 - 10:20 am
This course considers major themes addressed by Muslim thinkers since the 18th century. These include Islamic reform and revival; encounters with colonialism and imperialism; nationalism and other modern ideologies; as well as Islamic discussions of modernity, liberalism, conservatism, fundamentalism, and militancy. Readings will consist of primary sources in translation. {H} 4 credits
Suleiman Mourad

REL 248 Topics in Modern Islam
Topic: Jihad
MWF 11 am - 12:10 pm
The persistence of the ideology of jihad in modern Islam drives revivalists and apologists to disagree over the meaning of “jihad” and whether it should be understood to necessitate violence or as an interpersonal spiritual struggle. This course examines the most important modern debates about jihad and how each position engages and appeals to the foundational Islamic sources (e.g. Qur’an, Muhammad, Sharia/Islamic Law) and Islamic history for legitimacy. It also explores the factors that make the rhetoric used by modern jihadists popular among certain Muslim constituencies, inspiring them to wage holy war against “infidels” as well as fellow Muslims. Course may be repeated for credit with a different topic. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits
Suleiman Mourad

Buddhist Traditions

REL 266 Colloquium in Buddhist Studies
Topic: Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism
TTh 10:30 - 11:50 am
This course introduces students to the fundamentals of Buddhist religious practice and philosophy from the standpoint of the Tibetan tradition, a tradition that endeavors to preserve the Mahayana tradition transmitted to Tibet from India. Among the topics to be addressed are the distinction between the Mayahaya and Hinayana vehicles, the difference between sutra and tantra, teachings on emptiness and the two truths according to different Tibetan schools, and the intersections of Tibetan religion and politics. {H} 4 credits
Constance Kassor

REL 269 Buddhism Along the Silk Road
M 7 - 9 pm
This course will trace early Buddhism on the Indian sub-continent and its evolution through Central Asia along the Silk Road. We will consider the emergence of the Mahayana (Great Vehicle) and Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) Buddhist traditions and their development as they moved into Central and East Asian territories. We will examine Buddhism among the Chinese Northern Wei, Tang and Yuan dynasties, among the Turkic Uighurs and the ethnic Tibetan Tanguts, and finally the eastern and western Mongols and sub-groups who practiced Buddhism within the Russian Empire. (E) {H} 2 credits
Richard Taupier

REL 270 Sites and Sights: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Pre-Modern Japanese Buddhism
MW 2:40 - 4 pm
The development of Buddhism and other religious traditions in Japan from prehistory through the 19th century. Topics include doctrinal development, church/state relations, and the diffusion of religious values in Japanese culture, particularly in the aesthetic realm (literature, gardens, tea, the martial arts, etc.). {H} 4 credits
Jamie Hubbard

South Asian Traditions

REL 276 Religious History of South Asia: Medieval to Modern
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm
An introduction to the ideas and practices of South Asian Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, and Jews, with an emphasis on how these religious identities are constructed and contested. Materials to be considered include philosophical writings, ritual texts, devotional poetry, comic books, legal treatises, newspaper clippings, personal memoirs, as well as ethnographic and popular films. {H} 4 credits
Andy Rotman

REL 277 South Asian Masculinities

MW 2:40 - 4 pm
This course considers the role of religion in the construction of male identities in South Asia, and how these identities function in the South Asian public sphere. Topics to be considered will include: Krishna devotion and transgender performance; the cinematic phenomenon of the "angry young man"; hijras and the construction of gender; wrestling and the politics of semen retention; and the connection between Lord Ram and the rise of militant Hindu nationalism. {S} 4 credits
Andy Rotman

Religion in the Americas

None offered this semester.

300-Level Courses


REL 320 Jewish Religion and Culture
Topic: Judaism, Feminism and Religious Politics in the U.S.
Th 1 - 2:50 pm
A critical examination of the impact of contemporary feminism upon Jews across the spectrum - traditional, modern, and radical. We explore new approaches to the Jewish tradition evident in the study of Jewish women’s history and experience; the critique and reinterpretation of classical texts; changing conceptions of God, Torah, community, ritual, and sexuality; and new roles for women as religious leaders, scholars, and activists. We discuss theoretical, interpretive, and polemical works, as well as novels, poetry, newspapers, and films, focusing on the tensions between continuity and innovation and between inclusion and transformation. Prerequisite: a course in religion, Jewish studies, women’s studies, or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 12. {H/S} 4 credits
Lois Dubin

REL 360 Problems in Buddhist Thought
Topic: Enlightenment
Th 3 - 4:50 pm
Buddhists the world over understand the Buddha as an enlightened being and Buddhahood as the highest goal of Buddhist practice, but there is little agreement beyond this. What do Buddhas know? Is enlightenment our innate nature or a nurtured quality? Is nirvana a state of joyous ecstasy or the elimination of all passions and pleasures? Can women be Buddhas? How can a Buddha simultaneously be free from all desire yet want to save all beings? Can Buddhas be found in the world today? Does this ideal still make sense in light of contemporary psychology? Is Prozac easier and faster than meditation? We will explore contemporary views of Buddhahood as well as earlier ideas drawn from the classical Theravada, Tibetan, and East Asian traditions. Prerequisite: one course in Buddhist traditions or permission of the instructor.{H} 4 credits
Jamie Hubbard