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Fall 2014

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 105 An Introduction to World Religions
Vera Shevzov, Carol Zaleski
TTh 10:30-11:50 am
An exploration of the religious texts and practices of major traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Jewish, Christian, Islamic) as well as those of smaller, more localized communities. Diverse forms of classical and contemporary religious experience and expression are analyzed through texts, rituals, and films as well as through fieldwork. {H} 4 credits

REL 110 Colloquium: Politics of Enlightenment
Jamie Hubbard
MW 2:40-4 pm
Doctrinal and thematic survey of Buddhist attitudes to the religious person in a social, political world; overview of doctrinal statements and focus on issues such as women in Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism in exile, the monks’ war in Vietnam, and Western Buddhism.{H} 4 credits

REL 162 Introduction to the Bible I
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 11 am-12:10 pm
The Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh/Old Testament). A survey of the Hebrew Bible and its historical and cultural context. Critical reading and discussion of its narrative and legal components as well as an introduction to the prophetic corpus and selections from the wisdom literature. {H/L} 4 credits

BUX 120 The Study of Buddhism
Constance Kassor
M 7-9 pm
This course introduces students to the academic study of Buddhism through readings, lectures by Smith faculty and guests, and trips to local Buddhist centers. We will critically examine the history of Buddhist Studies within the context of numerous disciplines, including anthropology, art, cultural studies, gender studies, government, literature, philosophy, and religion, with a focus on regional, sectarian, and historical differences. Materials to be considered include poetry, painting, philosophy, political tracts, and more. This course will meet during the second half of the semester only. Graded S/U only. (E) 1 credit

FYS 117 The Bible and the Public Square
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:30 pm
We will examine what the Bible (and to some extent the broader Jewish and Christian traditions) have to say about controversial issues that have divided Americans in the past (e.g., slavery) and present (e.g., abortion). The aim is to give students the skills to assess critically various arguments that invoke the Bible or religious tradition and authority, wherever they come from on the political spectrum. Students will be introduced to the Bible and biblical scholarship, as well as learning about different understandings of biblical authority and views of applying the Bible to contemporary political and ethical debates. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {H}{L}{WI} 4 credits

200-Level Courses

Religious Studies: Philosophical, Critical, and Comparative

REL 200 Colloquium: Approaches to the Study of Religion
Lois Dubin
TTh 1-2:20 pm
This course is an introduction to various approaches that have characterized the modern and postmodern critical study of religion. The course explores the development of the field as a whole and its interdisciplinary nature. The first part of the course focuses on approaches found in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology and phenomenology. The second part examines the application of these approaches to the study of particular religious phenomena. {H}{S} 4 credits

Biblical Literature

None offered this semester.

Jewish Traditions

REL 221 Jewish Spirituality: Philosophers and Mystics
Lois Dubin
TTh 3-4:20 pm
The rise of Jewish philosophy and mysticism (Kabbalah) in the Islamic world and in medieval Spain, and the development of these theological and intellectual trends as decisive influences upon all subsequent forms of Judaism. Analysis of Jewish philosophy and mysticism as complementary yet often competing spiritual paths. Expressions of philosophy and mysticism in individual piety, popular religious practice, and communal politics. Readings from Maimonides, the Zohar, and other major works, as well as personal documents of religious experience and thought. All readings in English. {H} 4 credits

Christian Traditions

REL 238 Mary: Images and Cults
Vera Shevzov
TTh 1-2:30 pm
Whether revered as the Birth-Giver of God or remembered as a simple Jewish woman, Mary has both inspired and challenged generations of Christian women and men worldwide. This course focuses on key developments in the “history of Mary” since Christian times to the present. How has her image shaped Christianity? What does her image in any given age tell us about personal and collective identities? Topics include Mary's “life”; rise of the Marian cult; differences among Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians; apparitions (e.g., Guadalupe and Lourdes); miracle-working icons, especially in Byzantium and Russia; Mary, liberation and feminism; Mary, politics, and the Pussy Riot affair. Devotional, theological, polemical, and literary texts, art, and film. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits

Islamic Traditions

REL 245 The Islamic Tradition
Suleiman Mourad
MW 9-10:20 am
The Islamic religious tradition from its beginnings in 7th century Arabia through the present day, with particular emphasis on the formative period (A.D. 600–1000) and on modern efforts at reinterpretation. Topics include Muhammad and the Qur'an, prophetic tradition, sacred Law, ritual, sectarianism, mysticism, dogmatic theology, and popular practices. Emphasis on the ways Muslims in different times and places have constructed and reconstructed the tradition for themselves. {H} 4 credits

Buddhist Traditions

None offered this semester.

South Asian Traditions

REL 280 South Asian Visual Culture
Andy Rotman
MW 2:40-4 pm
How does one make sense of what one sees in South Asia? What is the visual logic behind the production and consumption of images, advertising, and film? This course considers the visual world of South Asia, focusing in particular on the religious dimensions of visuality. Topics include the divine gaze in Hindu and Buddhist contexts, the role of god-posters in religious ritual and political struggle, the printed image as contested site for visualizing the nation, and the social significance of clothing as well as commercial films. {H} 4 credits

REL 282 Violence and Non-Violence in the Religious Traditions of South Asia
Andy Rotman
MW 1:10-2:30 pm
What are the implications of a nonviolent morality? When are war and sacrifice not murder? This course considers the rhetoric and phenomena of violence and non-violence in a variety of religious traditions in South Asia, both modern and premodern. Particular emphasis on the ethical and social consequences of these practices, and the politics of the discourse that surrounds them. Texts and films concerning Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, and Islam. {H} 4 credits

Religion in the Americas

AAS 232 The Black Church in the United States
Riché Daniel Barnes
WF 1:10-2:30 pm
This course is a socio-cultural view of the Black Church. It focuses attention on the development of the Black Church in the U.S. while locating the Black Church within the African Diaspora. We will explore the history of Black religious expression during slavery that created the merging of African spiritually and Protestantism in the Afro-Caribbean and the U.S. We will also explore the contemporary growth of the Pentecostal/holiness tradition in the Caribbean and Africa, as well as the more recent influence of Judaism and Islam on the African American religious experience. The exploration of each will be grounded in investigating the ways religion, spirituality, and "church," have been used to imagine freedom for variously oppressed groups. We will utilize scholarly texts as well as film and ethnography. Students will conduct exploratory/qualitative research as a major component of the class requirements.

300-Level Courses


REL 301 Topics in Philosophy of Religion
Topic: C. S. Lewis
Carol Zaleski
Th 3-4:50pm
The life and thought of C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), the literary historian, novelist, poet, critic, satirist, and popular Christian philosopher. Readings will be drawn from Lewis's writings on medieval and Renaissance literature, his fantasies (including the space trilogy and Narnia), philosophical and religious writings, letters and diaries, and the memoir Surprised by Joy. Attention will be given to Lewis as a war writer "Romantic rationalist," and controversialist, as well as to the main concerns and critical reception of his scholarly, imaginative, and religious works. Permission required. Enrollment limited to 12. {H} 4 credits

REL 345 Islamic Thought
Topic: The Qu’ran

Suleiman Mourad
MW 1:10-2:30 pm
The Qur'an, according to the majority of Muslims, is God's word revealed to Muhammad through angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years (610-632 CE). This seminar will introduce students to Islam's scriptural text: its content, form, structure, and history. It will also situate the Qur'an in the larger frame of the genre of Scripture: What does it mean for a text to be revealed? As such the course will both read and study the Qur'an as a seventh century product and as a text that has a history of reception among Muslims with variant levels of impact on the formulation of salvation history, law and legal theory, theology, ritual, intellectual trends, and art and popular culture. {H} 4 credits