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FALL 2015

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 and 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. Consideration will also be given to the role of religion in the American public sphere and in current world events. {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, meets second half of semester

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. Graded S/U only. (E) 1 credit

FYS 117 The Bible and the American Public Square
Joel Kaminsky
MWF 1:10-2:30 pm

We 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 are introduced to the Bible and biblical scholarship, as well as learn about different understandings of biblical authority and views of applying the Bible to contemporary political and ethical debates. This course counts toward the Jewish studies and religion majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {H}{L}{WI} 4 credits

FYS 145 Blasphemy
Vera Shevzov
TTh 3-4:20 pm

A notion that is commonly associated with pre-modern societies, blasphemy has proven to be notoriously resilient and has taken on new life in today's global, multicultural, and technologically-connected world. This course examines the idea of blasphemy—its meanings and uses, the invisible boundaries it invokes, and the different ways of seeing it often signifies.  It explores the challenges the term has posed to contemporary societies and faith communities and the nature of the deep emotional responses it often triggers. The course pays particular attention to the implications of the charge of blasphemy in light of such often heated issues as religion and secularism; religious tolerance and intolerance; free speech, ethics, and civility; and religion and the public sphere. The course will be based on religious, philosophical, literary and legal texts, as well as media accounts, images, and film. 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
Andy Rotman
MW 2:40-4 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

REL 205 Philosophy of Religion
Carol Zaleski
TTh 1 - 2:20 pm

Classic and contemporary discussions of the existence of God, the problem of evil, faith and reason, life after death, mysticism and religious experience. Readings from Plato, Anselm, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, William James, and others. {H} 4 credits

Biblical Literature

None offered this semester.

Jewish Traditions

REL 221 Philosophers and Mystics
Lois Dubin
TTh 9-10:20 am

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

REL 227 Women and Gender in Jewish History
Lois Dubin
TTh 1 -2:20 pm

An exploration of Jewish women's changing social roles, religious stances, and cultural expressions in a variety of historical settings from ancient to modern times. How did Jewish women negotiate religious tradition, gender, and cultural norms to fashion lives for themselves as individuals and as family and community members in diverse societies? Readings from a wide range of historical, religious, theoretical, and literary works in order to address examples drawn from Biblical and rabbinic Judaism, medieval Islamic and Christian lands, modern Europe, America, and the Middle East. {H} 4 credits

Christian Traditions

None offered this semester.

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

REL 247 The Qur’an
Suleiman Mourad
MWF 11 am - 12:10 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 course 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 study the Qur’an as a 7th-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}{L} 4 credits

Buddhist Traditions

REL 266 Colloquium in Buddhist Studies
Topic: Buddhism in America
Constance Kassor
MW 2:40 - 4 pm

This course traces the development of Buddhist thought and practice in America, and considers what it means to be Buddhist (or to practice Buddhism) in the United States. Topics to be considered include: socially engaged Buddhism, the secularization of meditation, Buddhist practice in prisons, and science and Buddhism. Film screenings and site visits to local Buddhist organizations are required outside of regular class meetings. {H} 4 credits

South Asian Traditions

REL 275 Religious History of South Asia: Ancient to Medieval
Andy Rotman
MW 1:10-2:30 pm

This course is an introduction to the literature, thought, and practice of religious traditions in India, from ancient times to the classical period. Readings will include materials from the Vedas, Upanishads, and epics, from plays and poetry, as well as Buddhist and Jain literature. Particular consideration will be given to the themes of dharma, karma, love, and liberation. {H} 4 credits

Religion in the Americas

FYS 117 The Bible and the American Public Square
Joel Kaminsky
MW 1:10-2:30 pm

Course description is above.

300-Level Courses

Seminars

None offered this semester.