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Recent Courses

100-Level Courses

Introduction to the Study of Religion

REL 105 An Introduction to World Religions
Lois Dubin and Carol ZaleskiFall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011
Lois Dubin, Suleiman Mourad, Carol Zaleski – Fall 2009
Vera Shevzov and Carol Zaleski - Fall 2013
Carol Zaleski - Fall 2012

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 106 Women and Religion
Lois Dubin and Vera Shevzov – Spring 2012

An exploration of the roles played by religion in women’s private and public lives, as shaped by and expressed in sacred texts, symbols, rituals, and institutional structures. Experiences of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Wiccan women facing religious authority and exercising agency. We will consider topics such as feminism and gender in the study of religion; God-talk and goddesses; women’s bodies and sexuality; family, motherhood and celibacy; leadership and ordination; critiques of traditions, creative adaptations, and new religious movements. Sources will include novels, films, poetry, and visual images in addition to scriptural and religious texts. Enrollment limited to 35 {L/H} 4 credits

REL/PHI 108 The Meaning of Life
Suleiman Mourad and Jay Garfield (Philosophy) – Spring 2011
Andy Rotman and Nalini Bhushan (Philosophy) – Fall 2007, Spring 2012
Andy Rotman and Ernest Alleva (Philosophy) - Spring 2013

This course asks the big question, “What is the Meaning of Life?” and explores a range of answers offered by philosophers and religious thinkers from a host of different traditions in different eras of human history. We will explore a variety of forms of philosophical and religious thinking and the ways in which philosophical and religious thinking can be directly relevant to our own lives. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 110 Colloquium: The Holy Land
Suleiman Mourad – Fall 2008, Spring 2012

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

REL 110 Colloquium: Women Christian Mystics’ Theology of Love
Elizabeth Carr – Spring 2008, Spring 2009

This course studies the mystical writings of Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch, Julian of Norwich, and Teresa of Avila, and their relevance to contemporary spirituality. Focus on their life journeys in terms of love, creativity, healing, and spiritual leadership. Occasional films and music.{H} 4 credits

REL 110 Colloquium: Religion, Nature, and the Environment
B. Harvey Hill – Spring 2008, Spring 2009

This course explores religious attitudes towards nature and the environment. Beginning with an overview of the environmental movement and the current environmental crisis, the course examines traditional and modern writings on the environment by Native Americans, Buddhists, and Christians, as well as considering the religious elements (both implicit and explicit) in contemporary environmentalism. Enrollment limited to 20. (E) {S} 4 credits

REL 110 Colloquium: Politics of Enlightenment
Jamie Hubbard – Spring 2008

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

BUX 120 The Study of Buddhism
Jay Garfield, Peter Gregory, Jamie Hubbard, Constance Kassor – Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

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

REL 162 Introduction to the Bible I
Joel Kaminsky – Fall 2011, Fall 2012

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

First Year Seminars

FYS 163 The Holy Land
Suleiman Mourad – Fall 2008

This course will examine the concept of the “Holy Land” according to the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will explore the way the Holy Land is defined and sanctified in scripture and religious literature and in works of art, architecture, poetry, novel and film. The course will also explore the many attempts through the centuries by political monarchs to tap into the sanctity of the Holy Land in order to promote their own legitimacy. The objective is to emphasize the significance of this common heritage shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and yet how it has inspired, at times of tension, religious and political conflict among followers of the three monotheistic traditions. Enrollment limited to 16. WI {H} 4 credits

FYS 169 Women and Religion
Lois Dubin and Vera Shevzov – Spring 2009, Spring 2011

An exploration of the roles played by religion in women’s private and public lives, as shaped by and expressed in sacred texts, symbols, rituals, and institutional structures. Experiences of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Wiccan women facing religious authority and exercising agency. We will consider topics such as feminism and gender in the study of religion; God-talk and goddesses; women’s bodies and sexuality; family, motherhood and celibacy; leadership and ordination; critiques of traditions, creative adaptations, and new religious movements. Sources will include novels, films, poetry, and visual images in addition to scriptural and religious texts. Enrollment limited to 18. WI {L/H} 4 credits

FYS 174 The Muslim World in the Age of the Crusades: Encounters, Influences, and Lasting Legacies
Suleiman Mourad – Fall 2009

An exploration of the religious, political, social, and cultural impact of the Crusades on the Muslim World from 1095 CE until the present day. Special attention to the variety of Muslim reactions to the Crusades, to the effects of the Crusades on the course of Islamic history and religious thought, and to cross-cultural interactions and influences. The enduring legacy of the Crusades in modern times including the rise of religious discourses that were foundational for the perception and treatment of the "other" in Christian and Muslim cultures. Religious and historical texts, films, novels. WI {H} 4 credits

200-Level Courses

Religious Studies: Philosophical, Critical, and Comparative

REL 200 Colloquium: Approaches to the Study of Religion
Lois Dubin - Fall 2013
Joel Kaminsky – Fall 2011, Fall 2012
Joel Kaminsky and Suleiman Mourad – Spring 2009
Joel Kaminsky and Peter Gregory – Spring 2008
Andy Rotman – Fall 2009, Fall 2010

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 202 Religion and Folklore
Jody Shapiro – Fall 2009

This course offers a thematic inquiry into the folk dimension of religious life. Using the tools of folklorists to examine cross-cultural ethnographic material, we will explore how ordinary people “on the ground” make religious meaning of time (calendar customs, the life cycle), space (material culture, the natural world, and the built environment), and embodiment (foodways, adornment, health and healing). (E) {H/L} 4 credits

REL 205 Philosophy of Religion
Carol Zaleski – Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2014

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

REL 206 Heaven, Hell and Other Worlds: The Afterlife in World Religions
Carol Zaleski, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

How do the world's religions picture the journey beyond death? This course examines conceptions of heaven, hell, and purgatory; immortality; rebirth; and resurrection; the judgment of the dead and the life of the world to come. Readings include classic and sacred texts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato's Phaedo, the Katha Upanishad, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Dante's Divine Comedy, Newman's Dream of Gerontius, and a variety of philosophical and theological reflections on the meaning of death and the hope for eternal life. Enrollment limited to 35. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 208 The Inklings: Religion and Imagination in the Works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their Circle
Carol Zaleski –Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013

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

Biblical Literature

Students interested in Biblical Literature are best served by beginning their course of study with either Introduction to the Bible I (REL 162) or Introduction to the Bible II (REL 215) before proceeding to more specialized 200-level courses or seminars in this area. REL 162 and 215 are general introductions to the critical study of the Bible and are open to all students including first-years.

REL 210 Introduction to the Bible 1
Joel Kaminsky – Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010

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

REL 211 Wisdom Literature and Other Books from the Writings
Joel Kaminsky – Spring 2009, Spring 2013

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 attention to 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

REL 213 Prophecy in Ancient Israel
Joel Kaminsky – Spring 2008, Spring 2012

A survey of the institution of prophecy and the individuals who functioned as prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Emphasis on the following issues: What types of people became prophets? What did prophets speak about? What role did prophets play in society? Did prophets deliver different or even conflicting messages? Can one tell a true from a false prophet? {H/L} 4 credits

REL 214 Virgins, Vamps, and Viragos: Women in the Hebrew Bible
Maria Metzler, Spring 2014

This course focuses on the lives of women in ancient Israelite society through close readings of the Hebrew Bible. We will 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 will 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. (E){L} 4 credits

REL 215 Introduction to the Bible II
L. Scott Brand – Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012
Robert Doran – Spring 2009

The literature of the New Testament in Jewish and Greco-Roman context. This course will emphasize literary genre, images of gender and social hierarchy, and continuity with and distinction from Greco-Roman Jewish texts. Enrollment limited to 35. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 216 Topics in Biblical Studies
Topic: Archaeology and the Bible
Gregg Gardner – Fall 2009
Michael O. Sugerman - Fall 2013

This course explores the material culture of the peoples who lived in ancient Palestine from the Middle Bronze Age through the Israelite period and down to the Roman-Byzantine eras (c.1400 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.). We will consider the latest archaeological finds from Israel and the Mediterranean basin, including the ruins of great cities, temples, ancient churches and synagogues, and colorful mosaic artwork. Special attention will be given to a critical evaluation of the ways that archaeology can - and cannot - illuminate the key people, places, and events mentioned in biblical and post-biblical texts. {H/L} 4 credits

Jewish Traditions

REL 220 Jews and Judaism in the Ancient World
Mickhal Bar-Asher Siegel – Spring 2008

A survey of Jewish religion and society in ancient Palestine and the Diaspora, from late Biblical times and the Second Temple in Jerusalem (4th century BCE) to the early rabbinic era (2nd century CE). Jewish interactions with Hellenism and Roman imperial domination through the age of Jewish sectarianism (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes), the rise of Christianity, the destruction of the Second Temple, and the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism. Examination of historical narratives and central ideas in major texts from the period — Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Philo, New Testament, Gnostic writings, and Mishnah — in order to capture the core beliefs and institutions of post-Biblical Judaism. (E) {H} 4 credits

REL 221 Jewish Spirituality: Philosophers and Mystics
Lois Dubin – Fall 2009, Fall 2011
Lawrence Fine – Fall 2008

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 222 Sages, Strangers and Women: An Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
Mickhal Bar-Asher Siegel – Spring 2008

An exploration of rabbinic culture and texts that shaped Judaism for centuries to come. Rabbinic modes of grappling with Biblical law, and issues of gender and ethnicity, through the lives and thought of key figures, and as expressed in the major genres of rabbinic literature—Mishnah, Tosefta, Midrash, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. (E) {H/L} 4 credits

REL 223 Jews and Modernity: A Global Diaspora
Lois Dubin – Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2013

A thematic survey of Jewish history and thought from the 16th century to the present, examining Jews as a minority in modern Europe and in global diaspora. We will examine changing dynamics of integration and exclusion of Jews in various societies as well as diverse forms of Jewish religion, culture, and identity among Sefardic, Ashkenazic, and Mizrahi Jews. Readings include major philosophic, mystical, and political works in addition to primary sources on the lives of Jewish women and men, families and communities, and messianic and popular movements. We will pay attention throughout to tensions between assimilation and cohesion; tradition and renewal; and history and memory. {H} 4 credits

REL/JUD 225 Jewish Civilization
Justin Cammy – Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
Joel Kaminsky – Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2012
Lois Dubin - Spring 2014

An introduction to Jewish civilization from a variety of perspectives (religion, history, politics, philosophy, literature, and culture) organized around different themes. 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

Christian Traditions

REL 230 Jesus
Vera Shevzov – Spring 2011, Spring 2013

"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. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 231 The Making of Christianity
Vera Shevzov– Fall 2010
Vera Shevzov and Carol Zaleski – Spring 2009

The formation of Christian thought and the varieties of Christian experience from early through medieval Christian times. Christian images and writings from Palestine and Syria, the Egyptian desert, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Topics include the Bible and its interpreters; God, Christ, and humanity; martyrs, monks, and missionaries. Liturgical, devotional, mystical, and theological texts; art, music, and film. (E) {H/L} 4 credits

REL 234 Contemporary Christianity: Crisis and Reflection
Vera Shevzov – Spring 2008

Readings of prominent Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox thinkers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Their diverse responses to influential modern and postmodern social, political, and philosophical trends including “modernism,” Marxism, World War II and the Holocaust, feminism, pluralism, and globalism. Particular attention to liberation theologies. Occasional films. {H} 4 credits

REL 235 The Catholic Philosophical Tradition
Carol Zaleski – Spring 2012

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), Alasdair MacIntyre and others. {H} 4 credits

REL 236 Eastern Christianity: The Russian Tradition
Vera Shevzov – Spring 2008, Fall 2011

An introduction to the history and spirituality of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with focus on the Byzantine and Russian traditions. Topics include the meanings and markers of tradition; icons and ritual; the spiritual elder and monastic culture; points of difference with Catholicism and Protestantism. Given that Eastern Christianity has made an unexpected comeback in post-Soviet society and culture, this course also examines contemporary Orthodox discourse on such issues as human rights, modernization, globalization, and church/state relations. Readings from ancient and contemporary mystical, philosophical, liturgical, literary and political sources. Occasional films. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 237 Colloquium: Christianity and Culture
Topic: Gnostic Christianity
L. Scott Brand – Spring 2010

The literature of the various Gnostic sects within ancient Christianity, as evidenced by writings from the Nag Hammadi manuscript discovery and other sources. Particular attention to continuities with ancient Greek philosophy, and with other sapiential and apocalyptic traditions, both Jewish and Christian. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 237: Colloquium: Christianity and Culture
Topic: Reformation Thought

W. J. Torrance Kirby - Fall 2013

This survey of principal themes in the thought of selected major figures of the Reformations of the sixteenth century will include readings from primary texts representative of late-medieval precursors of reform as well as key texts from the writings of Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, Huldreich Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Richard Hooker, among others. Enrollment limited to 20. (E) {H} 4 credits

REL 238 Mary: Images and Cults
Vera Shevzov – Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011

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. 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 Christian identity? 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; Mary, liberation and feminism. Liturgical, devotional, and theological texts, art, and film. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits

REL 240 Renaissance and Revolution: Modern Russian Religious Thought
Vera Shevzov - Spring 2013

The 19th and early 20th centuries marked one of the most brilliant yet destructive periods in Russia's history. This course examines the broad range of spiritual and philosophical ideas that fueled a renaissance in the arts as well as a political revolution, both of which had enormous influence worldwide. It als considers the religious thought of Russian philosophical luminaries who found themselves in the West after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Topics include freedom; the individual and the collective; beauty and the divine; wisdom and the devine feminine; mystical apocalypticism; death and resurrection; liberation, social justice, and the sacred; the notion of "Russia" as religious idea. (E) {L/H} 4 credits

Islamic Traditions

REL 245 The Islamic Tradition
Suleiman Mourad – Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013
Maurice Pomerantz – Fall 2007

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 246 Islamic Thought and the Challenge of Modernity
Suleiman Mourad – Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2014

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

REL 247 The Qur’an
Suleiman Mourad – Spring 2010

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

REL 248 Topics in Modern Islam
Topic: Jihad
Suleiman Mourad – Fall 2011, Spring 2014

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

REL 251 Religion and Politics in Islam
Maurice Pomerantz – Fall 2007

The relationship between authority and power in the Islamic world from the 7th century to the present day. How has religious authority been used to legitimize and (in some cases) delegitimize political power? What is the historical context of today’s Muslim activism? Does the tradition of Muslim political thought lend itself more easily to active struggle against injustice or quiet acceptance? In what ways does the classical tradition resonate with contemporary Muslim thinkers? Attention both to theoretical writings and to particular cases (e.g., the Islamic revolution in Iran; Muslim activism in modern Egypt). {H} 4 credits

REL 255 Islam, Women, and Culture
Leyla Keough - Spring 2013

From media to policy discussions, we are presented with images of oppressed and victimized Muslim women segregated from public life. Yet, ethnographic accounts of the lived experiences of Islamic women complicate and confound such stereotypes. In this course, we will read ethnographies detailing Muslim women's lives in various contexts - from Shi'a women in Lebannon to African-American Muslims in the United States. We will explore how their lives are informed by Islamic texts and practices and also by politics, sectarianism, nationalism, migration, class, ethnicity and race. Topics we will cover include Islamist resurgence, religious piety/practices, Islamist feminism, and controversies over veiling. (E) {H/S} 4 credits

Buddhist Traditions

REL 260 Buddhist Thought
Peter Gregory – Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013

Enduring patterns of Buddhist thought concerning the interpretations of self, world, nature, good and evil, love, wisdom, time, and enlightenment as revealed in a careful reading of two major Mahayana texts. Enrollment limited to 35. {H} 4 credits

REL 262 Poetry of the Enlightenment
Peter Gregory - Fall 2013

This course will explore ancient and modern Buddhist-inspired poetry from China, Korea, Japan, and the United States. The first half of the course will be devoted to East Asian poetry, and the second half will be devoted to American poetry. We will read selections from such notables as Wang Wei, Han Shan, and Su Shi (China), Saigyō, Ikkyū, and Ryōkan (Japan), Ko Un (Korea), and Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Jane Hirshfield, and Dan Gerber (U.S.). Enrollment limited to 20. {L} 4 credits

REL 263 Zen
Peter Gregory – Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2013

Beginning with a survey of some of the fundamental ideas and institutions developed in China and Japan, the course will focus on the transmission and transformation of Zen in America. It will take a broad historical approach, looking at the forces that shaped the way in which Zen was presented to “the West” and exploring the ways in which westerners appropriated, adapted, and continue to engage the tradition. {H} 4 credits

REL 264 Buddhist Meditation
Peter Gregory – Fall 2009, Spring 2011

This course will explore classical and contemporary forms of Buddhist meditation theory and practice. It will examine both classical formulations and contemporary expositions with an eye to seeing how the theory and practice of Buddhist meditation are being adapted to fit the needs of people today. Enrollment limited to 25. {H} 4 credits

REL 265 Colloquium in East Asian Religions
Topic: Chinese Religions
Peter Gregory – Spring 2010, Spring 2012

The course will explore some of the basic orientations and themes in Chinese religions by focusing on two clusters of stories, practices, and images that are central to understanding the evolution of Chinese Buddhism. First we will examine the transformation of the Indian Buddhist bodhisattva Avalokitesvara into the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin by investigating how Buddhist canonical sources and imagery interacted with Chinese notions of gender, family, filial piety and cosmic resonance to produce the most-widely revered deity in Chinese religion. We will then examine various practices for feeding hungry ghosts associated with Mulian’s (Maudgalyāyana) travel to hell to save his mother, which we will explore within the broader context of indigenous beliefs and practices concerning ancestors, the dead, mortuary practice, and shamanic journeys. The course will use these two “case studies” to reflect on broader themes of how Chinese Buddhism both transformed and was transformed by Confucianism, Daoism, and popular religious culture. {H} 4 credits

REL 266 Buddhism in America
Peter Gregory – Spring 2009, Spring 2010

Almost 50 different Buddhist groups can be found within a twenty-mile radius of the Smith campus. This class will explore the way Buddhism is practiced and conceptualized by some of the more prominent and representative groups in the area as a perspective from which to reflect on the broader phenomenon of Buddhism in America. It will involve participant observation, field trips, and class visits from some of the area teachers. Enrollment limited to 25 students. {H} 4 credits

REL 267 Buddhism, the Beats, and the Making of the Counterculture
Peter Gregory – Fall 2011, Fall 2012

The development of a uniquely American idiom of Buddhism beginning in the late 1960s owes much to the writings of the Beats in the 1950s. The cultural innovations of the Fifties reverberated in the social and political shifts of the Sixties to give rise to an American Buddhist idiom that emphasized meditation, direct experience, community, socially engaged action, and concern with the environment. The course will explore the representations of Buddhism in the works of such notable Beat writers as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen and their influence on the countercultural movement and the various Buddhist communities (both imagined and institutional) that arose from the Sixties on. The course will also analyze the Beat aesthetic of spontaneity in new forms of cultural expressions in the Fifties—such as the action painting of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and the bebop jazz of Charlie Parker—and Eastern ideas of creativity and naturalness introduced by D. T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, and R. H. Blythe. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 268 Colloquium in East Asian Religions
Topic: Daoism
Peter Gregory - Spring 2013

This course considers the development of the Daoist religious tradition, beginning with a close reading of the Laozi and Zhuangzi, the two great classics of Daoist philosophy from the third century BCE. We will also survey a wide variety of Daoist materials and movements over the last two milennia - including poetry, hagiography, and scripture - in considering topics such as the cult of the immortals, esoteric revelations, millenarian communities, alchemy, and various technologies of spiritual transcendence. {H} 4 credits

REL 269 Introduction to Mongolian Buddhism
Lkham Purevjav and Richard Taupier - Fall 2012

This course begins with the early contacts between Mongols and Buddhists, including Chenggis Khan and Altan Khan (who named the Dalai Lamas in the 16th century), and Gushii Khan who elevated the 5th Dalai Lama to the throne of Tibet. We will explore how Mongolians explained their conversion to Buddhism and the process of cultural borrowing that created new cultural identities, institutions and individuals that make Mongolian Buddhism unique, including the continued interaction with native shamanism. We will end with literature on the Stalinist purges of the 70 year communist period and the rebirth of Buddhism since the 1990's. (E) 2 credits

REL 269 Buddhism Along the Silk Road
Rick Taupier - Spring 2014

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

REL 270a Japanese Buddhism: Ancient to 19th Century
Jamie Hubbard – Fall 2007

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

REL 270b Sites and Sights: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Pre-Modern Japanese Buddhism
Jamie Hubbard – Spring 2012

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

REL 271 Japanese Buddhism in the Contemporary World
Jamie Hubbard – Spring 2009

Aspects of contemporary Japanese religious life, including the impact of European thought, Buddhism and Japanese nationalism, the export of Zen and import of Christianity, contemporary monasticism, and Buddhist aesthetics. Particular attention to attempts at institutional reform within traditional Buddhist sects and the emergence of new religious movements. {H} 4 credits

REL 274 The Buddha: His Life and Teachings
Andrew Olendzki – Fall 2010

Few have had as much impact upon the world as Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni, known to us as the Buddha. Who was he, what sort of world did he inhabit, and what works did he leave behind? These are some of the questions that this course addresses. Beginning with challenges of interpretation and literary sources, the course offers an examination of the Buddha behind the many layers of legend and myth. It explores the major discourses which lay out his life, thought and teachings in their historical context, the changes they undergo over 2,500 years of tradition, and their continuous relevance. Enrollment limited to 35. (E) {H} 4 credits

South Asian Traditions

REL 275 Religious History of South Asia: Ancient to Medieval
Andy Rotman – Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2013

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

REL 276 Religious History of South Asia: Medieval and Modern Periods
Andy Rotman – Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2011

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

REL 277 South Asian Masculinities
Andy Rotman – Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2012

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

REL 277 Yoga Traditions
Steven Heim – Spring 2011

This course engages the philosophies and practices of yoga in ancient South Asian religious to modern global secular forms. Yoga entails training in postural, respiratory, and contemplative techniques for wellbeing. Yogic techniques are central to religions of ancient South Asian origin, wherein yoga is a means to such varied goals as knowing the true self, experiencing nirvana, meeting god, making good karma, and curing ailments. We will examine the roots of yogic practice in the Vedas, the Bhagavadgita, and its flowering in subsequent highly pluralistic world of yogas, including Patanjali, Hatha yoga, tantra, gurus, low impact exercise, and stress management. Enrollment limited to 35. (E) {H} 4 credits

REL 278 Religion in the Himalayas: Coexistence, Conflict and Change
Constance Kassor - Spring 2014

This course examines the religious life of the Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, paying particular attention to issues surrounding the construction of religious identity. Through text, film, and art, we will explore practices in Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and local traditions, and investigate the ways in which these practices negotiate political change and modernization. Topics include gender (in)equality in religious institutions and practices, insider/outsider representations of communities, and the intersection of religion and politics. (E){H} 4 credits

REL 280 South Asian Visual Culture
Andy Rotman - Fall 2012

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 281 Gender, Religion, and Popular Culture in South Asia
Constance Kassor - Spring 2014

This course investigates the ways that religious practices influence the construction of gender identities in South Asia, and the ways that communities negotiate these influences. Through primary and secondary textual sources, as well as popular materials such as news articles, films, and comic books, we will explore the roles that women, men, and third gender people are expected to play in South Asian societies, as well as the roles that they actually play. We will consider the ways in which religious practices in South Asia can be said to enforce traditional gender roles as well as to challenge them. Topics to be considered include: contesting divine feminine energy (shakti) in contemporary Hinduism; Buddhist nuns’ struggle for full ordination in Sri Lankan and Tibetan communities; phallic imagery in domestic and religious ritual in Bhutan; and the appropriation of the Gai Jatra (Cow Festival) by LGBT communities in Nepal. (E){S} 4 credits

REL 282 Violence and Non-Violence in the Religious Traditions of South Asia
Andy Rotman – Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2012

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

ENG/REL 287 Reading and Rereading the Puritans
Michael Thurston – Spring 2009

The course combines close study of the 17th-century writings of Pilgrim Separatists and Puritan settlers in North America with study of texts in later periods (1820–50, 1920–50 and after) that use the Pilgrims and Puritans to dramatize and imagine resolutions to the crises of their own historical moments. Pre-requisite: a course in American literature, American history, or American Studies. {L} 4 credits

REL 289 Neo-Paganism, Goddess Spirituality, and the New Age
Jody Shapiro – Fall 2010, Fall 2012

The American religious scene is always in motion. In the present cultural moment, the cluster of religious impulses that find their expression in Goddess spirituality, the New Age, and Neo-Paganism are distinctively vibrant, contentious, and moving into the mainstream. With a strong grounding in history and ethnography, this course will explore the nature and evolution of these increasingly influential religious movements from their nineteenth-century origins through today. Special attention to their relationship with feminism and gender construction, and role in the popular imagination and national religious arena. Students are encouraged to have some background in religious studies, sociology, or anthropology. Enrollment limited to 35. (E) {H/L} 4 credits

REL 290 Religion and Politics in America
B. Harvey Hill – Fall 2008

This class examines the historical evolution of the role of religion in American politics, beginning with the colonial period and culminating with the current elections. We will trace the role of religion in the public life of the emerging United States as well as the impact of certain political choices on the religious life of the nation. The second half of the course will be devoted to analyzing the configuration of religion and politics in the United States today. (E) {H} 4 credits

300-Level Courses

Seminars

REL 301 Topics in Philosophy of Religion
Topic: The Catholic Philosophical Tradition
Carol Zaleski – Fall 2009

Faith and reason, worship and the intellectual life, the dignity of the human person, and the beatific vision according to major Catholic thinkers. Readings from Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Pascal, John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Simone Weil, Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), and others. Prerequisite: previous coursework in religion or philosophy, or permission of the instructor. {H} 4 credits

Topic: C. S. Lewis
Carol Zaleski – Fall 2011, Fall 2013

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

PRS 304 Happiness: Buddhist and Psychological Understandings of Personal Well-Being
Jamie Hubbard and Philip Peake (Psychology) – Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

Presidential Seminar: What is happiness? What is personal well-being? How are they achieved? This course will examine the core ideas of the Buddhist science of mind and how they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and psychotherapists. The focus of the course will be the notion of “happiness,” its cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary definition as well as the techniques advocated for its achievement by both the Buddhist and the psychologist. Prerequisite: PSY 111 or REL 105. Enrollment limited to 15 juniors and seniors. (E) {S/N} 4 credits

REL 310 Hebrew Bible
Topic: Sibling Rivalries: Israel and The Other
Joel Kaminsky – Fall 2007, Spring 2013

Advanced readings, critical discussion and directed research into specific biblical books or larger themes within the Hebrew Bible. Prerequisite: REL 210, 215, any other college-level Bible course, or permission of the instructor. {H/L} 4 credits

Topic: The Book of Judges
Joel Kaminsky – Spring 2011

Close critical study of the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible, with a focus on what Judges reveals about ancient Israel’s views on violence, politics, religion, and gender. Judges is set in the pre-monarchic period and features many stories with prominent women including Deborah the prophetess, Jael who cuts off Sisera’s head, Jephthah’s daughter who was sacrificed by her father, and Delilah the seductress. Enrollment limited to 12. {H/L} 4 credits

PRS 315: Shaping Religious Identities in the Middle East: Islam and the Others
Suleiman Mourad and Donna Robinson Divine (Government) – Spring 2011

How are Muslim identities in the Middle East formed and sustained? How are they changed and redefined? How have Muslims interacted with the Jewish and Christian religious cultures that surrounded them from the birth of Islam until today? Informed by these questions, this seminar focuses on the development of Muslims’ religious, historical, cultural, and political identity and expression in the Middle East as reflective of a process of exposure and contact with Jews and Christians, their religious “others.” It is open to students with some knowledge of the region seeking to understand the complex and diverse nature of Islam. Prerequisite: GOV 224 or REL 245, or the equivalent. Enrollment limited to 15 juniors and seniors. (E) {H/L/S} 4 credits

PRS 318 Religion of the Marketplace: A Demystification
Andy Rotman and Rick Fantasia (Sociology) – Fall 2011

Many view the marketplace and religion as discrete spheres of activity, not recognizing the important ways that religion functions as a marketplace, with merit and salvation to be earned or lost, and the ways that the marketplace itself functions as a religion, with its own creeds, rituals, sacred texts, and unquestioned truths. This course takes this latter proposition seriously, for we think that it provides enormous insight into the workings of markets, from the logic of gift exchange to the metaphor of the invisible hand, from the interest in apparent disinterestedness to the status of economics as a master discipline. This interdisciplinary course draws upon the concepts and methods of sociology and religious studies to examine the logic, practice, and mythology of markets, their institutions, and the faithful, with particular emphasis on the United States. Readings will draw from classic work in sociology, economics, and religious studies, as well as recent work in economic sociology, economic anthropology, and cultural studies. Enrollment limited to 15 juniors and seniors. (E) {H/S} 4 credits

REL 320 Jewish Religion and Culture
Topic: Judaism, Feminism and Religious Politics
Lois Dubin – Spring 2011, Spring 2014

A critical examination of the impact of contemporary feminism upon Jews across the spectrum - traditional, modern, and radical. We will 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 will 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

REL 335 Christianity and Culture
Topic: Christianity and Visual Culture
Vera Shevzov – Fall 2008

Christians through the ages have had an ambivalent relationship with images, sometimes embracing them in profound expressions of piety and at other times decrying their use in the name of divine prohibitions against idolatry. This seminar examines the history of Christian thinking about art (Eastern Christian, Roman Catholic and Protestant), the vocation of the Christian artist, as well as the devotional uses of art from late antiquity to the present. {H} 4 credits

Topic: The Russian Icon
Vera Shevzov – Spring 2012

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 seminar 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 will include historical, devotional, liturgical, philosophical, and literary texts. Enrollment limited to 12. {H/L} 4 credits

REL 345 Islamic Thought
Topic: The Making of Muhammad
Suleiman Mourad – Spring 2009, Fall 2013

This seminar examines the place of prophecy in Muslim thought by analyzing historical sources for the life of Muhammad: the Qur’an, traditional and revisionist biographies, poetry, art, and literature. Topics include the challenges of reconstructing the historical Muhammad, representations of his character and teachings in the traditions of Islamic theology, mysticism, and sacred history, medieval European presentation of the prophet of Islam and his portrayal in modern film and fiction. The course offers students an opportunity to investigate with some sophistication questions that require careful attention to research methods, critical theory, and writing. {H} 4 credits

Topic: The Qu’ran
Suleiman Mourad – Spring 2010

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

REL 360 Problems in Buddhist Thought
Topic: Classical Buddhist Psychology and Philiosophy of Mind

Andrew Olendzki - Spring 2014

The core teachings of the Buddha are deeply rooted in the workings of the mind: how it operates in daily life, what causes contribute to happiness and unhappiness, and how techniques of mental development can purify and transform the mind. This course consists of a close reading of specifically selected Pali texts which illuminate the early Buddhist understanding of the mind, senses, consciousness and the world of human experience. Special attention is given to how the theoretical models of mind developed in ancient India relate to contemporary issues in the philosophy of mind, and how the mindfulness practices of Buddhism are evoking new approaches to mental health and treatment. Prerequisite: one course in Buddhist traditions or permission of the instructor. {H} 4 credits

Topic: Enlightenment
Jamie Hubbard – Spring 2010, Spring 2013

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

Topic: The Flowering of Chinese Buddhism
Peter Gregory – Spring 2008, Spring 2009

The major traditions of thought and practice that came to characterize Chinese Buddhism developed during the eighth through twelfth centuries: Chan (Zen), Huayen, Tiantai, and Pure Land. The seminar will explore how the doctrinal innovations in Huayen and Tiantai were related to unique forms of practice that emerged in Chan and Pure Land. {H/L} 4 credits

Topic: Zen in China and Japan
Peter Gregory – Spring 2012

The seminar will focus on a close reading of some of the formative texts in the development of the Zen tradition in China and Japan, beginning with the Platform Sutra and moving on to other texts chosen in accord with student interest. We will explore both their philosophical content and historical context. {H/L} 4 credits

375 South Asian Religious Literature
Topic: Visual Culture
Andy Rotman – Fall 2008

How does one make sense of what one sees in South Asia? What is the visual logic behind the production and consumption of images, sculpture, 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 (darshana) in Hindu and Buddhist contexts, the role of god-posters (chromolithographs) in religious ritual, the function of temple sculpture, and the social significance of clothing as well as commercial films. {H/A} 4 credits