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FALL 2017

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
Lois Dubin 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/PHI 108 The Meaning of Life
Andy Rotman and Nalini Bhushan
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm

Same as PHI 108. 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 112 Introduction to the Bible I
Jason Gaines
MW 1:10 - 2:30 pm

Formerly REL 162. 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

Cross-listed course:

BUS 120 The Study of Buddhism
Jay Garfield
M 7 - 9 pm and W 7 - 8 pm, meets first half of semester only

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) 2 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 3- 4:20 pm

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

Biblical Literature

None offered this semester.

Jewish Traditions

REL 223 The Modern Jewish Experience
Lois Dubin
TTh 3 - 4:20 pm

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 analyze 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.Throughout the course, we will explore tensions between assimilation and cohesion; tradition and renewal; and history and memory. {H} 4 credits

Christian Traditions

REL 230 Jesus
Vera Shevzov
TTh 9 - 10:20 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

REL 242 The Russian Icon: Culture, Politics and the Sacred
Vera Shevzov
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. No prerequisites required. Open to first-year students. {H/L} Credits: 4

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. For more Buddhism courses, see the Buddhist Studies program courses page.

South Asian Traditions

None offered this semester. For more South Asia courses, see the South Asia concentration courses page.

Religion in the Americas

None offered this semester.

300-Level Courses


REL 345 Islamic Thought
Topic: Muslims and Shari‘a Law
Suleiman Mourad
MW 11 am - 12:10 pm

This seminar explores the complexity and history of Sharia Law in Islam. It examines the formation of a variety of schools of practice of Sharia from very early on in Islamic history until today and the way Muslim jurists have maintained the relevance of Sharia to their respective societies and times. It covers topics such as: the theory and application of Sharia, purpose of Sharia, sources of Sharia (e.g., Quran, Muhammad, customs), hermeneutical tools (e.g., reason, public good, doubt), and the laws themselves. The course also discusses the interaction of Sharia with other legal systems, especially in the context of today where Sharia is restricted to a small realm (primarily family and personal law). {H} Credits: 4