Religious Studies Course Descriptions Archives

Sort by course instructor, number, title or Quarter by clicking the appropriate column heading below.

Instructor Number Title Description UG/G Quarter
Bond 101 Freshman Seminar: Asian Religion in Literature The aim of this course is to enable students to read and discuss some of the classical and modern literature of Asian Religions. We will read selections from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, including important works such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching. In addition to the classical works, the class will read some modern novels that also explore key Asian themes. Reading these works will introduce the class to some of the fundamental ideas and questions of the Asian religious traditions. The class will also discuss the influence that these writings and ideas have had on Western culture. UG TBA
Bond 101 Freshman Seminar: Founders, Messiahs, and Teachers This course examines and compares the lives and teachings of three of the central figures in the world's religions: Gotama in Buddhism, Jesus in Christianity and Krishna in Hinduism. The reading for the course focuses on scriptural accounts of these figures as well as later descriptions of their roles. The goals of the course are (1) to understand the meaning of each teacher for his own religion, and (2) to draw comparisons and to analyze common themes in their lives and teachings. Another key question will be to ask about possible influences between these religious traditions. UG TBA
Kieckhefer 101 Freshman Seminar: Stories of God God rarely appears as an overt character in fiction, but in some particularly interesting cases God nonetheless figures as an agent in fictional narrative. From a literary viewpoint, one interesting question is what it can mean for a narrative to be moved forward by an agent who is not in a conventional sense a character. From a theological point of view, the interesting question is how conceptions of God become articulated, critiqued, and defended in narrative rather than conceptual terms. UG TBA
Kieckhefer 101 Freshman Seminar: Representations of Christ Rich as they are in certain kinds of material, the four canonical gospels of the New Testament leave gaps in the story and provide considerable room for speculation about Jesus' life-and from early centuries up to our time novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and poets have busied themselves with filling the gaps. We will examine various kinds of fictional life of Christ and discuss the various ways they transform the image of Jesus to support their own ideological and artistic programs. UG TBA
Wimpfheimer 101 Freshman Seminar: Introduction to Kabbalah Any reader of contemporary celebrity magazines knows Kabbalah as one of the latest celebrity religious fads. Thanks to the efforts of The Kabbalah Center, Kabbalah has many recent adherents and practitioners. What celeb-watchers do not necessarily know, though, is that Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, is an esoteric tradition which, from its origins, was designed to keep its study and practice limited to a select group of pious rabbinic Jews. In this course we will explore the genesis and evolution of Kabbalah from its origins to the present and discuss the reasons for the shift from secrecy to openness and the ramifications of this shift for the future of Kabbalah (and celebrities). UG TBA
Orsi 173 Religion, Medicine, and Suffering in the West Physical suffering--pain in the body--is an unavoidable fact of life. All humans must encounter the dreadful reality of pain in their own bodies and in the bodies of people they love. And whatever else religions are and do, all religions offer humans ways of understanding and coping with--and sometimes even healing--the body in pain. Religions are also responsible for causing pain in bodies. This course examines religion and pain in modern Western culture. In sequence we take up the questions: What is culture? What is pain? What is religion? Then we will turn to the question of how humans have used religious idioms to heal themselves as well we what it means to "heal." Readings include early Christian martyr accounts, autobiographies of people in pain, and stories of religious healing. UG TBA
Terrone 200 Introduction to Hinduism With a pantheon of hundreds of gods and goddesses, a vast array of practices and rituals, and hundreds of millions of adherents, the distinct yet interrelated religious traditions of South Asia often labeled "Hinduism" form one of the major religious traditions in the world. We will examine the historical foundations of the three Hindu paths or m¿rgas¿ritual, contemplative renunciation, and devotion¿as they have been lived and practiced down to the present day. Focusing on the key concepts of dharma or duty, karma, and bhakti or love for the lord, we will consider the ways in which Hindus from a variety of historical time periods, local traditions, and social backgrounds have attempted to make sense of their world and their lives within it. This course intends to make the student familiar with the multifaceted corpus of this religious system by looking into the rich spectrum of its manifestations in particular among the Hindus of India and Nepal. The aim is to introduce the students to the Hindu beliefs, rituals, practices, and scriptures from both a historical and religious studies point of view. UG TBA
Bond 210 Introduction to Buddhism Having begun in India some 2500 years ago, Buddism now exists in almost all parts of the world. The Buddist religion has shaped the thought and culture of Asia and has also influenced Western thought and culture in significant ways. To comprehend this diverse religion, this course approaches it from several perspectives: the historical, cultral, philosophical and religious. In the short time that we have in this quarter, our primary emphasis will be on investigating the philosophical and religious systems in the teachings of the Buddha in India as well as the thought of the later Buddhists in other parts of Asia. In looking at both the history and the philosophy, we see Buddhism as a religion that established a system of values, an interpretation of existence and a pattern of cultural practices and rituals that the Buddhists have interpreted in various ways to find meaning in life. UG TBA
Jacoby 210 Introduction to Buddhism This course provides an introduction to the Buddhist religious traditions of Asia and North America. Through careful examination of a variety of literature, we will consider the many ways in which Buddhists have understood human suffering, life after death, karma, the nature of the world and human's place within it, and the path to enlightenment. Our emphasis will be on attempting to understand the moral values, philosophical insights, ritual practices, and social concerns that have shaped Buddhism over centuries of dynamic change in diverse cultural contexts. We will examine not only the history of Buddhism and its three-fold division into Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, but also facets of the contemporary practice of Buddhism around the globe. UG TBA
Wickremeratne 210 Introduction to Buddhism More than an introductory course, we will probe the core essence shared by a variety of Buddhist traditions starting with Theravada. Also included are studies of the biography of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Nirvana, rebirth and Karma. We will address wider issues of Buddhism in society, the state and political order, and women in Buddhism. The course will be framed by epistemological assumptions governing the study of religion, as well as by sociological and anthropological insights and tools of access. UG TBA
Kieckhefer 211 New Testament Origins This course will examine a range of themes, including these: (1) the historical background to the New Testament (the land of Palestine, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Romans); (2) the gospels; (3) Christology (in Paul and the Synoptics, John, and Deutero-Paul, in the Passion narratives, and in the infancy narratives); (4) the miracles and the moral teachings of Christ and his disciples; (5) major theological themes (apocalyptic and the coming of the Kingdom, the parables and the Kingdom, demons versus the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit and charismata among Christ's disciples, baptism and Eucharist, and Church); (6) Christians' reactions to their social and cultural context (role and treatment of women, Christians versus Jews, Christians versus Romans); and (7) the development of early Christianity and the formation of the New Testament canon. UG TBA
Wimpfheimer 220 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible There is no overstating the significance of the Hebrew Bible in Western Culture. The Bible is a text that has been repeatedly turned to for spiritual guidance, for explanations of mankind's origins and as the basis of both classical art and contemporary cinema. English idiom is peppered with phrases that originate in the Hebrew Bible and many a modern political clash can be understood as a conflict over what the Bible's messages and their implications. This course introduces students to the Hebrew Bible by reading sections of most of the Bible's books. But reading is itself a complicated enterprise. The Bible has been put to many different uses; even within the world of academic scholarship, the Bible is sometimes a source of history, sometimes a religious manual, sometimes a primitive legal code and sometimes a work of classical literature. This course will introduce students to the various challenges that present themselves within the study of the Hebrew Bible and the varied approaches scholars take when reading the Hebrew Bible. This course is a critical introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Because the Hebrew Bible is a text important to various religious practices, it is important to emphasize that the course does not expect students to have a particular religious perspective on the Hebrew Bible. Students who have such a perspective are encouraged to bring their own experiences into the classroom while respecting the opinions (and individuals) that may challenge those views. UG TBA
Kieckhefer 221 Introduction to the New Testament This course is a systematic exploration of the New Testament, beginning with the Synoptic gospels and working through the book of Revelation. Particular attention is devoted to the intellectual content of the New Testament writings, as seen within their cultural context. UG TBA
Wimpfheimer 230 Introduction to Judaism This course attempts to answer the questions, "What is Judaism?" and "Who is a Jew?" by surveying the broad arc of Jewish history, reviewing the practices and beliefs that have defined and continue to define Judaism as a religion, sampling the vast treasure of Jewish literatures and analyzing the unique social conditions that have made the cultural experience of Jewishness so significant. The class will employ an historical structure to trace the evolutions of Jewish literature, religion and culture through the ages. UG TBA
Traina 240 Introduction to Christianity In the first part of this course we will explore the history of Christian beliefs, institutions and practices, with an eye to tracing the roots of the contemporary variety of North American expressions of Christianity. Next we will explore the religious practices of each branch and its connection with religious spaces. Finally, we will discuss the ways in which American Christianity has been shaped by colonization, immigration, assimilation and other forces. Through historical study and discussions with other guest speakers, we will learn how historical traditions combine with contemporary pressures to produce the dynamism and tension in contemporary Eastern Orthodoxy, Anabaptism, Roman Catholicism and Black Protestantism. How do differences in belief, class, race and cultural background correspond with styles of worship and architecture? How have communities adapted their beliefs and practices in new eras and cultural settings? UG TBA
Ingram 250 Introduction to Islam   UG TBA
Taylor 260 Introduction to Native American Religions This course provides an introduction to native religious traditions, exploring both the diversity and commonalities of North American native peoples. Clearly we cannot study all of the more than 550 different native American cultures in such a short time, so we will focus historical and critical examination on phenomena related to selected traditions (Navajo, Hopi, Lakota, Koyukon, etc.). Course content will cover major belief systems, including theories of balance, harmony, knowledge, power, ritual and ceremony. Throughout we will address issues of contact, colonization, exchange of native American women's experiences, and movements toward revitalization, resistance, and contemporary struggles surrounding issues of spiritual exploitation and/or "cultural theft" of native religious traditions. Diverse use of media resources within the Evanston and Chicago area. UG TBA
Taylor 261 American Religion, Ecology, and Culture This course will explore contemporary currents in religion and ecology, focusing on how the rise of environmentalism in American culture and the increasing give-and-take between ecological awareness and spiritual experience have become powerful forces in shaping the religious landscape. Particular attention will be paid to "greening" trends within religious institutions in light of tensions between philosophies of anthropocentrism and biocentrism, stewardship and deep ecology, bioregionalism and globalism. We will also examine the spiritual dimensions of ecofeminism, eco-kosher foodways, back-to-the-land movements, sacred agriculture, voluntary simplicity, and ecopsychology. Finally, we will analyze contemporary "ecotopian" and "eco-apocalyptic" visions for what broader insight they may afford us into American religion and culture. This course also counts toward the Environmental Policy and Culture minor at Northwestern. UG TBA
Orsi 264 American Religious History: 1865-The Great Depression This course examines major developments, movements, controversies, and figures in American religious history from the end of the Civil War, as the nation struggled to make sense of the carnage of war and to apportion responsibility, to the 1930s, when economic crisis strained social bonds and intimate relations and challenged Americans to rethink the nature of public responsibility. US religion from the Civil War to the economic crisis of the 1930; topics include urban religion; religion and changing technologies; African American religion; religion and politics; the religion of immigrants and migrants. UG TBA
Orsi 265 American Religious History: WWII-Present This course examines major developments, movements, controversies, and figures in American religious history from the end of the Civil War, as the nation struggled to make sense of the carnage of war and to apportion responsibility, to the 1930s, when economic crisis strained social bonds and intimate relations and challenged Americans to rethink the nature of public responsibility. US religion from the Civil War to the economic crisis of the 1930; topics include urban religion; religion and changing technologies; African American religion; religion and politics; the religion of immigrants and migrants. UG TBA
Helmer 271 Theology of Love The course uses theology as a critical resource in order to explore the philosophical, cultural, and religious aspects of love. Themes treated include intersubjective love, love as duty, love as virtue, love of God, and love of animals. UG TBA
Helmer 272 Luther and the West An examination of the impact of Martin Luther, the German sixteenth-century religious reformer, on five hundred years of Western history and culture. Areas of Luther's influence include: German studies, philosophy, psychology, music and art history, and theories of religion. UG TBA
Bond 311 Theravada Buddhism and Culture A study of the Theravada school of Buddhism that began in India and exists today in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The course examines the history of Theravada, the core ideas of Theravada's philosophy of Buddhism, and the central practices for the four-fold Sangha. Special attention will be given to the Theravada meditation tradition. The course will examine some of the most important studies of the contemporary practice of Theravada in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. UG TBA
Bond 314 Buddhism in the Modern World This course explores the ways that Buddhism has addressed the challenges of the modern and post-modern world. Concentrating primarily on Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia, this course examines topics that include Buddhism and the nation-state in contexts such as Sri Lanka and Thailand. It will examine the evolution of the roles of monastic and lay Buddhists during this period. One key issue here is the role of women in Buddhism, and the question of the restoration of monastic ordination for women. The engagement of Buddhism with social concerns will also represent a particular focus of this course. We will study socially engaged Buddhist movements in Sri Lanka, Thailand and elsewhere. UG TBA
Terrone 318 Topics in East Asian Religions: Religions of Tibet The primary aim of this seminar is to provide students with an overview of religion in Tibet from a number of approaches in the study of religion: historical, sociological, anthropological, philosophical, and in terms of doctrine, canon, iconography, pilgrimage, ritual, gender, global context, etc. Considering Tibetan religious life from these various orientations fosters a fuller understanding of the complex and overlapping worlds of meaning evoked by religious texts, institutions, and practice. Course Requirements: 1. Regular attendance, ready participation in discussing assigned readings. 2. Mid-term examination (quizzes, definitions, one short essay question). 3. Term-paper. UG TBA
Jacoby 319 Topics in Buddhism: Buddhism and Gender This course will explore historical, textual, and social questions relevant to gender and the status of women in the Buddhist worlds of India, Tibet, and the West from the time of Buddhism's origins to the present day. Course topics include the role of women in early Indian Buddhism, gender and the body in Mahayana Buddhism, the status of Buddhist nuns, the role of women and the feminine in Vajrayana Buddhism, Buddhism and sexuality, Buddhist women's autobiography, and feminist theory and Tibetan Buddhism in the West. UG TBA
Wickremeratne 324 Buddhism in the Contemporary World: Traditional and Reform What is the relationship of Buddhism (a religion which is over two thousand five hundred yeas old) to the world we live in? This course will demonstrate that the question itself is flawed since it implies that there is somehow a dissonance between Buddhism and the contemporary world. By providing an exposition of the doctrines, the ideologies, the world view of Buddhism together with its idealized view of the social order, this course will show that at all periods of its long history, the strength of Buddhsim was precisely its relevance to the contemporary. While the course will deal with the sweep of ideas rather than with a chronologically presented history of buddhism, the course in a more pragmatic sense will focus on what are conventionally regarded as the burning issues of our time, such as violence, crime, sectarian tensions and strife, gender issues, abortion, genetic manipulation, and the social malaisse. The course will view all such issues within the framework of Buddhist thought. UG TBA
Wimpfheimer 339 Topics in Judaism: Art of Rabbinic Narrative Rabbinic literature contains a large corpus of stories. In this course we will explore different methods of reading such stories. These range from naïve historiography to sophisticated historiography, from reading these stories as fables with didactic morals to reading them as windows onto a class-stratified and gender-divided rabbinic culture. Our analysis of these methods of reading rabbinic stories will be conducted in conversation with different twentieth century literary theorists. UG TBA
Wimpfheimer 339 Topics in Judaism: Reading the Talmud In this seminar, we will study a tractate of Talmud-tractate Makkot-in its original form (not in English translation). Our class discussion will be conducted in English, but we will spend considerable time discussing texts written in Hebrew. The seminar is limited to students who either are enrolled in second year Hebrew or have background Hebrew reading and comprehension skills that have been certified by the instructor. This course will introduce students to Talmud Criticism by reading the Talmudic discussion of the laws of false testimony in light of prior and contemporaneous Jewish literature on this topic, the historical realities of Rabbinic Culture and questions raised within the lengthy history of Talmudic commentary. Students need not have a background in Talmud to take this class, though students with such background are also encouraged to attend. UG TBA
Zoloth 339 Topics in Judaism: Good and Evil - Readings in the Ethics of Levinas and Arendt UG TBA
Kieckhefer 340 Foundations of Christian Thought This course will examine the central issues in early and medieval Christian thought. We will begin with two works that show Christian thinkers struggling with theological issues that arise largely from their own experience: St. Augustine's Confessions and Julian of Norwich's Showings. Then we will examine the teachings on God, Christ, and justification. We will also to some extent ask how modern and contemporary Christian theology has criticized and reinterpreted traditional notions. UG / GRAD TBA
Kieckhefer 342 Christian Mystical Theology This course will examine some of the classic writings of the medieval Christian mystical tradition, in both its orthodox and its "heretical" forms, focusing mainly on three themes: (1) the use of erotic imagery derived from the Song of Songs to portray mystical relationship as a spiritual love-affair, (2) disciplined attention to the divine through contemplation and the contemplative life, and (3) theological speculation about the relationship between the soul and God. UG TBA
Newman 342 Christian Mystical Theology The word "mysticism" is one of the most slippery terms in religious studies, but within the Christian tradition it can be defined as the experiential knowledge of God, together with the practices that prepare for such experience and the transformations that flow from it. Christian mystical theology answers such questions as: What does "mystical experience" reveal about the nature of God? How does it transform the devotee? How does it relate to the ordinary Christian practices of prayer, worship, and Bible study? What are its ethical consequences? How can genuine mystical experience be distinguished from delusion? In this course we will approach such questions by reading a wide variety of mystics, but we will concentrate on four figures from the golden age of Christian mysticism: St. Bernard of Clairvaux (twelfth century), Mechthild of Magdeburg (thirteenth), Henry Suso (fourteenth), and St. John of the Cross (sixteenth). We will pay special attention to mystical texts that represent a convergence of the ascetic and the erotic elements in religion. UG TBA
Traina 344 Christian Ethics This is a course on contemporary issues in western Christian ethics and their connections to basic Christian theological convictions. We will examine a variety of Christian positions on contemporary moral questions and through this examination learn about current and traditional connections between theology (knowledge of God and God's relationship to humanity) and ethics and morality (arguments and conclusions about what one is to be and do). We will begin with an overview of contemporary approaches to Christian ethics, with some attention to their historical background, and then move to discussions of guidelines for ethical analysis and action that have been proposed by representative Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, and conservative evangelical moralists. Topics to be discussed often include war, capital punishment, sexuality, and the environment but change slightly from year to year.
Kieckhefer 345 The Idea of Sainthood in Christianity The phenomenon of sainthood opens a range of issues: a saint is an exemplar of heroic virtue, and ideas of sainthood reflect the ethical norms of a particular Christian society; a saint is the focus of veneration, and the ways people behave toward saints (going on pilgrimage to venerate their relics, showing reverence to their images, etc.) tells a great deal about official and unofficial Christian piety; a saint is a figurehead for some interest group such as a religious order or a city, and in churches that have a process of canonization this becomes a mirror of ecclesiastical politics. The course will focus on the classic era of sainthood, from Late Antiquity through the Middle Ages, in which conceptions that have remained influential were first articulated and developed. Toward the end of the term, however, we will look at recent development in canonization. UG TBA
Molina 349 Topics in Christianity: Living and Dying in Colonial Latin America This course looks at the history of colonial Latin America. We will examine the themes of religion, ethnicity, gender, science and medicine. The goal of the class is to explore colonial Latin America through the lens of everyday practices that were geared toward managing daily life with death and salvation in mind. UG TBA
Newman 349 Topics in Christianity: The Cult of the Virgin Mary No aspect of the Catholic faith has been so deeply shaped by popular piety-"the will of the people"-as the veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Official Catholic teaching holds that devotion directed toward Mary is a way of worshipping Christ, while Protestant polemics have blasted the Virgin's cult as non-biblical and a form of idolatry. Yet during the Renaissance, much of the mythology and pageantry surrounding Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen" of Protestant England, was based on the cult of Mary. Today, some feminists and religionists see Mariology as Goddess-worship by another name. In the first part of this class we will explore the many manifestations of the Virgin's cult at the height of its popularity in the Middle Ages. We will investigate not only texts (legends of Mary's life, miracle stories, visions, poems, prayers, and plays), but also liturgical celebrations, pilgrimages, hymns, icons, altarpieces, rose windows, and statues of the Virgin. In the second portion we will look at the widely varying modern interpretations of Mary, including the conservative piety surrounding the apparitions of Fatima and Medjugorje, the appropriation of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a symbol of Mexican nationalism, and the place of Mary in liberation theology, feminist spirituality, and archetypal psychology. The course will include art-historical lectures, musical performances, and showings of two very different films: the Catholic devotional classic, Song of Bernadette (1943), and Jean-Luc Godard's postmodern masterpiece, Hail Mary (1985). UG TBA
Newman 349 Topics in Christianity: Major Christian Poets This class will offer an intensive study of five major Christian poets writing in Great Britain between the early 17th century and the mid-20th. Their lives and works could scarcely be more different. The flamboyant John Donne was famed for his erotic poems and dissolute life before he became a celebrated preacher and Dean of St. Paul's. George Herbert, the saintliest of English poets, gave up a promising academic career to toil in an obscure country church, where he wrote magnificent poetry and died young. William Blake, Romantic rebel and visionary artist, lived up to his famous aphorism that "I must create my own System, or be enslaved by another Man's." The Victorian Gerard Manley Hopkins, a convert to Roman Catholicism, burned his early poems after becoming a Jesuit priest, but fortunately took up the craft again and became a major innovator in English prosody. Finally, T. S. Eliot followed the 1922 triumph of his Waste Land, one of the foundation charters of high modernism, by converting to Anglican Christianity and producing the Four Quartets, perhaps the greatest English religious poems of the 20th century. This course is offered through the Religion Dept. because we will devote serious attention to issues of theology and religious sensibility; but we will also do the same kind of close reading and analysis expected in other poetry courses. Students should therefore have some previous experience in the interpretation of poetry. UG TBA
Traina 349 Topics in Christianity: The Child in Christian Thought Who and what are children, according to Christian theologians? The answers are surprisingly difficult to discover. This course will explore childhood in Christian theology with special attention to western thought. We will discuss the conections between the theology of childhood in any given period and the treatment and social standing of children; we will also discuss how both affect religious instruction. We will investigate the image of childhood as an ideal or antitype for Christian discipleship. Finally, we will attend carefully to ways in which basic Christian doctrines like the doctrine of original sin cause theological and practical problems for both the Christian concept of childhood generally and sacramental life in particular. Throughout, we'll ask about ways in which theologians' own adult experience or non-experience of children affects their views and what theological and practical difficulties arise when children's religious subjectivity is ignored or misrepresented. UG TBA
Helmer 349 Topics in Christianity: Theology of Sport The course addresses the intersection between sport and religion. The theological perspective frames themes, such as the history of sport, ritual and sport, sports psychology, the body, and competition. UG TBA
Kieckhefer 350 Topics in Religion: Church Architecture We will examine the history of church architecture, its liturgical uses, and recent developments and controversies. UG TBA
Lowe 350 Topics in Religion: Reformations - Protestant and Catholic This course is to provide a general background for understanding the sixteenth-century religious debates and upheaval constituting the Protestant Reformation and the response of the Roman Catholic Church to these developments. The readings include classic primary texts and interpretive secondary material and are chosen to give an understanding of the topic in addition to promoting class examination of religious controversies and the social and cultural contexts in which they occurred. UG TBA
Newman 350 Topics in Religion: Women in Contemporary World Religions This class will explore the changing roles and activities of women, as well as beliefs about gender, in three global religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and one new religious movement popular in North America and Britain (Wicca or Neo-Paganism). We will look at such issues as the exclusion or inclusion of women in traditional religious practices; the historical roots of misogyny and contemporary resistance; leadership roles available to women; attitudes and behaviors related to female sexuality; feminine expressions of the sacred (Goddess, Shekinah, Virgin Mary, etc.); and the goals and ideologies of feminists working within each of these traditions today. UG TBA
Taylor 350 Topics in Religion: Women, Ecology and the Sacred In an intensive seminar format, this course explores themes of environmental prophecy, nature mysticism, ecospiritual transformation, and "green eschatology" as expressed through a selection of contemporary American women authors, artists, and activists. Focusing on women from a variety of religious backgrounds, we analyze personal narratives, artistic productions, and protest actions, considering how (through these forms) women address and negotiate issues related to religious tradition, social change, environmental concerns, and the "greening" of American religions. We also discuss and evaluate ecofeminist theoretical perspectives on the relationships among human beings, the natural environment, and nonhuman animals, problematizing nature/culture and women/culture dualisms. UG TBA
Taylor 350 Topics in Religion: Women and Religion in America This course offers an introduction to women's historical and contemporary roles in American religious life. Focusing on women's creative productions and experiences, we will examine how women have contributed to the formation and transformation of religious culture in this country. We will also explore the importance of gender roles, issues of sexuality, leadership, women's religious meanings and motivations, experiences and identities. Much of the readings will be drawn from primary source documents that students will consider and evaluate in view of the course's thematic questions and concerns. Among the questions we will address are: How have women's experiences been expressed both within and in opposition to American religious traditions? What factors are involved in women becoming religious leaders or entrepreneurs? How have women responded to traditions in which they do not have access to formal authority? In what ways might some religions make sacred women's traditional roles? How might others extend women's roles beyond existing social constraints? How have women's religious experiences and narratives shaped and in turn been shaped by American culture? UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film Dostoevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment" famously intertwines the thriller with the drama of the spiritual quest. In this course, we will analyze the ways in which a select group of movies similarly activates multiple levels of reference, as each seeks to probe the nature of justice, mercy, and moral ambiguity in the public and private domains. Films will include Bresson's "Pickpocket" and "L'Argent;" Eastwood's "Mystic River;" Kieslowski's "Dekalog;" the Dardennes' "The Son;" Melville's "Le Cercle Rouge" and Clouzot's "Quai des Orfevres." UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film - Crime and Punishment, Quest and Inquest Carl-Theo. Dreyer and Andrei Tarkovsky marked cinematic history with distinctive visions about the way the world runs. No survey of "religion and film" could omit Dreyer's "Day of Wrath" or "Ordet," or Tarkovksy's "Stalker," "Andrei Rublev," or "Sacrifice." Yet those who maintain that Dreyer was a "pious" filmmaker fail to note his skepticism of received political and religious doctrine, and it might be argued that Tarkovsky's films reflect as great a devotion to art as to religion. In this course we will examine Dreyer and Tarkovsky's greatest movies with an eye to uncovering what makes them disturb, yet delight, viewers--how their ideas and representations stimulate profound reflection about human experience. UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film - "Dekalog," Krzysztof Kieslowski and the Moral Life In this course we will examine the re-imaging of the moral life in Kieslowski's magisterial film series, Dekalog. In Kieslowski's one-hour dramas (made for Polish TV) and in the films by models such as Bergman and Dreyer, might the human anguish portrayed arise not simply from broken single commandments but rather from a larger breach such as covetousness? To probe Kieslowski's artistic and ethical vision, we will study additional films that share his intense concern with such questions: e.g., Cries & Whispers; Ali, Fear Eats the Soul; Day of Wrath; Vertigo; La Promesse; Hamsun; and My Name is Ivan. UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: 13 Conversations About Religion and Film 2003 In this course I propose to open a series of conversations on religion & film, using movies from a variety of international film cultures. While the films differ vastly in cinematic style, the substance of each raises the question: "How shall we live?" It's the question raised by the great Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, whose Dekalog constitutes the heart of this course; it's the question underlying the biblical decalogue itself, as well as its missing ethical prescriptions about caring for the poor and forgotten. Films to be studied will include A City of Sadness (Taiwan), The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran), Anna (Russia), All or Nothing (UK), Ordet (Denmark), and Au Hazard Balthazar (France). The "conversations" will address such issues as violence, ethnic hatreds, the weight of historical memory, and redemption (of people, not pudding coupons). UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film - The Films of Robert Bresson Robert Bresson, one of the world's greatest directors, consistently made films that challenge easy assumptions both about religion and about the cinema. His early films juxtaposed easily recognizable Christian themes and symbols against a severe aesthetic that favored narrative ellipsis, sharply sculpted images, and the use of both professional and non-professional actors, whom he called "models." In the middle and later films "grace" and "redemption" became less recognizable as he grappled with the many faces of the problem of evil. He turned to the novels and short stories of Bernanos, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy as he sought to present human behavior in the harsh light of reality but with the possibility of transcendence. Films to be studied: Diary of a Country Priest; Pickpocket; A Man Escaped; Au Hazard, Balthazar; La Femme Douce; Mouchette; Lancelot du Lac; L'Argent, among others. UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film Film and Religion are topics that few people yoke together--unless the "subject" of the film is a pastor (usually flawed--think Winter Light or The Apostle) or religious practices (think Kundun). In this course we seek rather to examine films that incorporate the Fool, whose ancient literary pedigree makes him at once the most religious and the most subversive of characters no matter his/her (dis)guise. Films to be considered include Gladiator (US), Topsy-Turvy (Britain), City of Sadness (Taiwan), The Wind Will Carry (Iran), Rosetta (Belgium), Beau Travail (France). UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Deliver us from the Evil One - Religion and Values in Film In this course we will examine a number of movies in which the mysteries of the problem of evil are actively explored. The Blair Witch phenomenon provides yet one more marker of the fascination that evil (particularly that which is unknown, unseen) has traditionally exerted on the imagination of the spectator. The early Passion play representations were followed by the delights of evil in Fantomas and Irma Vep, for instance. The caper films of the thirties were no less seductive; so, too, were the films noir of the forties and early fifties. Gangsters, ghouls, and their kin come and go as the market dictates. The films in this course follow a different pattern: their creators have identified specific social problems or ethical behaviors and, through complex visual texts, attempt to unravel the causative agent or agents, human or otherwise. Careful attention will be given to the strategies by which this detective work is accomplished as well as to the ways in which each film exposes its creators' own underlying value systems. Do not expect easily identifiable "religious" figures or religious practices in these films. The agenda of each film, however, is arguably intensely spiritual in nature, as the director and his/her team create a world in which human desire may clash with harsh social, political, or natural reality. UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Film and the Religious Conscience - The Fool as Scapegoat and Catalyst From the opening sequences in "Forrest Gump" the savvy cinephile recognizes that s/he is being "fooled" by the skilled director of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Unfortunately, not every viewer of "Gump" realizes that the Fool, a character with a prodigiously long shelf life, should rarely be taken at face value. In this course we will NOT study "Forrest Gump" but will venture into darker territory in Fool literature with "Sling Blade," "Breaking the Waves," "La Strada," "Ordet," "Children of Paradise," "Stalker," "The Apostle," and "Henry Fool." Rossellini's "Little Flowers of Saint Francis" and Chaplin's "City Lights" further remind us of the complex tradition in which the Fool stands - foolish or wise, "constructed' or innocent, sacrifice or catalyst for action, the Fool unsettles our comfortable notions about how success, happiness, and wisdom might be defined, much less achieved. UG TBA
Vaux 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Film - The Mystery of the Human Person The films to be analyzed in "Religion and Film: the Mystery of the Human Person" defeat all attempts to be slotted into categories of Good and Evil, Angel and Devil, Divine and Human. The transcendent, the spiritual, the divine-concepts that not only intrigue but recently obsess movie marketers-gather more power in "The Sweet Hereafter," "L.A. Confidential," or "Unforgiven," where ultimate answers are notably absent yet achingly desired, than in any film that attempts to "represent" the divine through the intervention of angelic agents or mighty beings. The encounter with mystery may as frequently take place on the dark streets of Warsaw ("Dekalog") or Taipei ("A City of Sadness") or Brussels ("La Promesse") as in space usually termed sacred; the liturgies that bind and uplift may be twisted ("Touch of Evil," "Day of Wrath") or transformed in startling ways ("Stalker"). The one overt representation of religious belief and practice, "The Apostle," shares with the above films a commitment not to convert spectators but to disturb and challenge them to confront the violence, racism, greed, and abuse of power that lie at the center of most human transactions. In this course we will examine each movie as a unique work of film art that opens the imagination, engages us in ethical dialogue, and fulfills the twin functions of great poetry, to delight and to instruct. UG TBA
Zoloth 350 Topics in Religion: Religion and Bioethics This is a seminar that will explore the topic of how a variety of religions approach the issues in the field of Bioethics. We will examine the issue of epistemic stance, of truth claims, of the relationship between religion and public policy, and of the normative claims of religion in bioethics, reform and issues in reproductive medicine. This seminar will look at both classic dilemmas in modern medicine and how the discipline of bioethics has emerged to reflect upon such dilemmas with particular attention to the role that theology and religious studies has played in such reflection. We will look both at how the practice of theologians historically has shaped the field of bioethics and at how religion's claims, methodology, and praxis have continued to shape and inflect bioethics. We will use a case based method to study how different faith traditions describe and defend differences in moral choices in contemporary bioethics and how such different traditions both collide and cohere over such topics as embryo research, health care allocation and rationing, how to treat the terminally ill, and issues in genetic research. UG TBA
Lowe 353 Studies in American Religion: Evolution of American Religious Pluralism A historical and ethnographic examination of the ways in which religion in the United States both reflects and challenges values of diversity and pluralism. Historical exploration on church-state debate, impact of immigration on religion, the civil rights movements, and regional patterns of religious difference. Ethnographic analysis will focus the impact of these developments on the religions and the religious communities of Chicago. Important themes in the course include the role of the frontier and the city, exile and diaspora, and the idea of "promised land" in diverse religious traditions, including Puritanism, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, African-American Protestantism, Judaism and Islam. UG TBA
Taylor 353 Topics in American Religion: African American Religions This course explores the diversity of religious forms within African American religious communities. We will study mainstream churches, Black Muslims, conversionist sects, and Spiritual Churches, as well as the rise of black nationalism, civil rights, and black liberation theology. Of special interest will be dynamics of contact, combination, and exchange as they relate to faith, race, identity, violence, accommodation, and protest. Students will be introduced to the strength, power, and creativity of African American religious life, while coming to a better understanding of social struggle and cultural resistance. UG TBA
Bond 355 Studies in Buddhism UG TBA
Taylor 369 Topics in American Religion: American Religion and Popular Culture This seminar is geared to students in Religious Studies and American Studies but will also appeal to film majors and those interested in various areas of cultural study. In this course, we will examine religion and popular culture in theoretical perspective, self-reflexively considering what counts as "religion" and what counts as "popular culture" in America and why. How might these definitions change over time, and who has the authority to decide what kind of phenonmena falls into which category? What is the purpose of studying popular culture and what methodologies might be most useful and appropriate for doing so? What might the study of popular culture contribute to our understanding of how Americans experience the "religious"? Students will be asked to problematize "high culture" versus "low culture" distinctions, theoretical divisions between what is labeled "religious" and "secular," and classifications of "religion" and "culture." Examining a series of case studies drawn from film, television, popular music and art, consumer items, kitsch, and other sources, we will explore different scholarly approaches to the study of religion and popular culture. Students then compare and evaluate these approaches, choosing their own approach as they conduct original research for the final seminar project. UG TBA
Taylor 369 Topics in American Religion: Jezebels, Witches, Hussies, and Heretics This course is an introduction to the "bad girls" of American religious history. Some of these "misbehaving" women you may already recognize. Others we will retrieve from historical obscurity. Were these women prophetic in some way? Villainous? Both? Something in between? We will focus our analysis on the dynamics and meanings of boundary transgression as they relate to norms of both gender and religion. Nonconformist, unorthodox, heretical, and thoroughly fascinating, America's "Jezebels" provide us critical insights into the history of American religions and the women who have boldly questioned their authority. UG TBA
Vaux 371 Religion and Filmi: Films of Clint Eastwood and J. Melville Recent Westerns such as The Proposition (2005), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), and Eastern Promises (2007) have revived recognition of the form's potential to explore long-simmering or ignored problems in past and contemporary society. They also foreground violence as cinematic seduction and trigger for intense social analysis. In this course, we will explore the Westerns of French director Jean-Pierre Melville and American legend Clint Eastwood. UG /GRAD TBA
Vaux 371 Religion and Film: Eternal War or the Dawn of Peace? Full topic title: "Eternal War or the Dawn of Peace? The unmasking of texts in Eastwood, Bresson, the Dardennes, and Audiard." Clint Eastwood, often linked in the public imaginary with the Angel of Death and redemptive bloodshed, constructs layered film texts where peacemaking, reconciliation, and redemption trump violence. We will study his career-long struggle to privilege the marginalized in American society-the power of weakness-over "Hobbes on horseback"-the triumph of power-in the context of select filmmakers who also explore religious themes under cover of realism. His early films show an awareness of Bresson, Melville, and Kurosawa in theme and technique; the later films parallel Varda, the Dardennes, and Audiard with their interlacing of gritty realism and transcendence. His iconic films since Unforgiven, furthermore, disguise meditations on human suffering beneath a painterly surface, culminating in his recent war triptych and its thematic coda, Invictus (2009). UG /GRAD TBA
Vaux 371 Religion and Film: Films of Clint Eastwood In 1971, Clint Eastwood directed his first movie, Play Misty for Me, setting into motion a 35-year tension between his iconic identity-rugged American masculinity-and his relentless questioning of the deployment of images of power and destiny to obscure America's history of violence, poverty, and racism. Beneath the media-driven image of a man of violence lies a director who stimulates debates on justice, mysticism, ethical choice, love, forgiveness, and redemption-ingredients of "a perfect world"-through movies that embrace a wide variety of genres and bridge the divide between commerce and art. In this course, we will seek to discover the ethical system that underlies Eastwood's films through a close examination of his use of narrative structure, genre conventions, mise-en-scène, sound design, and technical devices. Eastwood's iconic films (e.g., Unforgiven, Mystic River, Letters From Iwo Jima), comprise the heart of the course. The depth of his accomplishment will be enhanced by studying selected European and American films that influenced his artistic growth (e.g., The Spaghetti Westerns, The Seven Samourai, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Steel Helmet, films of Robert Bresson and Carl-Theo. Dreyer). Prospective students should view Changeling and Gran Torino, Eastwood's latest offerings, before classes begin. UG /GRAD TBA
Vaux 371 Religion and Filmi: Robert Bresson In this course, we will explore the apparent shift in Robert Bresson's religious/spiritual orientation from his earliest films (Les Anges du Peche through Pickpocket) to his later ones (Mouchette through L'Argent). Do Bresson's later films reveal an artist past his prime, prey to depression and despair? Did Bresson lose his faith along with his creative powers? We will consider these questions in tandem with Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, source for many of his works. We will analyze his cinematic strategies alongside Iranian, Asian, and recent French films that may draw upon his unusual form for inspiration. UG /GRAD TBA
Vaux 371 Religion and Film: The Decalogue Kieslowski's great films about the moral life, Dekalog, will be analyzed with an eye to scriptural antecedents, formal elements, and thematic analogs within world cinema. Films to be studies in addition to Dekalog include A City of Sadness (Taiwan); Amores Perros (Mexico); The Son's Room (Italy); Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Germany); Days of Heaven (US); The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran); Talk To Her (Spain); Le Goût des Autres (France); Day of Wrath (Denmark). UG /GRAD TBA
Bond 372 Asian Religions in Literature and Film Since the age when the maritime explorers searched for a passage to India and a shorter route to the East, Asia has held a fascination for the West. While the West may have influenced Asia overtly through colonization and commerce, Asia has also influenced the West more subtly through art, literature and religion. This course explores Asian Religions- specifically, Hinduism and Buddhism-by examining their expression in literature and film. The two main goals of the course are: First, to examine some of the central themes of Hinduism and Buddhism and the ways that they are depicted in classical Asian texts and in some contemporary Asian films. Second, by studying Western literature and films dealing with Asia, the course seeks to understand some of the ways that Asia and its religions have been imagined and interpreted in the West and the influences that they have had on Western thought and culture. UG TBA
Zoloth 373 Religion and Bioethics This class will explore the topic of how a variety of religions approach contemporary dilemmas in medicine, global health, science and public policy. We will examine the bioethical issues created and debated amidst serious controversy and how controversies emerge within the political process (with special attention to the 2008 races). We will explore the nature of the relationship between religion and public policy and study how religious traditions and moral philosophy shape our view of issues as "bioethics controversies" in the first place. We will look at both classic dilemmas in modern medicine and how the discipline of bioethics has emerged to reflect upon such dilemmas with particular attention to the role that theology and religious studies has played in such reflection. We will look both at how the practice of theologians historically has shaped the field of bioethics and at how religion's claims, methodology, and praxis have continued to shape and inflect bioethics. We will use a case based method to study how different faith traditions describe and defend differences in moral choices in contemporary bioethics and see how such different traditions both collide and cohere over such topics as embryo research, health care reform, how to treat the terminally ill, and issues in genomic research. We will ask: what is the role of religion in both personal decisions and in public life? UG TBA
Traina 379 Topics in Comparative Religion: Feminism and Fertility In this course we will explore some of the complex questions that feminists have raised about human fertility over the past century, with a special focus both on religious contexts and on feminist religious writing. We will investigate a number of questions, including the significance of fertility for women's welfare in particular religious and cultural settings; fertility control; the effect of infertility, male or female, on gender relations; the multiple meanings of fertility therapies. We will make use of both anthropology and ethical approaches. UG TBA
Molina 382 Catholicism and Making of the Modern World: Christianity and Colonialism - Becoming Sinners, Christianity and Colonialism What is "conversion" and how does it function in colonial contexts? What does it mean to try to convince someone that he or she is a sinner in need of redemption? This course is built upon the premise that often Europeans -- both missionaries and the governments that sponsored them -- sought to effect a fundamental change in consciousness beyond merely coercing natives to claim a belief in the Christian god. We will explore the myriad ways in which European colonizers enticed, cajoled and sometimes demanded an alteration in native consciousness through an examination of transformations in cultural practices, from formal ritual to one's everyday practices, culinary habits, expression of emotion, etc. We will evaluate the "successes" and "failures" of such ventures. Chronologically, the first half of the course will explore the interactions between missionaries, governments, and colonized, beginning with the first European overseas empires (Spain and Portugal in the 15th through 18th centuries). The second half of the course will draw from case studies from the era of modern colonialism (19th and 20th centuries), particularly regarding India, Africa, and with one example from Micronesia. The purpose of the course is not only to understand the narrative history of European attempts at "spiritual conquest" over time, but to explore various approaches to the concept of "culture" -- what it meant to Europeans and colonial "others" in particular locations and historical contexts. The course will explore Christian concepts of "self" and "other" that were operative in each time period. Drawing upon anthropological theories pertaining to culture, communication, and ritual, we will keep an eye trained to the unique historical experiences of actors in each context, but also aim to understand more generalized patterns of conversion in colonial contexts across time. UG TBA
Traina 383 Catholic Social Ethics Beginning in the 1890s with the papal encyclical Rerum novarum but stretching roots back to the medieval period, modern and contemporary Roman Catholic ecclesiastical teaching and academic reflection have self-consciously and systematically engaged important domestic and international issues. This course will follow the trajectory of official ecclesiastical, academic, and popular Catholic social ethics from the late 19th century to the present in their social and political contexts. Among the trends and topics studied are the living wage movement, the Catholic Worker movement, peace and justice initiatives, liberation ethics, race, immigration, and environment. The transformation of sexuality and gender from "private" to "social" ethics will also be discussed. This is one of the core courses for the Catholic Studies minor. UG TBA
Traina 384 Soundings in the Catholic Tradition: Theology after Vatican II Although the changes of Vatican Council II were largely the products of the work of avant-garde "modern" Catholic theologians, the post-Council period saw a flourishing of theological diversity. In this course we will sample some of the trends of that thought. We will read authors from around the globe who represent different methodological perspectives. Among the authors to be read are Tissa Balasuriya, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Susan A. Ross, James Alison, Cynthia S.W. Crysdale, Karl Rahner, Hans Küng, Ivone Gebara, Elizabeth Johnson, and Edward Schillebeeckx. UG TBA
Bond 390 Comparative Study of Religions: Religion in Global Perspectives The religious landscape of America has changed radically in the past several decades, and continues to change. This course explores the theological and religious issues emerging in the interaction of the majority Christian communities with Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist communities in an increasingly pluralistic American culture. The scope of the course moves from introduction to the religions, and identification of some issues in their interaction, to experience of and reflection upon the dialogue between religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. We shall explore the meanings of this new religious pluralism for a culture that has been predominantly Christian and for the witness and praxis of its churches in relation with its mosques and temples. UG TBA
Taylor 395 Theories of Religion What is "theory"? What does it mean to have a theory about something? How are theories helpful? What do theories do? What is "religion"? How do things get excluded or included in this category? What counts as "religious" and why? Who gets to decide? This course is an introduction to foundational theories of religion and to the history of the construction of the category of "religion" over time. Throughout the term, you will be working on formulating your own theory of religion, which you will articulate and defend in your final seminar paper. In this course, you will gain (as ritual theorist Catherine Bell says) "the skills and tools to make sure that very complicated situations and ideas can be put into words, thereby making it possible to have discussions about issues that can only be discussed if there is language for reflexivity, nuance, counter-evidence, and doubt." In the process, you will be asked to make theory translatable to your peers by actively engaging theoretical concept in creative ways. Professor Taylor is out to prove in this course that not only is theory indispensable to our work as religion scholars but it's also fun! UG / GRAD TBA
Traina 395 Theories of Religion This course examines both the phenomenon of religion and the academic study of religion. We shall read and discuss some of the classic theories from scholars who have sought to explain and account for religion from an academic standpoint. These scholars have approached religion from many different angles and have arrived at differing views of the meaning of the phenomenon of religion. Their views have shaped both the field of religious studies and the way that our culture in general thinks about religion. We shall attempt to understand and critique these analyses of religion and, in this process, to arrive at our own understanding of 1) the phenomenon of religion, and 2) various approaches to the study of religion.
Bond 432 Themes in Comparative Religion: Teaching Comparative Religion Teaching World Religions: One of the most popular undergraduate courses in departments of religious studies is the World Religions course. This seminar will focus on the questions: What are the "world religions" and how should we go about teaching them in our time? Since the study of the world religions is closely tied up the development of European thought, this seminar will study the background issues as well as the practical issues of how to frame a study of the living world religions. The course also examines various models for studying and teaching these religions. The aim of the course is to help graduate students prepare themselves to teach this popular undergraduate class. GRAD TBA
Taylor 460 Seminar: Topics in American Religions - Greening of Faith This graduate seminar examines the rise of religious environmentalism, its historical precedents, and its future prospects. Course analysis will focus on the "greening" of prayer, liturgy, and other forms of diverse religious practice as they bring to light fusions of religious, social, and political responses to environmental crisis. GRAD TBA
Helmer 470 Theology and the Study of Religion An historical exploration of the study of religion, from the nineteenth century to the present, in relation to theological themes. Also addressed are constructive issues concerning the contemporary relation between theology and religious studies. GRAD TBA
Molina 471 Studies in History of Religions: Gender and Embodiment Focusing on the particular historical circumstances that gendered the manner in which historical actors experienced their bodies, we will explore how Christians structured their narratives of self. Case studies will draw on a variety of historical contexts from late-antiquity, through the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, up through the eighteenth century, although the bulk of the materials will be drawn from early modern Europe and colonial Latin America. In all cases, we will engage creatively with Bourdieu, Foucault and Merleau-Ponty, experimenting with how and when the tools offered by the above theorists offer us means to hone our ability to analyze and understand the role of the body in the creation of "selves." GRAD TBA
Molina 471 Studies in History of Religions: Religion and Colonialism This course will look at the role of religion (Christianity) in the expansion of Europe and the development of the colonial and postcolonial worlds from the 16th through the 20th centuries. The goals of the course are 1) to convey a sense of the history of various moments of European expansion; 2) to look at particular case studies from both a historical and ethnographic point of view; and, 3) to interrogate how colonial/postcolonial studies has dealt with (failed to deal with?) religion/religious practice. Throughout the course we will draw upon theories of social/cultural formation as well as literature on conversion, social transformation, and the possibilities of intersubjective experience. GRAD TBA
Taylor 471 Studies in History of Religions: Landscapes of the Sacred This course explores the multifaceted connections between place and the construction of spiritual identities in American culture. What is the idea of "place"? What are the tensions between American notions of "space" and "place"? How are certain places deemed "sacred" in America, and how are these places contested over time, by whom, and to what ends? How are mythical landscapes recreated in physical landscapes, and what drives such recreations? How are "sacred places" symbolically represented over time? What is the relationship between sacred narratives and the "storied landscape" for a number of native peoples in North America? How are certain religious experiences understood "through place" in diverse communities (urban, suburban, rural, etc.)? And how do displacement, alienation from place, and the fragmentation of place affect spiritual understandings of self, nature, and nationhood? Theoretical perspectives for this course will be drawn from religious studies, geography, and cultural studies. We will analyze a series of case studies (derived from primary and secondary sources). GRAD TBA
Zoloth 474 Studies in Judaism: Reading Levinas and Talmud-Levinas' Jewish Writing This seminar will study a particular textual project, that of Emmanuel Levinas and his readings of Talmud through his particular post-modern philosophic lens. Each week, we will closely read a section, with attention to both his classic reclamation of, and his remarkable innovation within the texts. Levinas's work is now widely used in philosophy, theology, literature, and cultural studies, and his attention to the relationship between the self and the other is a grounding concept in all of this work. In these texts, we will find some of the sources of that attention. We will compare the texts with their classic interpretations, and reflect on the history of commentary as it shaped Levinas's intellectual and theological project. *Limited to sixteen, graduate students and majors get first choice. GRAD TBA
Kieckhefer 475 Studies in Christianity: Late Medieval Religious Culture This seminar will examine issues and controversies in recent literature about late medieval religion. We will enter into some of the most important current conversations about religious culture in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. During the first three weeks discussion will be structured largely around the seminal work of three important medievalists: Eamon Duffy's interpretation of late medieval religion in The Stripping of the Altars (1992), Caroline Walker Bynum's view of late medieval piety in Holy Feast and Holy Fast (1987), and Nicholas Watson's various articles on "vernacular theology" and repression. In each case, we will ask how well the interpretations have held up in the light of more recent work. We will read and discuss critiques of the writers in question: David Aers' response to Duffy, Kathleen Biddick's to Caroline Bynum, Virginia Reinburg contributions to the ongoing conversations. We will look at the work of other medievalists who in various ways complement these three: Bernd Moeller on "churchliness" in pre-Reformation Germany, Virginia Reinburg on liturgy and prayer in France, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton on censorship and tolerance, etc. We will then turn to further themes in the religious culture of the late Middle Ages: religion in the local community; saints, shrines, and pilgrimage; preaching and penance; devotions and indulgences; confraternities and parish life; death and memory. For these themes we will rely on the work of Katherine L. French and other recent writers. GRAD TBA
Taylor 481 Classical Theories of Religion What is "theory?" What does it mean to have a theory about something? How are theories helpful? What is "religion?" How do things get excluded or included in this category? What counts as "religious" and why? And how do we make this judgment? How might we think about "religion" and "culture?" And how might our theorizing of these categories be influenced by the very history and politics of their "invention?" These questions and more in an animated seminar designed to prepare graduate students to work within the intellectual discipline of religious studies. GRAD TBA
Orsi 482 Contemporary Conversations in the Study of Religion An examination of the making of "religion" as the object of critical inquiry, beginning in early modernity with soundings in present day religious theory. What is the past of religious studies and how does this past inform (perhaps constrain) the present? Readings include classic texts in the study of religion as well as decidedly non-classical texts to trace the fate of "religion" in popular and political as well as scholarly languages and fantasies. GRAD TBA
Kieckhefer 485 Studies in Christianity: Historiography of Medieval Christianity This course will examine the development of theology in Western Christianity from the eleventh through the fourteenth century. It will focus on themes such as the relationship between reason and revelation, knowledge of God, the Trinity, conceptions of salvation, and modes of scriptural exegesis. GRAD TBA
Zoloth 273 (Philosophy) The Brady Scholars Program: The Good Neighbor UG TBA
Terrone 290 (Asian and Middle East Studies) Special Topics in Asian and Middle East Studies UG TBA
Helmer 340-2 Foundations of Christian Thought II The course studies themes in Christianity and major thinkers from the sixteenth-century religious reformations in Europe to the nineteenth century. UG TBA
Traina 340-3 Foundations of Christian Thought III This course deals with the particular ways in which historical events and cultural transformations of the 19th and 20th century affected both the content and the method of Christian theology. Among these are the development of historical criticism; democratization; world war; and justice movements organized around race, culture, class, and gender. Sin and salvation, incarnation and redemption, and knowledge of God figure very differently in this period than the preceding ones. The purpose of the course is twofold: 1) to teach students how to think theologically--how modern and contemporary have dealt with these issues and argued with each other over their differing viewpoints and 2) to help students understand how representative theologians have responded to the pressures of intellectual, political, and cultural movements on theology. Students are not required to accept any particular position, or even to accept the premises inherent in the questions theologians ask. They are expected, however, to learn how theological inquiry is carried out. This is the last in a series of three units. Relg 340-1 (Fall 2007, with Professor Kieckhefer) dealt with Christian theology of the fourth through the fifteenth centuries. Relg 340-2 (Winter 2008, with Professor Helmer) dealt with the Protestant Reformation, Pietism, and the Enlightenment. The first two units are not prerequisites for the third, but students who have taken the other two will find their themes continuing in it. UG TBA
Bond 396-1 Senior Seminar A seminar on the application of scholarly research in religious studies. Each student will spend the quarter in deep critical analysis of one major text, capping off the quarter with a substantial paper that incorporates the term's work. Students will learn the elements of a scholarly approach to religious texts and texts in religion and will also be introduced to specialized research tools in religion. This course is a prerequisite for the one-quarter senior thesis in the Department of Religion, but may be taken by a junior or senior with instructor's permission. UG TBA
Traina 396-1 Senior Seminar In this seminar we will learn and apply methods for scholarly research in religious studies. Each student will spend the quarter in deep, critical analysis of one major text, capping off the quarter with a substantial paper that incorporates the term's work. Students will learn the elements of a scholarly approach to religious texts and texts in religion and will also be introduced to specializedresearch tools in religion. This course is a prerequisite for the one-quarter senior thesis in the Department of Religion but may be taken by an junior or senior with instructor's permission. UG TBA
Traina 396-2 Senior Seminar This course is open only to students who have completed 396-1. UG TBA
Zoloth 405 (Liberal Studies) Topics in Liberal Studies: Religion, Bioethics and Public Life GRAD TBA
Kieckhefer 410 (Medieval Studies) Medieval Latin Workshop GRAD TBA
Wimpfheimer 614 (Constitutional and Public Law) Legal Interpretation in Jewish Law TBA
December 21, 2012