Spring ’15 Course Offerings

Spring ’15 Upper Level

REL 200: Approaches to the Study of Religion (General Courses)
Prof. Hoglund, MW 12:30-1:45pm – Explores the history of and methodological resources for the study of religion. The emphasis is on the ways religion has been defined, studied, and interpreted over the last several centuries.

REL 310: The Prophetic Literature (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Hoglund, MWF 10:00-10:50am – An examination of the development and theological contents of the literary products of Israel’s prophetic movement. Included in this study will be an assessment of the role of prophets and/or prophecy in ancient Israel, and the forms by which prophetic concepts were communicated. An effort will also be made to develop ways of reading the prophetic literature in order to appreciate its richness of religious thought and expression.

REL 332: Religion & Public Engagement (Group II: Religion, History, & Society)
Prof. Boyd, Tuesdays 3:30-6:00pm – This seminar introduces students to dynamics at work at the interface between religious communities and the public sphere.  It will explore, through a wide range of readings, guest lectures, field trips, and films, the potential for social change—constructive and destructive—within and between communities in contemporary local, regional, national and global contexts. For Spring 2015, among the religions included will be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Native traditions. Among the topics covered will be the US Civil Rights Movement, mass incarceration, Native American Land Rights, the relation of church and state, women’s rights, religious intolerance, inter-faith collaboration, and skills in the conduct of public life. Students will conduct team research aimed at issues related to the semester’s selected areas of inquiry (e.g., criminal justice (innocence, re-entry, reform); education and racial desegregation/resegregation; disaster relief; campus tolerance/intolerance; Native American land rights).

REL 335: Religious Ethics and The Problem of War & Peace (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ilesanmi, MW 5:00-6:15pm – It is a common assumption that war is a “political” issue that is devoid of religious or moral implications. However, major religions of the world, notably, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have consistently rejected such an assumption.  This course will examine the perennial issues that surround war and peace from a variety of religious and secular    perspectives.  Materials will be drawn from classical and contemporary authors.  The   objectives of the course include (1) familiarizing students with the rich deposit of religious and moral wisdom about the use of lethal force, and (2) enabling them to think critically about the urgent issues facing humanity in the contemporary world.

REL 388: South Asian Women: Religion, Culture, & Politics (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ramachandran, WF 2:00-3:15pm – Grouped under the title South Asia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka differ culturally but also share geographical proximity, languages, religions and most importantly a history of colonization that still looms large.  It is from this point of convergence that we can connect the lives of men and women within the South Asian subcontinent. This course takes into account the histories, experiences and lives of South Asian Women.  Using a feminist and postcolonial perspective, it examines the intersection of religion, race and gender from both a theoretical and a practical point of view. This course focuses on issues of representation and identity formation, recognizing how categories such as “South Asian” and “woman” become tools for a simultaneous understanding of both culture and gender creating a place for both oppression and empowerment.   It brings together the voices of South Asian women and men living in the subcontinent as well as the diaspora.

Course Objectives:
1) To outline the adequate theory and methodology necessary to understand and/or study the lives of South Asian Women
2) To analyze how religion, gender, race, sexuality, and class intersect to construct groups and individuals

REL 390A: Charisma, Capitalism, and Color (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. R. Neal, TR 12:30-1:45pm – What is charisma? What is its nature and function? How does charisma play itself out in Black American culture? What is the relationship between charisma, Black American culture, and American capitalism? In light of the historical experience of Black Americans, why is charisma employed by some Black Americans to promote American capitalism? In light this experience, why is charisma employed by some Black Americans to challenge the American capitalist order? What role does religion play in fueling charisma with respect to Black American culture and the logic of American capitalism? Such are the kinds of questions that drive this course. In a word, this course examines charisma as a phenomenon among select charismatic figures in the past and contemporary experience of African Americans. It probes the allure, promises, paradoxes, and perils of American capitalism in the biographies and histories of Black charismatic individuals and organizations. It draws from the 20th and 21st century experiences of African Americans which include, the Depression era, the Civil Rights/Black Power era, and the Post-Soul era. Diverse charismatic personalities including, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Oprah Winfrey, will be considered. In treating such figures, specific attention will be given to the geographic contexts and social conditions that give rise to charismatic personalities and their relationship to the logic of capitalism.

REL 390B: Radical Ecologies (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Johnston & Prof. Madera (English Dept.), Thursdays 2:00-4:30pm – This course explores crucial points of connection between ecosystems, modes of production and subsistence, and culturally mediated values. Seminar participants will gain understandings of how the environment is a composition of interconnected systems.  They will explore the dynamic links between ecology and world literature, religion, and ethics. We will discuss such issues as nature-based spiritualties, deep ecology, bioregionalism, eco-feminism, radical environmental activism, and ethical obligations to other-than-human and future life forms. Our studies will highlight the different ways individuals and communities shape, and are shaped by, their habitats. Students in this course should expect to develop a foundational understanding of issues environmental issues today.

REL 391: East Asian Meditation Practices (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Arthur, TR 9:30-10:45am – This course introduces and examines the theoretical and practical aspects of various forms of Asian meditation including Hindu concentration, Buddhist mindfulness, Buddhist Chan/Zen zazen, Tibetan Buddhist mandala and Daoist visualizations, as well as moving meditation and energy work. For each tradition, we will cover three dimensions: first, the historical, social, and cultural contexts of the meditation practice and the tradition’s overall worldview, i.e., the views it holds of the body and mind, cosmos, humanity, self, and consciousness. Second, we will read practitioners’ ideas about their practices and effects, and we will try them out for ourselves in class. Third, we will analyze a wide array of modern, scientific research to explore different perspectives about the physiological and psychological benefits and limitations of short- and long-term meditation practices.

REL 392: American Indian and Indigenous Philosophy and Cosmovision (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Wiethaus, Tuesdays 3:30-6:15pm – This upper level course explores the thought of leading American Indian and Indigenous philosophers through their writings and historical contexts.  Special emphasis will be placed on gender, oral traditions, and the role of community. Cultural zones to be considered include pre– and post-Columbian Mesoamerica (Popol Vuh,  Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Spiderwoman narratives), and the Great Plains (Lakota tellings, Vine Deloria, Jr, George Eastman, Sitkala-Za).

Tentative Fall ’15 Upper Level Courses

REL 306. Ritual Studies. (3h, General Courses)
Prof. Jarrod Whitaker – Introduces the various methods and theories employed in the field of ritual studies, while examining comparative rituals and ritualized practices from around the world.

REL 307. Magic, Science, and Religion. (3h, General Courses)
Prof. Lucas Johnston – Explores concepts of magic, science, and religion that emerged in Western thought and culture from late antiquity through the European Enlightenment, and analyzes connections between religious traditions and Western, Modern Science.

REL 317. Wisdom Literature. (3h, Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Ken Hoglund – Examines the development, literary characteristics, and theological contents of the works of ancient Israel’s sages.

REL 320. The Search for Jesus. (3h, Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Mary Foskett – Study of issues, assumptions, evidence, and debate that shapes the continuing quest for the historical Jesus.

REL 331. Religion and Law. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Simeon Ilesanmi – A study of religion and law as distinct yet interdependent spheres that influence cultural negotiations about authority, power, identity, and the regulation of society. Geographic and tradition-specific focus may vary with instructor.

REL 355. Jewish Identities: Religion, Race, and Rights. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Annalise Glauz-Todrank – Examines how evolving definitions of race, religion, and Jewishness have correlated and conflicted in varied and sometimes surprising ways and how these shifts have been tied to legal rights and social privileges.

REL 361. Topics in Buddhism. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Tanisha Ramachandran – Variable topics in Buddhist history, thought, and/or practice. May be repeated for credit if topic varies.

REL 367. Christian Mysticism. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Ulrike Wiethaus – Historical study of the lives and thought of selected Christian mystics with special attention to their religious experience.

REL 383. The Quran and the Prophet. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Nelly Van Doorn Harder – Examines the history, content, and main approaches to the sacred book of Islam. Explores the influence and interaction between the holy word and its transmitter the Prophet Muhammad.

Fall ’14 Course Schedule

Subj Crse Sec Title Days Time Instructor Location
REL 101 A Introduction to Religion TR 2:00-3:15pm Leann Pace Wingate 209
REL 101 B Introduction to Religion TR 9:30-10:45am Ronald Neal Wingate 306
REL 102 A Introduction to the Bible MWF 9:00-9:50am Kenneth Hoglund Wingate 306
REL 103 A Introduction to Christian Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Earl Crow Wingate 209
REL 103 B Introduction to Christian Traditions TR 12:30-1:45pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 104 A Introduction to Asian Religions MW 2:00-3:15pm Shawn Arthur Wingate 306
REL 105 A Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, Islam TR 12:30-1:45pm Elaine Swartzentruber Wingate 210
REL 106 A The Bible In America MWF 11:00-11:50am Mary Foskett Wingate 306
REL 107 A Intro to African Religions MW 12:30-1:45pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 108 A Intro to Hindu Traditions MW 12:30-1:45pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 109 A Intro to Buddhist Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am James Ford Wingate 210
REL 110 A Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 11:00-12:15pm Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 210
REL 113 A Introduction to Jewish Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 314
REL 113 B Introduction to Jewish Traditions TR 2:00-3:15pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 314
REL 200 A Approaches to the Study of Religion TR 11:00-12:15pm Annalise Glauz-Todrank Wingate 206
REL 312 A The Critical Study of the Pentateuch MWF 11:00-11:50am Kenneth Hoglund Wingate 210
REL 318 A Feminist and Contemporary Interpretations
of the New Testament
MW 12:30-1:45pm Mary Foskett Wingate 206
REL 338 A Religion, Ethics, and Politics MW 5:00-6:15pm Simeon Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 363 A The Religions of Japan TR 2:00-3:15pm James Ford Wingate 210
REL 369 A Radical Christian Movements T 3:30-6:00pm Stephen Boyd Wingate 209
REL 382 A Religion & Culture in China MW 12:30-1:45pm Shawn Arthur Wingate 306
REL 385 A Topics in South Asian Religions:
Hindus, Muslims, & Sikhs in the West
MW 2:00-3:15pm Tanisha Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 389 A Islam in the West: Changes & Challenges TR 9:30-10:45am Pieternella Van Doorn Harder Wingate 206
REL 390 A Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms TR 12:30-1:45pm Ronald Neal Wingate 206
REL 700 A Theory & Method in the Study of Religion M 6:20-8:50pm Ulrike Wiethaus Wingate 210


Fall ’14 Upper Level

Department of Religion Fall 2014 Upper Level Courses

REL 200: Approches to the Study of Religion (General Courses)
Prof. Glauz-Todrank, TR 11:00-12:15pm –
What are we talking about when we talk about “religion?” Why and where did the concept “religion” originate? How have scholars defined and examined religion in the past and how have scholarly approaches changed over time? This course will address the how and the why of Religious Studies as a field, focusing on both classical and contemporary approaches. We can classify some of these approaches as sociological, psychological, anthropological, historical, feminist, postcolonial, deconstructionist, and race critical. As we examine scholarly arguments, we will also apply them to concrete situations, highlighting their relevance to the study of religion and to our lives today.


REL 312: The Critical Study of the Pentateuch (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Hoglund, MWF 11:00-11:50am –
The Pentateuch or Torah has been the source of religious questions for generations. Containing a mixture of narratives, laws, and songs, the basic concepts of this material has been the basis of modern monotheism. This course is a study of the five traditional books of Moses (the Torah) and the various lines of analysis that modern Biblical critics have used to interpret their composition and meaning. In the process of working through selected texts, questions will be raised about the central assumptions used in interpreting the Torah.


REL 318: Feminist & Contemporary Interpretations of the New Testament (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Foskett, MW 12:30-1:45pm –
This course examines the aims, concerns, methods and contributions of feminist scholarship to the field of New Testament studies. Students will engage feminist approaches to the interpretation of select New Testament texts and the construction of Christian origins. The seminar will also examine the contributions of feminist thought to womanist, post-colonial and minority critical approaches to New Testament interpretation.


REL 338: Religion, Ethics, and Politics (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ilesanmi, MW 5:00-6:15pm –
The course is an examination of ethical approaches to international affairs and the role of religion in international politics. It explores diverse models for relating ethics to international affairs and specific areas of international politics where ethical questions are likely to arise, especially the protection of human rights, the historical development and contemporary formulations of ethical norms for the use of force, and distributive justice in the global economy. Special emphasis will be given to religion as a source of conflict, religious communities as transnational agents for justice, protection of human rights, and peace; and ethical and religious contributions to reconciliation, solidarity, and peacemaking.


REL 363: The Religions of Japan (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ford, TR 2:00-3:15pm –
In Japan—traditional and modern—being religious is in many respects a matter of being Japanese. While this course is a study of the religious traditions of Japan from pre-history to the present, it is also an exploration into how the Japanese people understand the religious dimensions of their own cultural identity.  In addition to examining indigenous Shintō and Japanese folk religion, we will also study the introduction and adaptation of Buddhism (including Zen), Daoism, Confucianism, and Christianity to a distinctive Japanese worldview and context.  The course will combine thematic and historical approaches, with a focus on the functional role of religion in Japanese history and culture. We will spend the last half of the semester studying the popular practice of religion in contemporary Japan. The main goal of the course will be to explore the rich syncretism that has constituted religious practice for most Japanese people.  Finally, this course will also explore general themes relevant to the study of religion, such as myth and ritual, gender issues, particularistic versus universalistic values, religion and the state, and religion and modernity. 


REL 369: Radical Christian Movements (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Boyd, Tuesdays 3:30-6:00pm –
A study of selected radical movements in the Christian tradition and their relation to perennial and contemporary social and theological issues. The material we’ll read includes texts by Gnostics, 16c. radical reformers (Thomas Muntzer, John Denck), Quakers, (Margaret Fell),  and nineteenth and twentieth century figures such as feminists/womanists Sarah Grmike &  Jacquelyn Grant, African Americans & Howard Thurman, Native American George Tinker, and Nazi resister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


REL 382: Religion & Culture in China (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Arthur, MW 12:30-1:45pm – This course will explore contemporary religions in China – especially Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and popular/folk religion – and the continued relevance of religion in a region where, until recently, it was outlawed. Grounding our discussions on the fundamental ideas and practices of these social and religious traditions, we will examine a wide range of materials – such as primary source scriptures, images, video, and religious paraphernalia – to trace some of the recent developments that have allowed religion to flourish in China and to reflect on the centrality of religious ideas and practices to Chinese culture more generally. Throughout the semester, we also will pay particular attention to the social and gender issues at the root of the course topics.


REL 385: Topics in South Asian Religions: Hindus, Muslims, & Sikhs in the West (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ramachandran, MW 2:00-3:15pm – Because of contemporary concerns about terrorism, misinformation from the media, parodied representations in popular culture, and outright ignorance, individuals with brown skin are seen as  indistinguishable .  This course examines the racialization of  Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism in North America.  Through an analysis of historical documents, immigration laws, mainstream and social media, popular culture, and academic texts, this class explores how religions are racialized throughout Canadian and US history in  political, religious, and social settings. Using a postcolonial and intersectional approach, we will examine how race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class interact to stigmatize or empower certain individuals and/or groups.


REL 389: Islam in the West: Changes & Challenges (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. van Doorn Harder, TR 9:30-10:45am – This class introduces the situation of Muslims living in Western, non-Muslim countries, especially in the USA. The material consists of overviews, theoretical analyses, biographical stories, novels, and primary texts produced by Muslims and Muslim organizations. Part of the class is a community-based project for which students connect with Muslims in the Piedmont area and interview them about their background, daily life and how it is to practice their faith in the USA.


REL 390: Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. R. Neal, TR 12:30-1:45pm -


REL 700: Theory & Method in the Study of Religion
Prof. Wiethaus, Mondays 6:00-8:30pm –
This course will introduce major theorists, theories, and methodologies that have shaped the field of Religious Studies from its inception to the present. The course will enable graduate students to identify strengths and weaknesses of each contribution in its historical context, and, as a consequence, to apply an informed theoretical and methodological set of academic tools to their own individual research projects.  Special emphasis will be placed on cross-disciplinary contemporary perspectives on race, class, gender, and post colonialism. The class will be offered as a discussion-based seminar with the expectation that graduate students will assume active leadership roles in generating a semester-long collaborative learning community.