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).


Fall ’15 Course Schedule
2015 Fall Course Schedule

Course Title Days Time Instructor Location
REL 101 A Intro to Religion TR 11:00am-12:15pm Johnston Wingate 210
REL 101 B Intro to Religion WF 11:00am-12:15pm L. Neal Wingate 210
REL 101 C Intro to Religion TR 9:30-10:45am Pace Wingate 306
REL 101 D Intro to Religion TR 12:30-1:45pm Pace Wingate 306
REL 102 A Intro to the Bible MWF 9:00-9:50am Hoglund Wingate 306
REL 102 B Intro to the Bible MWF 11:00-11:50am Hoglund Wingate 306
REL 103 A Intro to Christian Traditions MWF 10:00-10:50am Elistratov Wingate 314
REL 103 B Intro to Christian Traditions MWF 1:00-1:50pm Elistratov Wingate 314
REL 104 A Intro to Asian Religions WF 9:30-10:45am Whitaker Wingate 210
REL 105 A Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, Islam MWF 11:00-11:50am Elistratov Wingate 314
REL 107 A Intro to African Religions MW 12:30-1:45pm Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 108 A Intro to Hindu Religions TR 9:30-10:45am Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 108 B Intro to Hindu Religions TR 11:00am-12:15pm Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 109 A Intro to Buddhist Traditions TR 9:30-10:45am Arthur Wingate 210
REL 110 A Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 11:00am-12:15pm Van Doorn Harder Wingate 209
REL 110 B Intro to Islamic Traditions TR 12:30-1:45pm Van Doorn Harder Wingate 209
REL 306 A Ritual Studies WF 11:00am-12:15pm Whitaker Wingate 206
REL 307 A Magic, Science & Religion TR 9:30-10:45am Johnston Wingate 206
REL 317 A Wisdom Literature TR 12:30-1:45pm Hoglund Wingate 206
REL 320 A The Search for Jesus MW 12:30-1:45pm Foskett Wingate 206
REL 331 A Religion & Law MW 5:00-6:15pm Ilesanmi Wingate 209
REL 342 A Religious Intolerance in the US WF 9:30-10:45am L. Neal Wingate 206
REL 381 A Zen Buddhism TR 11:00-12:15pm Ford Wingate 206
REL 383 A The Quran and the Prophet TR 9:30-10:45am Van Doorn Harder Wingate 209
REL 385 A Special Topics in South Asian Religions: Hindu Images TR 2:00-3:15pm Ramachandran Wingate 314
REL 390 A Religion, Culture & the Body TR 12:30-1:45pm Arthur Wingate 210

Fall ’15 Upper Level Courses

Religion Department Upper Level Course Offerings Fall 2015

REL 306: Ritual Studies (General Courses)
Prof. Whitaker, WF 11:00am-12:15pm – This course will introduce students to 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 & Religion (General Courses)
Prof. Johnston, TR 9:30-10:45am – This course explores the intersections between the cultural categories of magic and science and various religious traditions and groups.  First, the course explores so-called western science, its dependence on both western and non-western religious institutions and ideation, and the cultural construction of the concept “magic.”  Students will also encounter perspectives on non-western epistemology and knowledge.  The course also explores astronomy and cosmology, indigenous science and modes of healing, and the relationships between evolution, ecology and religion.  

REL 317: Wisdom Literature (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Hoglund, TR 12:30-1:45pm – An examination of the canonical and deuterocanonical wisdom literature of ancient Israel. Specifically, the course offers an in-depth analysis of the books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus). The study will emphasize an understanding of the literary forms in these books, the evidence for growth and development, as well as the interpretive problems raised by these elements. The unique theological insights of Israel’s Wisdom literature will be a continuous concern of the class. A great deal of emphasis is placed on class discussion and interaction.

REL 320: The Search for Jesus (Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Foskett, MW 12:30-1:45pm – Who was Jesus of Nazareth? What does historical study suggest about the life and teachings of the figure who stands at the center of Christian tradition? Why do scholars and others pursue these questions?  What difference might they make? This course introduces students to the questions, aims, methods and sources that have shaped and continue to inform the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus. The course will open with a general introduction to New Testament studies before taking on the primary issues that pertain to study of the historical Jesus.

REL 331: Religion and Law (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Ilesanmi, MW 5:00-6:15pm – The terms ‘religion’ and ‘law’ denote two complex realms of life that have much shared history and continue to intersect in the modern world. The relationship both spheres has increasingly become controversial, both in western and non-western societies. This is partly because both spheres compete for supremacy in the shaping of identities, legitimation of power, and regulation of society. This course will compare examples from a range of places and periods, pre-modern and modern, to cast into perspective religious and legal debates that figure in the U.S. today. 

REL 342: Religious Intolerance in the US (Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. L. Neal, WF 9:30-10:45am – Many of us grew up singing “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…” In this course, we will investigate the truth of this claim. Throughout the semester, we will examine how religious intolerance—from hate speech to media coverage to violent acts—has been a persistent theme in the history of the United States. From 19th century persecutions of Mormons and Catholics to 20th century anti-Semitism and the proliferation of hate groups, we will study various forms of religious intolerance through an examination of both the perpetrators and the victims of intolerance.

REL 381: Zen Buddhism (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ford, TR 11:00am-12:15pm –“What is the sound of one hand clapping?” “Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born.” These are examples of enigmatic Zen kōans. What is this late-blooming Buddhist tradition trying to say? What role has it played in the East Asian transformation of Buddhism? Why is this school of Buddhism so popular in the West (e.g., there are over 1500 books in print with ‘Zen’ in the title)? And how has it been misunderstood and/or misappropriated? Finally, what insight does it offer to other religious traditions and the study of religion more broadly? These are just some of the questions this course will address.

Zen (in China, Chan 禪), one of the major schools of Buddhism in East Asia, emerged out of the transmission of Indian Buddhism to China and later Japan. Although Zen claims to be the essence of the Buddha’s original teachings, no formal school of Zen ever existed in the Buddha’s homeland of India. This course explores the transformation of Buddhism in East Asia through the lens of the Zen tradition. Topics will include: the basic doctrines of Buddhism; meditation practices; the rise of Mahāyāna; the transmission of Buddhism to China; the emergence and development of Chan in China and its refinement as Zen in Japan; Zen’s radical reinterpretation of Buddhist concepts; the intersections between Zen and the arts; and the popular representations of Zen in the West. While there are no formal prerequisites, some prior exposure to Buddhism is strongly recommended.

REL 383: The Quran and the Prophet (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Van Doorn Harder, TR 9:30-10:45am –  During this course we study the contents of the Qur’an, the various stages of the history of its revelation and how it came to function as the basis of Muslim belief, worship, and law. We look at the role of the Prophet Muhammad as the recipient and transmitter of the Qur’an’s message and what his symbolic presence as a model for all Muslims means in the spiritual life of a Muslim. We furthermore study the Qur’an’s artistic qualities and its place and role in daily Muslim life and try to gain understanding about how the various modes of its interpretation developed.

REL 385: Special Topics in South Asian Religions: Hindu Images (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ramachandran, TR 2:00-3:15pm – This course explores the social and political history of Hindu imagery in India, Europe, and North America from the late 18th century to the present. It investigates the production, interaction, and interpretation of discourse about Hindu imagery by Hindus and non-Hindus to demonstrate how Hindu images have been inscribed with multiple and highly contested meanings. Hindu images serve a multitude of purposes that function interdependently and independently in religious, social, political, artistic, and commercial realms. In these various instances, the use and interpretation of Hindu imagery by priests, devotees, colonizers, missionaries, orientalists, retailers, and consumers have served to shape and define Hindu identity. Using a postcolonial perspective, this course examines colonial and nationalist dynamics of power, representation, and the signification of the Hindu image.

REL 390: Religion, Culture, and the Body (Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Arthur, TR 12:30-1:45pm – Everyone lives in a physical body, which is central to our identities. This course explores the body as a multi-faceted locus of contested religious, social, cultural, philosophical, political, and scientific ideals. We utilize a comparative agenda to present and discuss a range of perspectives about the body and to help students recognize that a common core of humanity is found in our embodiment. Therefore, it is important to step out from behind theologically-determined, media-driven, and unrecognized prejudices about our bodies in order to develop understanding and tolerance for differences among people and their bodily ideals.

After developing a toolbox to discuss the body using a range of perspectives, we turn to examine many of the ways and reasons that people attempt to control and modify their bodies – through practices such as dieting, exercise, tattooing, and cosmetic surgery – in search of legitimacy, power, and perfection, and we reflect on how these goals influence our visions of ourselves. Questioning the ways in which various perspectives change one’s perceptions of the self, others, and the world, the class discussions will become key for facilitating respectful dialogue amongst differing opinions, for questioning presuppositions about the body, and to avoid taking for granted and perpetuating subtle negative presentations of body images and ideas as we continue through life and become responsible members of local and global communities.

Tentative Spring ’16 Upper Level Courses

Tentative Spring 2016 Upper Level Courses

REL 200. Approaches to the Study of Religion. (3h, General Courses)
Prof. Annalise Glauz-Todrank – Explores the history of and methodological re-sources for the study of religion. Focus may vary with instructor, but the emphasis is on the ways religion has been defined, studied, and interpreted over the last several centuries.

REL 240. Religion and Ecology. (3h, Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Lucas Johnston – Cross-cultural examination of the relationships among human beings, their diverse cultures, habitats, and religions, including social and political understandings of the environment. [To be cross-listed with Environmental Studies]

REL 250. Religion and Race. (3h, Group II: Religion, History, and Society)
Prof. Annalise Glauz-Todrank – Explores the relationship between religion and race in a variety of traditions as well as historical and geographic contexts.

REL 265. Culture and Religion in Contemporary Native America. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Ulrike Wiethaus – Interdisciplinary survey of American-Indian culture, including the arts and literature, religions, and historical changes. Emphasizes the impact of the Conquista, encounters with Northern Atlantic societies, and contemporary developments. Also listed as AES 265 and HMN 285. (CD)

REL 267. Religion and Popular Culture. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Lynn Neal – Examines the relationship between religion and popular culture, focusing on a variety of popular culture forms and interpretive skills. Focus varies with instructor.

REL 305. Ethnography of Religion. (3h, General Courses)
Prof. Shawn Arthur – Study of theory and method in ethnography of religion where students closely read ethnographies from a variety of cultures and discuss the practical, methodological, and ethical issues related to ethnography. Course culminates with students researching and writing their own ethnographies. (CD)

REL 312. The Critical Study of the Pentateuch. (3h, Group I: Biblical Studies)
Prof. Ken Hoglund – 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 role in the development of Israelite theological thought.

REL 336. Religious Traditions and Human Rights. (3h, Group II: Religion, History & Society)
Prof. Simeon Ilesanmi – Historical study of the lives and thought of selected Christian mystics with special attention to their religious experience.

REL 362. Topics in Islam. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Nelly Van Doorn Harder – Variable topics in Islamic history, thought, and/or practice. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

REL 385. Topics in South Asian Religions. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Tanisha Ramachandran – Variable topics in the religions of South Asia. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

REL 387. Priests, Warriors, and Ascetics in Ancient India. (3h, Group III: World Religions)
Prof. Jarrod Whitaker – Introduces students to the history, culture, and ritual traditions of ancient India by examining the overlapping practices, beliefs, ideologies, and gendered representations of priests, warriors, kings, and ascetics. (CD)