Course Descriptions and Schedules Fall 2014
RELG 003. The Bible: In the Beginning...
The Bible has exerted more cultural influence on the West than any other single document; whether we know it or not, it impacts our lives. This class critically examines the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)-from its Ancient Near Eastern context to its continued use today. We explore a variety of scholarly approaches to the Bible-historical, literary, postmodern-as we read the Bible both with the tools of source-criticism and as cultural critics. Particular focus will be placed on constructions of God, gender, nature, and the "other" in biblical writings as well as the themes of collective identity, violence, and power.
Eligible for GSST or INTP credit.
1 credit. Kessler, Gwynn
Tues/Thurs 1:15-2:30 pm Trotter 203
RELG 010. African American Religions
What makes African American religion "African" and "American"? Using texts, films, and music, we will examine the sacred institutions of Americans of African descent. Major themes will include Africanisms in American religion, slavery and religion, gospel music, African American women and religion, black and womanist theology, the civil rights movement, and Islam and urban religions. Field trips include visits to Father Divine's Peace Mission and the first independent black church in the United States, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Eligible for BLST credit.
1 credit. Chireau, Yvonne
Tues/Thurs 11:20 am-12:35 pm Trotter 215
RELG 011B. The Religion of Islam: The Islamic Humanities
This course is a comprehensive introduction to Islamic doctrines, practices, and religious institutions in a variety of geographic settings from the rise of Islam in the seventh century to the present. Translated source materials from the Qur'an, sayings of Muhammad, legal texts, and mystical works will provide an overview of the literary expressions of the religion. Among the topics to be covered are: the Qur'an as scripture and as liturgy; conversion and the spread of Islam; Muhammad in history and in the popular imagination; concepts of the feminine; Muslim women; sectarian developments; transmission of religious knowledge and spiritual power; Sufism and the historical elaboration of mystical communities; modern reaffirmation of Islamic identity; and Islam in the American environment.
Eligible for ISLM or MDST credit.
1 credit. al-Jamil, Tariq
Tues/Thurs 2:40-3:55 pm Science Center L26
RELG 015B. Philosophy of Religion (Cross-listed as PHIL 016)
Searching for wisdom about the meaning of life? Curious as to whether there is a God? Questioning the nature of truth and falsehood? Right and wrong? You might think of philosophy of religion as your guide to the universe. This course considers Anglo-American and Continental philosophical approaches to religious thought using different disciplinary perspectives; it is a selective overview of the history of philosophy with special attention to the religious dimensions of many contemporary thinkers' intellectual projects. Topics include rationality and belief, proofs for existence of God, the problem of evil, moral philosophy, biblical hermeneutics, feminist revisionism, postmodernism, and interreligious dialogue. Thinkers include, among others, Anselm, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kant, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Levinas, Weil, and Abe. This year, the central theme of the course is the problem of evil.
Eligible for INTP credit and CBL.
1 credit. Wallace, Mark
Tues/Thurs 9:55-11:10 am Kohlberg 116
RELG 019. First-Year Seminar: Religion and Food
Why do some people eat the body of their god? What is soul food? Is the pig an abomination? Is there such a thing as "devil's food" and "angel's food"? Which is more spiritual, to feast or to fast? All of these questions are tied together by a common theme: They point to the relationship between food, eating, and the religious experiences of human beings. This seminar will introduce students to the study of religion, using food as an entry point. We will investigate the significance of food across a variety of traditions and explore such issues as diet, sacrifice, healing, the body, ethics, and religious doctrines concerning food. Topics will include religious fasting, vegetarianism, eating rituals, food controversies, purity and pollution, theophagy and cannibalism as sacred practice.
1 credit. Chireau, Yvonne
Wed 1:15-4:00 pm Pearson 210
RELG 023. Quakers Past and Present
In Swarthmore's 150th anniversary year this course asks: Who are Quakers today? What are the common roots and variations in Quaker belief and practice over time? How did Quakers come to be so well-known for their social activism? This course explores the impact of Quakers in North America from the 1650s to the present as well as the contemporary rapid growth of Quakerism in Africa (46% of Quakers worldwide) and in Latin America. Topics include Quakers and peace work, abolition, women's rights advocacy, prison reform; Quakers and nature; Quakers and education; Quakers and evangelical and Spirit-centered traditions; Quakers and hospital and school foundations; and Quaker writings about God, self, and world. In exploring Quaker Traditions this class contributes to students' understanding of the study of Religion and of Christianity. Readings will include the work of George Fox, Margaret Fell, William Penn, John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, Elias Hicks, Elise Boulding, and Rufus Jones, The Friends World Committee on Consultation, and the American Friends Service Committee. Students will have the opportunity to work with the resources of Swarthmore College's Friends Historical Library and Peace Collection.
Eligible for PEAC credit.
1 credit. Ross, Ellen
Tues/Thurs 1:15-2:30 pm Papazian 324
RELG 053. Gender, Sexuality, and the Body in Islamic Discourses
An exploration of sexuality, gender roles, and notions of the body within the Islamic tradition from the formative period of Islam to the present. This course will examine the historical development of gendered and patriarchal readings of Islamic legal, historical, and scriptural texts. Particular attention will be given to both the premodern and modern strategies employed by women to subvert these exclusionary forms of interpretation and to ensure more egalitarian outcomes for themselves in the public sphere. Topics discussed include female piety, marriage and divorce, motherhood, polygamy, sex and desire, honor and shame, same-sex sexuality, and the role of women in the transmission of knowledge.
Eligible for GSST, ISLM, or MDST credit.
1 credit. al-Jamil, Tariq
Tues/Thurs 11:20 am-12:35 pm Kohlberg 116
RELG 059. Hebrew for Text Study II
(Cross-listed as LING 010)
This course is a continuation of Hebrew for Text Study I. Students who have not completed that course will require the permission of the instructor to enroll in this course.
This set of courses teaches the grammar and vocabulary required to experience the Hebrew Bible and ancient Hebrew commentaries in the original language. You will learn to use dictionaries, concordances, and translations to investigate word roots and to authenticate interpretations of the texts. In addition to teaching basic language skills, this course offers students the opportunity for direct encounter with primary biblical, rabbinic, and Jewish liturgical sources.
1 credit. Plotkin, Helen
M/W/F 11:30 am-12:20 pm Lodges 5
RELG 093. Directed Reading: Readings in Classical Jewish Texts
0.5 credit. Plotkin, Helen
Days/Times TBD Lodges 5
RELG 093. Directed Reading
1 credit. Staff
RELG 095. Religion Café: Senior Symposium
This seminar is a weekly symposium for senior majors addressing some of the major themes, theories, and methods in the academic study of religion. The seminar will highlight the inherently multidisciplinary nature of religious studies by reading scholars from several disciplines who have influenced certain theoretical and philosophical assumptions and vocabularies in the field. The seminar will examine a number of approaches to religious studies including, but not limited to, those drawn from: post-structuralism, gender studies, critical theory, cognitive science, phenomenology, ethics, pragmatism, social history, and anthropology.
1 credit. Kessler, Gwynn
Tues 7:00-10:00 pm Pearson 210
RELG 114. Love and Religion (Sections A & B)
The course will explore the concept of "love" and many of its ramifications in several western traditions and in Hindu traditions of ancient and contemporary India through a careful reading of both primary and secondary texts. We will focus primarily on the uses of erotic love (along with the body and the "passions") in religious discourse-in poetry, commentary, and prose narratives-the many ways passionate love and/or sexuality are used cross-culturally to describe the relationship between the human and the divine. We will also explore other emotions and attitudes evoked by the word love: devotion, affection, friendship, "charity" (caritas), parental love, and the tensions of these forms of "love" with erotic love. Along with primary texts from the Greek, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, secular troubadour, and Hindu traditions, we will explore the theoretical writings of Martha Nussbaum, Peter Brown, David Halperin, Julia Kristeva, David Biale, Daniel Boyarin, Caroline Walker Bynum, Henry Corbin, Michael Sells, A.K. Ramanujan, Wendy Doniger, David Shulman, and Margaret Trawick. Such a thematic treatment of what we in the English-speaking West call "love" brings to the fore many important theoretical questions concerning the cultural construction of emotions, particular love and "ennobling virtues," the erotic life, the body, and religion.
Eligible for GSST, MDST or ASIA credit.
Double-graded seminar. Both sections required.
2 credits. Hopkins, Steven
Wed 7:30-11:00 pm Pearson 210