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Course Descriptions & Schedules Spring 2015

RELG 002. Religion in America
This course is an introduction to religion in the United States, beginning with Native American religions and European-Indian contact in the colonial era, and moving forward in time to present-day movements and ideas. The course will explore a variety of themes in American religious history, such as slavery and religion, politics and religion, evangelicalism, Judaism and Islam in the United States, “cults” and alternative spiritualities, New Age religions, popular traditions, and religion and film, with an emphasis on the impact of gender, race, and national culture on American spiritual life.
1 credit. Yvonne Chireau.
Tues/Thurs  11:20 am-12:35 pm  TROT 303

RELG 005. World Religions
Wars are fought; walls go up; hope marches on. Religion plays a crucial role in culture, politics, global events, and in the lives of contemporary peoples world-wide. This class, by examining what religion is and how it manifests itself in multiple ways around the world and in the United States, provides students with religious literacy and analytic skills to better engage as citizens of the world in the 21st century. This course introduces students to both the academic study of religion and to religions as practiced around the world. We will explore textual traditions and lived practices of religions—and investigate the relationships between such texts and practices—in numerous historical and cultural contexts. Topics covered include: definitions and meanings of the term “religion;” understandings and expressions of the sacred; the relationship between violence and religion. We will examine the myths and rituals, the beliefs and practices, institutions, and expression of global religious traditions.
Eligible for PEAC credit.
1 credit. Yvonne Chireau & Mark Wallace.
Mon/Wed/Fri  11:30 am-12:20 pm  KOHL 115

RELG 008. Patterns of Asian Religions
A thematic introduction to the study of religion through an examination of selected texts, teachings, and practices of the religious traditions of South and East Asia structured as patterns of religious life. Materials are drawn from the Buddhist traditions of India, Tibet, China, and Japan; the Hindu and Jain traditions of India; the Confucian and Taoist traditions of China; and the Shinto tradition of Japan. Themes include deities, the body, ritual, cosmology, sacred space, religious specialists, and death and the afterlife.
Writing course.
Eligible for ASIA credit.
1 credit. Steven Hopkins.
Mon/Wed/Fri  10:30 am-11:20 am  SCI L32

RELG 008B. The Qur’an and Its Interpreters
This is course will include detailed reading of the Qur’an in English translation. The first part of the course will be devoted to the history of the Qur’an and its importance to Muslim devotional life. The first portion of the course will include: discussion of the history of the compilation of the text, the methods used to preserve it, styles of Qur’anic recitation, and the principles of Qur’anic abrogation. Thereafter, attention will be devoted to a theme or issue arising from Qur’anic interpretation. Students will be exposed to the various sub-genres of Qur’anic exegesis including historical, legal, grammatical, theological and modernist approaches.
Eligible for ISLM or MDST credit.
1 credit. Tariq al-Jamil.
Tues/Thurs  11:20 am-12:35 pm  SCI 128

RELG 021. Prison Letters: Religion and Transformation
Focusing on themes of religion and transformation and prison as a literal and metaphorical space, this course explores themes of life and death, oppression and freedom, isolation and community, agency, and identity. Drawing primarily on Christian sources, readings move from the New Testament through Martin Luther King, Jr., to the contemporary U.S. context where more than 2 million people are incarcerated today.
1 credit. Ellen Ross.
Tues/Thurs  1:15 pm-2:30 pm  KOHL 302

RELG 030. The Power of Images: Icons and Iconoclasts
This course is a cross-cultural, comparative study of the use and critique of sacred images in biblical Judaism; Eastern Christianity; and the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions of India. Students will explore differing attitudes toward the physical embodiment of divinity, including issues of divine “presence” and “absence”; icons, aniconism, and “idolatry”; and distinctions drawn in some traditions between different types of images and different devotional attitudes toward sacred images, from Yahweh’s back and bleeding icons to Jain worship of “absent” saints.
Eligible for ASIA or MDST credit.
1 credit. Steven Hopkins.
Tues/Thurs  9:55 am-11:10 am  TROT 315

RELG 038. Religion and Film
An introductory course that uses popular film as a primary text/medium to explore fundamental questions in the academic study of religion. In particular, we will be concerned with the ways that religion and religious experience are constituted and defined on film as well as through film viewing. In discussing films from across a range of subjects and genres, we will engage in the work of mythical, theological and ideological criticism, while examining the nature, function, and value of religion and religious experience. We will also consider some of the most significant writers and traditions in the field of Religion and develop the analytical and interpretive skills of the discipline. Scheduled films include The Seventh Seal, The Matrix, Breaking the Waves, Contact, Jacob’s Ladder, The Passion of the Christ, The Rapture, The Apostle, as well as additional student selections. Weekly readings, writing assignments, and evening screening sessions are required.
1 credit. Yvonne Chireau.
Mon  1:15 pm-4:00 pm  McCabe Video Classroom

RELG 042. (DANC 038) Performing Ecstasy Dancing the Sacred
(Cross-listed as DANC 038)
By locating the sacred in the experiences of ecstatic dance and music, the course will specifically examine the evolution of Bhakti (Hindu) and Sufi religious practices from ritual to performance art. By exploring the sacred in relation to social processes of culture and their transformations, it will connect the sacred not only to history, tradition, ritual, spirituality and subjectivity but also to national identity, commodity and tourism in contemporary culture. It is a reading and writing intensive course.
Eligible for ASIA or GSST program.
1 credit. Pallabi Chakravorty.
Tues/Thurs  11:20 am-12:35 pm  LANGMU 204

RELG 043. (LASC 025) In Quest of God: The Latin American Religious Arena
(Cross-listed as LASC 025)
This course explores distinct historical, socio-cultural contexts, political and economic processes in which historical varieties of Catholicism have emerged in Latin America. Understanding religion as generative, this course will examine the foundations, theological themes, and processes of pre-Hispanic indigenous practices, and Spanish Colonial Catholicism, the public role of the Catholic Church in struggles for justice and human rights in the 1960–1990 period expressed by Liberation Theology, the recent growth of Protestantism with a focus on Pentecostalism, the “end of revolutionary utopias,” the contemporary praxis of Catholicism, the public emergence of native spiritualities, and diaspora religions of the Caribbean, Brazil and Latinos in the United States.
Eligible for LASC program.
1 credit. Milton Machuca-Galvez.
Wed  1:15 pm-4:00 pm  KOHL 201

RELG 057. Hebrew for Text Study I
(Cross-listed as LING 007)
What does the Bible really say? Have you ever noticed how radically different the Hebrew Bible seems in different translations? If you want to understand the enigma of this text, if you want to experience it through your own eyes, if you want to plumb its depths, appreciate its beauty, confront its challenges, and understand its influence, you must read it in Hebrew. In this course, you will learn 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. No experience necessary. If you already have some Hebrew competence, contact the instructor for advice.
1 credit. Helen Plotkin.
Mon/Wed/Fri  9:30 am-10:20 am  LODGE 5

RELG 112. Postmodern Religious Thought
This seminar asks whether religious belief is possible in the absence of a “transcendental signified.” Topics include metaphysics and theology, the death of God, female divinity, apophatic mysticism and deconstruction, ethics without foundations, the question of God beyond Being, and analogues to notions of truth in ancient Buddhist thought. Readings include Eckhart, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Nagarjuna, Nishitani, Ricoeur, Marion, Rorty, Loy, Taylor, Panikkar and Vattimo. Eligible for INTP credit.
2 credits. Double graded seminar. Both sections (A & B) required. Mark Wallace.
Wed  1:15pm-4:00 pm  PEARS 210

RELG 119. Islamic Law and Society
A survey of the history of Islamic law and its developments, with particular attention to the ways Islamic legal principles were formed, organized, operated in practice, and changed over time. It will focus on issues in Islamic legal theory, methodology, constitutional law, personal law, and family law that have had the greatest relevance to our contemporary world. This course functions as a basic introduction to the Islamic legal system in its pre-modern and contemporary forms. The course will also provide comparative discussion of the contrasts between Islamic legal theory and positive law and European and American legal and constitutional thought.
Eligible for ISLM or MDST credit.
2 credits. Double graded seminar. Both sections (A & B) required. Tariq al-Jamil.
Tues  1:15 pm-4:00 pm  PEARS 210