Skip to main content

Course Schedule Fall 2012

RELG 001C. Religion and Terror in an Age of Hope and Fear
Religion kills:  this is the verdict against religion since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.  Since that time, here and abroad, the United States views many forms of religion as potent security threats.  Various forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, in particular, are seen as direct challenges to the secular ethos and global mission of late capitalist societies.  This team-taught course in religion, politics, and culture, will offer a counter-narrative to the argument that religion and violence are equivalent terms using the resources of postcolonial theory, critical race theory, sustainability economics, liberation theology, and psychoanalytic theory.  No pre-requisites. Eligible for ISLM or PEAC credit.
1 credit 
al-Jamil, Wallace
Tues/Thurs  1:15-2:30 pm  KOHL 115


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
M/W/F  11:30 am-12:20 pm  SCI L26


RELG 012B. Hindu Traditions of India: Power, Love, and Knowledge
This course is an introduction to the religious and cultural history of Hindu traditions of India from the prehistoric Indus Valley in the northwest to the medieval period in the southeast, and major points and periods in between, with a look also at formative points of the early modern period. Our focus will be on the interactions between Vedic, Buddhist, brahmanical, popular/ritual, and Jain religious traditions in the development, and formation of Hindu religious streams, along with major ritual and ascetic practices, hagiographies, and myths, hymns and poetry, and art and images associated with Hindu identities and sectarian formations, pre-modern and modern. In addition to providing students with a grasp of the basic doctrines, practices, and beings (human, superhuman, and divine) associated with various Hindu traditions, the course also seeks to equip them with the ability to analyze primary and secondary sources. Eligible for ASIA credit.
1 credit
M/W/F  10:30-11:20 am  Trotter 303


RELG 018B. Modern Jewish Thought
Is modern Reason compatible with biblical Revelation? Beginning with the heretic Spinoza, we'll examine the giants of Jewish thought-religious reformers, philosophers, and theologians wrestling with the challenge of modernity, politics, and multiculturalism. Topics will include: the essence of Judaism, the nature of law, religion and state, God and evil, the status of women and non-Jews, the legacy of the Holocaust. Readings from: Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Judith Plaskow, Emmanuel Levinas, and others.
1 credit
Tues/Thurs  9:55-11:10 am  Trotter 315


RELG 023. Living in the Light: Quakers Past and Present (W)
This course explores the beliefs and practices, the social activism, and the impact of Quakers in North America from the 1650s to the present. Topics include Quakers and social reform including peace work, women's rights advocacy, prison reform; Quakers and nature; Quakers and education; and Quaker writings about God, self, and the world. Readings will include the work of George Fox, Margaret Fell, William Penn, John Woolman, John Bartram, Lucretia Mott, Elias Hicks, Elise Boulding, and Rufus Jones. 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
Tues/Thurs  9:55-11:10 am  Pearson 210


RELG 028B. First-Year Seminar:  Religious Radicals:  The Religious Socialism of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement
What was MLK thinking? We'll read along with MLK, treading the theological paths of the Civil Rights Movement in Christian theology (Niebuhr, Barth, Tillich), Jewish thought (Buber, Heschel), and Gandhi. We'll read MLK, hearing from some of his critics (Baldwin, Malcolm X, Fanon) and explore more recent attempts by black thinkers (Cornel West, Michael Dyson, James Cone) to recapture the radical core of King's vision. Along with theory, we'll consider practice, investigating the role of religious communities, organizers and clergy, and "everyday" people in the success and failures of the various movements of the 1960s through today. Eligible for BLST or PEAC credit.
1 credit
Tues/Thurs  2:40-3:55 pm  Pearson 210


RELG 048. First-Year Seminar:  American Idols:  Sacred and Secular Music
What makes music sacred or secular?  Focusing on American popular music after World War II, this course will examine the variety of ways musicians, music fans, executives in the music industry, and members of different faith traditions have answered this question and how their answers have changed over time.  Among the genres and epochs we will discuss are Motown soul, country, bluegrass, postbop jazz and jazz fusion, rock and roll, black and white gospel, contemporary Christian, punk, and folk.  We will pay specific attention to the effects of media shifts on notions of sacrality and secularity.  How did radio and television affect the boundaries that separated sacred from secular music?  How did the rise of the mobile MP3 player change listeners' notions of sacred aural space?  What is the effect of the "democratizing" of stardom that occurs on American Idol-whose spotlight has often fallen on evangelical Christians?  While we will devote significant attention to musical manifestations of Christianity, Christianity will not be our exclusive focus.  Moreover, as we will track the musical convergence of various faith traditions, we will explore music as not only an expression of religious devotion, but as a "religion-creating" phenomenon.
1 credit
Wednesday  1:15-4:00 pm  Lang Center 106


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
Tues/Thurs  11:20 am-12:35 pm  SCI 183


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.
M/W/F  11:30 am-12:20 pm  Lodge 5


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.
Tuesday  7:30-10:00 pm  Pearson 210



RELG 112. Postmodern Religious Thought (A & B)
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 required)
Wednesday  1:15-4:00 pm  Pearson 210


RELG 114. Love and Religion (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 or MDST credit.
2 credits  (double-graded seminar: both sections required)
Wednesday  7:30-11:00 pm  Pearson 210