Course Descriptions

  • Divisional Courses

    101. Introduction to Religion. (3h) Study of meaning and value as expressed in religious thought,
    experience,and practice. Focus varies with instructor. (D)

    102. Introduction to the Bible. (3h) Study of the forms, settings, contents, and themes of the Old and New Testaments. Focus varies with instructor. (D)

    103A. Introduction to Christian Traditions. (3h) Study of Christian experience, thought, and practice. Focus varies with instructor. (D)

    103B. Introduction to Latin American Christian Traditions. (3h) Study of the origins, practices, experiences, and thought of Christian traditions in Latin America. Focus varies with instructor. (CD, D)

    104A. Introduction to Asian Traditions. (3h) Study of the thought and practices within the major religious traditions of South, Southeast, and East Asia. Focus, regions, and traditions may vary with instructor. (CD, D)

    104B. Introduction to South Asian Traditions. (3h) Study of the thought and practices within the major religious traditions of South Asia (Indian subcontinent). Focus and traditions may vary with instructor. (CD, D)

    104C. Introduction to East Asian Traditions. (3h) Study of the thought and practices within the major religious traditions of East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan). Focus, regions, and traditions may vary with instructor. (CD, D)

    105. Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (3h) Examines the history, thought, and practices of these three monotheistic traditions in global perspective. Focus varies by instructor. (D)

    106. The Bible in America. (3h) Critical examination of the ways in which various individuals and groups have interpreted, appropriated and used the Bible in America. Focus varies with instructor. (D)

    107. Introduction to African Religions. (3h) Study of the basic features of African religious systems and institutions, with focus on the cultural, economic and political factors that have informed global preservations of an African worldview. (CD, D)

    108. Introduction to Hindu Traditions. (3h) Examines historical, political, and cultural developments of various traditions placed under the heading “Hinduism” in South Asia and abroad, with focus on ritual, myths, literature, and imagery that reflect their diverse beliefs and practices. (CD, D)

    109. Introduction to Buddhist Traditions. (3h) Study of the thought, history, and practices of Buddhist traditions in Asia. (CD, D)

    110. Introduction to Islamic Traditions. (3h) Examines the origins and development of Islam.
    Attention is given to the formation of Islamic faith and practice. (CD, D)

    111. American Indian and First People’s Traditions. (3h) Multi-disciplinary study of thought and practice in past and present American Indian and other indigenous communities. (CD, D)

    113. Introduction to Jewish Traditions. (3h) Examines the history, thought, and practices of Jewish traditions in global perspective. (CD, D)

  • General Courses

    200. Approaches to the Study of Religion. (3h) Explores the history of and methodological resources 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.

    286, 287. Directed Reading. (1-3h) A project in an area of study not otherwise available in the department. May be repeated for credit.  (Group I-III with department approval) P—POI.

    288. Field Program in Religion and Public Engagement. (1-3h) Integrated study of major themes in religion and public engagement carried out in partnership with one or more communities off campus. May be repeated for credit. Focus varies with instructor. P—POI. On request.

    290. Special Topics in Religion. (1.5h-3h) Religion topics of special interest. May be repeated for credit. Group I-III with department approval. P—POI.

    291. Crossing Divides: Dialogues Across Faith and Culture.(1.5-3 h) Examines methods and practices of inter-religious dialogue with special attention to contemporary challenges. Focus varies with instructor. (CD) 

    292. Crossing Divides: Crossing Back: Peacemaking.(1.5-3 h) Examines methods and practices of inter-religious peacemaking with special attention to contemporary challenges. Focus varies with instructor. (CD) 

    304. Myth, Ritual, and Symbolism. (3h) Explores how people envision and manipulate the supernatural in cross-cultural perspective. Emphasizes functional aspects of religious beliefs and practices. Also listed as ANT 336. P—ANT 111 or 112 or 113 or 114, or POI. (CD)

    305. Ethnography of Religion. (3h) 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)

    307.  Magic, Science, and Religion. (3h) 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.

    351. Sociology of Religion. (3h) Introduces the sociological analysis of religion, including religious beliefs and experiences, the cultural context of religion, varieties of religious organization, religious change and social change. Also listed as SOC 301.

    390. Special Topics in Religion. (1.5h-3h) Religion topics of special interest. May be repeated for credit. Group I-III with department approval. P—POI.

    395. Exploring Interfaith Practice and Leadership. (3h) This online course on interfaith leadership invites students to consider how they might engage most effectively with people from a variety of religious backgrounds. POI.

    396. Interreligious Encounters and Engagements. (3h) Surveys the history of dialogue activities among various religious communities and introduces the methods and theories of interreligious dialogue. Part of this class is interaction with local interfaith projects.

    398. Honors in Religion. (3h) Directed study and research in preparation for writing and completing an honors thesis. (P-Admission to the honors program in the Study of Religions).

    399. Senior Colloquy. (1h) This one-hour capstone course, required for senior majors, is structured around writing and reflection on the major through readings, discussions, and portfolio development.

  • Group I Courses – Biblical Studies

    261. Foundations of Traditional Judaism. (1.5h) Study of rabbinic and medieval Judaism, emphasizing the post-biblical codification of Jewish thought in the Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash.

    308. Sacred Scripture in the Traditions of Abraham. (3h) Comparative study of sacred texts in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with attention to the issues of authority, function and interpretation.

    310. The Prophetic Literature. (3h) Examines the development and theological contents of the literary products of Israel’s prophetic movement.

    312. The Critical Study of the Pentateuch. (3h) 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.

    313. Near Eastern Archaeology. (3h) Survey of 20th-century archaeology in the Near East with attention to its importance for Biblical studies.

    315, 316. Field Research in Biblical Archaeology. (3h, 3h) Study of the religion and culture of the ancient Near East through the excavation and interpretation of an ancient site.

    317. Wisdom Literature. (3h) Examines the development, literary characteristics, and theological contents of the works of ancient Israel’s sages.

    318. Feminist and Contemporary Interpretations of the New Testament. (3h) Study of feminist and contemporary approaches to the New Testament in light of the history of New Testament interpretation and a range of contemporary concerns and interpretive contexts.

    320. The Search for Jesus. (3h) Study of issues, assumptions, evidence, and debate that shapes the continuing quest for the historical Jesus.

    323.  Jesus Traditions. (3h) Examines ancient Christian and other religious representations of Jesus in historical, social, cultural and theological context.

    324. Early Christian Literature. (3h) Examines various literatures and perspectives of the first three centuries of the Christian movement.

    328. Jewish-Christian Relations and the New Testament. (3h) Study of Jewish-Christian relations and selected writings of the New Testament in the historical, social, religious and political contexts of ancient Judaism and emerging Christianity. Focus varies with instructor.

  • Group II Courses – Religion, History, and Society

    210. Jerusalem in History and Tradition. (3h) Examines the ways meaning and religious significance have been imparted to Jerusalem far beyond its significance in world history.

    230. Religion and the U.S. Constitution. (3h) Introduces the complex relationship between religion and the U.S. government through an in-depth analysis of the nation’s founding documents and the subsequent series of First Amendment church-state decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court.

    242.  Sex, Death, and Salvation. (3h) Examines how various religious traditions, past and present, have understood the overlapping notions of sexuality, human destiny, and the afterlife. (CD)

    244.  Religion, Terrorism, and Violence. (3h) Investigates definitions of terrorism and examines religious motivations, justifications and legitimization of the use of violence in a number of belief systems (CD).

    246. Religion and Race. (3h) Explores the relationship between religion and race, two categories that describe identity and that intersect in the lives of individuals and groups.  Focus varies with instructor. (CD)

    266. Religious Sects and Cults. (3h) Examines historical and contemporary issues in the study of new religious movements by analyzing media coverage of “cults” and investigating the history of specific groups.

    267. Religion and Popular Culture. (3h) Examines the relationship between religion and popular culture, focusing on a variety of popular culture forms and interpretive skills. Focus varies with instructor.

    330.  Pope, Jefferson & Imam: A Study in Comparative Ethics. (3h) Comparative study of the moral values and socio-ethical positions in the major religious traditions of the world, with particular focus on their various methods of reasoning and sources of authority.

    331. Religion and Law. (3h) 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.

    332. Religion and Public Engagement. (3h)   Examines the interface between religious communities and the public sphere, and the potential for social change in contemporary global and local contexts through a range of readings, guest lectures, field trips, and films. Traditions and emphasis may vary with instructor.

    335. Religious Ethics and the Problem of War. (3h) Examines the causes and characteristics of war, various religious responses to it, and approaches to peacemaking, with attention to selected contemporary issues.

    336. Religious Traditions and Human Rights. (3h) Study of relationships and tensions between religious traditions and human rights, with illustrations from historical and contemporary issues and movements.

    338. Religion, Ethics, and Politics. (3h) Examines ethical issues in religion and politics using materials from a variety of sources and historical periods.

    341. Religion and Ecology. (3h) Cross-cultural examination of the relationships among human beings, their diverse cultures, habitats, and religions, including social and political understandings of the environment.

    342. Religious Intolerance in the U.S. (3h) Study of the various manifestations of religious intolerance in the U.S. from the colonial period until the present.

    344. Religion, Poverty and Social Entrepreneurship. (3h) Interdisciplinary study of major themes in religion, poverty reduction, and social entrepreneurship. Focus and community emphasis may vary with instructor. Also listed as ENT 322

    345. African-American Religious Experience. (3h) Explores the religious dimensions of African-American life from its African antecedents to contemporary figures and movements. (CD)

    346. Religious Utopias and the American Experience. (3h) Surveys a range of such 18th and 19th-century utopian communities, including Moravians, Rappites, Shakers, and the Oneida and Amana colonies. Also listed as HST 381.

    347.  Religion, Gender, & Sexuality. (3hr) Explores how “religion” regulates and normalizes gender and sexuality.

    348. Race, Memory, and Identity. (3h) Explores the collective memory and identity of American-Indian and African-American communities and their response to historical trauma in their cultural imagination, spirituality, and political and social activism. Also listed as HST 378. (CD)

    355. Jewish Identities: Religion, Race, and Rights. (3h) 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. (CD)

    356.  Faces of Modern Judaism. (3h) Examines contemporary expressions of Judaism and its historical roots. (CD)

    357. Jews in the United States. (3h) Examines Jewish American histories, experiences, and identities and their impact on American society as a whole.

    364. Topics in U.S. Religious History. (1.5-3h) Variable topics in U.S. religious history, thought, and/or practice. May be repeated for credit if topic varies.

    365. History of Religions in America. (3h) Study of American religions from colonial times until the present.

    367. Christian Mysticism.  (3 h) Study of Christian mysticism and contemplation (spirit possession, visions, dreams, and meditation) and their relation to contemporary issues.

    368. Protestant and Catholic Reformations. (3h) Study of the origin and development of Reformation theology and ecclesiology.

    369. Radical Christian Movements. (3h) Study of selected radical movements in the Christian tradition and their relation to contemporary issues.

    372. History of Christian Thought. (3h) Study of recurring patterns in Christian thought across time and cultures and some of the implications of those patterns in representative ancient and modern Christian figures.

    373. Special Topics in African-American Religious Traditions. (3h) Variable topics in African-American religious traditions.  May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    374. Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms. (3h) Examines the cultural and religious history of black leadership in the United States. (CD)

    375. Race, Myth, and the American Imagination. (3h) A study of myth and mythology in relation to the racial imaginary in America. (CD)

    376. Race, Religion, and Film. (3h) Examines past and contemporary filmmakers who couple religious themes with racial concerns. (CD)

    378. Latin American Liberation Theologies. (3h) Historical, contextual, and theoretical survey of various forms of Latin American liberation theology, a school of Christian thought that both critiques of systems of oppression and offers proposals for a more just and peaceful future.

  • Group III Courses – World Religions

    265. Culture and Religion in Contemporary Native America. (3h) 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)

    280.  God, Gods, and the Ultimate. (3h) Comparative study of the way religious traditions—both Eastern and Western—conceptualize “Ultimate Reality” or “the Absolute” (e.g., God, Allah, Brahman, the Dao, Emptiness). Particular attention will be given to the historical evolution and the socio-religious implications of the various conceptualizations studied. (CD)

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

    329. Chinese Medicine. (3h) An interdisciplinary exploration and analysis of Chinese medicine its fundamental theories and its range of health-oriented and religious applications (CD)

    339. Religion, Power, and Society in Modern Africa. (3h) Interdisciplinary study of the growth transformations of Africa’s major religious traditions (Christianity, Islam, and the indigenous religions) and of their relations with secular social changes. (CD)

    343. Religion, Culture, and the Body. (3h) A cross-cultural, multi-disciplinary exploration of the body as a malleable locus of contested ideals that informs personal, social, and religious identity formation. (CD)

    349. Asian Meditation Practices. (3h) Introduces and examines theoretical and practical aspects of various forms of Eastern meditation (Concentration, mindfulness, Zen, visualization, and moving energy work) from both practitioner and modern scientific perspectives. (CD)

    359. Hinduism in America. (3h) Study of the meanings, values, and practices associated with the religions of Hinduism in dialogue with the dominant culture of America. (CD)

    360. Hindus, Muslims, & Sikhs in North America. (3h) Examines the racialization of Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism in North America using a postcolonial and intersectional approach. (CD)

    361. Topics in Buddhism. (3h) Variable topics in Buddhist history, thought, and/or practice. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    362. Topics in Islam. (3h) Variable topics in Islamic history, thought, and/or practice. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    363. The Religions of Japan. (3h) Study of the central religious traditions of Japan from pre-history to the present, including Shinto, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism. (CD)

    381. Zen Buddhism. (3h) Examines the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from China (Ch’an) to Japan and contemporary America. Attention is given to Zen doctrine and practice in the context of the broader Buddhist tradition. (CD)

    382. Religion and Culture in China. (3h) Thematic study of Chinese religious culture focusing on history, ritual, scripture, and popular practice. Additional topics include cosmology, ancestor veneration, shamanism, divination, and the role of women. (CD)

    383. The Quran and the Prophet. (3h) 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. (CD)

    384. Islam and Law: Varieties in Interpretation and Expression. (3h) Explores main tenets of the Islamic law (Shari’ah) and how this law has been applied in past and present Islamic societies. Looks at legal issues through the lens of gender, ethics, non-Muslim minorities, rights, and duties. (CD)

    385. Topics in South Asian Religions. (3h) Variable topics in the religions of South Asia. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    386. Indian Epics. (3h) Examines one or both Indian epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, while paying attention to either epic’s religious, social, and political contexts, performance, and development in Indian history. (CD)

    387. Priests, Warriors, and Ascetics in Ancient India. (3h) 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)

    388. South Asian Women: Religion, Culture, and Politics. (3h) Examines the intersection of religion, race and gender of South Asian women from a feminist and postcolonial perspective. (CD)

    389. Islam in the West: Changes and Challenges. (3h) Explores issues of identity, ethnicity and religion within various Muslim communities living in western countries. A central goal is to understand how these communities negotiate the new environment and the challenges they face.

    391. Topics in East Asian Religions. (3h) Variable topics in the religions of China, Korea, and Japan. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    392. Topics in First Peoples’ Traditions. (3h) Variable topics in the religions of American Indian and Canadian First Nations. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)

    393. Topics in Religions of Africa. (3h) Variable topics in the religions of Africa or African diaspora. May be repeated for credit if topic varies. (CD)