Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Thursday, March 22, 2018, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.
This catalog was created on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
|Professor:||K. Carr (McNaughton Rosebush Professor of Liberal Studies) (on leave term(s) III)|
|Associate professors:||M. Smith (chair), D. Vorenkamp|
|Assistant professor:||C. Kassor|
Courses in Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam form the core offerings in the department. Students examine cultural and social expressions of those religions (sacred texts, rituals, instances of ecstasy and enthusiasm, reflective writings, institutions) at a particular period, over time, and in relation to broader historical, philosophical, and ethical issues. In addition, a number of elective courses are offered that focus on a particular theme, issue, or tradition not covered in the core offerings. Such courses include Gandhi, Rationality and Religious Beliefs and Hebrew Prophets and Religion of Ancient Egypt.
Required for the religious studies major
The major in religious studies comprises 9 courses.
- RLST 100: Introduction to Religious Studies and RLST 600: Seminar on Methodology are taken by all majors.
- Four courses from the core offerings must be taken, two in one tradition, and two in a second tradition.
- Core courses in Christianity: 260, 270, 400, 500, 560. [Note: Either 260 or 270 must be taken by majors and minors choosing Christianity as one of their core traditions]
- Core courses in Islam: 240, 265, 280, 335, 550, 580.
- Core courses in Buddhism: 215, 216, 420, 510.
- Participation in the department colloquium as part of the Senior Experience
The remaining three courses required for the major are completed through elective courses and/or additional course work in the core offerings.
Although tutorials and independent studies are not required, advanced majors are encouraged to discuss with their advisor the possibility of doing a tutorial or independent study in an area of particular interest to them.
Required for the religious studies minor
The minor in religious studies is intended to enable students in related fields to concentrate on the religious tradition connected to their area of interest. Requiring both the introductory course and at least one course outside that tradition ensures that religious studies minors will also develop some expertise in the overall study of religion. The minor requires a minimum of five courses (30 units), to include:
- RLST 100: Introduction to Religious Studies
- Two courses (12 units) in one of the following areas: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity
- A seminar-level course (6 units)
- One additional six-unit course outside the chosen area
- A C average in the minor is also required.
Students considering graduate work in religious studies should note that completion of a graduate degree typically requires demonstrated proficiency in at least one modern foreign language (normally French or German) as well as one or more additional languages (depending on the area of concentration). College work leading toward graduate study should be planned with these requirements in mind.
Senior Experience in Religious Studies
The Department of Religious Studies’ Senior Experience is a one-term senior seminar (usually taught in the spring term) that examines approaches to the study of religion selected from a school of thought or a more eclectic group of authors. Additionally, students are required to participate in an informal departmental colloquium, in which student work is presented and discussed by majors, minors, and faculty. Students pursuing double majors, double degrees, and education certification are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisors and relevant departments to plan and negotiate their overall Senior Experience as early as possible, especially if they are interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary capstone that integrates their interests in both majors, or combines their student teaching with a project in their major.
Courses - Religious Studies
RLST 100: Introduction to Religious StudiesAn introduction to the academic study of religion exploring cross-culturally some of the fundamental ways in which people experience and understand religion. Questions addressed include: What is religion? What are the basic forms of religious life? What connections exist among self-identity, the sacred, and society? How do those connections help to establish meaning and values in human existence? How is religious knowledge possible? Readings include primary religious texts and critical reflections on religion. Intended primarily for freshmen and sophomores or students with no prior work in the religious studies department.
RLST 140: Interfaith DialogueAs our experiences of religious and spiritual life become increasingly diverse, narrative process has become essential to understand the rich landscape of multiple faiths. Students will explore the scope of the interfaith movement, consider dialogue as one tool for interfaith encounter, and practice constructing and sharing their own spiritual narratives. Our shared goal is an interfaith dialogue where deep listening and honest speaking lead to surprising discoveries. Discussion course with written assignments and a class project.
RLST 150: Introduction to the Hebrew BibleThe purpose of this course is to survey the various genres of the Hebrew Bible, including narrative, law, poetry, historiography and prophecy. The main focus of the course will be a close reading of primary texts in order to familiarize students with major themes and scholarly debates. All readings are in English.
RLST 191: Directed Study in Religious StudiesDirected study follows a syllabus set primarily by the instructor to meet the needs or interests of an individual student or small group of students. The main goal of directed study is knowledge or skill acquisition, not research or creative work.
RLST 205: Religion and the BiosphereA look at how humans have made sense of existing in the biosphere. We will examine views on the nature of life in religious traditions like ancient Egypt and Jainism as well as early philosophical accounts. The second half will involve a close reading of Charles Darwin and reflection on resources offered by religious traditions to respond to the "sixth extinction." Lecture/discussion with written assignments and journaling on the coming of spring.
RLST 206: Martyrs, Mystics, Sinners and Saints: An Introduction to ChristianityAn introductory survey of primarily western Christianity. Our focus will be on selected "classic" works written by Christians over the last two thousand years. Discussion with occasional lectures. Assignments include short papers (3-5 pages) and in-class tests.
RLST 210: HinduismA survey of the religious and philosophical elements that constitute the broad system of beliefs known as Hinduism. Emphasis is placed on intellectual history, but dominant patterns of ritual and religious experience are also covered. Readings include primary texts and associated commentaries.
RLST 211: Religion and ComicsThis discussion-based course examines the role of comics and sequential art in religious traditions and explores religious themes in contemporary comics and graphic novels. By analyzing comics and related scholarship in the emerging field of comics studies, students will investigate the complex relationships between religion, images and culture. In addition to writing formal essays, students will also create their own digital comics.
RLST 215: Buddhism in India and TibetAn introductory survey of Buddhist thought and practice in India and Tibet. The historical development of key Buddhist concepts and schools is emphasized. Readings include translations of Buddhist canonical works.
RLST 217: Humanitarianism & ViolenceThis course will examine the religious motivations that have led religious groups to embrace global norms like human rights or reject them and turn to violence. We will examine liberation theology in Latin America and the writings of extremist thinker Sayyid Qutb. Much of the class will be centered on case studies such as Myanmar's Rohingya crisis where religion, immigration, and questions of human rights are at play. Offered in conjunction with Ripon College, with online interactions and travel to local places of worship.
RLST 225: Introduction to Judaism: Canon, Thought, PracticeThe oldest monotheistic religion, studied through its classic texts (including the Bible, Talmud, Maimonides, the Zohar and much more). Readings of the modern era will highlight the shift from a religion to a national/ethnic identity. In addition, key terms of the Jewish cycle of life will be introduced.
RLST 226: Religion in IndonesiaThis course will study the religious traditions of Indonesia. We will concentrate on the island of Java and the history of the dominant Islamic faith, but we will also examine the Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian traditions in Indonesia and the form of civil religion known as Pancasila. Not open to students who have previously received, or need to receive credit for RLST 526.
RLST 227: Religion in South AsiaWhat do religious texts instruct, and what do people do with those instructions? This lecture/discussion course examines the relationships between religious traditions in India, Nepal, and Bhutan as understood through texts and as enacted in everyday life. Through texts, film, comic books and art, we will explore the origins and development of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism in light of political change, modernization and globalization.
RLST 235: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Founding Myths and Contemporary RealitiesThis course will examine key events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with special attention to the religious context, including themes such as sacred space, holy war, martyrdom, and messianism. These will be discussed in the context of 1948 and 1967 wars, Jewish settlers, the rise of Hamas, and Christian evangelism.
RLST 236: The Arabic Novel and the TabooAn introduction to contemporary novels from the Middle East and North Africa that explores how Arab writers deal with religious, social, political and sexual taboos in their artistic works as well as issues of censorship and confiscation of literary productions. Lecture with group presentations, class discussions and a final analytical paper.
RLST 240: IslamAn introduction to Islam. Students will study primary sources beginning with the Quran and ending with a contemporary Muslim writer. Attention will be focussed on both the theological development of Islam and its lived experience as witnessed through the arts and architecture.
RLST 245: Apple, Google, FacebookOur current relation to technology and information feels new, yet it fits with the cultural and religious transformations pointed to in Robert Bellah’s classic Habits of the Heart. The innovation exemplified by the three corporations in the title is changing notions of religiosity and our understanding of religious traditions.
RLST 246: Gender and Body in Jewish LiteratureThis course will explore representations of gender and body in Jewish literature from the ancient period to contemporary times. Issues will include Jewish law, the image of god, constructions of masculinity and femininity in the jewish tradition, and female heroines.
RLST 260: Christianity through the 15th CenturyAn examination of the major developments in Christian thought and practice from its origin to the late Middle Ages. Topics include the formation of doctrine in the early church, Christian heresies, the cult of martyrs, the development of the monastic tradition, and the rise of the papacy.
RLST 265: Arabian NightsThe Arabian Nights, or 1001 Nights, with its imaginative stories provides a unique glimpse of popular Islam in the medieval period. In addition its appropriations by the West allows for a study of later perceptions of the Middle East and Islam.
RLST 270: Christianity in the Modern WorldA selective study of Christian history from the Reformation to the present. Special attention paid to the impact of modernity (e.g., the rise of science, the development of the historical critical method, religious pluralism, secularization) on Christian belief.
RLST 276: Nonviolence: Religious RootsWhat are the religious roots and impulses that have created nonviolent movements? This course investigates components of several religious traditions that shaped the leaders and followers of nonviolent movements and communities, including Mahatma Gandhi in Hinduism, Badsha Kahn in Islam, the Anabaptist movement in Christianity, and movements in the indigenous community. Discussion with written assignments and a group project.
RLST 290: Religion in Ancient Egypt: Pyramids, Wisdom, and Eternal LifeWe will examine the religious tradition of Egypt as it developed in the old, middle, and new kingdoms. Ideas about eternal life as detailed in the Pyramid Texts and embodied in the Pyramids will be closely studied, along with the tradition of wisdom literature.
RLST 291: Field Experience in Religious StudiesThis course provides the opportunity to experience a major religious tradition through a one- or two-week field experience accompanied by a professor. Class members will visit significant historical and contemporary sites and meet with practitioners during a break between terms. Students must register for the course in the term prior to travel and in the subsequent term, when they will complete a project. Travel program fee plus airfare.
Topic for Fall 2017: Buddhism in Nepal
This travel course examines religion and culture in Nepal, focusing on Buddhism. During fall term, students will study Nepali culture and Tibetan Buddhism. In December, we will travel to Kathmandu, where students will study a Buddhist text under the guidance of a monk. We will also visit religous sites and engage with local organizations. Students will complete and present independent research during the winter term.
RLST 295: The Jew as MetaphorThis course will explore the representation of the Jew in literature, philosophy, and the social sciences. Readings will include writers such as Hegel, Marx, T.S. Eliot, Wagner, and Philip Roth. In each case the Jew functions as a metaphor that allows thinkers to articulate their own ideas about history, nationalism, culture, and religion.
RLST 305: AtheismAn examination of selected works from the so-called "New Atheism" movement. Modern thinkers like Dawkins and Hitchens have forcefully attacked the history, psychology, sociology, economics and ethics of religious belief. This course will utilize their works to investigate questions such as "Is religious belief unhealthy? Immature? Dangerous?"
RLST 316: Greek-Islamic Philosophical TraditionAfter covering relevant fundamentals in Greek philosophy (Aristotle and Plato), we will proceed to later philosophers, both Greek (the Neoplatonists) and Islamic (Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi), whose work inherits the same methods and questions, Our special focus will be questions about philosophical method, the soul, and mystical experience.
RLST 326: Nietzsche and 19th-Century Critiques of ReligionAn examination of the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche, focusing on his critique of Christianity and his general theory of religion, as well as what Paul Ricouer calls his "hermeneutics of suspicion." Some discussion of other 19th-century critiques of religion (e.g., Feuerbach, Marx) will be included to provide historical context and contrast. Seminar with short papers and in-class presentations.
RLST 330: Rationality and Religious BeliefAn examination of the range of views on the relationship between reason and religion, focusing in particular on theistic belief. Questions addressed include: Can God’s existence be proven? Is faith different from ordinary belief? Does mystical experience provide adequate grounds for religious belief?
RLST 335: Cairo: Islam in ContextAn examination of the place of Islam within medieval and modern Cairo. We will read historical and creative texts in order to better understand how this religion and social system constructed what we know as Cairo.
RLST 336: Religion and Global SystemsThis course will investigate how religious traditions shape the values and culture of nations and other large-scale groups. We will read theorists such as Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Robert Bellah, Mary Douglas, and Olivier Roy with an eye toward works that emphasize the global impact of religion.
RLST 343: New England Puritan PoetryA study of New England Puritan poetry in the context of new world spiritual aspirations and anxieties. Readings will include sections of Martin Luther's writings and Perry Miller's and others' criticism, as well as the poems of Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Michael Wiggelsworth, and other minor and post-Puritan poets.
RLST 350: GandhiAn examination of the life, times, and thought of Mohandas Gandhi, emphasizing the religious concept of satyagraha (holding fast to the truth) and the philosophy of non-violence as the central precepts in his effort to transform Indian society and ultimately of his global influences.
RLST 352: Understanding ColonialismAn overview of European colonialism in Africa and Asia, this course focuses on colonial ideologies in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will investigate the myths and realities of colonialism and compare the colonial practices of the Belgians, Dutch, English and French. Our analysis will be informed by essays written by leading colonial theorists, novels and films. Lecture/discussion with response essays and a final project.
RLST 355: QuranAn examination of the Quran in its historical context, which will include reading of pre-Islamic poetry and the earliest biographical traditions about Muhammad. We will read the work of recent historians like Fred Donner and Patricia Crone who have offered revisionist views of the earliest Islamic community.
RLST 365: Faith and Power in Mediterranean CitiesThis course examines the complex histories of buildings and urban landscapes around the Mediterranean, emphasizing how religious and political structures transformed them from the Classical world, through Christian and Islamic empires, and down to modern nation states. The city of Istanbul will be a central focus, though case studies from other cities will be introduced.
RLST 381: Race and ReligionThis course examines how religious cultures and discourses contributed to the emergence of the concept of race, racial classification, and processes of 'racialization'; how biblical interpretation both justified and contested the transatlantic slave trade; and how anti-Black racism relates to anti-Semitism. The course examines the history of doctrines on indigenous peoples, race science, and exploitation, and the dynamics of race and ethnicity in Israel and Palestine. Lecture/discussion with final paper.
RLST 390: Tutorial Studies in Religious StudiesAdvanced research, arranged and carried out under the direction of an instructor.
RLST 391: Directed Study in Religious StudiesDirected study follows a syllabus set primarily by the instructor to meet the needs or interests of an individual student or small group of students. The main goal of directed study is knowledge or skill acquisition, not research or creative work.
RLST 399: Independent Study in Religious StudiesAdvanced research, arranged in consultation with the department. Students planning an honors project should register for this course, for one or more terms.
RLST 400: Themes in Modern Western Religious ThoughtA critical survey of one or more of the distinctive themes in the religious thought of the West since the Reformation.
Topic for Spring 2018: Religious Thought After Catastrophe
An exploration of recent Christian and Jewish thinking about God, social justice, utopias, ethical perfection, and evil as a means of wrestling with the aftermath of the Holocaust and other 20th century horrors. Special attention will be paid to religious reactions to colonialism, racism, and war.