Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Sunday, June 20, 2021, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.
This catalog was created on Sunday, June 20, 2021.
|Professor:||K. Carr (McNaughton Rosebush Professor of Liberal Studies, chair)|
|Associate professor:||M. Smith|
|Assistant professor:||C. Kassor (on leave term(s) I, II, III)|
|Visiting assistant professor:||A. Silva Knuppel|
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, spiritual and legal 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 Rationality and Religious Belief and Religion of Ancient Egypt.
Required for the major in religious studies
Students who complete the major in religious studies will understand and explain the basic historical development of at least two different religious traditions, as well as some of their complexities, specifically that religious traditions are dynamic evolving phenomena with multiple interpretive strands. They will understand and explain basic elements of at least three theories or approaches to the academic study of religion and use this knowledge to analyze religious traditions and draw their own conclusions, producing clear, thesis-driven papers reflecting these skills.
The major in religious studies requires the following:
- RLST 100: Introduction to Religious Studies
- Three 200-level courses on religious traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Ancient Egypt
- Two 300-level theory courses
- One 400- or 500-level seminar
- Two electives in religious studies
- RLST 610: Senior Projects
Independent studies/tutorials may be used to fulfill only the elective requirement.
Majors must complete a senior capstone project, which includes taking the Senior Projects course and presenting at the religious studies symposium at the end of spring term of their senior year.
Senior Experience in religious studies
The Senior Experience in religious studies consists of a one-term seminar (RLST 610, taught in the winter term) that gives students the opportunity to complete a project (usually a paper, but other formats are possible) that builds upon the previous course work and academic experiences of the student. The class also offers students an introduction to several theoretical perspectives that will enable them to see their project from a broadly comparative perspective. Additionally, students are required to participate in a departmental symposium, in which student work is presented and discussed by majors, minors, and faculty. Students pursuing double majors, double degrees, or teacher certification are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisors and relevant departments to plan and negotiate their overall Senior Experience as early as possible.
Required for the minor in religious studies
The minor in religious studies is intended to enable students to concentrate on a religious tradition connected to their area of interest. The requirement of both an introductory course and at least one course outside their chosen tradition ensures that religious studies minors develop some expertise in the overall study of religion. The minor requires a minimum of five courses (30 units), which include:
- RLST 100: Introduction to Religious Studies
- Two courses (12 units) in one of the following areas: Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity
- A 400- or 500-level seminar course
- One additional six-unit course outside the chosen area
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.
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 BibleThe purpose of this course is to survey the various genres of the 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 elements that constitute the broad system of beliefs known as Hinduism. Emphasis is placed on lived religious experience, but intellectual history and dominant patterns of ritual are also covered. Readings include primary texts, comic books, videos and other multimedia content.
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 216: Buddhism in East AsiaAn introductory survey of Buddhist thought and practice in China and Japan. The history of key Buddhist concepts and schools in East Asia is the primary focus. Readings include translations from East Asian 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 221: Dance, Yoga, and Body Knowledge in ReligionThis class introduces students to the concept of embodied knowledge, asking students 'what do our bodies know and how do they learn?' and 'what do the performances of our bodies create?' Students will explore embodied ways of knowing at the intersection of Indian classical dance, yoga, and Hindu traditions and then create and analyze their own movement practices as part of the class.
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 228: Yoga: Theory and PracticeThis course examines the history of yogic traditions in South Asia and explores contemporary developments of yoga practices around the world. In addition to studying primary texts and secondary literature students will also be instructed in basic pranayama (breathing) and asana (posture) practices by a qualified instructor. Students will write essays analyzing course materials through the lens of their own experiences with yoga practice.
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, FacebookThe rhetoric surrounding technology invokes revolution and newness, but the products and services fit with the individualism of American (and global) views of self and society. We will examine both the positive visions offered by tech thinkers like Steward Brand and Ray Kurzweil, as well as the destructive results that occur as corporations “move fast and break things.” Students will complete a video critique of a digital platform.
RLST 265: Arabian NightsThe Arabian Nights, or 1,001 Nights, offers a unique glimpse into medieval Islam. Our readings from these tales will be supplemented with travel narratives and Sufi texts building on this storytelling tradition. The course provides an expansive view of the Islamic tradition and a chance to think critically about later perceptions of the Middle East. Students will complete an interpretive paper or digital mapping project.
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 281: Topics in Religious StudiesThis course represents an exploration of a topic in religious studies. Topics will emphasize contemporary questions and experiential learning. Assignments will emphasize experiential learning and discussion. May be repeated when topic is different.
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.
RLST 304: Sensing Religion: Religions and the 5 SensesA survey of religious studies theories and methods that focuses on the role of the five (or more) senses in religious life across traditions. Students will engage various senses through activities such as in-class dance demonstrations, field trips to nearby places of worship, reading case studies, and foundational texts, and viewing ethnographic films. Assignments include a sensory journal (student-led) and a final sensory ethnographic project.
RLST 305: Atheism, Agnosticism, and NihilismThis course is an examination of three contemporary positions which typically claim to be anti- or non-religious in orientation. We will explore the historical origins of each view (or, more precisely, each cluster of views) as well as analyzing its coherence and intelligibility.
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 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 352: Colonialism and Global StructuresAn 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 353: Buddhism and GenderThis discussion-based course investigates the ways in which women and gender minorities participate in Buddhist culture around the world. By reading texts by and about Buddhist women, this course will explore the extent to which gender affects social status, leadership roles, and access to education in Buddhist communities in South Asia, East Asia, and the United States.
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 356: Meditation: Psychological and Buddhist PerspectivesThis seminar-style course investigates the theory and practice of meditation from psychological and Buddhist perspectives. Topics to be considered include the effects of meditation on the brain, mindfulness, compassion, and the secularization of religious practices. Course meetings will focus on discussion of readings and experiential learning. Assessment will involve quizzes, reflection on experiential practice, and papers.
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.
RLST 450: Classic Texts in Religious StudiesThis course will focus on reading a classic text related to the field of religious studies. The work chosen could be related to the philosophy or sociology of religion or have theological or historical importance within a specific religious tradition. May be repeated when topic is different.
Topic for Spring 2021:
RLST 500: Seminar: KierkegaardIntensive study of the works of the Danish philosopher/theologian considered to be the father of Existentialism. Concentration on Kierkegaard’s view of the self and its relation to his stages of existence, with particular attention to his view of faith. Some consideration to the historical context of his thought and his influence on 20th-century theology and philosophy.
RLST 510: Seminar: Zen BuddhismZen Buddhism is perhaps the most widely known form of Buddhism in the West and also the most widely misunderstood. This course provides a detailed look at the history and doctrines of Zen Buddhism in China and Japan. Combining the use of original source materials (in translation) with an emphasis on intellectual history, the course covers specific doctrines that have differentiated the major schools of Zen.
RLST 525: Conversion NarrativesThis course will explore literary, philosophical and autobiographical texts dealing with conversion. While we will be focusing primarily on conversions to and from Judaism--primarily in the modern era--we will cover excerpts from Augustine's Confessions and St. Paul's Letters.
RLST 526: 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. Students will also meet once a week to read sections of Clifford Geertz's classic The Religion of Java and also complete a seminar paper. Not open to students who have previously received credit for RLST 226.
RLST 535: Buddhist Philosophy: What is Real and How Do We Know?An examination of the relationship between two principal schools of later (Mahāyāna) Buddhism and their concepts of emptiness. The Madhyamaka school views all things as devoid of independent, inherently existing essences, while the Yogācāra school believes that nothing is truly separate from the mind. We will consider fundamental texts in both traditions as they relate to metaphysics epistemology and the self. Seminar with papers.
RLST 545: Advanced Topics in Religious StudiesThis topics course offers advanced students a seminar in a topic related to a foundations/gateway course offered in the same term. Students engage with more challenging readings and pursue their own scholarship, presenting their research in the companion gateway course as the opportunity arises. Students may have previously taken the companion gateway course but may not enroll concurrently in that course. May be repeated when topic is different.
Topic for Fall 2020: Internet and the Whole Earth
Although so much of the Internet came from idealists reading the Whole Earth Catalog, it is not clear that technology is leading us toward a society that cares for the Earth. This seminar will explore critically the portrayal of the human future on Earth in the work of futurologists such as Michio Kaku. The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles Mann and Facing Gaia by Bruno Latour will anchor this seminar and help us to consider the underlying conflicts between Green and Tech worldviews. This seminar is open with approval for upper level students, preferably who have taken Religion and the Biosphere or Apple, Google, Facebook.