Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

43525 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM UTC 3.122
(also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 310)
show description


This course offers a survey of the major religious traditions of Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism in South and East Asia, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto). It focuses on the historical development of their beliefs, practices, rituals, and customs in social context. The course will combine lectures with class discussions on readings.

Course materials:

  1. Willard G. Oxtoby, Roy C. Amore, eds. World Religions: Eastern Traditions. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. R. K. Narayan, The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  3. Zhuangzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
  4. Readings provided as PDF files on CANVAS


  • Attendance/participation: 20%
  • Two quizzes: 20% (10% each)
  • Two short essays: 20% (10% each)
  • Midterm exam: 20%
  • Final exam: 20%

R S 304 • Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

43530 • Moin, A
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GEA 114
(also listed as CTI 304, HIS 304R, ISL 311, J S 311)
show description

This course asks students to recognize the ethical implications of the ways we talk about religion – both our own religion (if any) and those of others. Choosing definitions for religion is an ethical choice with social, political, and civic implications; the goal of this course is to assist students in becoming self-conscious about that choice. In so doing, students will improve their ability to tolerate and reduce moral disagreements about religious beliefs and practices, something that is at the heart of practical ethics education. Specifically, the ethical issues in this course encourage students to:

• reflect on different definitions of religion, to choose which ones appeal to them, and to explore their implications

• analyze the ways in which religions form “communities of memory,” to consider in what ways these communities create boundaries that both enclose and exclude

• understand the different ways that religions have historically intersected with with politics, with science, and with culture

•consider how these intersections might influence the students’ perceptions of religion and the ways in which religion is presented in contemporary media and popular culture.


R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

43535 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM WAG 302
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
show description

An examination of principal issues in contemporary philosophy of religion with special attention to religious pluralism. The views and arguments of Western theologians and philosophers will be taken up along with claims and concepts growing out of Eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism, in particular). Special topics include different views of the nature of a Divine Reality, arguments of rational theology, mysticism, and the theological problem of evil.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43540 • Seales, Chad
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM CLA 0.130
show description

This course is an introduction to the study of the forms, functions, and meanings of religious practices as observed in human cultures. Surveying classical and contemporary approaches, we will examine how scholars have historically defined religion as an interpretive category. It will quickly become clear that few scholars agree on a definition or on a best method for study. This course will encourage you to define your subject of study and construct your own methods of theoretical analysis. To help you with this task, we will work together on specific case studies of religious practices in particular places.



  • Participation (20%)
  • Journal (30%)
  • First Exam (25%)
  • Second Exam (25%)



  • Pals, Daniel L. Eight Theories of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Additional readings posted on Canvas.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43543 • Kravchenko, Elena
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 128
show description

Introduction to the Study of Religion

Course Description:  This class introduces students to the academic study of religion.  Students will learn some of the ways that scholars have theorized religion and will explore what these different approaches reveal and obscure about people’s religious lives.  Instead of supplying a definition of religion, this course encourages students to form their own understanding of the term.  To help students with this process, this course privileges a focus on case studies, which among other practices examine pilgrimage, practices of dress, and veneration of sacred objects in such traditions as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism in a range of geographical places.  Students will get to choose one or a combination of examined approaches to write their papers and complete their group projects.


None. This course assumes no prior knowledge of the subject.


  • Pals, Daniel L. Nine Theories of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. 
  • Additional readings posted on Canvas.


  • Participation (10%) – Over the course of the semester students will complete five class participation exercises, each will count 2 points.
  • In-class Exams (60%) – Over the course of the semester students will take two in-class exams, each will count 30 points.
  • Group Project (10%) – students will complete a group project, which will consist of a group presentation, which will count 5 points, and an individual reflection on the process, which will also count 5 points.
  • Final Project (20%) – At the end of the course students will write a five-page paper, which will count for 20 points.


Required.  Only three absences are allowed.  Each unexcused absence beyond the tree permissible absences will decrease the final grade by a letter grade.


R S 312 • Ghost/God/Ancst: Rlg E Asia

43545 • Cox, Benjamin
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM CMA 5.190
(also listed as ANS 301M)
show description

Course Description:

The religious landscape of East Asia is not defined solely by its great named traditions, but by a stunning diversity of local religious beliefs and practices as well. Ghosts, goblins, ancestors, and spirits of local concern weave in and out of these great traditions, influencing and being influenced by them in turn. By investigating the historical and cultural interface between the pragmatic and the sublime, the local and the universal, we will ask ourselves what we when when we talk about "religions" in China and Japan, and how that understanding can inform our ideas about religion and religious pluralism. Taking the spread of Buddhism into East Asia as its central narrative frame, this course will introduce students to the four main religious traditions of East Asia--Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and Shinto--and the ways they overlap both historically and today.



There are no required textbooks for this course. Assigned readings are all available either online through the University library website (especially JSTOR), or will be available in scanned PDF form on the course's Canvas site.



  • Geographic/Historical Quiz (5%)
  • Unit Quiz 1: China (15%)
  • Unit Quiz 2: Japan (15%)
  • Reading Journal (40%)
  • Reflection Paper (20%)
  • Participation (5%)


R S 313M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

43555 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CMA 3.114
(also listed as HIS 306N, J S 304M, MES 310)
show description

This is the first half of a two-semester survey of Jewish civilization, from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E. All materials are in English translation. The course will begin with readings from the Bible and the Ancient Near East, and at that time we will focus on the development of the civilization of the region now known as Israel or Palestine, including the complex cultural interactions of the second millennium B.C.E. We will have extensive readings from the Second Temple Period as well as classical rabbinic literature and other writings from the period known as Late Antiquity. The course will also include studies of Geonic and Medieval Judaism, including philosophy, poetry, and mystical writings.


  • First paper (5 pages): 25%
  • Second paper (5 pages): 25%
  • Final Exam: 50%

Regular attendance, careful preparation of assigned texts, and participation in class discussions are considered to be basic requirements of the course. 


  • Robert Selzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought
  • Jack Suggs, et al, eds., The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with Apocrypha
  • Other primary sources

R S 314K • Intro M East: Rel/Cul/Hist Fnd

43560 • Spellberg, Denise
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM GEA 105
(also listed as HIS 306K, MES 301K)
show description

This course surveys the history of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the end of the fifteenth century. Students will be introduced to basic aspects of the political, social, and cultural dimensions of Islamic civilization from Spain to Iran as they changed over time. In the midst of mapping this broad view, we will focus our attention on how specific historical figures and events contributed to definitions of Islamic identity, community, and authority. Central themes include the emergence of Sunni and Shi`i identities, the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims, and the unique material and intellectual contributions of Islamic civilization to world history and other societies.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43580 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM GAR 0.128
(also listed as CTI 304, MES 310)
show description


The figure of Moses looms large in biblical tradition, in the religions that revere him (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and in Western thought. In this course, we will begin by examining the figure of Moses in the Bible (with a focus on Exodus and Deuteronomy) and the various roles he plays in the biblical tradition including prophet, priest, king, and legislator. We will then turn to examine the reception of Moses in Second Temple Judaism (Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls), Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Islam. The later part of the course will explore the way this variegated tradition has been used to inform Western thought through reading selections from representative works such as Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise and Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism. We will conclude our study of Moses by examining how Moses has been portrayed in American history and by evaluating the descriptions of Moses in High School Social Studies textbooks.


• The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (Augmented Fourth Edition, 2010). • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.• Roy Peter Clarke, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.• Readings from Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rabbinic Literature, Qur’anic Literature, Baruch Spinoza, and others will be posted on Canvas.


Attendance (10%)Participation (20%)Five Reading Response Papers (15%)Class Presentation (15%)Rough Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)Revised Final Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)


R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43583 • Yoo, Philip
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM JES A216A
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description


What, according to the Bible, is required of us? What is our response to the deity? What is our place in the cosmos? With these questions in mind, this course seeks to cultivate both an understanding of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament and how biblical writers and subsequent interpreters grappled with notions of divine command and human obligation. We pursue this aim through close readings of the biblical texts themselves and the reception of biblical figures, themes, and ideas among its many interpreters. We begin by examining the historical sense of the Hebrew Bible as a product of the ancient Near East. We will then examine the practice of biblical interpretation among the competing Jewish ideologies at the turn of the Common Era, out of which emerged the early Christians and the New Testament. The later part of the course will highlight some of the major Jewish and Christian interpreters of the Bible in the pre-modern and modern periods and how, through their own view of “scripturalism”, these interpreters understood and formulated responses to questions of human nature, humanity’s relationship to the supernatural, and the meaning of life.


  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version. Edited by Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, and Carol Newsom. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. (indicated by NOAB in the Plan of Study, below)
  • Course Pack with selections from Readings from Philo, Rabbinic Literature, Qur’anic Literature, Maimonides, Augustine, Luther, Spinoza, Mendelsohn, Kierkegaard, and others.



  • Attendance (10%)
  • 5 short reading reports (2% each or 10%)
  • 2 short papers (15% each or 30%)
  • rewrite of one paper (25%)
  • final exam (25%). 

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43584 • Case, Megan
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 554
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

Before there was God, there was Enki; before God tamed the sea, Marduk defeated Tiamat. While much of the Western world has been shaped by the story of creation found in Genesis, what shaped those biblical accounts? The first half of this course focuses on this question, examining other creation accounts found in the ancient Near East, such as Atra?as?s and the En?ma Eliš, in order to place the biblical stories in their wider cultural setting. In the second half of the course, we analyze various interpretations of creation found in the traditions of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout the entire course, “myth” serves as our guiding concept, as we consider whether the various creation accounts in the ancient Near East properly fit in that category.



  • Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
  • Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Robert A. Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Normon Solomon, Judaism: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • The Harper Collins Study Bible
  • The Study Quran, Harper Collins
  • Other readings will be posted on Canvas



Class Participation: 15% 

Canvas Questions: 20%

Creation Story Small Comparisons: 15% (5% each)

Creation Story Large Comparison: 20% (10% comparison; 10% analysis)

Final Paper: 30% (5% 1st Draft; 5% Peer Review; 20% Final Draft)


R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43575 • Case, Megan
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM JES A203A
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

Before there was God, there was Enki; before God tamed the sea, Marduk defeated Tiamat. While much of the Western world has been shaped by the story of creation found in Genesis, what shaped those biblical accounts? The first half of this course focuses on this question, examining other creation accounts found in the ancient Near East, such as Atra?as?s and the En?ma Eliš, in order to place the biblical stories in their wider cultural setting. In the second half of the course, we analyze various interpretations of creation found in the traditions of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout the entire course, “myth” serves as our guiding concept, as we consider whether the various creation accounts in the ancient Near East properly fit in that category.



  • Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
  • Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Robert A. Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Normon Solomon, Judaism: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • The Harper Collins Study Bible
  • The Study Quran, Harper Collins
  • Other readings will be posted on Canvas



  • Class Participation: 15% 
  • Canvas Questions: 20%
  • Creation Story Small Comparisons: 15% (5% each)
  • Creation Story Large Comparison: 20% (10% comparison; 10% analysis)
  • Final Paper: 30% (5% 1st Draft; 5% Peer Review; 20% Final Draft)

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43565 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM PAR 105
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; Genesis in the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.



  • Attendance (20%)
  • Participations (20%)
  • Writing Assignments (20%)
  • Rough Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)
  • Revised Final Term Paper (20%)



  • Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography.
  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
  • Roy Peter Clarke, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
  • Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary
  • A number of readings will be available as PDFs on the “Files” page of the course website.
  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible is optional.

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43585 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 0.102
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)
show description

This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We will begin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth of Christianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).



  • Class attendance and participation: 15%
  • Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% each
  • Short-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% eachE
  • xams: 45% total, 15% each



  • Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one.
  • Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature and/or Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament.

R S 346 • History Of Islam In The US

43630 • Spellberg, Denise
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM GAR 2.128
(also listed as AMS 370, HIS 350R, ISL 372)
show description

This course is intended to do three things: provide a brief introduction to Islam; define the role of Islam and views of Muslims in the early history of this country; and introduce students to major issues concerning contemporary American Muslims. The course surveys the presence of Islam in the United States from the colonial era to the twenty-first century through the use of historical documents and contemporary media.

 The course is divided into three sections. The first explores the origins of Islam through primary textual examples. The second section focuses on early American views of Islam in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with an emphasis on the earliest Muslims in the United States. The final section of the course analyzes the diversity of the contemporary American Muslim population. The course is designated as a Writing Flag with a series of assignments designed to improve written communication, including one peer review exercise.

R S 346 • Rep Of Jews Amer Pub Sphere

43625 • Seriff, Suzanne
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365)
show description

This course will critically examine how Jews have been represented and constituted in American public culture--as race, religion and/or nation-- through distinct institutions and display practices such as world's fairs, museum exhibits, photographic displays, immigration stations, and public/private spaces of home, leisure and work. We will focus especially on the ways in which distinct events and exhibitions constitute a particular image of the "Jew" in American diasporic life by way of an exhibitionary logic that dictates the way objects or subjects are classified, their arrangement in space, their status as art or artifact, their contextualization, their animation and mode of display. We also pay attention to specific moments in American public history when these "agencies of display" were used in the service of nation-building to forward distinct--and often competing--notions of Jews in American life as both "curiosities, freaks or archeological specimens" on the one had, or enthusiastic embracers of the American assimilationist dream, on the other. Students will have the opportunity to participate directly in creating and/or critiquing this process of cultural production--either through original field research of a local exhibitionary site; planning and designing a specific mode of display; or providing a critical analysis of an historic example of this production. This class includes two museum field trips to explore exhibits in which Jews are represented in very different "exhibitionary complexes".



  • Papers (2 x 25%)
  • Final Research / Performative Project (25%)
  • Class Participation / Attendance (25%)
  • Attendance (10%)
  • Online Comments (5%)
  • Pop Quizzes (5%)
  • Lead Class (5%)



Edward Lowenthal. 1997: Preserving Memory: The Making of the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Penguin Books

Frederic Brenner: Jews, America: A Representation / photographs by Frederic Brenner; with an essay by Simon Schama (note: arrangements will be made to have this book available for students so that they will not be required to buy the text)

Qurantine! Eastern European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892

Susan L. Braunstein and Jenna Weissman Joselit 1990. Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950. The Jewish Museum (or BKG article in this volume: Kitchen Judaism)

Ivan Davidson Kalmar and Derek Johathan Penslar. 2004. Orientalism and the Jews. Hanover; University Press of New England.

Course Packet: Representations of Jews in American Public Culture









R S 346E • Religion And Film

43635 • Seales, Chad
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM PAR 304
(also listed as AMS 321)
show description

This course surveys representations of religious beliefs, practices, persons, and institutions in popular film.  Focusing on the media consumption of box office movies in the United States, we will examine how religion is imagined in film and how that religious imagination relates to social constructions of national, ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identities.  Although we will briefly address some of the technical aspects of film production, our primary concern will be to interpret the ways in which films portray religion against the backdrop of American history. We will use the vehicle of the silver screen to reflect on how a shared religious imagination has shaped the way we understand ourselves as Americans.  By the end of this course, students should be able to think, discuss, and write critically about film from a religious studies perspective.  Students should be able to identify a range of religious traditions as depicted in film, compare and contrast those depictions, and situate them within a larger narrative of American religious history. 



Attendance/Participation 15%Reading Response Journal 25%Short Essays 25%Final Essay 35%


  • Films on Reserve.
  • Readings posted on Blackboard

R S 352 • Japanese Concepts Body/Self

43640 • Traphagan, John
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM BUR 220
(also listed as ANS 372, ANT 324L)
show description

In this course, we will endeavor to navigate some of the extensive anthropological literature that has been written on Japanese conceptualizations of self and body and explore how these concepts intersect with ideas about religion and morality.  The "self" has been one of the central themes in ethnographic writing about Japan since Ruth Benedict's work The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was published in the 1940's.  We will consider how Japanese educational approaches contribute to the formation of paritcular forms of behavior; how selves change over the life course; Japanese conceptualizations of the body and person; and how Japanese ideas about self and body are expressed in medical practices.  The course is discussion-based and will incorporate films in addition to ethnographic writings.  Grading will be based upon five response papers and mid-term take-home and final take-home exams.



  • Midpterm exam: 20%
  • Final exam: 30%
  • Five 2-page response papers: 50%

R S 353 • Angel/Demon/Magic Early Cen

43645 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM CBA 4.338
(also listed as MEL 321)
show description

The world as early Christians imagined it was a spiritual universe inhabited by angels and demons. These lesser gods were thought to govern the mundane affairs experienced by Christians, day-to-day matters like health, wealth, love, and revenge. But how did Christians come to view the world in this way? How did angelology and demonology influence the ways that Christians thought about the world around them? And to what extent did Christians use magic to manipulate the spiritual world? We will consider these and other questions in this survey of early Christian views of angels, demons, and magic. All primary sources will be read in translation.



  • M. Meyer and R. Smith, Ancient Christian Magic
  • H.D. Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation
  • The Oxford Annotated Bible



  • 3 short essays: 45% (15% each)
  • Final Paper: 40%
  • Attendance and participation: 15%

R S 357 • Jewish Folklore

43653 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GDC 2.402
(also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, J S 363, REE 325)
show description

Course Description

Dybbuks, golems, evil eye are just some of the more well-known aspects of Jewish folklore, but this course will also examine the folklife of the Jews, their world view, their folk beliefs and fears. Call it folk religion if you will; many of these practices were dismissed by the "offical" Jewish religion as unJewish, but the "folk" persisted and eventually the practice became Judaized and accepted. The influence of the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, also led to the introduction of many customs.

Using literary sources, ethnographic memoirs, historical documents, films (among them "The Dybbuk" 1939), folkore collections and field trips (among them - to the oldest Austin Jewish cemetery), we will focus on what makes Jewish folklore Jewish. For example, the high literacy rate among Jews over the centuries and the people's close connection to the written word led to the development of specifically Jewish interpretations of internationally disseminated beliefs. Folklore genres -folktale, legend, folksong, folkmusic, custom, belief and, of course, Jewish humor will be included.


Grading Policy

  • Attendance, homework and class participation: 30%
  • Four short papers 30%
  • Midterm and final paper: 40%


Reading List

  • Joshua Trachternberg   Jewish Magic and Superstition
  • Joachim Neugroschel   Great Tales of Jewish Fantasy and the Occult
  • Moses Gaster    Maaseh Book
  • I. B. Singer    The Satan in Goray
  • Elizabeth Herzog/Mark Zborowski   Life is With People

R S 357 • Machiavelli

43659 • Frazier, Alison
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 0.132
(also listed as AHC 330, CTI 375, EUS 346, HIS 350L, LAH 350)
show description

This upper-division research seminar takes students through Niccolò Machiavelli’s chief writings. We consider the local, regional, Mediterranean, European, and global aspects of his work. Through class discussion and short written assignments (20%), students will identify a research topic in consultation with the professor.
There are no prerequisites but His 343g “Italian Renaissance” (offered Spr 2016) is strongly recommended.
Readings will include:
Machiavelli: The Prince; The Discourses; The Art of War; Mandragola; Clizia; The Florentine Histories; selected letters and short writings (buy the required translations)
Black: Machiavelli (the best recent biography)
Najemy, ed.: Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli
Course packet of scholarly articles

Each student will write a historiography essay (15%); draft a prospectus (20%); and complete a major research paper (30%). Students will give two oral presentations, one at the prospectus stage (5%), and one upon completion of the research paper (10%).


R S 358 • Gender Pol In Islamic World

43675 • Charrad, Mounira
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CLA 0.102
(also listed as ISL 373, MES 341, SOC 336G, WGS 340)
show description


The course is devoted to the study of gender politics in the Islamic world. It is designed to help students gain a better knowledge of the Islamic world and, at the same time, increase their understanding of major sociological concepts such as gender, social organization, culture, and politics. It shows how culture is mediated by politics, resulting in diverse interpretations of the cultural tradition and in different policies with respect to gender. We start by examining the themes and issues that are part of the common denominator of the Islamic tradition.  We then consider how the diversity can be explained and what factors contribute to it.  The focus is on women’s rights, which have been a key political issue in several countries and internationally.

Texts:  TBA

Grading and Requirements:

This course carries the Global Cultures flag. Global Cultures courses are designed to increase your familiarity with cultural groups outside the United States. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from assignments covering the practices, beliefs, and histories of at least one non-U.S. cultural group, past or present.

This course carries the Writing Flag. Writing Flag courses are designed to give students experience with writing in an academic discipline. In this class, you can expect to write regularly during the semester, complete substantial writing projects, and receive feedback from your instructor to help you improve your writing. You will also have the opportunity to revise one or more assignments, and you may be asked to read and discuss your peers’ work. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from your written work. Writing Flag classes meet the Core Communications objectives of Critical Thinking, Communication, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility, established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.


R S 358 • Islamic Law

43680 • Ayoub, Samy
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM PAR 1
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show description

Course Description

This course will serve as a survey of central aspects of Islamic law from its origins to modern times. It introduces students to several classical Islamic legal texts in translation and devotes special attention to topics in Muslim devotional, family, and criminal law. We conclude with an investigation of the modern topics of personal status laws and the relevance of Islamic law today in the American context. Some knowledge of Islam is expected of students enrolling in this class, although there are no specific course requirements.


Wael Hallaq, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Cambridge University Press (2009)

All additional required readings will be available online.


Required Assignments

Response Papers                                30%

Midterm Test                                     20%

Class participation                              20%

Final Exam                                          30%



R S 358 • Religions Of Middle East

43695 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 208
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

How is Christianity in Egypt different from Christianity in the U.S.? What do Zoroastrians believe? Is there a relationship between Islam and the Baha’i religion? These are the types of questions that this course is intended to answer. The course will include a basic overview of Zoroastrianism, Judaism in the Middle East, Eastern Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i religion, with a focus on the manifestations of these religions in the Middle East. Focus will primarily be on cosmological doctrines, scriptures, moral principles, sacred history and geography, and liturgical practices, although historical and cultural developments within these traditions will be covered as necessary. Students may have opportunities to read primary texts as well, schedule permitting.


Tentative List - May Change: Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Hayim Halevy Donin, To Be a Jew Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey, Who are the Christians of the Middle East? David Waines, An Introduction to Islam Peter Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions


3 unit tests, 15% each = 45% Final exam = 45% Attendance = 10%

R S 358 • Sacred & Ceremonl Textiles

43685 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BEN 1.124
(also listed as ANT 324L, ISL 372, MEL 321, TXA 365, WGS 340)
show description

From the birth to death textiles, clothing, and other material culture affects our daily lives. The communicative power of textiles and other types of material objects reflects both the everyday and ceremonial lives of people in a society. Although this course focuses on textiles and material objects indigenous to the Islamic world, some examples of non-Muslim communities will be included to draw a comparison. An attempt will be made to shed light on the culture of various Islamic societies. The study of the social and historical background of a community is essential for the interpretation of meanings and symbolism associated with textiles and other elements of material objects. Such a study will be combined in the course with topics like ceremonial gatherings; ceremonial textiles; adornment (jewelry, tattoos, body-painting); body modifications (piercing and body-reshaping); and the role of material objects in public and private celebrations. One of the areas which material objects represent relates to practices of rituals, taboos, and rotes of passage in the societies, which can be traced to the pre Islamic era. Muslim communities in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East will be the primary focus of the course, and an attempt will be made to trace the common origins of ritual practices and their representation as a result to of diffusion and contact with other regional practices. Course presentations will be supported by videos, slide show and various material objects.


Reader packet.


In Class presentations 15%

Attendance/ & participation 10%

First Exam 35%

Second Exam 40%

R S 368 • Church & State In Lat Amer

43705 • Butler, Matthew
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as HIS 346W, LAS 366)
show description

This course traces the history of the politics of religion, and of the religion of politics, in modern Latin America, with special emphasis placed on the history of the Roman Catholic Church in the region. Chronologically, the course covers begins with a brief survey of the colonial period and then gives special attention to the national period running from independence (circa 1820) up to the Cuban Revolution (circa 1960), after which Church and state entered significantly new and distinctive phases (e.g. Liberation Theology). Thematically, we will examine the various causes of Church-state tension in the aftermath of Latin American independence, and the Church’s multifaceted response sto the gradual rise of political liberalism, nationalism, and secularism. In the second half of the course, we will emphasize significant national cases (e.g. Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala), allowing the course to branch out in a more comparative sense as we proceed. As the focus on questions of devotion as well as power implies, we will not just be looking at the way in which the Church responded to changing political circumstances after the demise of the colonial regime, but at changes in religious practice and meaning, and how these were experienced by ordinary people.



John Schwaller, The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America: from Conquest to Revolution and Beyond

Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

Austin Ivereigh (ed.) The Politics of Religion in an Age of Revival 

Edward Wright Rios, Revolutions in Mexican Catholicism: Reform and Revelation in Oaxaca, 1887-1934

Shorter readings (supplied)




Reading responses, 60%

Final essay, 40%

R S 373 • History Of Christmas

43710 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CBA 4.332
show description

 This course will explore the evolution of the modern Christmas holiday, beginning with the birth stories of Jesus in the New Testament and concluding with the supposed “War on Christmas,” which some recent commentators believe has sought to remove the Christian religious roots of the holiday. Topics to be addressed include: non-Christian antecedents to and influences on Christmas; canonical and apocryphal stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood; the designation of Christmas on Dec. 25th in the fourth century; the raucous and subversive character of Christmas celebrations in the medieval and early modern periods; the sharp criticism of Christmas by the Puritans; the fixing of the current American version of Christmas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; the contemporary debate over the constitutionality of religious Christmas displays in public places.



  • Class Participation and Attendance: 15%
  • Three Short-Response Papers: 15%
  • Midterm Exam: 20%
  • Final Exam: 25%
  • Final Research Paper: 25%



  • Bruce David Forbes, Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press, 2007.
  • Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend. Doubleday, 2006.
  • Joseph F. Kelly, The Origins of Christmas. Liturgical Press, 2004.
  • Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem. HarperCollins, 2010.
  • Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas. Vintage, 1997.
  • Karal Ann Marling, Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s Greatest Holiday. Harvard University Press, 2009.

R S 373 • Sentience/Cul/Religion Seti

43715 • Traphagan, John
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 220
(also listed as ANT 324L)
show description

Humans have long wondered whether or not we are alone in the universe.  Are there other civilizations?  If so, how are they similar or different from ours? Or are humans virtually alone in the universe, as has been proposed in the rare Earth hypothesis.  This course explores the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and its relationship to both culture and religion.  One central question we will consider is whether SETI is a producet of particular cultural and historical trends that have arisen in the US and that are evident through other cultural contsructs such as Star Trek.  Our exploration will consider important key idea such as the Drak Equation and the Incommensurability Problem and will look at meanings and motivations behind issues such as Percival Lowell's quest to prove the existence of canals on Mars and the cevelopment of Scientology.  Although to date there is no unequivocal evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contemplation of the scientific search for extraterrestrail intelligence, as well as ETI in the human imagination, provides an opportunity to contemplate humanity and ideas about its place in the universe as well as the ways in which culture shapes our concepts of alien others.



  • Mid-term take-home exam (30%)
  • Internet research project (30%)
  • Final take-home exam (40%)

R S 373 • Talk, Text, And God

43717 • Handman, Courtney
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 320L)
show description

While anthropologists often study the religious practices of the societies they describe, Christianity has long been neglected or specifically avoided in ethnographies. However, as Christianity has become an important part of many post-colonial communities, anthropologists are starting to examine this now global religious tradition. This course will introduce students to the anthropological study of Christianity, particularly in colonial and post-colonial settings. How can an anthropology of Christianity cope with the wide diversity of traditions that go under the Christian label? How have people understood the relationship between Christian missionization and other institutions of colonialism? In this course we will focus in particular on the ways in which Christian missionaries and Christian communities participate in traditions of textual circulation in which people are reading, translating, studying, arguing with, resisting, or praying from the Bible. We will also compare these traditions to Christian communities that emphasize non-linguistic forms of religious practice.

R S 375S • Intro Comparative Religion

43720 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM MEZ 1.206
(also listed as ANS 340)
show description

Religions have emerged and developed in different cultural settings. Each individual religious expression – beliefs, practices, literature, artwork, institutions, etc. – is shaped by its historical, cultural, political, and economic context and much more. Also, most religious actors would insist that at least some aspects of their own beliefs or practices are entirely unique. On the other hand, some religious expressions in historically unrelated cultures seem strikingly similar to the observer – in their conceptual presentation, in their performance, in their social functions, or in other ways. Carefully considering both differences and similarities, this course introduces students to comparative approaches in the study of religion. Drawing on classical and contemporary studies we will critically discuss various motivations for comparing religions; techniques of comparison; risks such as decontextualizing and essentializing certain religious phenomena; and benefits such as finding blind spots through comparison and being able to classify religious expressions in insightful ways. Numerous examples from Asian and other religions will enrich the discussions. During the course of the semester, students will also develop individual comparative projects.

Course packet

Attendance/participation: 25%
Oral presentation: 20%
Response papers: 25%
Research project: 30%