Department of Religious Studies

R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

43515-43525 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 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 306 • Magic And Power In Prague

43530 • Roberts, Jason
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM CLA 1.108
(also listed as HIS 306N, REE 302)
show description

In this lower division, undergraduate course we examine authentic historical texts from four different “magical” traditions (witchcraft, alchemy, Kabbalah, nigromancy) to find the truth behind the fiction and the historical events that sometimes permitted and sometimes persecuted the religious, philosophical, and scientific ideas we have come to refer to collectively as “magic.” The site of our study is post-Reformation Bohemia during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II where we concern ourselves with how the practice of magic affected politics and religion as well as with how politics and religion affected the practice of magic. In the process of disambiguating four very different mystical and religious traditions, which are too often misleadingly grouped together under the undifferentiated term “magic,” students will also expand their knowledge of the history of Bohemia and the city of Prague. For more, see:


Required texts

(1)             Title: The Magic Circle of Rudolph II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaisance Prague

                  Author: Peter Marshall

                  ISBN: 978-0802715517 


(2)             Title: Malleus Maleficarum: The Original Guide to the Catching and Burning of Witches

                  Author: Mike Rosen

                  ISBN: 978-1593622138


(3)             Title: The Golem and the Wondrous Deeds of the Maharal of Prague

                  Author: Yudl Rosenberg     

                  ISBN: 0300143206



A.               5 take-home essay tests = 75% 

B.               Homework and class assignments = 25%  

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43535 • Urich, Joshua
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GAR 0.132
show description

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—forms of Judaism outside of the U.S., Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 313 • Intro To Jewish Latin America

43540 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM SZB 524
(also listed as ANT 310L, J S 311, LAS 315)
show description

What can we learn about Latin American social worlds when we look at the place of Jews within it? Conversely, what we learn about Jewish social worlds when they unfold in Latin America?

This course examines both of these questions. Specifically, we consider the role of Latin America as both a refuge from and a source of anti-Semitism, a hub of immigration, a site of Zionism, and of Jewish success and philanthropy. We also address themes of displacement, longing, belonging, marginalization, prejudice, immigration, community, cultural continuity, and memory, while considering Sephardi and Ashkenazi difference, and inter-generational conflict among Jewish Latin Americans. Overall, through reading, writing exercises, independent research and in-class films, the course is designed to provide students with an understanding of how Jews constructed individual lives and vibrant communities in predominantly Hispanic, Catholic countries of Latin America.

With these themes in mind, the course is divided into four units: 1) Historical literacy is a substantive introductory unit, which provides basic context from 1492 until the post-World War II period; 2) Jewish group identities in Latin American features readings on Jewish life and cultural forms in select national contexts (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Dominican Republic and others); 3) Memoir and personal narrative engages students in critical reading of creative non-fiction and ethnography that focuses on individual lives; 4) Contemporary realities explores current events, contemporary trends and popular culture in Jewish Latin America. Finally, over the course of the semester, drawing on course motifs, students will produce their own research papers addressing a specific research question in the Latin American national context of their choice.

Note: 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.

R S 313M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

43545 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 304
(also listed as HIS 306N, J S 304M, MES 310)
show description

This course is a survey of Jewish civilization from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E.  All materials are in English translation. The course is taught primarily from the standpoint of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, in the sense that the course will address both the history of Jews during this long period, and the most influential writings produced during that time.  There will be some focus on the persons and writings that have been most influential for Jewish Civilization over time, including into the modern world.  This course is the first half of a two-semester sequence, and another course taught regularly in Spring semester addresses Jewish Civilization from 1492 to the present. 

The course will be organized according to an overarching thematic image of “Crisis and Response.”  Jewish Civilization over the time period we study, from origins in the later part of the second millennium B.C.E., to the end of the 15th century C.E., encountered key crises including a memory of enslavement in its sacred sources, the need for sovereignty, the loss of sovereignty and a state of exile, and then continued existence only within larger empires for over two millennia.  Responses to these crises were varied. 

In early legends, centuries of slavery were followed by liberation as The Exodus and the establishment of covenantal law (addressed in Unit 1). 

Later, the need for sovereignty brought the establishment of monarchy and centralized worship at a temple by the kings David and Solomon, and then a continuous period of sovereignty for over four centuries.  This sovereignty ended in 587 B.C.E. and initiated the need for continued existence in exile as well as in Persian and Hellenistic polities (addressed in Unit 2). 

The first century C.E. brought a new crisis with the end of Temple worship due to Roman conquest, and then the most enduring and productive response for Jewish Civilization was the legal and other innovations of Classical Rabbinic Judaism (addressed in Unit 3).  

In the Middle Ages, the rise of Christian and Muslim empires brought new contexts for Jewish communities, but also new degrees of persecution, and these crises were intimately connected with responses in intellectual and religious life, including the development of philosophy and the mysticism of Kabbalah (addressed in Unit 4).  



  • Three short papers, 2 pages each; each 15% of the course grade (45% total)
  • Midterm exam, closed-book, in-class (20%)
  • Final Exam, closed book, in-class (20%)
  • Class Participation (15%)


Required Books: (available at the University Co-Op Bookstore):

  • Alexander, ed., Textual Sources for the Study of Judaism
  • Jewish Publication Society (JTS), TaNaKh: The Holy Scriptures
  • Robert Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought


R S 314K • Mid East: Rel/Cul/Hist Fnd

43550 • Spellberg, Denise
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM WAG 101
(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.


Jonathan A. C. Brown, Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction

Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (2nd edition, 2002 only)

D. A. Spellberg, Politics, Gender, and th Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha bint Abi Bakr

John Alden Williams, ed., The Word of Islam

Xerox packet of documents and articles.


4 exams @ 25% each = 100%.

R S 315 • Luther's World

43555 • Hess, Peter
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GEA 114
(also listed as EUS 306, GSD 310, HIS 306N)
show description


In Fall 2017 we will observe the quincentennial of the beginning of the Protestant Reform initiated by Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) 95 theses. Luther was one of the seminal figures of the second millennium whose impact is felt today. We will examine his writings and his activities, the conditions that lead to his rise, and the impact he had on the world after him. Just as importantly, we will study the historical, cultural, and social context in which he lived and whose product he was.

In a broader sense, this course focuses on the transformation of European culture (with special emphasis on Germany) from the late Middle Ages to the early modern age (1450-1600), roughly during Luther’s life time. Humanism and the Protestant Reformation will be the main focus of this course, but we will also discuss political, social, economic, scientific, and philosophical developments as well as architecture, art, music, and literature of the time period. At the end, students will have a good understanding of German and European culture at this particular crossroads.

We will break down the course into the following themes:

*          What is Humanism? Renaissance?

*          The printing press and the first information revolution

*          A new urban culture (literature, architecture, music)

*          Political power and social order

*          Heliocentrism and discoveries: America, Cape of Good Hope

*          Trade networks: the first age of Globalization

*          The Catholic church and monastic life before Luther

*          Luther’s life

*          Luther’s theology: his writings

*          The Protestant Reform: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others

*          Catholic responses

*          Social and political impact of the Reformation

*          How Luther changed the world



*          Scott H. Hendrix. Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction.

*          John Dillenberger (ed.). Martin Luther: Selections From His Writing.

*          R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols (eds.). The Legacy of Luther.

*          Jerry Brotton. The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction.

*          Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History

*          other materials on Canvas



Attendance, Participation                             10%

Quizzes                                                           10%

Oral presentation                                          10%

Two short writing assignments                   20%

Two examinations                                         50%

R S 315 • Medieval Material Culture

43560 • Kaufman, Cheryl
Meets MW 4:00PM-5:30PM GAR 2.112
(also listed as AHC 310, HIS 306N)
show description

This course focuses on the history of medieval Europe primarily through the lens of material culture.  In addition to manuscripts, we will explore the significance of several categories of historical artifacts including: art, textiles, relics and reliquaries, architecture, pottery, crowns, jewelry and seals.  We will discuss what we can discover about the production, circulation, reception, historic and geographic context, and the meaning attributed to the materials from which these objects were created. How would these objects be experienced in a pre-modern world? This class explores what these objects reveal about the religious, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual history of medieval Europe, beyond what we can learn from medieval texts.

Primary Sources:

Isidore of Seville, “Etymologies”

Hugh of St. Victor, “Noah’s Ark”

Abbot Suger, “On the Abbey Church of St.-Denis and its Art Treasures”

Honorius of Autun, “Gemma Animae”

Augustine, selections on the sense of sight

Secondary Sources:

Bak, Janos M. Coronations:  Medieval and Early Modern Monarchic Ritual. Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1990.

Bynum, Caroline. Christian Materiality. New York: Zone Books, 2011.

Janes, Dominic. God and Gold in Late Antiquity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Kessler, Herbert L. Seeing Medieval Art. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2004.

Miller, C. Maureen. Clothing the Clergy:  Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.

Tilley, Christopher, et al. Handbook of Material Culture. London: Sage Publications, 2006

Proposed Grading Policy:

10% attendance

10% class preparation and participation

20% Exams

20% Quizzes

20% Presentation

20% Final

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43570 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM CLA 0.106
(also listed as CTI 304)
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

43575 • Yoo, Philip
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CLA 0.118
(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, Dead Sea Scrolls, 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

43565 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM WAG 308
(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 more than two months to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine several significant but poorly known ancient interpretations of Genesis. We will investigate: a retelling of the strange story of “sons of God” mating with human women (from Gen 6:1-4) as found in the Book of the Watchers (part of the larger ancient Jewish work known as 1 Enoch); the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; and the use of Genesis narratives in the Quran, the foundational scripture of Islam. Significant attention will also be given to ethical issues arising from the text and interpretation of Genesis.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43585 • Batlan, Katharine
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM PAR 204
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

This course aims at familiarity with significant passages in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, with an emphasis on the cultural context in which these texts were created in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, as well as their noteworthy theological interpreters in European and United States history. We pursue this aim through reading the scriptures themselves, exploring the cultural context in which they were created, and a wide range of exegetes (or interpreters) of the Bible. After gaining familiarity with the cultural and historical development of the Bible, we will turn to major theological thinkers that shaped biblical interpretation. In the final section of the course, we will look at moments in American history when biblical interpretation was key – including the colonial founding, formation of the new nation, and debates over slavery. 


•   10% Attendance and Participation

•   25% Intellectual Journals

•   30% Two Position Papers (15% each)

•   35% Final Paper (10% for draft, 5% for peer review, 20% for final paper)  

Required Texts: 

•   The Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV

•   Course packet of readings

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43580 • Gunderson, Jaimie
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM MEZ 1.208
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

Seeks to develop a wide-ranging familiarity with the Jewish and Christian Bibles and with the dominant modes of ancient, medieval, and early modern biblical interpretation. Readings include an extensive range of primary sources, including both the Scriptures themselves and some of their most influential exegetes.     

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43590 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM ART 1.102
(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).


R S 319 • Introduction To Islam

43595 • Aghaie, Kamran
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM UTC 3.104
(also listed as ANS 301M, HIS 306N, ISL 310)
show description

The objective of this course is to give students a foundational understanding of Islam and Muslims, in terms of beliefs, practices, and culture. In order to achieve this three-part objective, we will read materials from various perspectives and of different genres. We will devote some time to Islamic history, because even if a religion is conceived in terms of universals and ideals, its actual manifestation is always tempered by historical, cultural and social context. We will explore the meaning of Islam as a worldview and a moral system through examining its doctrinal, ritual, philosophical, ethical and spiritual dimensions. This course is designed for students with no prior knowledge of Islam.

R S 341 • Hindu Law

43600 • Davis, Donald
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM PAR 310
(also listed as ANS 372)
show description


This seminar course examines the tradition known as Hindu law and its place in the legal, religious, social, and political history of India and South Asia.  The course will introduce students to the complex, but fascinating legal thought of classical and medieval India and reinterpret the methodologies and theoretical presuppositions of comparative religious and legal studies.  Broad questions concerning the relationship of religion and law, the nature of textual authority, jurisprudential commentary, and the role of customary law will be investigated against the background of India's history. Classic works on Hindu law will be reinterpreted in the light of recent scholarship.  A representative selection of Sanskrit legal texts, called Dharma??stras, will be read in translation.  The impact of colonialism on the law in India and the creation of Anglo-Hindu law will be examined for links and discontinuities with earlier legal traditions.  The course will conclude with a consideration of the development and role of modern Hindu law.



Derrett, J.D.M. Religion, Law, and the State in India. London: Faber, 1968.

Davis, Jr. Donald R. The Spirit of Hindu Law. Cambridge UP, 2010.

Galanter, Marc. Law and Society in Modern India. Oxford UP, 1993.

Lingat, Robert, The Classical Law of India. Berkeley, 1973.

Lubin, Timothy, et al (eds.) Hinduism and Law: An Introduction. Cambridge UP, 2010.



R S 341G • Yoga As Philos And Practice

43610 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MWF 3:00PM-4:00PM WAG 308
(also listed as ANS 372, PHL 356)
show description

This course surveys the origins of yogic practices in early Indian civilization and traces the development of Yoga philosophies through the Upanishads, BHAGAVAD GITA, YOGA-SUTRA, Buddhist, Jaina, and tantric texts, as well as works of neo-Vedanta. We shall try to identify a set of claims common to all classical advocates of yoga. We shall look at both classical and modern defenses and criticisms, especially of alleged metaphysical and psychological underpinnings of the practices. No previous background in Indian philosophy is necessary, but students with no previous course work in philosophy or in psychology should contact the instructor.

R S 346 • Amer Jewish Material Cul

43620 • Seriff, Suzanne
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM SAC 4.120
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365)
show description

This course introduces students to a burgeoning field of American Jewish cultural studies that deals with what cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai calls, “the social value of things.” Focusing on the interplay between material culture and Jewish identity, thought, and practice in contemporary America, the course explores how Jews think about, work with, use, wear, display and “perform” objects in the course of their everyday lives, and in public arts, history and cultural institutions. This is not a course just on the production of fine art by or about Jews, so much as it is about the everyday arts of adornment, celebration, liturgy, spirituality, memorialization and identity and the ways in which these various meanings are negotiated within distinct domains of prayer, performance, entertainment and display.

Borrowing from the central concern of cultural commentator, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, we will pose the question, "What does it mean to show?"— or in this case, “to show, Jewishly?” -- and explore the agency of display in a variety of American Jewish settings: in the home, on the street, in houses of worship, on the body, in celebration and in public displays such as museum exhibits, world’s fairs, festivals, and other heritage and tourist attractions. We will look at how the everyday artifacts of American Jewish life are made to "perform" their meanings for us by the very fact of being consumed, collected, arranged, worn, addressed, touched, kissed, and carried, and about the powerful messages 

conveyed not only by the objects themselves but by the specific ways in which these objects are addressed and interacted with. In examining the meaning and value of things in the context of religious practice and cultural display, students will have a chance to explore broader theoretical topics about what it means to be Jewish in a multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-denominational democracy such as the United States, as seen through an exploration of issues of memory, sense of place, identity, performativity, belief, and spirituality. Drawing from the fields of folklore, Jewish studies, cultural studies, religious studies, literature, museum studies, film, and photography, the course introduces students to the vibrancy and meanings of Jewish material culture in American Jewish life and thought.

The course will emphasize the development of critical thinking skills and cultural analysis. The class format will entail active, participatory, and empowering ways of learning based on class discussion, class field trips, and original oral historical and fieldwork-based research. The course is intentionally designed to be student-centered. Students will be discussing and presenting material during class sessions and interacting with one another and the instructor on a regular basis. Students will also have the opportunity to participate directly in the curatorial process of cultural representation, either through the planning and/or implementation of their own exhibit, or a critical analysis of a particular display of objects owned, made, collected, worn, displayed, used, venerated, and symbolized in American Jewish culture. 

download syllabus

R S 346 • US Music/Religious Identity

43615 • Roberts, Jason
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM CMA 3.114
(also listed as AMS 325, MUS 376G)
show description

Music and Religious Identities in America

Music can play an important part in the formation of a religious identity. How a religious community uses its voices, the words it sings, which instruments are deemed acceptable, and aspects of music such as melody, harmony, polyphony, and rhythm all combine in specific ways that are recognized as “religious,” or more specifically, as belonging to a particular religious tradition (or not!). Additionally, musical performance conventions – the physical embodiment of religious music – can reflect religious conceptions of the individual in relation to the divine as well as to his or her community. Likewise, the music rejected by a given religious community (“the Devil’s music!”) can be as defining as the music it embraces. From Catholic Gregorian chant, to Jewish camp songs, from African-American gospel music to Sacred Harp singing, from Lutheran hymns to Islamic recitation, and including many other traditions, this upper-division, undergraduate course explores the diversity of the American experience of religious identity through its musical traditions. Come ready to read and discuss but also ready to listen to and sing some of the music we will talk about. One of our tools for exploring the relationship of religious music to religious identity is “theory of the body” and an important part of understanding embodiment is experiencing it! This course includes includes both writing and "cultural diversity in America" flags.


Basis for evaluation:


  • Short observer paper (3-5 pages) 10%
  • Short participant observer paper (3-5 pages) 10% 
  • Short paper (3-5 pages), basic theoretical analysis of in-class example: Syncretism/Anti-syncretism theory 20%
  • Short paper (3-5 pages), basic theoretical analysis of in-class example: theory of the body 20%
  • Final paper: abstract 250 words 5%
  • Final paper: peer editing of abstract (on Canvas) 5%
  • Final paper: first page, for initial feedback 5%
  • Final paper (12-15 pages), due on exam day 25%


Required Texts:

  • Bohlman, Philip V, Edith W. Blumhofer, and Maria M. Chow. Music in American Religious Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Fraser, Mariam, and Monica Greco. The Body: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Hoffman, Lawrence A, and Janet R. Walton. Sacred Sound and Social Change: Liturgical Music in Jewish and Christian Experience. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992.
  • Leopold, Anita M, and Jeppe S. Jensen. Syncretism in Religion: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2005.

R S 353 • Art And Arch Of Late Antiquity

43623 • Peers, Glenn
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM DFA 2.204
(also listed as ARH 329N, MES 342)
show description

This course aims to introduce a period of great complexity, the transitional period between the Classical and Medieval worlds. The designation 'Late Antique' is necessarily vague because the transition was drawn out and often without firm definition. The exchange among cultures in this period was dynamic, and this course examines the art of Late Antiquity as a contest of cultures. In this period, art was an effective means of self- definition for Christians, pagans, Muslims and Jews alike.

This course examines the tentative beginning of a Christian art and architecture beginning around 200. It follows the progress of this new art through its attempts at incorporation and alterations of pagan and Jewish art, and it follows the growth of this visual identity to its fully Christian realization into the seventh century. This broad period encompasses changes that profoundly affected the history of Europe thereafter: a truly Christian art and architecture supplanted the old forms of the pagan world. Meanwhile, Jews within the empire and Persians outside were each contending with the Roman past that allowed them to assert their own statuses and identities.

The course ends with an examination of another process of supplanting and appropriation: the Islamicization from the 630s of large parts of the formerly Christian world of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Roman Christian world was itself overthrown by the forces of Islam from the east, but as Christians had not erased the past, neither did Muslims. A dynamic and compelling culture grew out of these opposing forces, a culture that has lessons of accommodation and antagonism useful for us today.

R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

43625 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM CLA 1.102
(also listed as C C 348)
show description

This course studies the vast array of writings that were read by early Christians but not included in the Bible. Readings will include: collections of Jesus’ sayings, such as the “Q Gospel” used by Matthew and Luke; fragments of lost gospels such as the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark; narratives about Jesus' birth and childhood, such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Revelation of the Magi; accounts of the apostles' travels, teachings, and miracles; Gnostic Christian writings discovered in Egypt; and apocryphal Jewish writings that were read in Christian circles. Familiarity with the New Testament will be helpful for participants, but not required.



R S 357 • Geog Religion E Europe/Russia

43630 • Jordan, Bella
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 3.116
(also listed as GRG 356T, REE 345)
show description

Course description: This course is designed to give a comprehensive understanding of major religious culture regions in the former Eastern bloc countries. In the post-socialist period some of these societies are experiencing religious revival and others display high degrees of secularization. The course will focus on the analysis of such processes, including religious revival in the former Soviet republics, political and historical roots of divergence of Christian denominations in Central and Eastern Europe, Russian protestant movements like Old Believers and Dukhobors, traditional Islam in the Balkans and North Caucasus, Lamaist Buddhist traditions among Buryats and Tuvans of Siberia, and resurfacing of neo-paganistic and neo-shamanistic practices.

This course will discuss the most important features of these religious regions, such as religious art and architecture, most important beliefs and rituals, political and cultural reverberations of such practices for people, residing in these regions.


Global Cultures Flag:

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.


Basis for the grade:

  1. Students must take 2 exams, each worth 25% of the totals grade. Exams will contain Multiple Choice questions, short questions, a take-home essay and a map question. The exams will be of the same format.
  2. Students will write a term paper, worth 30% of the final grade. The paper must be 10-12 pages long, double-spaced, typed in 12-point font. The bibliography should contain scholarly publications, including books and articles from peer-reviewed journals. Worth 30% of the final grade.
  3.  Working in a team of 2 or 3, students will prepare an oral presentation on a topic related to the term paper and approved by the instructor. The presentation’s length should not exceed 15 minutes.  20% of the grade.


Course materials: course package, media sources, video clips, films


Examples of topics for discussion:

1) The Great Schism of 1054 and Resulting Religious Regions in Europe

2) Reformation and Protestant groups in Eastern Europe

3) The Legacies of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires

4) The Shatter Zone: Balkan Religious and Ethnic Identities

5) The Great Schism of 1667 and Major Splinter Groups: Old Believers, Dukhobors,

Molokane, Kristovery and other Russian Protestants

6) Eastern Orthodox Church in Armenia and Georgia

7) Vestiges of Paganism in the Baltic Countries

8) Religious Revival in Post-Soviet Russia

9) Religious Identities in Contemporary Russia

10) Major Muslim Peoples of Russia: Tradition and Innovation

11) Islam in the North Caucasus and Dagestanization of the Volga region

12) Lamaist Buddhist Ethnic Republics of the Russian Federation

13) Siberian Shamanism: Introduction to Theory and Practice

14) Siberian Shamanism: the Flight of the Sacred

15) Religious Art, Philosophy and Literature

16) Leo Tolstoy and Fedor Dostoevsky on Christianity

17) Religious Architecture and Sacred Spaces

18) Religious Festivals and Pilgrimages

19) Religious Revival portrayed in Russian Cinema

20) Russian Orthodox Church Portrayal in Zvyagintsev ‘Leviathan’

R S 357 • Ital Renaissance, 1350-1550

43635 • Frazier, Alison
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 343G, WGS 340)
show description

This upper-division course combines lecture, group work, and discussion to introduce the political, social, economic, and cultural phenomena that made the Italian peninsula such a lively place between 1350 and 1550. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, we examine cultural production in many realms of human experience, emphasizing the ethical questions that individuals faced.

This course aims to teach the analysis of historical evidence. By semester’s end, you will have read some of the most influential and controversial works from this period. You will be able to put them in historical context, to describe how historians use them, and to explain why they remain compelling today. 

This course has no prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge of the subject, but students are presumed to be capable of critical reflection upon both lectures and readings.

Readings may include:

Boccaccio, Decameron, selections

Petrarch, selected letters Alberti, excerpts from On the FamilyMachiavelli, Mandragola Castiglione, The Courtier, selectionsVasari, Lives of the Artists, selections

Quizzes and in-class writing
Reading worksheets 
Two essay exams

R S 357 • Jewish Folklore

43640 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GDC 5.304
(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 • Sacred/Sec In Mod Euro Thought

43645 • Matysik, Tracie
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM JES A209A
(also listed as CTI 335, EUS 346, HIS 362G)
show description

Europe was long thought to have undergone a process of “secularization” in the modern era, beginning roughly with the sixteenth century and becoming largely unstoppable by the nineteenth.  According to this narrative, “God” was supposed to have slowly disappeared from the political, social, and cultural arenas; the supernatural, the divine, and the sacred were supposed to have receded from daily life; and the European world was supposed to have found itself  “disenchanted.”  More recently, however, historians and critical theorists have begun to reassess this story, finding instead mutually-evolving processes of disenchantment and re-enchantment, as new formations of the divine and the sacred appeared on the intellectual and emotive landscape.  Some theorists now talk about “varieties of secularism” at play in the modern world, while others have resuscitated a language of “political theology” to discuss the ever-complicated relationship between the state, sovereignty, power, and the sacred or divine. 

            This course will introduce students to key themes and methodologies of intellectual history and social theory by exploring the dueling approaches to secularization and sacralization in modern European thought.  In the first two weeks, we will read recent theoretical works on the sacred and the secular (essays from Peter Berger, Simon Critchley, Charles Taylor, and others).  With theoretical tools in hand, we will turn to the period between 1800 and 1945 to read classic works in philosophy and social theory that thematize the sacred and the secular.  Drawing on founding works in social and human sciences (from sociology,  psychoanalysis, philosophy and beyond), we will investigate related sub-themes of violence, sacrifice, ritual,  redemption, the sublime, and transcendence.  We will also discuss select artworks from the Romantic period through Surrealism as a means to enhance our discussion of these themes. 

            Central to our concerns will be the sacred and secular formations of modern ethics.  We will observe on the one hand how modern thinkers have sought to establish ethical systems on purely immanent and secular grounds, even as they intentionally or unintentionally retained notions of the divine and the sacred (e.g., Immanuel Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone).  On the other hand, we will grapple with explicitly religious works that nonetheless establish ethics on what might seem like secular-humanist foundations (e.g., Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling).  We will read works that seek to explicate the structure of religions and their guidelines for comportment according to social categories of the sacred and profane or the taboo (Émile Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religion; Roger Caillois’s Man and the Sacred; Sigmund Freud’s Totem and Taboo); and we will read works that seek to rediscover and/or re-insert the sacred into the modern and profane world (e.g., George Bataille’s Theory of Religion; Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” and “Theses on the Philosophy of History”; Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption). 

            The course lends itself naturally to the requirements of the Flag in Ethics and Global Leadership.  Our readings themselves concentrate on the question of the secular and sacred foundations of ethical systems and decisions.  As a final project, worth 35% of the grade, students will be asked to identify and analyze a sacred, secular, or taboo function that governs moral presuppositions.  They may find such a function represented in a film, a novel, an artwork, a legal decision, a U.N. declaration, etc.  Their task will not be to assess whether or not the practice is “right” or “good” or “ethical,” but rather to analyze the practice in terms of its (usually unstated) sacred, secular, taboo, or ritual context.  They will be asked to ground their analysis in one or more of our core readings.


Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (excerpt)

G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of History (excerpt from the introduction)

Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality (Books I and II) (but may substitute The Gay

            Science, Book IV)

Émile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religion (selections)

Roger Caillois, Man and the Sacred (selections)

George Bataille, Theory of Religion (selections)

Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (selections)

—, “The Uncanny”

Franz Rosenzweig, Star of Redemption (selections)

Simon Critchley, Faith of the Faithless (selections)

Peter Berger, Desecularization of the World (introduction)

Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornell West, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

Journal                         10%

Short Essay 1                        20%

Short Essay 2                        20%

Final Essay                           35%

Class Participation                  15%

R S 357 • The Church And The Jews

43660 • Bodian, Marion
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM PAR 1
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G)
show description

This course will examine the complex relationship between the Church and the Jews over two millenia. It will analyze ideas and policies regarding Jews as expressed in both elite and popular culture, from theology and canon law to church art and popular preaching. It will also survey the factors which led to striking changes in attitudes and policies over time, with emphasis on the interplay of the theological legacy and evolving realities.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible (any edition)

The course will make used of a website designed specifically for it by the instructor. The website includes many of the readings. Other assigned readings will be posted on Blackboard.

Class attendance and participation (10%), participation on Discussion Board (20%), two 1-3 pp. assignments (20%), mid-term exam (20%), final exam (30%).

R S 357 • The Galileo Affair

43650 • Hunt, Bruce
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM GAR 0.132
(also listed as HIS 350L)
show description

This course focuses on the life and work of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), particularly his conflict with Church authorities and his condemnation in 1633. We will also put Galileo’s work in several broader contexts: the development of science in the 16th and 17th centuries; court life and patronage in early modern Italy; and the history of relations between science and religion.

This course carries flags for Writing, Global Cultures, and Independent Inquiry. We will emphasize clear and effective writing, attention to cultural differences, independent research in primary sources, and active class discussion.


Richard Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible,

Maurice Finocchiaro (ed.), The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History,

Maurice Finocchiaro (ed.), The Essential Galileo,

Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter,

plus additional readings to be posted on Canvas.


Each student will co-lead a class discussion during the semester, and will write:

— a short paper (3–4 pages) on a topic related to the class presentation;

— a longer research paper (16–20 pages), a draft version of which the student will present and circulate to the class for discussion;

— a formal critique (2–3 pages) of another student’s draft paper.

Course grades will be +/–  will be based on the class presentation (10%), the short paper (10%), the presentation of the draft of the longer paper (10%), the final version of the longer paper (45%), the critique (10%), and participation in class discussions (15%).

R S 358 • Graf/Pstr Art: Islam World

43680 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM JES A218A
(also listed as ANT 324L, ISL 373, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show description

Too many portrayals of Islamic societies are treated as superficially as the issues involving the hijab and veiling. Among the hip and the fashionable, the religious fronts and political systems in contemporary Muslim societies (particularly in the Middle East and North Africa), a complex and complicated phenomenon has been developing for decades:  the “art of the wall,” namely, graffiti and poster art.

Poster art and graffiti are employed by various groups within the Islamic world to project their ideas through the mediums of photography, video, the film of documentary makers, the paint and ink of professionals, anonymous or amateur designers and artists to record the political and social events within urban areas. Such visual records depicting aspects of everyday life give voice to the people living and working within the Muslim world. An observer can see acts of rebellion as the anonymous young population in Muslim societies experiments with ways to test the limits of freedom. This is done with creativity and often with courage, which may cause concern to the political systems ruling over people whose freedom of speech and action are limited.

In this course, the students are introduced to a common and general principle of Islam, followed by a study of differences in culture and linguistic background of the people in lands of a Muslim majority. The major part of the semester is devoted to analysis and studying graffiti and poster art as it relates to social and political events unfolding. It is expected that the students become interested and learn that the interpretation of today’s Muslim youth through popular culture, expressed in the art and work of talented people manifesting their identities and personal expression about the world around them, provides a valuable access to learning and getting closer to the cultures that may seem strange, illogical, or somewhat hostile to the principles of “Western democracy.” This is an opportunity for us to look at the body and soul of people of ancient civilizations and of a recent troubled history with high hopes for a bright future from the perspective of those from the inside looking out.


R S 358 • Islamic Law

43670 • Ayoub, Samy
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM PAR 201
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show 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 on CANVAS. SUPPLEMENTARY READINGS:
  • Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law, Rudolph Peters Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, Ibn Rushd (in translation) Islamic Law and Finance, Frank Vogel and Samuel Hayes Islam and Colonialism, Rudolph Peters
  • Jihad in Classical and Modern Islam, Rudolph Peters


  • Response Papers 30%
  • Midterm Test 20%
  • Class participation 20%
  • Final Exam 30%



Upon completing this course you should be better equipped than before to:

  • Sketch an outline of Islamic legal history
  • Articulate the basic sources, tensions, transformation of Islamic legal thought and practice
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the great variety of Islamic legal reasoning and its practical expressions 

R S 358 • Muslim Women In Politics

43675 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM JES A303A
(also listed as ANT 324L, ISL 372, WGS 340)
show description

There has been a religious resurgence since the 1970s, and Islam has come to play a significant role in the world. Despite the restrictions placed on women by the religious authorities, the most unexpected effect of this religious renaissance is the overwhelming political participation of many Muslim women at different levels in their respective cultures. While a large number of Muslim women are winning elections in many countries, in general, women’s rights are still an issue in the Muslim world. Since the beginning of recorded Islamic history, Muslim women with political influence have held political offices and positions of leadership. At the same time, we know that in some Muslim nations the rights of women are limited, and their participation as public servants is almost impossible. In both of these cases, Islam is given as the key rationale for participation or lack of participation of women in their society. Both Quranic and hadith commentators vary as to whether women’s political participation is a correct interpretation of religious imperatives.


Debate about the religious legitimacy of Muslim women and their participation in politics are the themes of this course. We will study and discuss the historical developments and debates about both religious and cultural perspectives that affect the role of Muslim women in politics. We will study important Muslim women who have held or hold important political positions or influential positions in NGOs or as political activists and grassroot leaders. In addition, we also will study issues on gender, ethnicity, culture, and faith that impact Muslim women’s political participation and how Muslim women constitute themselves as social and political actors as a result of their interactions within the structural frameworks and political cultures. 

R S 365 • Before The Bible

43690 • Weinbender, Jack
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM MEZ 1.118
(also listed as J S 363, MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

This course is an introduction to the literature, history, and religion of the ancient Near East for the purpose of understanding the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The course will survey the geography, history, and literature of ancient Mesopotamia (Assyria, Babylon) and the Levant (Ugarit, Phoenicia, Israel) giving special attention to people, places, and themes, which are relevant to understanding the Hebrew Bible in its historical milieu. During the course, students will acquire skills that will allow them to compare and synthesize this information with the biblical text and material culture of ancient Israel. All primary and secondary readings will be in English. The first half of the course will focus on primary texts (in English translation) from Mesopotamia and Ugarit, representing the period before the “biblical period”; the second half of the course will focus on the topic of Israelite Religion(s), and how it fit into its broader culture and time.



  • Bible (The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press.
  • OR: HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Harper One.)
  • Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002.
  • Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press; Revised ed. 2009.
  • Schneider, Tammi J. An Introduction to Ancient Mesopotamian Religion. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011. Coogan, Michael and Mark Smith. Stories from Ancient Canaan, Second Edition. Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.


  • Five elective assignments 50% (10% each) (response papers, maps, digital or creative projects, etc.)
  • Participation 10%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Final 20%

R S 368 • When Christ Was King

43695 • Butler, Matthew
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM GAR 0.132
(also listed as HIS 350L, LAS 366)
show description

This seminar focuses on the history of Catholicism in twentieth-century Mexico, often seen as Latin America’s most “Catholic” nation. Chronologically, the course runs approximately from the Revolution of 1910 to the constitutional reforms of the 1990s that restored the Church’s legal standing in Mexico. Conceptually, the seminar will explore both the political and institutional aspects of Catholicism; at the same time, however, we will stress that the Church is a diverse community of believers that is actively engaged in interpreting and transforming the social world on religious lines. Individual seminar topics will include Catholic responses to economic modernisation and the postrevolutionary persecutions of the 1920s and 1930s; the Church’s role both in underpinning and undermining the one-party (PRI) state of the post-1940 period; Catholicism’s contribution (via guadalupanismo) to the creation of a Mexican national identity; the role played by Liberation Theology in driving the neo-Zapatista revolt in the southern state of Chiapas; and Church responses to democratic reform and the onset of religious pluralism. As well as discussing secondary readings, students will analyse a number of significant primary documents in class and also complete a final project using primary documents.


Class reader

Primary documents (supplied)


In-class participation (20%)

Reading reviews (x4 @ 10%) = 40%

Research for final paper (10%)

Final paper (30%)

R S 373 • Relg Ethics/Human Rights

43700 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 1.134
show description
Do religions support human rights or conflict with human rights? This course examines the grounds for human rights, and the relations between rights and religions. Can religions support human rights to protect against genocide, torture and disappearances, hate speech, and discrimination? Can religious leadership within religions effectively combat violence against women, even when the violence is upheld by that same religion? Students will study religions as providing grounds for human rights, as sometimes challenging conceptions of human rights, and as needing protections through human rights. With this basis in the relations between religion and human rights, students will study the significance of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, and the following application of international human rights since the mid-twentieth century.


  • 15% First 2- page paper
  • 15% Second 2-page paper
  • 15% Third 2- page paper
  • 20% Midterm exam (in class, closed book)
  • 20% Final Exam (at date and time set by the Registrar, closed book)
  • 15% Class Participation
  • Thomas Banchoff, et al, Religion and the Global Politics of Human Rights
  • Jack Donnely, International Human Rights
  • Joseph Runzo, et al, Human Rights and Responsibilities in the World Religions

R S 373M • Biomedicine, Ethics, & Cul

43705 • Traphagan, John
Meets MWF 8:00AM-9:00AM BUR 216
(also listed as ANS 361, ANT 324L)
show description

Health-care professionals, bio-medical researchers, patients, and families in all societies are increasingly faced with ethical issues that arise because of new medical technologies and because of alternative approaches to health and illness. This course focuses on ethical questions such as allocation of medical resources, stem cell research and cloning, organ transplantation, abortion, human experimentation, prolonging life and the right to die, suicide, euthanasia, and the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses such as Alzheimer disease, AIDS, and mental disorders.

This course explores these topics from a global perspective, emphasizing how cultural values and ethical systems define moral issues and inform decision-making about medical care. We will consider ethical theories that have been used in the West to consider medical practice, and compare these with approaches in non-Western cultures such as Japan and India. The course emphasizes the use of case studies to explore issues in medical ethics and to develop the ability to apply ethical theories in ways sensitive to variations in cultural values. 

Students in this course engage in discussion and debate about difficult moral issues and it is likely that members of the class will have different, and sometimes profoundly conflicting, ideas about what is right and wrong. You should feel free to express and support your position; this is an important component of the class. 


R S 375S • Religions Of No Religion

43710 • Crosson, Jonathan
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 210
show description

Recently, scholars of religion have turned their attention to religious practices that have fallen outside the bounds of religion proper.  On the one hand, scholars have examined the increasing popularity of "spiritual but not religious" movements in contemporary worlds. On the other hand, scholars have come to terms with the ways that various religious practices were designated as something other than religion in colonial and imperial contexts of power.  Whether superstition, magic, or witchcraft, these forms of "not-religion" were left outside of the juridical protections of "religious freedom" or were rendered outright illegal. This course examines these religious practices that are not religion, throwing critical light on the category of religion by looking at its contested borders.  This is a small, discussion-oriented capstone seminar.