Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

43080 • Brereton, Joel
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM UTC 3.102
(also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 310)
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This course surveys the central beliefs and patterns of life of living religious traditions of Asia. It will focus particularly on the basic texts or narratives of these traditions, on their essential histories, and on the concepts of humanity, the world, and the divine that are distinctive of each. In addition, the course will explore not only what people believe religiously but also what they do religiously. Part of the course, therefore, will consider the ways of life, forms of social action, and rituals practiced by different communities. Not all Asian traditions can be included in a one-semester survey. The traditions chosen originated in Asia, have large numbers of adherents, possess particular historical significance, and represent different cultural areas. By the end of the course, students will have a understanding of the basic histories and orientations of these religious traditions.

Written assignments comprise four interpretive essays on primary texts assigned in the course and two exams. 

Principal required texts:

Willard Oxtoby, Roy Amore, (and Amir Hussain), World Religions: Eastern Traditions (3rd or 4th ed.). Oxford.
R.K. Narayan, tr., The Rāmāyaṇa. Penguin.
Patrick Olivelle, tr., The Buddhacarita: Life of the Buddha (posted on Canvas)
Burton Watson, tr., Zhuangzi: Basic Writings. Columbia. [=B. Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings]
Hiroaki Sato, tr., Basho's Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages. Stone Bridge.

There will also be additional short readings to be posted on Canvas.

R S 304 • Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

43085 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM RLM 6.104
(also listed as ISL 311, J S 311)
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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.




  • John Corrigan, Frederick Denny, Carlos Eire, Martin Jaffe, Jews, Christians, Muslims:  A Comparative Introduction to Monotheistic Religions  (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998)
  • Documents and readings on the Canvas site. 


  • The HarperCollins Study Bible, ed. Wayne Meeks
  • The Qur’an. Trans. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem.  (Oxford, 2004).
  • Grading

The course requirements are the following:

  • Reading response journal: 20% 
  • Short paper on definition of religion: 5%
  • Quizes : 25%
  • Midterm essay: 25%
  • Final essay: 25%


R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

43090 • Martinich, Aloysius
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CLA 0.106
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
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This course investigates four different attitudes that have been held about the relation of humans to God. First is an ancient view according to which God's existence is presupposed and all events are interpreted as expressions of God's will. Second is a medieval view according to which the existence of God and his various attributes are suitable subjects for proof and argument. Third is a modern view according to which God exists but little is known about him through reasoning. Fourth is a contemporary view according to which God is assumed not to exist, and it is asked whether anything has any value and whether human life has a meaning. Although the course is divided historically, our goal will be to identify what is true or false, rational or not rational about the views expressed in each.

R S 306C • Comparative Religious Ethics

43095 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 3.116
(also listed as J S 311)
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The aim of this course is to examine and contemplate ideas about right and wrong as they are expressed in different religious traditions.  We will use a case study approach to compare moral ideas related to: sexuality and gender, social justice, the environment, and violence.  In looking at these topics we will discuss a variety of issues such as homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, just war, responses to the ecological crises, and the relationship of humans to the natural world.  The course will focus on comparison across four broad areas of religious practice: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Native American religions.

R S 313N • Jewish Civ: 1492 To Present

43115 • Bodian, Marion
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as EUS 306, HIS 306N, J S 304N)
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This is the second half of a two-semester survey of Jewish civilization. It begins with a brief discussion of Jewish history from earliest times, but focuses on the period from Spain’s Expulsion of the Jews in 1492 to the present. We will examine the major movements of Jews within an expanding diaspora, the impact of the Reformation, the changing attitudes to Jews, the breakdown of traditional authority in Jewish communities and the trend toward secularization. It will deal with the following transformative events: the rise of eastern European Jewry, the spread of kabbalah (a form of mysticism), the entry of Jews into a capitalist economy, Hassidism, Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), emancipation, modern antisemitism, Zionism, Jews in the Muslim world, the rise American Jewry, the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The thematic core of the course will be the concepts of exile and return – their various meanings and interpretations over time, in a variety of historical contexts.



Eli Barnavi, A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People: From the Time of the Patriarchs to the Present. 

Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, eds., The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History.



Two quizzes (20%), first mid-term (20%), second mid-term (20%), final exam (40%).

R S 315 • Russian Icons/Propaganda

43120 • Roberts, Jason
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GAR 0.132
(also listed as REE 302)
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“(Russian) Icons and Propaganda” is a course about signs, symbols, and the contexts that give them meaning. The particular types of signs and symbols that we explore in this lower division course are religious iconography and political propaganda. Our exploration involves many of the sites where these images are found (e.g. cathedrals, public spaces, private homes, etc.) and many of the various media in which they occur (e.g. paintings, posters, television, film, etc.). While it would certainly be possible to study them separately, the two sets of symbols that we examine in this course share a context that allows us to consider them together: Russia.


Without a context, symbols are just pictures – maybe not even that! Within a context, however, they function in many of the same ways that language does. Signs and symbols convey meaning, and as with language, the more developed the system, the more information it is possible for them to convey. The “languages” of Russian icons and propaganda are quite developed and very much alive. Moreover, the amount of overlap between them may seem surprising… but it shouldn’t. The reason for this is that the imagery – the “language” – of Russian propaganda grew out of the already-existing symbolism of Russian religious iconography. And while the signs and symbols of Russian propaganda have since developed along their own paths, they still share much in common. To a certain extent, to understand one of these symbolic systems is to understand them both.


The symbolism of Russian Orthodox iconography reached its impressive capacity to convey meaning in part because of a need to teach often complicated religious ideas to illiterate peasants before (and even during) the twentieth century. By pulling heavily from a symbolic “language” that the Russian masses already understood, propagandists were able to enter the scene with symbolically sophisticated messages in a “language” that everyone could already read. In this course students learn to read the signs and symbols of icons and propaganda in their Russian context. From subway ceilings to cathedral walls, living room shrines to murals on municipal buildings, kid’s cartoons to epic film, students will engage with the both the symbols and their contexts using basic semiotic (symbols) and discursive (contextual) techniques for analyzing and interpreting meaning in these two fascinating and surprisingly similar symbolic “languages.”



Selected Readings:

  • Bonnell, Victoria E. Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters Under Lenin and Stalin. Berkeley [u.a.: Univ. of California Press, 2007. 
  • Hall, Stuart, Jessica Evans, and Sean Nixon. Representation: Edited by Stuart Hall, Jessie Evans and Sean Nixon. London: Sage Publications, 2013.
  • Ouspensky, Leonid, and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1999.



  • 5 short analysis papers      5% each
  • 5 chapter précis                   15% each

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43145 • Kim, Jin
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM PAR 204
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This course focuses on some of the most influential religious texts in human history the 27 texts that were included in the New Testament. In addition, we will also read several other ancient texts that did not make it into the Christian Bible. During the semester we will explore the content of these texts, theories about how they were produced, methods used by scholars to interpret them, and conclusions that specialists reach about their significance. In the process, students will also have a chance to reflect on the general nature of human religiosity.



The Harper Collins Study Bible, NRSV including apocryphal and deuterocanonical books, Student Edition; Harper Collins, 2006 (ISBN 978-0-06-078683-0).
Mitchell Reddish, An Introduction to the Gospels, Abingdon Press, 1997 (ISBN: 0687004489).
E. P. Sanders, Paul: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford Univ. Press, 2001 (ISBN 0192854518).



25% Paper, approximately 700 words. 30% Exams, 2 @ approx. 15% each 25% Final exam 10% Attendance and participation 10% Misc. small tasks.

R S 316U • Hist Of Religion In The US

43155 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM CLA 0.126
(also listed as HIS 317L)
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This class explores how religious people and communities in the United States affirm their worldviews, understand the ethical life, engage in ritual acts, and organize their communal relations. It also looks at the way the American social environment has shaped these practitioners and their communities. In particular, this class explores an ongoing tension: the dominance achieved by majority religious groups and the religious diversity that marks the population and is protected by law. We will observe how this particularly American dynamic shapes religious communities. We will explore this tension through a historically organized survey of majority and minority religious groups. We begin with the continent’s original diversity in its hundreds of Native American traditions. We then move to dominant varieties of Protestant Christianity in relation to smaller groups, including colonial-era Jews, upstart Mormons, newly immigrated Catholics, African-American believers, and more recently arrived immigrants who practice Hinduism and Islam. While the class cannot cover the entire history of religion in United States history, it offers students greater historical understanding and tools for analyzing the ongoing dynamics of religious dominance and religious diversity in this country.



Daniel K. Richter, “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience, ” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), 528-559.

Jonathan Sarna, “Colonial Beginnings” from American Judaism: A History

James Homer Williams, “An Atlantic Perspective on the Jewish Struggle for Rights and Opportunities in Brazil, New Netherland, and New York,” from The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West.

S. Scott Rohrer, “An American Exodus: Mormons and the Westward Trek,” from Wandering Souls: Protestant Migrations in America, 1630-1865

 Paul Harvey, “Day of Jubilee: Black Churches from Emancipation to the Era of Jim Crow,” from Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity

Sylvester Johnson, “The Rise of Black Ethnics: The Ethnic Turn in African American Religions,” from Religion and American Culture, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Summer 2010), 125-163

Vasudha Narayanan, “Hinduism in Pittsburgh: Creating the South Indian ‘Hindu’ Experience in the United States,” from The Life of Hinduism

Susan Slyomovics, “The Muslim World Day Parade and ‘Storefront’ Mosques of New York City,” from Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe



4 short exams (15% each for 60%)

short paper (10%)

mapping assignment (10%)

final short essay (20%)

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43160 • White, L
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM FAC 21
(also listed as C C 318, J S 311)
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Start with questions and then look for answers.

1.   What is the earliest writing in the New Testament? What was the latest?

2.   What does it mean to call Jesus of Nazareth an apocalyptic Jewish prophet?

3.   When did the followers of Jesus begin to call themselves “Christians”?

4.   What were they called before that time?  And why does it matter?

Whether or not you think you know the answers to all or some of these questions, you may still want to follow the basic path of historical discovery they hint at.    This course brings together two main lines of history:  first that of Jesus and the early Christian movement itself, and second, that of the “book” (more precisely the “books,” meaning the New Testament), that tell that story.   How did it happen?  Where did they come from?  When did they begin to call themselves “Christians,” and why did they do so?  And finally, what changed along the way?  All of these are part of the story, and it is, without doubt, a story that has had a major impact on all later western history. 

            This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period.  It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors:  the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape.  In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.   In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.   

            For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged.  The other course books (listed below) provide a guide to the early Christian writings and the early history of the movement.   



  • A BIBLE (at least the NEW TESTAMENT, preferably in a good modern translation) [Recommended:   Harper-Collins Study Bible, 2nd ed.;    New Revised Standard Version]
  • L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity  (Harper, 2004) pb. [Optional:  L. Michael White, De Jesús al christianismo  (EVD, 2007; Spanish language edition of above)]
  • Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children:  Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard UP, 1986) pb.
  • A Xerox packet of additional readings to accompany the syllabus                                           



Final course grade will be based on the average of three in-class Exams (worth 20% each) and a cumulative Final Exam (worth 40%).

R S 346D • Native American Religion

43195 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets MW 2:00PM-3:30PM CLA 0.122
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Before European colonization, the North American continent featured myriad Indian nations practicing many different religious traditions and ceremonies. In this course, we will examine the religious traditions of several American Indian groups: the Pueblos of the American Southwest, the Wendats of the eastern Woodlands, and the Lakotas of the Plains. We will look at the myths and rituals that composed these nations’ religious identities. We will then examine the ways that contact with Europeans affected their religious beliefs and practices. In turn, we will study how Native American communities have transformed old practices and fashioned new ones since those initial contacts. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to see the diversity among American Indian groups and the way in which religious ideas and practices serve living, changing communities of people. 


Readings may include:

Marmon Silko, Ceremony

Martin, The Land Looks After Us: A History of Native American Religion

Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks

Seeman, The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead



Papers – 40%

Exams – 30%

Participation – 10%

Final project – 20%

R S 357 • Heretics & Freedom Fighters

43225 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CLA 0.122
(also listed as EUS 346, GSD 360, HIS 362G, REE 325)
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This course reaches back to the first centuries of Protestantism in Central Europe, from about 1400 to about 1700. The Czech Lands, under the names of Bohemia and Moravia, and under the dominion of the Habsburg Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, were heavily implicated in the various breaks from and returns to Catholicism, as the reformation started by Luther gave way to the counter-reformation of the organized Catholic Church, resisting the fracturing of its One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This hotbed of religious dissidence pitted newly emerging Protestant groups on several sides of each doctrinal and political issue that arose as the region sought its religious identity: Utraquists, Hussites, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Czech Brethren, and others.  

The course will explore the theologies, politics, and personal identities that emerged, and passed away in this era through the accounts in primary sources, including the writings of the reformers as well as through the lenses provided by current scholarship. In addition, the course examines the visual arts and music (especially hymns) that played such a huge role in this battle for land, power, hearts, and minds shaping the lives of believers and non-believers alike. The course concludes with an examination of the evolutions within Catholicism reflected in the Catholic catechism as a result of the Counter-Reformation.


R S 358 • French Emp: The West/Islam

43250 • Brower, Benjamin
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as HIS 364G, ISL 372)
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Modern French imperialism advanced its claims to power through a division of the world into two parts. In the Mediterranean world this thinking erected a frontier running across the middle of the sea. In the north there was Europe or the “West,” and in the south there was “Islam” or the “East.” The former was home to civilization and progress and the later was a backward place in need of regeneration. For their part, Muslims who fell under French domination or influence deployed their own divisions.  They reproduced parts of French concepts in a complex dialogue with their own history. The goals was to set Muslims towards a future that was modern, but authentic. Therefore throughout the Mediterranean, French imperialism triggered a “civilizing mission” to renew or revitalize society, by force if necessary. Many parts of this thinking have survived the colonial era and mark attitudes in contemporary France and the Middle East. Religion is generally offered as the decisive category determining these divisions, a so-called “clash of civilizations,” with Muslim societies set off as somehow incompatible with secular Europe.  Our task in this course will be to critically consider how these cultural and political frontiers developed, and their use in contests for power. The focus will be on modern France and the Middle Eastern countries that fell under French rule, particularly Algeria, but the course will examine these questions within a broader trans-national context across several historical periods into the present.

R S 358 • Veiling In The Muslim World

43240 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 101
(also listed as ANS 372, ANT 324L, ISL 372, MEL 321, SOC 321K, WGS 340)
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This course will deal with the cultural significance and historical practices of veiling, “Hijab”, in the Muslim world. The issue of veiling as it relates to women has been subject to different interpretations and viewed from various perspectives, and with recent political developments and the resurgence of Islam, the debate over it and over women’s roles in Muslim countries has taken various shapes.  A number of Muslim countries are going back to their Islamic traditions and implementing a code of behavior that involves some form of veiling in Public /or segregation to various degrees for women. In some Muslim nations women are re-veiling on their own. In others, women resist the enforcement of such practices. We will examine the various perspectives, interpretations and practices relating to Hijab in the Muslim world with respect to politics, religion, feminism, culture, new wave of women converts and the phenomenon of “Islamic fashion” as a marketing tool.    


 Reader Packet.

Will be announced where the Packet is sold


Faegheh Shirazi. The Veil Unveiled: Hijab in Modern Culture. University Press of Florida, 2001, and 2003


Active participation (assigned article with discussion questions/ is a group activity) 10%

Regular Class Attendance 5%

3 quizzes (Lowest grade will be dropped) 20%

Midterm Exam 30%

Final Research Paper (20%), and Oral Presentation %15 (This is a group activity)



R S 366 • Jewish Cuba

43265 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM PAR 103
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365, LAS 324L)
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Cuba has a small Jewish community (between 1,000-1,500) whose origins are presumed to date back to 1492. By some accounts, the contemporary community is dying, and by others, it is vibrant. No matter the assessment, it is a community that has been written about and analyzed disproportionately for its size. As noted Cuban-American Jewish anthropologist Ruth Behar has proposed, Jewish Cuba presents the challenge of focusing on a small community to understand large philosophical and cultural issues: Diaspora, preserving identity in hybridized social worlds, and the concept of home. In learning about Jewish Cuba, students of are not only exposed to a nationally-specific case study in Jewish Latin America, but have the opportunity to study the relationship between state politics and Jewish life, Judaism under communist regimes, religious and linguistic revitalization movements, migration, and cultural survival. To explore these themes and concepts, this course uses scholarly texts and ethnographic accounts, but also personal memoirs, films, photographs, and documentaries about Jewish Cuba.

Core questions we address in the course are: What is Home? What is Diaspora? What is Revolution?  How do we write about it?

R S 368 • Church & State In Lat Amer

43270 • Butler, Matthew
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as HIS 346W, LAS 366)
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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 • Religions In Contact

43280 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 303
(also listed as ANS 340)
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Religions in Contact

What happens when religions come in contact with each other? This course discusses the ways in which religious actors respond to challenges posed by the encounter with people, beliefs, or practices which, for them, do not belong to their own religion. Such responses range from curiosity, dialog, or acceptance to apologetics, hostile polemic, or persecution. Examining case studies from several geographical regions and time periods, we will discuss various forms of rhetorical and practical responses to the “religious other.” Part of this discussion is an analysis of the respective motives, which are sometimes related not only to religious conviction but also to competition over economic resources, social status, and political power.

The course will introduce students to relevant theories and scholarly categories, such as religious othering, conversion, reinterpretation, appropriation, subordination, eclecticism, syncretism, intersection, tolerance and intolerance, dialogue, inclusivism, pluralism, and more. These will be critically discussed and tested on the case studies. The goal of the course is to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which religious actors grapple with religious plurality, draw boundaries – or ignore them –, and form religious identities.

At the end of the semester, students (1) will have gained insights about important features of the religions discussed in the case studies (especially Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, Greek and Roman religion); (2) will have learned to analyze various aspects and dimensions of religious encounter in a systematic way; and (3) will be able to suggest alternative perspectives that may help to resolve conflicts related to religious encounter.

Course packet.

Attendance/participation: 25% 
Reading journal: 20%
Oral presentation and moderation of class discussion: 20%
Individual case analysis: 25% (essay 15%, presentation 10%)
Response to two case analyses: 10%

R S 375S • Radical Religion: Ascetics

43295 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM CLA 0.120
(also listed as ANS 379)
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Radical Religion: Ascetics and Holy Persons

Asceticism, as a concept and a way of life, exists in many religious traditions. Ascetics commit to bodily restraints that can be manifold and are practiced at various levels of intensity. From specific food restraints (for example, vegetarianism) to fasting to death; from celibacy to self-castration; from wearing simple robes to going naked; from shaving one’s head to severe self-mutilation; from living in a monastic community to locking one-self in a cell to constant wandering. Using case studies from various religions, this course discusses the concepts, practices, and goals associated with this radical way of life. It also introduces students to scholarly approaches to asceticism, which includes theories of the body and of culture more generally. Other topics discussed in class are the social status of the ascetic; asceticism and gender; asceticism and devotion; and asceticism and violence. Historical examples will be taken primarily from India (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism) and Mediterranean late antiquity (Greek/Roman religions, Christianity, Judaism).

Course packet

Attendance/participation: 20%
Reading responses: 20%
Partner project: 15%
Research essay: 45%