Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

42305 • Brereton, Joel
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM UTC 3.102
GC (also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 306D)
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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 classical expressions and 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 and rituals of the different communities. Not all Asian traditions can be covered 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. The religions studied in the course will include: Hinduism, Buddhism, South Asian Islam, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto.


The principal required texts are W. Oxtoby, R. Amore, and A. Hussain, World Religions: Eastern Traditions (4th or 5th edition); R.K. Narayan, The Rāmāyaṇa; Ashvaghosha, The Buddhacarita: The Life of the Buddha (available on Canvas); B. Watson, Zhuangzi: Basic Writings; Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (also on Canvas). Additional readings will also be posted on Canvas.


The major written assignments will be four short essays on assigned reading and two exams.

R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

42315 • Andrew, James
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 308
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
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Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of fundamental religious concepts and ideas.  In this course, we will survey some of the perennial questions and issues in philosophy of religion, focusing particularly (but not exclusively) on those pertinent to the great monotheistic traditions.  Of particular interest will be: (a) classical arguments for the existence of God, (b) the problem of evil (can the existence of evil be reconciled with the existence of God?), (c) the relationship between faith and reason (is religious faith rationally justifiable?), and (d) miracles (what is a miracle?  Is it ever reasonable to believe that a miracle has occurred?).

R S 306C • Comparative Religious Ethics

42320 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM PAR 304
E (also listed as J S 311)
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Comparative Religious Ethics
Spring 2018
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 3.116

The aim of this course is to examine and contemplate ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, excellent and corrupt as they are expressed in different religious traditions and across cultures. We will examine three different approaches to ethics and religion in a globalized world: a foundational set of methods in religious ethics, a more specific approach to comparative religious ethics centered on stories, and an account of justice for international and cross-cultural contexts addressing disparities in wealth and power. Students will learn to adjudicate and assess religions claims regarding what is good and right, differences across religious traditions, foundational narratives of religions, and the grounds for justice. Topics include war and peace, inequalities in wealth and income, leadership, and more.

Texts: (available at the University Co-Op Bookstore):
Fasching and DeChant, Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics (2nd edition)
Markham, Do Morals Matter? A Guide to Contemporary Religious Ethics (Wiley Publishing)
Sen, The Idea of Justice

Three short papers, 2 pages each; each 15% of the course grade (45% total)
Midterm exam, closed-book, in-class (25%)
Final Exam, closed book, in-class (15%)
Class Participation (15%)

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42325 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CMA 2.306
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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 312C • Introduction To Buddhism

42330 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM UTC 3.132
GC (also listed as ANS 301M)
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This course examines the history of Buddhism by tracing the development of its various schools, doctrines, and religious practices in Asia and beyond. We will explore the historical background against which it arose in India, and study traditional views of the life of the Buddha, the early teachings, and the structure of the Buddhist community of monastics and laypeople. We will examine the growth of Buddhism in India, the development of Theravāda Buddhism and its spread into South East Asia. The emergence of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India and its spread into Central Asia and East Asia will be covered as well as the development of Vajrayāna Buddhism in Tibet. We will then examine the 19th century movement of Buddhist modernism in Sri Lanka and its relations to the Western world. This will be the basis for eventually exploring the various ways Buddhismcame to Europe and America and examining the new forms and ideas it developed here.

R S 313D • Intro To Jewish Studies

42335 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GEA 114 • Hybrid/Blended
EGC (also listed as ANT 311D, J S 301, MES 310)
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Taught online during scheduled times. Includes live-streaming video and requires real-time participation. Go to for additional information and to test your computer and internet connectivity.

This survey course aims to expose students to major themes in Jewish Studies through guest lectures
by UT faculty who work in the field. It is recommended for motivated undergraduates in any discipline
with an intellectual curiosity about Jewish Studies, but requires no previous knowledge of Jewish
religion, ethnicity, or culture. The material in the course is not designed be comprehensive, but rather
provides a curated sample of lectures and core topics . This semester, the course is organized around
three thematic units: 1) Exile and Diaspora, 2) Jewish Identity, and 3) Jewish Ethics. Students are
encouraged to consider course materials comparatively, in view of both their distinct features and their
overarching threads, and defend positions through evidence based both on lectures and the course
reader. Student discussion leaders, designated in advance, will raise questions, stimulate debate, and
integrate ideas into our collective analysis.


R S 313N • Jewish Civ: 1492 To Present

42340 • Bodian, Marion
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 2.112
GC (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 • Medieval Material Culture

42345 • Kaufman, Cheryl
Meets MW 4:00PM-5:30PM GAR 2.112
GC (also listed as AHC 310, HIS 306N)
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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, reliquaries, architecture, pottery, crowns, and jewelry. 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. 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 and how these objects may have been experienced in a pre-modern world.

Required texts and sources:

Course Packet available at University Co-op


(Includes primary sources:  Abbot Suger,  “On the Abbey Church of St.-Denis and its Art Treasures”, Paulinus of Nola, "Poem 27", Theophilus, "An Essay on Diverse Arts" and selected readings by Gregory the Great, Augustine and Isidore of Seville. )


Map quiz: 5%

Quizzes (cumulative): 20%

Mid-semester exam (cumulative): 20%

Presentation: 15%

Last exam (cumulative): 20%

Attendance: 10%

Class Participation and Presentation Feedback: 10%

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42365 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM MEZ 1.202
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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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 a significant amount of the semester to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then sample some of the most significant early interpretations of Genesis. These will include retellings of parts of Genesis from early Jewish and Christian apocryphal writings; creative and influential readings of Genesis from ancient interpreters the Apostle Paul and Augustine of Hippo; and the use of Genesis narrative in the Quran, the foundational scripture of Islam.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42360 • Yoo, Philip
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM GAR 0.120
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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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 their writings. The last 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.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42355 • Yoo, Philip
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM WAG 208
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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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 their writings. The last 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.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42350 • Jones, Joshua
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM RLP 1.108
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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Please check back for updates.

R S 315M • Luthers World

42370 • Hess, Peter
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 1
GC (also listed as EUS 306, GSD 311G, HIS 304Q)
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In Fall 2017 we observed 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



Attendance, Participation                             10%

Quizzes                                                           10%

Oral presentation                                          10%

Two short writing assignments                   20%

Two examinations                                         50%

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

42375 • Hong, Sung
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GEA 127
GC (also listed as CTI 310)
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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.

R S 316K • Intro Relig/Lat Amer/Carib

42384 • Crosson, Jonathan
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM BUR 130
GC (also listed as AFR 317E, LAS 310)
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This course will survey religious practice across Latin America and the Caribbean, covering traditions conducted in Quechua, Spanish, Portuguese, Yoruba-inspired, language, or French and English creoles. We will look at Maria Lionza devotion in Venezuela, Umbabda in Brazil, Rastafari in Jamaica and Central America, Garifuna religion in Honduras, Vodou in Haiti, Quechua ritual practices in relation to mountains in Peru, and Orisha in Trinidad.  In Mexico, we will look at Santa Muerte. We will also explore the role of Marianne devotion in the recent electoral victory of MORENA. We will look at intersections between religion, power,  politics, and US intervention in the region throughout the course. 

R S 316U • Hist Of Religion In The US

42385 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 0.102
CD HI (also listed as AMS 315, HIS 317L)
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This class explores how religious people and communities in the United States affirm their faith, understand the ethical life, engage in ritual acts, and organize their communal relations. It looks at how religious practice has developed in the United States through a historically organized survey of religious groups. To organize our study of this vast subject, we will focus particularly on the themes of colonization and immigration, two phenomena that have impacted the American religious landscape.

We begin with the continent’s original diversity in its hundreds of Native American traditions. Moving to the colonial era and continuing through the contemporary moment, we explore colonizing and immigrating movements that have brought European Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, along with practitioners of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism from Asia and Africa to North America. We also investigate communities birthed in the United States, including Mormonism, Pentecostalism, and the Nation of Islam. Through this survey, we consider a variety of religious traditions, the changing state of the population’s religious composition, as well as how Americans have navigated those shifts using concepts such as disestablishment, diversity, and pluralism.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

42390 • White, L
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 212
GC (also listed as C C 318, J S 306E)
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This course examines two main lines of history in the Rise of Christianity: first
that of Jesus and the early Christian movement itself, and second, that of the “book” (meaning the New
Testament) that tells the story of the earliest Christians. How did it happen? Where did they come
from? When did they begin to call themselves “Christians,” and why did they do so? How do the New
Testament writings fit into this picture? Where did they come from? What do they mean? 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.

The 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.

R S 319 • Introduction To Islam

42395 • Azam, Hina
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM RLP 1.106
GC (also listed as ANS 301M, HIS 306N, ISL 310)
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In today’s world, a functional knowledge of Islam– in terms of religion, history, and culture – is crucial. Muslims comprise approximately ¼ of the world’s population, with an estimated global population of 1.9 billion. Islam is the majority religion of 51 countries in the world; in 33 of these countries, Muslims make up 90% or more of the population. And while many people associate Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish with Islam, millions of Muslims also speak a range of other languages as their native tongues: Urdu-Hindi, Bengali, Indonesian/Malay, Pashto, Hausa, French, and many others. Over the course of its long history and geographical spread, Islam has branched into a spectrum of theological sects, schools of law, mystical orders, and ideological movements.  At the same time, Muslims are bound together by a shared tradition anchored in the scripture of the Qur’an, the exemplary practice of the Prophet Muhammad, and a 1400-year-old historical experience.

This lower-division course aims to give students a foundational understanding of Islam as a religion, with attention to beliefs (cosmology, theology, mysticism), practices (ritual, rites of passage), and morality (ethics, moral doctrines). It also introduces students to key moments in Islamic historyas well as key aspects of Muslimsocieties and cultures, both past and present.  Finally, this course will develop skills in news analysis and content knowledge is current affairs pertaining to Muslims. This course is designed for students with no prior knowledge of Islam and has no prerequisites.

Textbooks (available at the Co-Op)

William Shepard, Introducing Islam, 2nd edition

Todd Green, The Fear of Islam, 2nd edition

Other materials available on Canvas or online.

Grading Rubric

Attendance                                                        13%
7 biweekly Current Affairs Synopses (3% each)    21%         
12 weekly Homework Quizzes (3% each)             36%        
Final Exam                                                        30%










R S 341 • Death/Dying In South Asia

42399 • Maes, Claire
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 303
GC (also listed as ANS 340)
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“It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is

death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible.” (C.S. Lewis 1996 [1961]: 15) Subscribing to these short but powerful statements, this course explores the various beliefs, practices, attitudes, and understandings of the dying experience, death, and the afterlife across South Asian cultural areas. During the course of the semester, we will be looking at the philosophical, ethical, and legal issues of death from a variety of perspectives. We will explore in detail how South Asian religious traditions have been approaching the problem of death within their broader cultural, historical, and social contexts. We will focus on various religious traditions, among others Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Central themes will include the changing meaning of death, the contemporary issue of the medicalization of death, and the funeral service industry. Discussions will center on the questions of ‘What is a good death?’, ‘What does the end of life mean for oneself and for others?’ and most basically but importantly ‘What is life?’ and ‘How is it envisioned after death?’ We will work with religious and philosophical treatises on death, as well as with different types of literary forms, ethnographies, documentaries, and feature-length films.


Grading Policy

Attendance and Participation (15 %)

Reading Responses and Documentary/Film reviews (25 %)

Midterm (25%)

Final (25%)

Oral Presentation (10 %)

R S 344 • The Age Of Reformation

42404 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GDC 4.302
EGC (also listed as CTI 375, HIS 343)
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The advent of Protestantism at the beginning of the sixteenth century is popularly associated with the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of “Modernity.” Martin Luther’s publication of his 95 Theses in 1517 began a series of ideas and events that changed religion, politics, and daily life as they spread. Yet the rise of the merchant class, the advent of the printing press, and the discovery of the New World, as well as a number of the theological ideas now associated with Luther all belong to the achievements of the so-called “Dark Ages.” What, then, do we make of Luther’s reputation as “the last medieval man and the first modern one?” What of his contemporary, the Swiss reformer John Calvin (as anti-Luther as he was anti-Catholic), whose theology undergirds so much American Evangelicalism? This upper-division, undergraduate course examines major and lesser-known works by these and other Reformation theologians in order to answer the question: What did the Reformation change and how did it change it?

R S 352 • Art In The Himalayas

42405 • Leoshko, Janice
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM DFA 2.204
EGCWr (also listed as ANS 372)
show description

Please check back for updates.

R S 352 • Japanese Concepts Body/Self

42415 • Traphagan, John
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 228
GC (also listed as ANS 372, ANT 324L)
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In this course, we will endeavor to navigate some of the extensive anthropological literature that has been written on Japanese conceptualizations of self and body and explore how these concepts intersect with ideas about religion and morality.  The "self" has been one of the central themes in ethnographic writing about Japan since Ruth Benedict's work The Chrysanthemum and the Sword was published in the 1940's.  We will consider how Japanese educational approaches contribute to the formation of paritcular forms of behavior; how selves change over the life course; Japanese conceptualizations of the body and person; and how Japanese ideas about self and body are expressed in medical practices.  The course is discussion-based and will incorporate films in addition to ethnographic writings.  Grading will be based upon five response papers and mid-term take-home and final take-home exams.

R S 353 • Debating Genesis

42420 • Wells, Bruce
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM PAR 306
GC (also listed as J S 363, MEL 321, MES 342)
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The biblical book of Genesis has been the subject of vigorous debate for centuries, and current scholarship continues to argue about many aspects of the book. Some of the main controversies have included the authorship of Genesis, the degree to which it can be considered historical, and whether its stories borrowed ideas from other ancient literature. This course will deal with those issues and will also consider recent scholarship on additional questions. Why are the book’s stories full of sex, deception, and betrayal? In what ways did these stories communicate religious ideas? And why were these stories important for the identity of ancient Israel? The course will give students the chance to examine the book of Genesis in depth and to familiarize themselves with related literature from the ancient Middle East.

R S 353 • The Five Books Of Moses

42429 • Yoo, Philip
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM BEN 1.124
GC (also listed as CTI 375, J S 364, MES 342)
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The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—contain well known stories such as the creation of the world, the flood, promises made to Israel’s ancestors, and the revelation of divine law through Moses. Collectively known as the ‘Torah’ in Jewish tradition and the ‘Pentateuch’ in Christian tradition, these five books remain influential in debates about the purpose and nature of the deity (God), the cosmos, law, ritual, ethics, history, family, and nationhood. In this class, we will read the entirety of these five books in translation, investigate the socio-historical circumstances that give shape to these books, and consider how these five books achieve the status of sacred literature. Attention will also be given to the transmission of these five books and its continued significance for its many past and present readers.

R S 353F • Interp Jesus Death/Resur

42430 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BEN 1.122
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The narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection stand at the center of the Christian religion. All four New Testament gospels contain accounts of these events; yet it is surprising how many differences there are between them. Similarly, Christians and others have come to strikingly diverse conclusions about the significance, historicity, and ultimate meanings of these events. This course will examine the narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection and their subsequent interpretation over the last two thousand years. We will begin with a very close comparative reading of the passion narratives and resurrection appearance stories of the canonical gospels. We will then examine other notable interpretations of these stories, including: accounts from early Christian apocryphal gospels; the early Christian development of models for understanding the significance of Jesus' death, including the atonement theory; Islamic revisions of the crucifixion narrative and their possible historical origins; and contemporary debates about the historicity of the resurrection, the adequacy of classical atonement theories, and the relevance of the mode of Jesus' death for the practice of capital punishment.


R S 355 • The Bible As Literature

42435 • Schrag, Nicole
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM JES A218A
GCWr (also listed as E 358J)
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E 358J l The Bible as Literature


Instructor:  Schrag, N

Unique #:  35565

Semester:  Spring 2020

Cross-lists:  R S 355


Prerequisites: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.


Description: This course has a global cultures flag and a writing flag and focuses primarily on literary study of texts produced within ancient Hebrew culture from about 1200-165 BCE and first-century, mostly Greek-speaking Christian cultures located in modern-day Israel, Turkey, Greece, and Rome.  Students will become familiar with the principle texts, interpretations, and images of the Old and New Testaments and will practice recognizing allusions to the Bible in various literary texts.


Global cultures flag: Students in this course will work with cultural content in four main ways:  1) They will read substantially from the Old and New Testaments and learn to identify the key literary forms and devices used in ancient Hebrew and early Christian writings; 2) They will read secondary materials that help them to understand and explain the significance of biblical narratives and literary forms within their original social and political contexts and will apply those readings in their analysis essays; 3) In an essay, homework, and class discussions, students will analyze modern uses of biblical texts in literary works; 4) In class discussions and Canvas posts, students will be encouraged to reflect on similarities and differences between their own culture(s) and those represented in the texts they study.


Writing flag: Students will complete 4 major writing assignments (~20-24 pages total) for the class.  These are:  1) a close reading essay, 2) a genre analysis essay (+required revision), 3) an allusion analysis essay, and 4) a standard term paper.


Required texts: any RSV Bible, Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin.  Additional readings will be made available on Canvas.


Requirements and Grading: Essay 1, 10%; Essay 2, 15%; Essay 3, 20%; Essay 4 Proposal, 5%; Essay 4, 20%; Homework and Participation, 30%.

R S 357 • Geog Religion E Euro/Russia

42445 • Jordan, Bella
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 220
GC (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.


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.

R S 357 • Jewish Folklore

42439 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM GEA 127
GCWr (also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, J S 363)
show 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.

Using literary sources, ethnographic memoirs, historical documents, films (among them "The Dybbuk" 1939), folklore collections and field trips (among them - to the oldest Austin Jewish cemetery), we will focus on what makes Jewish folklore Jewish. Among the folklore genres to be examined -folktale, legend, folksong, folk music, custom, belief and of course, Jewish humor.

R S 357 • Medieval Women Mystics

42455 • Straubhaar, Sandra
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM BUR 337
GCWr (also listed as EUS 347, GSD 361D, WGS 340)
show description


The life and writings of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, fourteenth-century visionary, religious reformer and pilgrim, will be examined and compared with her predecessor Hildegard of Bingen (Germany) and her successor Margery Kempe (England).  Social and historical contexts for all three visionary women will be explored in depth, particularly the factors behind Birgitta’s emerging as such an authoritative voice, both political and religious, within the milieu of fourteenth-century Europe.  Other related figures, predominantly Julian of Norwich, but also Christina of Markyate, Christina Mirabilis, Angela de Foligno, Jeanne d’Arc and Catherine of Siena may be visited.  We will also explore varieties of spirituality and spiritual thinking including: anchorism and asceticism; Marian piety and Goddess-imagery; virginity and female creativity; and  bridal imagery.  Any theoretical framework – religious; scientific; theological; medical; archetypal; or any other – will be allowed.  No single orthodoxy or heterodoxy should become primary in our investigations: all may have a voice (and it need not be a consistent one).  We will try to allow the past to speak for itself, always realizing that we, the readers/listeners/watchers, will necessarily apply some kind of “spin” based on our own backgrounds. 

Two things to remember when you investigate the lives and thought of people of the past: 1. They were vastly different from us; and 2) They were uncannily like us.  Both 1) and 2) are entirely true.



This course is a Writing Flag course, and most of your grade will come from the evaluation of writing-related activities.

The breakdown is like this:

Quizzes on Reading (on most days when readings are due):    10 %

Two six-page reaction papers or position papers, 15% each =   30 %

In-class peer review activities on these papers:    10 %

Reading Journals (turned in every other Wednesday)    15 %

One three- to five-page group project (groups of 3-4):    15 %

One six-page research paper:      20 %

R S 357 • Rembrt/Rubens: N Baroq Art

42450 • Smith, Jeffrey
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM DFA 2.204
GC VP (also listed as EUS 347)
show description

Please see advisor for more information.

R S 357 • Rus Orthodox Religion/Cultr

42440 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM GAR 1.126
GC (also listed as HIS 366N, REE 325)
show description

Founded in 988 in Kievan Rus’ with the semi-mythical conversion and baptism of Prince Volodimir, the Russian Orthodox Church (or the Moscow Patriarchate as it is now officially known) has grown to be the largest of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches, and accounts for over half of the world’s more than 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), along with its primate, is preceded only by the four ancient Patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) in order of precedence. Moreover, as Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’, the Primate of the ROC claims exclusive spiritual jurisdiction not only over Russia, but over all of the former Soviet Republics excluding only Georgia and Armenia. Throughout its thousand-year history, the Russian Orthodox Church has been a powerful cultural force shaping the art, architecture, literature, and even the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet as well as the moral, philosophical, and political realities of those who live within its sphere of influence.


Drawing from a broad range of primary sources and secondary scholarship, this course examines the role and force of the Orthodox Church in Russian history from the Christianization of the pagan Slavs beginning in the 10th century, through the 1551 Stoglav Council under Ivan “the Terrible” (as a result of which, the ROC’s communion with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches was noticeably strained), through the Russian Revolution into the Soviet era (when a number of its priests and at least one patriarch were KGB!), and up to the present including Pussy Riot’s guerilla performance of “Punk Prayer” at Christ the Savior Cathedral and an icon-kissing Vladimir Putin. Throughout the course students develop theirs skill at the critical reading of secondary scholarship by regularly and methodically retracing select scholars’ arguments against other historical surveys and (translated) primary sources in staged collaborative class assignments. For example, we turn from the prescriptive tenets of the Orthodox faith (religion) to descriptive experiences of life within and under Russian Orthodoxy (religiosity), comparing the ROC’s moral ideals with its sometimes-immoral associations as well as its expectations of the faithful with a level of religion they are willing to accept as we follow the arguments of scholars who have tried to define “Orthodox Rus’.” The tension revealed by these comparisons serves, in turn, as context for our discussion of religious groups that broke with the ROC such as the Old Believers (starovery), the Spirit Wrestlers (dukhobory), and the “Milk Drinkers” (molokany) as well as with the scholarship that has argued for and against understandings of the schism that birthed these movements as an “Orthodox Reformation.” Our investigation of Russian Orthodox religion and culture draws on everything from mystical theology and holy icons, Old Church Slavonic chants of monastery choirs and ascetic practices of prophetic hermits, to the celebration – both in and out of church – of the yearly cycle of religious holidays, the ROC’s complex relationship with the unofficial practices of Russian folk religion, and the literature and film in which all these things are reflected.


Basis for evaluation:


  • 14 online unit quizzes – 25%
  • 14 discussion questions – 10%
  • 5 short précis – 50%
  • 1 final online exam – 15%

R S 358 • Origins Of Monotheism

42460 • Wells, Bruce
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM MEZ 1.120
GC (also listed as J S 364, MES 343)
show description

Like many ideas, the notion of a single God has a long and complicated history. This course explores where and how it all began. The primary focus will be on understanding the emergence of the Israelite god, Yahweh, belief in whom became the foundation for the world’s three major monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. How did Yahweh go from being revered as one god among many to being considered the one and only God? The course will look at texts from the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Transjordan, and the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria. The Ugaritic texts, in particular, provide important insight into many of the ideas that shaped the development of Yahweh-worship in ancient Israel. Students will discover how the idea of monotheism developed over time and explore the question of its value and legacy.

R S 358C • Islam And Politics

42470 • Ayoub, Samy
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM PAR 1
GC (also listed as GOV 364C, ISL 373, MES 341)
show description

This course is an introduction to modern Islamic political thought. It seeks to provide both an overview of key ideas and themes that have informed mainstream Muslim politics during the 20th century as well provide an engagement with influential thinkers and texts that have shaped Muslim political behavior during this period. We will examine the way in which modernity was negotiated in the emerging Muslims states, the debate on God's sovereignty versus popular sovereignty and more broadly the moral bases of legitimate political authority. We will also explore how prominent Muslim thinkers have sought to engage with and respond to the rise of nationalism, socialism, capitalism, democracy, human rights, colonialism, imperialism and Zionism.

R S 358D • Muslim Women In Politics

42475 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ 2.124
(also listed as ANT 324N, ISL 372, WGS 340)
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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 366 • Afr Religion In New World

42484 • Coleman Taylor, Ashley
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM PAR 206
GC (also listed as AFR 374E, LAS 322)
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Often interpreted as witchcraft, superstition, or paganism, African diaspora religions remain some of the most misunderstood traditions in the Americas. Although social scientists, philosophers, literary studies scholars, historians and religionists have contributed to the transdisciplinary theoretical and methodological foundation of the field, the traditions persist as an understudied element within larger religious studies discourse. In this course, we will explore the contributions of scholars and artists who engage African diaspora religions in their work through multiple conceptual approaches. The course focus includes topics such as ritual and material culture, corporeality and aesthetics, cosmology and philosophy, and decolonization and sovereignty within the traditions. Students can expect to gain an understanding of Kongo, Vodun, and Yoruba-based traditions across the Americas and the Caribbean as well as U.S. conjure culture.

R S 368 • Church & State In Lat Amer

42485 • Butler, Matthew
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM GAR 1.126
GC (also listed as HIS 346W, LAS 366)
show description

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


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

Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

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

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

Shorter readings (supplied)


Reading responses, 60%

Final essay, 40%

R S 373L • Science/Magic/Religion

42490 • Crosson, Jonathan
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM BUR 130
EGC (also listed as AFR 372G, AMS 327)
show description

In this course, we will interrogate the concepts of magic, science, and religion as culturally and historically constructed categories. We will critically examine how the construction of science and religion, as well as the opposition of empirical knowledge and belief, were central to both the Enlightenment and the formation of the social and natural sciences. Drawing on recent critiques of these foundational distinctions, we will question common-sense understandings of these categories and their relations:

• How did the experimental sciences emerge out practices of “natural magic,” hermeticism, or evidence law?
• How do our notions of religion reflect certain assumptions? What are other ways of categorizing practices we might deem as religion?
• How have the divisions between science, magic and religion, or between rationality and superstition, undergirded projects of modernity, colonization, and development?

R S 375S • Religion In The Workplace

42495 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 305
show description

This course examines the role of religion in the formation of the workplace in the United States. The course surveys a range of case studies, such as industrial chaplaincy in factory plants, religious freedom in corporate settings, the religious histories of office cubicles, the spirituality of food and livestock production, the religious politics of healthcare and hospitals, the evangelicalism of free enterprise, and the construction of divine beings as model managers and business CEOs. The goal of the course is to understand how religion has shaped how Americans understand the relationship between human labor and moral community.

R S 383C • Asceticism

42514 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM PAR 214
(also listed as ANS 384E)
show description

This thematic graduate seminar explores the multiple facets of asceticism. Based on concrete cases from South Asia and Mediterranean late antiquity (and other areas, depending on the interest of participants), we will discuss the variety of ascetic bodily practices; ascetic ideology; relations between norms and practices; functions of asceticism within society; gender aspects; asceticism and politics; critics of asceticism; and more. The case studies also provide the material basis for more theoretical questions about the definition and delineation of the scholarly term ‘asceticism’; the role of asceticism in general theories of culture and evolution; and the risks and benefits of a cross-cultural, comparative approach.

All readings will be available in PDF format on Canvas. Some general works are:

Wimbush/Valantasis, Asceticism (2005)
Haripada Chakraborti, Asceticism in ancient India (1973)
Peter Brown, The Body and Society (1988)
Creel/ Narayan (eds.), Monastic Life in the Christian and Hindu Traditions (1990)

R S 383T • Ethnographic Research Methods

42515 • Traphagan, John
Meets TH 1:00PM-4:00PM BUR 554
show description

This graduate seminar introduces students to the use of qualitative research methods in the social sciences and humanities. Although the course is situated in Religious Studies, it will cover basic ethnographic research techniques and theoretical issues related to research methodology that are appropriate for any discipline or field.  The aim of the course is to give students a general understanding of a variety of research methodologies and to combine this with theoretical discussion and practical experience.  We will explore debates and discussions related to the nature of qualitative data and the value and applicability of particular approaches; the conditions under which specific methods of data collection and analysis are most appropriate; ethical questions in qualitative research; and research design and implementation. Following this general introduction, we will devote the remainder of the class to covering practical aspects of qualitative research, including: gathering data through interviews, focus groups, observation and archival research; strategies for recording, coding and analyzing qualitative data; and evaluating and presenting qualitative research. The course will provide students with a solid foundation for using qualitative methods for PhD and MA thesis research.

R S 386C • Paul And Gospel Of Matthew

42519 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM MEZ 1.104
(also listed as C C 383, MEL 383)
show description


This graduate seminar examines the letters of Paul and the Gospel of Matthew with strong attention to their Jewish context in the first century CE.  Paul’s letters and the Gospel of Matthew are well-known as components of the New Testament that are notably embedded in Judaism of the late Second Temple Period.  This course will both address our sources for understanding Judaism of this period, and analysis of these New Testament writings with attention both to their use of the Old Testament, and to the influence of Jewish law and liturgy.  The goals of the seminar include: developing skills in using the sources for Judaism in the time period of late Second Temple Period Judaism to identify both commonalities and diversity among Jews of the time; to engage in analysis of the major letters attributed to Paul, and of the Gospel of Matthew, with key Jewish sources as the context; and to become acquainted with relevant secondary literature. 


Required Scholarly Books (available at the University Co-Op Bookstore; other readings will be distributed through Canvas):

E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BC to 67 AD

Anthony Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community

Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity

Neil Elliot, The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire

R S 387M • Coptic II

42525 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TH 9:30AM-12:30PM BUR 554 • Two-way Interactive Video
show description

The origins of the Coptic language are somewhat mysterious. It emerged in the first and second centuries CE, when a small group of linguistic innovators began to transliterate the Egyptian language into Greek characters along with a few letterforms borrowed from Demotic. The language increased in popularity and flourished from the fourth through seventh centuries among Christians in Egypt. Many late antique Egyptian Christians read the Bible in Coptic translation, and composed literature, magical texts, and private letters in the language as well. Coptic was even used sporadically as the language of bureaucracy. While Coptic is no longer spoken today, it lives on as one of the liturgical languages of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This course will build upon Coptic I, in which students were introduced to the fundamentals of Coptic grammar, by familiarizing students with many of the literary texts that survive in the language. In particular, we will read through, translate, and discuss several of the Christian “heretical” (Valentinian) texts discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945. All texts will be read in the original language. As a virtual class, students will gather in BUR 554 and connect with the professor and other students via Zoom.

R S 387M • Seeing Gods

42529 • Clarke, John
Meets M 1:00PM-4:00PM ART 3.432
show description

Please see graduate coordinator for more details.

R S 390T • Sovereignty In Islam:thry/Prac

42530 • Moin, A
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 554
(also listed as ANS 391, MES 386)
show description

The concept of sovereignty intersects religion and politics—sacredness and power—and is crucial to definitions of community and agency. We will examine scholarship on pre-modern and modern eras to understand the theoretical (doctrinal and cosmological) and practical (ritual and performative) basis of sovereignty in Muslim cultures in different world regions. Students will be introduced to a range of perspectives that draw upon history, religion, law, art, and architecture. The final part of the course consists of a research and tutorial phase in which students will work on a research project related to the themes of the seminar. In the final paper, students are welcome to explore comparisons between different parts of the Islamic world, between Muslim and other cultures, or between pre-modern and contemporary developments.

R S 391N • Appro To Study Of Relig In US

42535 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 128
show description

In this graduate reading seminar, we will study the historiography of religion in the United States, including classic works in the field, work by contemporary scholars, and a number of “state of the field” articles. The seminar will also focus on the craft of writing, including argumentation, use of evidence, and making historiographical interventions.

Selected texts: 

  • Curtis J. Evans, The Burden of Black Religion (2008)
  • Paul Christopher Johnson, Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa (2007)
  • Shari Rabin, Jews on the Frontier: Religion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America (2017)
  • Robert A. Orsi, History and Presence (2016)
  • Spencer Dew, The Aliites: Race and Law in the Religions of Noble Drew Ali (2019)
  • Kathryn Lofton, Consuming Religion (2017)
  • Elizabeth Pérez, Religion in the Kitchen (2016)
  • Darren Dochuk, Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America (2019)
  • Douglas Winiarski, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (2017)

R S 392T • Capitalism And Religion

42540 • Seales, Chad
Meets T 12:00PM-3:00PM BUR 554
(also listed as AMS 391)
show description

This course examines the reciprocal relationship between capitalism and religion, using two case studies in the United States: Industrialized Food and Industrial Chaplaincy.  Engaging sociological, anthropological, and historical approaches, we will track key themes of factory technology, the origins of the corporation, religion and business, emotional labor, spiritual consumption, and workplace spirituality, in order to narrate a religious genealogy of each case study of American capitalism.