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)
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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.

download syllabus

R S 304 • Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

43085 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM RLM 6.104
(also listed as CTI 304, HIS 304R, ISL 311, J S 311)
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This course will focus on the three related traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which originated in the "near east" and today have a global reach.  These religions are sometimes called "Abrahamic traditions" as they all claim a special relationship with the Biblical figure, Abraham.  We will explore the historical development, belief systems, practices, sacred texts, and cultural influences of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other.  by the end of the course, you can expect to have a basic understanding pf the essential characteristics of each tradition and the way they manifest in different cultural contexts in the past and present.  This class will also provide an introduction to the field of religious studies by exposing students to some of the interdisciplinary methods used to understand religion as a central component of human culture.  These methods include, but are not limited d to: historical methods, the study of ritual, and the analysis of ideas. 

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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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

43100 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM ART 1.102
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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 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 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43125 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM CLA 0.106
(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 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

43140 • Yoo, Philip
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM WAG 208
(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 the New Testament. The later part of the course will highlight some of the major Jewish and Christian interpreters of the Bible in the pre-modern and modern periods and how, through their own view of “scripturalism”, these interpreters understood and formulated responses to questions of human nature, humanity’s relationship to the supernatural, and the meaning of life.



The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version. Edited by Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, and Carol Newsom. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. (indicated by NOAB in the Plan of Study, below)


Course Pack with selections from Readings from Philo, Rabbinic Literature, Qur’anic Literature, Maimonides, Augustine, Luther, Spinoza, Mendelsohn, Kierkegaard, and others.



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

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43135 • Fitzgerald, Ryan
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM CLA 0.118
(also listed as CTI 304)
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This course examines some of the most influential narratives in the Bible and how they have been interpreted through history. The main theme of the course will be relationships. What kinds of readings of the Bible have influenced relationships between women and men historically? What kinds of readings have determined policies on racial or gender segregation? How have biblical interpretations affected national agendas? How do people use the Bible to relate to a particular version of the divine? This course will attend to the ways that thinkers through history have used the Bible and its interpreters to guide philosophies about relationships between men and women, self and “other,” and human and divine. Reading the varieties of these interpretations will give students a general understanding of both how biblical texts were written and how their significances changed over time. This course will make efforts to highlight the contributions to biblical interpretation made by historically marginalized demographics, at times at the expense of more famous interpreters. As such, along with traditionally valorized biblical figures like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Jesus, we will read the stories of strong women like Hagar, Tamar, and the Syrophoenician woman. Likewise, in addition to some of the most influential interpreters of the Bible such as Augustus, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther, we will study contributions made by female pioneers in biblical interpretation such as Julian of Norwich, Angelina Grimké, and Mary Baker Eddy, as well as interpretations from various non-European perspectives. This balance aims to give students both some familiarity with some of the dominant currents of narrative and interpretation while including other perspectives that have too often gone unheard. 


Required texts

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fully Revised Fourth Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) or The HarperCollins Study Bible, Fully Revised and Updated (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). If you have neither, get the Oxford Bible.  Course packet 



Reading Reports (6) 20%

Short essays (2) 20%

Final essay draft 15%

Final essay 25%

Movie analysis 10%

Attendance 10% 

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43145 • Kim, Jin Young
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 316K • Amer Jews: The Yiddish Exp

43150 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GDC 2.402
(also listed as AMS 315, GSD 310, J S 311)
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Topic 9 

Course Description: Using literature, film and critical essays this course will examine the immigrant Jewish experience namely the Jews who came to the United States from Eastern Europe beginning in the late 19th century. We will study in particular the culture of the immigrants and the influence they had on American history and popular culture (for example: tin pan alley, garment industry, worker's unions, Hollywood, television and Jewish humor). The language that these Jews brought with them was Yiddish and we will look at the Yiddish theater in American, the press, literature, Yiddish films. But no knowledge of Yiddish is required. Other topics include Jews in smaller communities (including Galveston).

Textbooks: These books will be available for purchase at the University Coop. 

  •  World of our Fathers by Irving Howe
  • Jews Without Money Michael Gold
  • Bread Givers  novel by Anzia Yezierska
  • Yekl  novel by Abraham Cahan

There will be no packet but articles assigned on Canvas.

Grading: There will be two short papers (3 - 4 pages) 30% of grade, and a longer paper (8 - 10 pages)  40% of grade, attendance and participation 30%.


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, CTI 310, J S 311)
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Topic 3 - The Rise of Christianity  is an introduction to the origins and development of Christianity.

R S 341 • Jainism: Relig Of Non-Violence

43174 • Maes, Claire
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ 1.102
(also listed as ANS 340)
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With its emphasis on vegetarianism, its modern discourse on ecology and its regard for all life-forms, Jainism is commonly and justly known as the religion of non-violence. Having its historical origins in North India about 25OO years ago, Jainism is an ancient but thriving religion. It has a distinctive community of both male and female ascetics and a supporting community of laypeople. Jainism’s unique theory of karma, ethics of non-violence (ahimsa), and its multisided approach (anekantavada) to truth and reality have influenced in some way or other all major religions and orthodox philosophical traditions in India.

This course will introduce students to this fascinating religion by examining its history, doctrines, philosophical tenets and religious practices. Students will learn about Jainism’s dynamic contribution to the religious and cultural heritage of South Asia. Readings will be drawn from primary sources, contemporary Jain writings and secondary scholarly literature. In the second part of the course, we will move on to a thematic discussion of Jainism. Themes will center on gendered experience of religion, devotion and divinity, the relationship between laypeople and monastics, pilgrimage and festivals, Jain views on life and death, its ethics of non-violence and its modern discourse on ecology. This thematic approach will encourage students to engage with these various themes from the perspectives of their own background and interests. Each student will write a research paper and give a class presentation on a topic of her or his choice.



Cort, John E., Jains in the World. Religious Values and Ideology in India. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. (Available as electronic resource at University of Texas Libraries)

Long, Jeffrey D., Jainism: An Introduction. London & New York: I. B. Tauris, 2009.




Attendance and Participation: 10 %

Four Quizzes: 40 % (10% each)

Oral Presentation: 25%

Writing assignment: 25%


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 352 • Shamanism & The Primitive

43205 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CLA 0.118
(also listed as ANS 340, ANT 324L, REE 345)
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Course Number: R S 342 Course Title: Shamans and the Idea of Shamanism Semester / Year: Spring 2018 Instructor & Rank: Jason Parker-Roberts, Lecturer Cross Listings: ANT, REE, ANS • Upper division course, small seminar format, ideally MW or TTh • Religious Studies course, cross-lists with Slavic Studies, anthropology, (Asian Studies is of secondary interest if only 3 cross-listings are possible.) • Course level flag through Slavic Studies: world culture All over the world, we find people who are called (and who call themselves) “shamans.” But what does the term really tell us about the people to whom it is applied? The word itself probably originates from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia, and may have already been in use for more than a millennium when it was introduced to the West after Russian forces conquered the shamanistic Khanate of Kazan in 1552. Yet in anthropology and the study of religion – let alone in popular culture – the use of the word “shaman” extends well beyond the Tungusic Siberian context from which it was borrowed. It has assumed the form and function of a universal category even as it has come to refer to people whose beliefs, practices, and even appearances are wildly varied. So, what makes a shaman a shaman? And what, moreover, is “shamanism?” This upper division course uses anthropological as well as historical literature focusing on shamans and shamanism in Central Asia to examine such beliefs and practices as three-worlds symbolism, divination, spirit helpers, drumming, chanting, dancing, hallucinogens, trance, and soul retrieval. However, it also examines the ways in which various theories of shamanism constitute and appropriate the exotic in a variety of broadly construed religious settings – the ways in which westerners, from missionaries to social scientists, have viewed the beliefs and practices of the shaman as an “ism” analogous to a religion even when that is not necessarily the case. Students of this course will learn to identify the major theories of “shamanism” along with the inherent biases of those theories in order to better read accounts of shamans and “shamanism” (from historical to modern, anthropological to popular) against the grain and discern when collected data reveals as much about the observers as it does about the shamans they observe.

R S 353 • Abraham & Abrahamic Religion

43210 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM WAG 208
(also listed as J S 363, MEL 321, MES 342)
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Abraham and Abrahamic Religions

 The biblical character Abraham is considered to be the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by each religion’s adherents. How did Abraham become “Father Abraham?” Why does each of these three communities claim to be the people of Abraham exclusively? The primary aims of this course are to explore how Abraham is presented in the book of Genesis and how each of these religions transforms Abraham into a key figure of their tradition. After examining the figures of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and his sons Ishmael and Isaac in Genesis 12–25, the remainder of the course will consist of exploring how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each retell the story of Abraham and his family. We will take note of the interpretive strategies employed by each tradition as it utilizes the story of Abraham in constructing a communal narrative of chosenness. Some attention will be paid to how participants in contemporary inter-religious dialogue approach the figure of Abraham. This course requires no prior exposure to biblical literature or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


R S 353D • The Dead Sea Scrolls

43215 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM PAR 201
(also listed as AHC 330, CTI 375, HIS 364G, J S 364, MEL 321, MES 342)
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Dead Sea Scrolls

For almost seventy years, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has influenced significantly our understanding of Second Temple Judaism, the formation of the Bible, and the origins of the religious movements of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. This course presents an in-depth study of the Dead Sea Scrolls in order to understand better the development of law, interpretation, ritual, messianism, apocalypticism, and prayer in the late Second Temple period. This course will include discussion of the archaeology of the Qumran community, textual production and transmission in antiquity, scribal practices in antiquity, and pseudonymous authorship.

R S 357 • Christian Quest For Meaning

43219 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM CLA 0.122
(also listed as CTI 375)
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From the first century through the present day, Christians have reflected on and debated what it means to live a Christian life. What is the significance of Jesus' life and death for the community of believers? What is the proper way to find guidance in sacred writings? What must a person do to be considered righteous in God's eyes? What is the ideal way way to conduct one's daily life? What are the requirements for participation or leadership in a Christian community? Do gender, racial, sexual, or class differences matter? What responsibilities does a Christian have regarding broader society, and what relationship should one have toward political authorities? Under what circumstances is it necessary to suffer or die for one's faith? These and related questions will be explored by reading and discussing selections from Christian writers from the New Testament, late antiquity, the middle ages, the Reformation, and modernity.

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 357 • Puritanism/Brit Civil Wars

43218 • Powell, Hunter
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM BUR 224
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G)
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This course examines one of the most pivotal periods in Transatlantic British History. The 17th Century

was the early modern high water mark of English political and religious thought and gave rise to the Puritan

Revolution (commonly known as the British Civil Wars). In this course we will examine the role of the

Protestant Reformation in directing the course of events in England, Scotland, and New England and how

irreconcilable religious disputes ultimately led to military conflict. In examining this period will see how

the debates and decisions made through Britain’s Revolution fundamentally changed the relationship

between church and state in the English speaking world. Topics will include: English Reformation,

Puritanism, British Monarchies (Henry VII through Charles I), Oliver Cromwell, the settling of New England,

Westminster Assembly, Scotland, Ireland, Parliamentary history, the British Civil Wars, Religious Radicalism,

and Interregnum England.


Bremer, Francis J., The Puritan Experiment:  New England Society from Bradford to Edwards (2012) (selected Chapters)

Coffey, John and Lim, Paul C.H., The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (selected chapters) 

Hirst, Derek, England in Conflict, 1603-1660 (1999) (selected chapters)

Holmes, Clive, Why Was Charles I executed? (2006)

Morrill, John, Oliver Cromwell (2007)

Morrill, John, The Nature of the English Revolution (1993) (selected chapters)

Seaver, Paul S., Wallington’s World:  A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London (1988)

Spurr, John, English Puritanism, 1603-1689 (1998) (selected chapters)

Worden, Blair, God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell (2012) (selected chapters)



25% - class participation and short reading summaries

25% - midterm essay

50% - Final Paper 

R S 357 • Satan And The Idea Of Evil

43220 • Lang, Elon
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 308
(also listed as CTI 345)
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Course Description

Since antiquity, writers have attempted to understand and define the idea of evil by giving it a voice. From the perspective of the Devil, some of the world's greatest creative thinkers have sought to challenge the intellectual resolve and rigor of their faiths while encouraging their characters and audiences to query the strength and doctrine of their own beliefs. As a result, through temptation narratives, morality dramas, cultural satires, and Faustian dilemmas, explorations of “the Adversary” have yielded some of the most compelling stories and characters ever imagined. In this course students will become familiar with the history and breadth of Satan’s role as a character (or merely background presence) in literature while developing close-reading techniques for literary analysis that can be applied across diverse eras, forms, and genres. Students will be asked to strengthen their critical reading and writing skills and to consider how our class topic can help illuminate aspects of our present-day culture and its history.


Required readings

Readings will be drawn from several periods of English and American literature, and European literature in translation. We will read selections from the Bible, Medieval poetry, drama, and mystical writing, Dante's Inferno, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, Goethe’s Faust, Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Charles Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Mark Twain's No. 44—The Mysterious Stranger, C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, and the early 21st-century novel by Glen Duncan titled I, Lucifer. Students' final projects may involve the analysis of another modern novel, the development of a creative exploration of Satan’s nature, or a detailed comparative analysis of themes across several texts in our class.


Requirements and Grading

Class participation and online discussions (20%)

1 long final paper or creative project (20%)

4 short papers plus 1 revision (60%)

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 goal 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 • Anthropology Of Religion

43275 • Crosson, Jonathan
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM CLA 0.122
(also listed as ANT 324L, LAS 324L)
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Course Number: R S 373

Course Title: Anthropology of Religion

Semester / Year: Spring 2018

Cross-Listings: ANT, AFR, LAS


The anthropology of religion has been central to the disciplines of both cultural anthropology and religious studies. This course traces a genealogy of the anthropology of religion from the nineteenth century to the present. We will focus on some foundational theories and debates, before focusing on contemporary case studies. These case studies will include works on Islam in Europe, nationalism, Christianity in Indonesia, Afro-Caribbean religions, and third wave Pentecostals in the U.S.

Texts / Readings:

Sean McCloud. American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary U.S. Mayanthi Fernando. The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism. Elizabeth Perez. Religion in the Kitchen: Cooking, Talking, and Making the Black Atlantic. Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities. Evans-Pritchard. Witchcraft Among the Azande. Carla Freeman. Entrepreneurial Selves (excerpts)

Grading Policy:

Reading Quizzes 30% Reading Journals 30% Participation Exercises 30% Final 10%

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%

R S 375S • The Crusades

43292 • Newman, Martha
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM CLA 1.108
(also listed as AHC 330, EUS 346, HIS 350L)
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This course has a Writing Flag and an Independent Inquiry Flag and I will apply for a Global Cultures Flag.  Crosslist with Religious Studies

What were the crusades?  Was a crusade an armed pilgrimage, holy war, or a war of conquest?  What motivated those who fought and those supported these expeditions?  What were the political, cultural, and religious developments that led to the crusades and what were their legacies both in Europe and in the eastern Mediterranean?   This research seminar explores these questions by examining both accounts of crusades written by medieval authors and modern historians' interpretations of these documents.  In the process, we will investigate religious encounters between eastern and western Christians, Christian heretics, Jews, Muslims, and polytheists; political, military, and cultural changes of the high middle ages; and the ways that crusading ideas and symbols have been reused in contemporary politics and popular culture.


Jonathan Riley-Smith. The Crusades:  A History  Yale, 2005  

Robert the Monk, History of the First Crusade, trans. Carol Sweetenham (Ashgate, 2006).

The Song of Roland.  Trans. Michael Newth. (Italica Press, 2015)

Joinville and Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades (Penguin, 2009)

Selected documents and articles in a reader.

Class attendence, preparation, discussion, and in-class work:         25%

Research paper on a topic of a student's choice (15 pages):             75%

            Library Assignment/ Annotated bibliography     5%

            Source analysis                                                       5%

            Draft                                                                           20%

            Oral presentation                                                     10%

            Peer Review of others                                              5%

            Final draft                                                                  30%