Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

43184 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM UTC 3.122
(also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 304)
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This course offers a survey of major religious traditions of Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism in South and East Asia, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto). It focuses on the historical development of their beliefs, practices, rituals, and customs in social context. The course will combine lectures with class discussions on readings.
Course materials:
Willard G. Oxtoby, Roy C. Amore, Amir Hussain, eds. World Religions: Eastern Traditions. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014; R. K. Narayan, The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000: Zhuangzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003; readings provided as PDF files on Canvas.
Attendance/participation: 20%
Two quizzes: 20% (10% each)
Two short essays: 20% (10% each)
Midterm exam: 20%
Final exam: 20%

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43190 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM UTC 3.110
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This course is an introduction to the study of the forms, functions, and meanings of religious practices as observed in human cultures. Surveying classical and contemporary approaches, we will examine how scholars have historically defined religion as an interpretive category. It will quickly become clear that few scholars agree on a definition or on a best method for study. This course will encourage you to define your subject of study and construct your own methods of theoretical analysis. To help you with this task, we will work together on specific case studies of religious practices in particular places.


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


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

R S 313 • Jewish Studies: An Intro

43197 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM MEZ 2.124
(also listed as ANT 310L, J S 311, MES 310)
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Course Description:

This course introduces students to major themes in Jewish Studies and to the UT faculty who work in the field. It has three thematic units: “Exile and Diaspora,” “Jewish Identity,” and “Jewish Ethics.” On Mondays and Wednesdays faculty offer lectures related to one of the themes. Fridays are dedicated to discussion.

Grade Distribution:

  • 25% Attendance and Participation
  • 15% Discussion leadership and memo
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 1: Exile and Diaspora
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 2: Jewish Identity
  • 20% Short paper (2-3 pages) unit 3: Jewish Ethics

Course Readings:

Selections from Jewish Studies: A Theoretical. Introduction (Key Words in Jewish Studies), by Andrew Busch (Rutgers University Press, 2013).

Selections from The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies (Oxford Handbooks), Edited by Martin Goodman, Jeremy Cohen, David Sorkin (2005).

Selections from The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality (Oxford Handbooks), Edited by Elliot N Dorff and Jonathan N. Crane (Reprint edition 2016)

Other readings and films as supplied by guest lecturers

R S 313M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

43200 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAR 304
(also listed as HIS 306N, J S 304M, MES 310)
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This course is a survey of Jewish civilization from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E.  All materials are in English translation. The course is taught primarily from the standpoint of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, in the sense that the course will address both the history of Jews during this long period, and the most influential writings produced during that time.  There will be some focus on the persons and writings that have been most influential for Jewish Civilization over time, including into the modern world.  This course is the first half of a two-semester sequence, and another course taught regularly in Spring semester addresses Jewish Civilization from 1492 to the present. 

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

R S 315 • Russian Icons/Propaganda

43207 • Roberts, Jason
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 108
(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

43210 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM WAG 208
(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

43225 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GDC 2.410
(also listed as CTI 304)
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The figure of Moses looms large in biblical tradition, in the religions that revere him (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and in Western thought. In this course, we will begin by examining the figure of Moses in the Bible (with a focus on Exodus and Deuteronomy) and the various roles he plays in the biblical tradition including prophet, priest, king, and legislator. We will then turn to examine the reception of Moses in Second Temple Judaism (Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls), Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Islam. The later part of the course will explore the way this variegated tradition has been used to inform Western thought through reading selections from representative works such as Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise and Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism. We will conclude our study of Moses by examining how Moses has been portrayed in American history and by evaluating the descriptions of Moses in High School Social Studies textbooks.


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


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

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43235 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM JES A303A
(also listed as CTI 304)
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THE BIBLE AND ITS INTERPRETERS examines the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, the New Testament, and their significance over time.  This particular course will focus on the emergence of three longstanding religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) through the interpretation of sacred and foundational writings.  We will begin by examining the transmission and development of scriptural themes within Ancient Israel, identifying within the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament variations or re-tellings of common scenes, prophetic visions, and religious practices.  We will then examine the New Testament as interpreting and transforming the Old Testament to provide foundations for Christianity, with emphasis on Paul’s letters as well as elements of the Gospels.  The later part of the course will highlight three later texts that emphasize three trajectories of interpretation and innovation: the church Father Augustine’s Confessions for Christianity, the rabbinic anthology The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan for Judaism, and the Koran for Islam.  In each case we will emphasize the expansion and transformation of biblical sources in setting the course for each religion.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43230 • Henriques, James
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM GAR 0.128
(also listed as CTI 304)
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R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43220 • Yoo, Philip
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM RLP 0.106
(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 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43245 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM ART 1.102
(also listed as C C 304C, 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.



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 319 • Introduction To Islam

43255 • Moin, A
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.306
(also listed as ANS 301M, ISL 310)
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This course provides an introduction to the religion of Islam. It is designed for students with a general interest in the Islamic world, in religion, or in History. We will examine the theology, history, and main social and legal institutions of Islam. Islam, as a major system of belief in the world, is experienced by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Consequently, besides studying the basic tenets and texts of the religion, this course will focus on the variety of ways in which Muslims and non-Muslims have understood and interpreted Islam. We will review the debates surrounding the life of the prophet of Islam, Islamic pre-modern and modern history, the Islamic concept of God and society, the role of women, and finally, Islamic government and movements. The course is designed for students with a general interest in the Islamic world, religions, or history. No prior knowledge of Islam or Islamic history is necessary.


To be provided by instructor. 


To be provided by instructor.

R S 346 • Evangelical Christianity

43265 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ 1.204
(also listed as AMS 327)
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This course is an introduction to the intellectual and social sources of evangelical Protestant traditions in the United States. It examines varieties of evangelical beliefs and practices. In the first section of the course, we address the self-professed ethical struggle of evangelicals to be in but not of the world.  We historically contextualize that struggle, tracing its more recent expressions back to the categorical rupture between sacred “selves” and profane “society” that was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.  In our second section of readings, we study how evangelicals continually work out this ethical tension in their everyday lives.  Surveying a range of themes, including science, sexuality, politics, and environmentalism, we examine how evangelicals have defined themselves in opposition to secular society but also have engaged the secular in an effort to convert souls, manage personal behavior, and transform American society in their image of Christian community. By the end of this course, students should be able to defensibly define “who is an American evangelical.”  They should be able to construct a broad historical narrative of nineteenth and twentieth century American evangelicalism.  And they should be able to use this narrative to evaluate evangelical encounters in the twenty-first century with at least one sub-type of American culture listed on the syllabus.


  • Mark Noll, American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction (2001).
  • Additional readings posted on Blackboard.


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

R S 346 • Hinduism In US Pop Culture

43257 • Maes, Claire
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM JES A205A
(also listed as ANS 340)
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R S 346 • Latina/O Spirituality

43259 • Gonzalez-Martin, Rachel
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM GWB 1.130
(also listed as AMS 370, MAS 374)
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This course introduces students to the religious and spiritual practices of diverse Latina/o populations living in the United States. Students will work with primary and secondary texts, ethnographic film and museum exhibitions to examine the diverse ways in which Latina/o communities’ create spiritual meaning in their lives. It will examine the religious and spiritual practices from the vantage point of transition and change as a way of understanding larger aspects of cultural and social change within 21st century U.S. Latina/o publics. This course incorporates materials and theoretical approaches relevant to multiple diasporic Latina/o communities including Afro Latino and Indigenous migrant communities. Students will learn about the diverse aspects of Latina/o spiritual, from the history of Latina/o Catholicism, to influences of West African ritual, to the rise of Latina/o Muslim conversion in the United States. It will expressly look at cultural productions from the vantage points of gender and race politics, and incorporate the spiritual tradition of women, queer communities, and various “othered” Latina/o identifying community members.


  • Aponte, Edward David. 2012. Santo!: Varieties of Latina/o Spirituality. New York: Orbis.  
  • Baez, Edward J. "Spirituality and the Gay Latino Client." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 4, no. 2 (1996): 69-81.  
  • Daniel, Yvonne. 2005. Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble. Urbana: University of Illinois Press Otero, Solimar. 2014.  
  • Yemoja: Gender, Sexuality, and Creativity in the Latina/o and Afro-Atlantic Diasporas. Albany: State University of New York Press.  
  • Perez, Laura E. 2007. Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities. Durham: Duke University Press  
  • Rodriguez, Roberto C. 2014. Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press  
  • Romero Cash, Marie. 1998. Living Shrines: Home Altars of New Mexico. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press


  • Minute Papers/Attendance 10%  
  • 3 Film/Art-Exhibit Reviews 15%  
  • Project Proposal & Annotated Bibliography 20%  
  • Midterm Exam 20%  
  • Final Exam 15%  
  • Final Project 20%

R S 346 • US Music/Religious Identity

43260 • Roberts, Jason
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM PHR 2.114
(also listed as AMS 325, MUS 376G)
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Music can play an important part in the formation of a religious identity. How a religious community uses its voices, the words it sings, which instruments are deemed acceptable, and aspects of music such as melody, harmony, polyphony, and rhythm all combine in specific ways that are recognized as “religious,” or more specifically, as belonging to a particular religious tradition (or not!). Additionally, musical performance conventions – the physical embodiment of religious music – can reflect religious conceptions of the individual in relation to the divine as well as to his or her community. Likewise, the music rejected by a given religious community (“the Devil’s music!”) can be as defining as the music it embraces. From Catholic Gregorian chant, to Jewish camp songs, from African-American gospel music to Sacred Harp singing, from Lutheran hymns to Islamic recitation, and including many other traditions, this upper-division, undergraduate course explores the diversity of the American experience of religious identity through its musical traditions. Come ready to read and discuss but also ready to listen to and sing some of the music we will talk about. One of our tools for exploring the relationship of religious music to religious identity is “theory of the body” and an important part of understanding embodiment is experiencing it! This course includes includes both writing and "cultural diversity in the U.S." flags.

Basis for evaluation: 

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

Required Texts:

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

R S 353 • Debating Genesis

43279 • Wells, Bruce
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.302
(also listed as J S 363)
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R S 353 • Paul And His Social World

43280 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM JGB 2.202
(also listed as C C 348)
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Perhaps no other follower of Jesus has influenced the Christian tradition to the degree that the apostle Paul has. Among the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, his name appears on nearly half of them. He is variously remembered as the second founder of Christianity, the great apostle, and an apostate from Judaism. But who was Paul of Tarsus? What traditions influenced him? What did he teach, and how did others interpret his teachings?  This course will examine the life and letters of this first-century Jewish missionary, by interpreting Paul’s own writings within the context of diaspora Judaism and the broader Greco-Roman world. We will also explore his legacy within the early church, by considering some of the interesting and perhaps unexpected ways that later canonical and extra-canonical Christian authors tailored Paul’s teachings to suit their own contexts.        


  • John Gager, Reinventing Paul
  • Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians
  • Richard Pervo, The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity


  • 3 short essays, 5-6 pages (45%, 15% ea)
  • Final Paper, 10-12 pages (40%)
  • Attendance and participation (15%)

R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

43285 • King, Bradley
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GAR 0.132
(also listed as C C 348)
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Study of the early Christian writings that were not included in the Christian Bible. Examines issues such as the effect of narrative, religion and violence, gendered expectations for women and men, the uses of fantasy literature, and religious authority.

R S 357 • Geog Religion E Euro/Russia

43295 • Jordan, Bella
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 220
(also listed as GRG 356T, REE 345)
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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.


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


Examples of topics for discussion:

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

2) Reformation and Protestant groups in Eastern Europe

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

4) The Shatter Zone: Balkan Religious and Ethnic Identities

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

Molokane, Kristovery and other Russian Protestants

6) Eastern Orthodox Church in Armenia and Georgia

7) Vestiges of Paganism in the Baltic Countries

8) Religious Revival in Post-Soviet Russia

9) Religious Identities in Contemporary Russia

10) Major Muslim Peoples of Russia: Tradition and Innovation

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

12) Lamaist Buddhist Ethnic Republics of the Russian Federation

13) Siberian Shamanism: Introduction to Theory and Practice

14) Siberian Shamanism: the Flight of the Sacred

15) Religious Art, Philosophy and Literature

16) Leo Tolstoy and Fedor Dostoevsky on Christianity

17) Religious Architecture and Sacred Spaces

18) Religious Festivals and Pilgrimages

19) Religious Revival portrayed in Russian Cinema

20) Russian Orthodox Church Portrayal in Zvyagintsev ‘Leviathan’

R S 357 • Jewish Folklore

43290 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GDC 5.304
(also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, J S 363)
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Dybbuks, golems, evil eye are just some of the more well-known aspects of Jewish folklore, but this course will also examine the folklife of the Jews, their world view, their folk beliefs and fears. Call it folk religion if you will; many of these practices were dismissed by the "offical" Jewish religion as unJewish, but the "folk" persisted and eventually the practice became Judaized and accepted. The influence of the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, also led to the introduction of many customs.

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


Grading Policy

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


Reading List

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

R S 357 • Machiavelli

43291 • Frazier, Alison
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GAR 0.132
(also listed as AHC 330, CTI 375, HIS 350L, LAH 350)
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This upper-division research seminar takes students through Niccolò Machiavelli’s chief writings. We consider the local, regional, Mediterranean, European, and global aspects of his work. Through class discussion and short written assignments (20%), students will identify a research topic in consultation with the professor.
There are no prerequisites but His 343g “Italian Renaissance” (offered Spr 2016) is strongly recommended.
Readings will include:
Machiavelli: The Prince; The Discourses; The Art of War; Mandragola; Clizia; The Florentine Histories; selected letters and short writings (buy the required translations)
Black: Machiavelli (the best recent biography)
Najemy, ed.: Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli
Course packet of scholarly articles

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

R S 357 • Twelfth-Cent Renais: 1050-1200

43292 • Newman, Martha
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM CBA 4.344
(also listed as AHC 330, EUS 346, HIS 344G)
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European society changed so rapidly and extensively between 1050 and 1200 that medievalists often call it a "renaissance," ( a period of rebirth not to be confused with the later Italian Renaissance.) During this period, agricultural technologies changed, new forms of religious life developed, schools and universities emerged, cathedrals were built, towns became self-governing, and royal governments experimented with new forms of administration and law. Though a reading of primary documents - including love letters, memoirs, accounts of religious visions, chronicles of urban revolts, court poetry, theological treatises, and artistic creations – this course examines a series of these intellectual, religious, social, and political developments.

The goals of this course are for students 1) to identify the important events and figures in this period of rapid change; 2) to learn to read and analyze different types of medieval documents;  3) to understand how historical arguments and accounts are constructed from the analysis of primary documents; 4) to understand the interconnections between economic, social, religious, and cultural developments; and 5) to construct and write their own historical analyses.


R S 358 • Arts Of Islam, 650-1500

43312 • Mulder, Stephennie
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM DFA 2.204
(also listed as ARH 328J, ISL 373, MEL 321)
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This course will survey Islamic visual culture from its beginnings in the seventh century A.D. up to the sixteenth century. Our object is to investigate the temporal, spatial, and experiential aspects of Islamic architecture (including forms as varied as mosques, shrines, palaces, schools, and warehouses) - as well as the largely secular and often strongly figural tradition of Islamic painting, sculpture, ceramic, metal and glass objects. In particular, we will pay attention to how buildings and artistic objects were used: in which contexts, and by whom. We will explore the tension between the rich and diverse regionalism of Islamic art and its simultaneous universal identity. Has Islam, as one of the world’s great religions, given a special character to its art? Or is the term “Islamic” perhaps a misnomer to describe an artistic tradition that spans 1,400 years and three continents? We will also ask how certain external factors - for example accidents of preservation (i.e. more religious monuments survive than secular ones), or the many ways non-Muslims have perceived Islam – produced certain narratives about its artistic culture, both scholarly and popular.

R S 358 • Religions Of Middle East

43310 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM UTC 3.122
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342)
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How is Christianity in Egypt different from Christianity in the U.S.?  What is Zoroastrianism?  Is there a relationship between Islam and the Baha’i religion?  These are the types of questions that this course is intended to answer.  The course will provide an overview of the religious landscape of the Middle East, with units on Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Eastern Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i religion.  Using a history of religions approach, we will examine the cosmological doctrines, founding narratives, scriptures, moral principles, and ritual practices of each of these traditions.

R S 358 • Sacred & Ceremonl Textiles

43309 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM JES A303A
(also listed as ANT 324L, ISL 372, WGS 340)
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Textiles and material objects indigenous to the Islamic world, and what they reveal about the culture of various Islamic societies.

R S 358 • Sex/Sexuality Muslim World

43304 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 136
(also listed as ISL 372, WGS 335)
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Although issues about sexuality are assumed to be personal, private, and intimate, they are a significant part of the public and political fabric of our society, particularly those nations that are ruled by the religious constitutions or in which religion plays an important role within the culture of the society. Sexuality is related to our status and rights as citizens. For the most part sexual jurisprudence and the issue of sexuality in Islam are covered in the Qur`an (Holy scripture), and in the sayings of prophet Muhammad (hadith), and in the rulings of religious leaders (fatwa). However, there are multiple “Islamic” views on sexuality. The schools of law vary, for instance, in the rulings about the permissibility of the use of contraceptives, abortion, fertility treatment, and acceptance of homosexuality, lesbianism, transsexuality, bisexuality, cross-dressing, and gender re-assignment. In addition, numerous cultural interventions could be responsible for interpretation of sexual behavior of a given society.


In general permissible sexual relationships as described in Islamic sources speak about the pleasure of sex as a normal human desire and explain that sex is a great way for the couples involved to show their love and caring for each other. At the same time there are prohibitions against extra marital sexual relations, and any other form of sexual relationship that is outside the legal and religious binds of marriage between a man and a woman is strictly forbidden.  


This course will introduce students to readings on sexual behavior in several Islamic countries and among Muslims by examining Islamic Sharia (religious law) in literature, scientific biological, psychological, sociological, anthropological studies as well as in the arena of art, and film industry.

R S 366 • Religions Of The Caribbean

43335 • Crosson, Jonathan
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 112
(also listed as AFR 372G, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)
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In this course we will discuss the politics of religious practices in the Greater Caribbean, from Vodou and Rastafari to popular Hinduism. As a region, the Greater Caribbean encompasses the islands of the insular Caribbean, the Caribbean coasts of Central America and South America, Brazil, and the centers of Caribbean trans-migration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (this course will focus on Caribbean diasporas in New York City, for example). While the Caribbean is usually seen as African diasporic and Christian, West and Central African religions, Hinduism, Islam, spiritism, European esotericism, and indigenous religions all maintain long-standing and vibrant presences. We immerse ourselves in the complex nexus of Caribbean religions through explorations of practices including Cuban-Kongo religion, Haitian vodou, U.S. fantasies of voodoo and U.S. interventions in the Caribbean, Hindu popular religions in Trinidad and Guyana, Islam in the Caribbean, Black Carib religion in New York and Honduras, and Rastafarianism in Jamaica.


  1. Barry Chevannes. Rastafari: Roots and Ideology
  2. William Earle and Srinivas Aravamudan. Obi; or the History of Three-Fingered Jack
  3. Karen McCarthy Brown. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn
  4. Paul Christopher Johnson. Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and theRecovery of Africa
  5. Aisha Khan, ed. Islam and the Americas
  6. Todd Ramón Ochoa. Society of the Dead: Quita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba


  • Class Attendance and Participation (15%)
  • Two Midterms  (25% each)
  • Final Exam (35%)

R S 373 • History Of Christmas

43340 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM BUR 134
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This course will explore the evolution of the modern Christmas holiday, beginning with the birth stories of Jesus in the New Testament and concluding with the supposed “War on Christmas,” which some recent commentators believe has sought to remove the Christian religious roots of the holiday. Topics to be addressed include: non-Christian antecedents to and influences on Christmas; canonical and apocryphal stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood; the designation of Christmas on Dec. 25th in the fourth century; the raucous and subversive character of Christmas celebrations in the medieval and early modern periods; the sharp criticism of Christmas by the Puritans; the fixing of the current American version of Christmas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; the contemporary debate over the constitutionality of religious Christmas displays in public places.



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



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

R S 373 • Occultism And Modernity

43344 • Bogdan, Carl
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM CMA 5.190
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Prof. Henrik Bogdan

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of Western esotericism, a relatively new field of research which covers a wide range of currents and practices such as magic, astrology and alchemy. The course will focus on modern forms of esotericism from 18th century Freemasonry to esoteric New Religious Movements such as the modern Witchcraft movement (Wicca), Satanism and the New Age Movement. More specifically, the course will consider how esoteric practitioners responded to major changes in Western religion and spirituality due to the processes of modernity and secularization. By the end of the course, students will have an understanding of the major theoretical approaches to the study of Western esotericism and be familiar with several forms of modern esotericism.

Principal required texts:

  • Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: Bloomsbury, 2013
  • Hugh B. Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

There will also be additional articles and book chapters to be posted on Canvas.


  • 50% Exams (midterm & final)
  • 30% Research paper
  • 20% Participation and attendance

R S 373M • Biomedicine, Ethics, & Cul

43350 • Traphagan, John
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM BUR 208
(also listed as ANS 361, ANT 324L)
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Health-care professionals, bio-medical researchers, patients, and families in all societies are increasingly faced with ethical issues that arise because of new medical technologies and because of alternative approaches to health and illness. This course focuses on ethical questions such as allocation of medical resources, stem cell research and cloning, organ transplantation, abortion, human experimentation, prolonging life and the right to die, suicide, euthanasia, and the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses such as Alzheimer disease, AIDS, and mental disorders.

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

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

R S 375S • Comparing Religions

43354 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets W 4:00PM-7:00PM PAR 103
(also listed as ANS 379)
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Comparing religions is nothing new. Religious people have always compared their beliefs and practices with those of their neighbors, sometimes with a sincere religious interest, sometimes only to claim the superiority of their own religion. When the academic discipline of Religious Studies was established in the late 19th century, scholars sought to compare without favoring a particular religious tradition. They were struck by the fact that the religions of the world seemed to have similar – or completely different – answers to the same existential questions. Some religious expressions (beliefs, practices, literature, art, institutions, etc.) appeared drastically different and others strikingly similar. Some scholars wondered if comparing religions would reveal a common sacred truth that underlay all the diverse forms of religious phenomena, while others warned that assuming such a religious essence was not an analytical but rather a religious assertion. Critics of comparison say that by alleging analogies in other cultures Western scholars impose their own concepts on those cultures, while comparativists insist that because all scholarly categories are comparative, comparison is indispensable. Analyzing those debates, this course will explore the risks and benefits of comparison in the study of religion. We will discuss and evaluate potential goals of a comparative study and develop ways in which it may be conducted both responsibly and productively. Numerous examples from Asian and other religions will enrich the discussions. During the course of the semester, students will also develop individual comparative projects.

Readings: Course packet

Attendance/participation: 25%
Reading responses: 20%
Oral presentation: 10%
Research project: 45%