Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

42360 • Lebarre, Evan
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GEA 127
GC (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.


  • W. Oxtoby & R. Amore, World Religions: Religions of the East, 3rd ed.
  • The Ramayana, retold by R.K. Narayan,
  • The Life of the Buddha (Buddhacarita), translated by Patrick Olivelle,
  • Zhuangzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson,


  • Each of three essays on the assigned reading 15%,
  • Midterm exam 20%,
  • Final exam 35%

R S 304 • Judaism, Christianity, Islam

42365 • Leach, Nathan
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 224
EGC (also listed as ISL 311, J S 311)
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This course asks students to recognize the ethical implications of the ways we talk about religion – both our own religion (if any) and those of others. Choosing definitions for religion is an ethical choice with social, political, and civic implications; the goal of this course is to assist students in becoming self-conscious about that choice. In so doing, students will improve their ability to tolerate and reduce moral disagreements about religious beliefs and practices, something that is at the heart of practical ethics education. Specifically, the ethical issues in this course encourage students to: • reflect on different definitions of religion, to choose which ones appeal to them, and to explore their implications • analyze the ways in which religions form “communities of memory,” to consider in what ways these communities create boundaries that both enclose and exclude • understand the different ways that religions have historically intersected with with politics, with science, and with culture •consider how these intersections might influence the students’ perceptions of religion and the ways in which religion is presented in contemporary media and popular culture.

R S 306C • Comparative Religious Ethics

42375 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM MEZ 2.124
E (also listed as J S 311E)
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Course Description:

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 of competing stances: 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.



  1. Three short papers, 2 pages each; each 15% of the course grade (45% total; Due Feb. 9, April 4, and April 25)
  2. Midterm exam, closed-book, in-class (20%; on March 5)
  3. Final Exam, closed book, in-class (20%), at date, time, and room set by the Registrar
  4. Class Participation (15%)


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

1) Fasching and DeChant, Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics (2nd edition)

2) Markham, Do Morals Matter? A Guide to Contemporary Religious Ethics (Wiley Publishing)

3) Sen, The Idea of Justice

R S 307 • Intro To Interreligs Dynamics

42380 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM GDC 2.502
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This course teaches students to analyze situations of interreligious encounter. There is a broad spectrum of such encounters, from interreligious dialogue, at one end, to religious persecution, at the other. The course will introduce students to relevant scholarly approaches in religious studies and provide them with a general theoretical framework for analyzing interreligious dynamics. We will take a close look at selected cases of religious encounters – in the U.S. and in Asia, past and present – and discuss the observed dynamics with the help of theoretical categories. In team fieldwork projects, students will then apply those interpretative tools to cases of interreligious dynamics in local organizations.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42390 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CAL 100
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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; religion, nature, and science; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; 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. communitiesforms of Judaism outside of the U.S., Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42395 • Harrington, Adeline
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM GEA 114
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This course is designed for undergraduate students in all disciplines and assumes no prior knowledge of the subject. Together we will study the meanings, forms, and functions of religious practices in human cultures. While providing case studies from several religious traditions, this course does not intend to provide a survey or comprehensive overview of every major religion. Instead, I challenge students to question what factors have contributed to their own assumptions about what ‘religion’ is. Surveying classical and contemporary approaches, we will examine how scholars have historically defined religion as an interpretive category. Connecting scholarly theories with case studies from movies, pop-culture, and their own experiences, students will be able to engage critically in various theories and methods in the study of religion, and understand that religious practices are diverse, change over time, and are embedded in the various dimensions of human experience. 

R S 312C • Introduction To Buddhism

42400 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM UTC 3.122
GC (also listed as ANS 301M)
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This course examines the history of Buddhism by tracing the development of its various schools, doctrines, and religious practices in Asia and beyond. We will explore the historical background against which it arose in India, and study traditional views of the life of the Buddha, the early teachings, and the structure of the Buddhist community of monastics and laypeople. We will examine the growth of Buddhism in India, the development of Theravāda Buddhism and its spread into South East Asia. The emergence of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India and its spread into Central Asia and East Asia will be covered as well as the development of Vajrayāna Buddhism in Tibet. We will then examine the 19th century movement of Buddhist modernism in Sri Lanka and its relations to the Western world. This will be the basis for eventually exploring the various ways Buddhism came to Europe and America and examining the new forms and ideas it developed here.


1. C.S. Prebish, D. Keown. Introducing Buddhism. 2 nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2009. [OR: C.S. Prebish, D. Keown. Buddhism – the eBook. 4 th ed. See (or through PCL).]

2. J.S. Strong. The Experience of Buddhism. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2008.


  • Attendance/participation: 20%
  • Three quizzes: 30% (10% each)
  • Oral presentation or site visit report: 20%
  • Final exam: 30%

R S 315C • The Bible/Its Interpreters

42405 • Dempsey, Erik
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM MEZ 1.204
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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A study of basic religious texts, including both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, examined from various perspectives, with emphasis on the fundamental questions and ideas raised in those texts. The course seeks to develop a wide-ranging familiarity with the Jewish and Christian Bibles and with the dominant modes of ancient, medieval, and early modern biblical interpretation. Readings include an extensive range of primary sources, including both the Scriptures themselves and some of their most influential exegetes.

R S 315C • The Bible/Its Interpreters

42410 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM PAR 105
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
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A study of basic religious texts, including both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, examined from various perspectives, with emphasis on the fundamental questions and ideas raised in those texts. The course seeks to develop a wide-ranging familiarity with the Jewish and Christian Bibles and with the dominant modes of ancient, medieval, and early modern biblical interpretation. Readings include an extensive range of primary sources, including both the Scriptures themselves and some of their most influential exegetes.

R S 315C • The Bible/Its Interpreters

42420 • Jones, Joshua
Meets MWF 3:00PM-4:00PM GAR 0.120
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
show description

A study of basic religious texts, including both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, examined from various perspectives, with emphasis on the fundamental questions and ideas raised in those texts. The course seeks to develop a wide-ranging familiarity with the Jewish and Christian Bibles and with the dominant modes of ancient, medieval, and early modern biblical interpretation. Readings include an extensive range of primary sources, including both the Scriptures themselves and some of their most influential exegetes.

R S 315C • The Bible/Its Interpreters

42415 • Leach, Nathan
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM MEZ B0.302
GCWr (also listed as CTI 304)
show description

A study of basic religious texts, including both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, examined from various perspectives, with emphasis on the fundamental questions and ideas raised in those texts. The course seeks to develop a wide-ranging familiarity with the Jewish and Christian Bibles and with the dominant modes of ancient, medieval, and early modern biblical interpretation. Readings include an extensive range of primary sources, including both the Scriptures themselves and some of their most influential exegetes.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

42425 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM GAR 2.128
(also listed as C C 318, J S 306E)
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This course examines two main lines of history in the Rise of Christianity: first
that of Jesus and the early Christian movement itself, and second, that of the “book” (meaning the New
Testament) that tells the story of the earliest Christians. How did it happen? Where did they come
from? When did they begin to call themselves “Christians,” and why did they do so? How do the New
Testament writings fit into this picture? Where did they come from? What do they mean? And finally,
what changed along the way? All of these are part of the story, and it is, without doubt, a story that has
had a major impact on all later western history.

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

R S 321 • Hist Of Hindu Relig Traditn

42430 • Maitra, Nabanjan
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GAR 0.128
GC (also listed as ANS 340D, ANT 322N, HIS 364C)
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This course surveys the long and storied history of the religion now known as Hinduism, from the forgotten civilizations of the Indus Valley to the lively and robust traditions of the present day. As we move through the centuries, we will examine how legendary Hindu tales and doctrines continue to speak to each other in their own language, how they inform the lives of native speakers, and reward those who take the time to learn their language. By the end of this course, students will be able to identify key traditions, concepts, and personalities of the Hindu philosophical and mythological traditions and will have developed a foundational cultural literacy in the world’s third largest religion.

R S 344 • The Age Of Reformation

42435 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM PAR 208
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The advent of Protestantism at the beginning of the sixteenth century is popularly associated with the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of “Modernity.” Martin Luther’s publication of his 95 Theses in 1517 began a series of ideas and events that changed religion, politics, and daily life as they spread. Yet the rise of the merchant class, the advent of the printing press, and the discovery of the New World, as well as a number of the theological ideas now associated with Luther all belong to the achievements of the so-called “Dark Ages.” What, then, do we make of Luther’s reputation as “the last medieval man and the first modern one?” What of his contemporary, the Swiss reformer John Calvin (as anti-Luther as he was anti-Catholic), whose theology undergirds so much American Evangelicalism? This upper-division, undergraduate course examines major and lesser-known works by these and other Reformation theologians in order to answer the question: What did the Reformation change and how did it change it?

R S 352F • Relig/Fam Japanese Society

42449 • Traphagan, John
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BEN 1.126
GC (also listed as ANS 361)
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More than any other social institution, the family represents the primary locus of religious activity for contemporary Japanese.  This course explores the structures of family, kinship relationships, and religion in Japan since the Meiji Restoration (1868) with a strong focus on the post-war era and examines how both religion and family have been used as concepts and institutions for the creation of national identity as well as the expression of individual identities.  Students will develop a strong understanding of contemporary Japanese religious ideas and rituals and their connections to kinship structures, with particular attention focused on how family and kinship structures and ideologies have changed in the post-war era.

R S 352G • Shamanism And The Primitive

42450 • Roberts, Jason
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PMA 7.112
GCII (also listed as REE 345)
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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 353C • Angl/Demn/Magc Early Christ

42455 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM RLP 1.102
GCWr (also listed as MES 342)
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The world as early Christians imagined it was a spiritual universe inhabited by angels and demons. These lesser gods were thought to govern the mundane affairs experienced by Christians, day-to-day matters like health, wealth, love, and revenge. But how did Christians come to view the world in this way? How did angelology and demonology influence the ways that Christians thought about the world around them? And to what extent did Christians use magic to manipulate the spiritual world? We will consider these and other questions in this survey of early Christian views of angels, demons, and magic. All primary sources will be read in translation.

R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

42460 • Landau, Brent
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM JES A218A
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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 355K • Bible In British And Amer Lit

42465 • Rumrich, John
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 105
(also listed as E 358K)
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E 358K  l  The Bible in British and American Literature

Instructor:  Rumrich, J

Unique #:  35720

Semester:  Spring 2022

Cross-lists:  R S 355K, 42465


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

Description:  Titles like Paradise Lost or East of Eden tell us right off that the Bible has some bearing on them, in these cases the Book of Genesis especially.  Our main textbook sets selected passages from the Bible next to extracts from various works of English and American literature.  In this class, we will consider these extracts in relation to the juxtaposed Biblical passages to develop our ability to recognize influence and the historically particular reception of sacred texts.  Aside from sampling the historical range and variety included in our textbook, we will read the entirety of the Book of Genesis and its outsized influence on Shakespeare and Milton.

Texts (tentative):  The Bible and Literature: A Reader, D. Jasper and S. Prickett; The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb, William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice; John Milton, Paradise Lost.

Requirements & Grading (subject to modification):  • Quizzes (25%): There will be regular short quizzes on the readings with no makeups permitted (though the lowest quiz grade will be dropped).  Because students absent from class on the day of a quiz receive a zero for that quiz, this rule in effect constitutes an attendance policy.  The quizzes will be designed to gauge students’ preparedness for class and thus fitness to participate.  • Memorization and formal analysis (25%): Students will memorize and recite 50 lines of pentameter verse chosen from our readings of Shakespeare and Milton and be asked to talk knowledgeably about the passages.  • Presentation (25%): Student panels (3-4 students each) will deliver oral presentations pertinent to works on the syllabus and our discussion of them.  • Final Exam (25%): A mix of objective and short essay questions, to be administered during the scheduled period for finals.

R S 357P • Jewish Folklore

42470 • Gottesman, Itzik
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM TNH 2.139
GCWr (also listed as ANT 325T, GSD 361W, 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.

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

R S 358I • Sufism Islam Thought/Spiritult

42475 • Hyder, Syed
Meets MW 4:00PM-5:30PM MEZ B0.306
(also listed as ANS 340Q, HIS 339S, MES 342S)
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Sufism defies neat categorization. It is a broad trend in the cultural sphere of Islam, associated mainly with approaches to divinity, justice, piety, joy, sorrow, and beauty. In the course of history, it has placed checks and balances on an exclusivist reading of religion. At times it is identified with mysticism: an attempt of the finite to reckon with infinite powers. It has many synonyms. This class explores Sufism and other Islamic mystical traditions that color cultural milieus spanning four continents and fourteen centuries. The first half of the semester focuses on the historical developments in the Islamic theosophical traditions of the Arab and Persian worlds. In the second half of the semester, we move on to discuss the growth of Islamic mysticism over time and beyond the porous borders of Arabia and Iran. The relationship between Sufism and poetics, Sufism and colonialism, and Sufism and post-colonial resistance movements also constitutes a significant part of this course. Issues of authority, gender, sexuality, music, globalization, and religious pluralism are topics of discussion throughout the semester. Only one part of the class lecture springs from the readings so it is important for the students to carefully note that material which is not found in the assigned readings.


Grading: Students are expected to come prepared for class by reading all the required assignments for that class. Students are responsible for all the information presented in the lectures as well as for what is contained in the required readings. 

  • Two in-class Exams (40%)
  • Comprehensive Final Exam (50%)
  • Class Attendance & Participation (10%)

R S 361 • Mesoamerican Encounters

42485 • Matsumoto, Mallory
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BEN 1.124
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This seminar introduces the study of European-indigenous encounters in Mesoamerica, a geographic and cultural area spanning north-central Mexico through western Honduras, between approximately 14501750. The arrival of European to this dynamic, vibrant region in the early sixteenth century marked not only the advent of a new colonial regime, but also the first large-scale contact and exchange between European and indigenous Mesoamerican cultures. Over subsequent generations, indigenous communities and European colonizers integrated strategies of contact, accommodation, and resistance in communicating with each other and negotiating the conduct of daily life in colonial Mesoamerica.In this course, we will engage with indigenous and Spanish primary sources, in addition to secondary literature. We will address questions such as, what beliefs and preconceptions did different parties bring to the encounter, and how did these shape their interactions? To what extent was encounter characterized by confrontation, collaboration, or resistance, and in what contexts? And what are the implications of this colonial legacy for Mesoamerican societies today?

R S 373M • Biomedicine/Ethics/Culture

42500 • Traphagan, John
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM BUR 108
EGC (also listed as ANS 361)
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This course examines moral dilemmas that have been generated or intensified by recent advances in medical technology. We will explore ethical questions related to topics such as allocation of medical resources, stem cell research and cloning, organ transplantation, abortion, human experimentation, genetic screening, in vitro fertilization, pharmaceutical use and distribution, prolonging life and the right to die, suicide, euthanasia, and diagnosis and treatment of illnesses such as Alzheimer disease, AIDS, and mental disorders. These topics will be considered from a global perspective emphasizing how cultural values inform ethical decision-making and how different ethical/cultural systems address and define moral issues that arise in relation to 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. The course will emphasize 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.

R S 375S • The Crusades

42510 • Newman, Martha
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 0.128
GCIIWr (also listed as AHC 330, EUS 346)
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Please visit the Religious Studies advisor's office for more information.

R S 383T • Religion And The Senses

42524 • Brown, Khytie
Meets TH 3:00PM-6:00PM BUR 554
(also listed as WGS 393)
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Can you smell God? Is it possible to taste race? How do we make sense of the senses?  What do touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing have to do with social categories like, race, gender, sexuality, and disability? What do we gain from thinking sensorially? Using the works of religious scholars,  cultural anthropologists, cultural historians, disability studies, and queer studies scholars, the course is built on the premise that every domain of sensory experience is also an arena for structuring the social roles and interactions that make up our social world; that is, we learn social divisions, distinctions of gender, class, race, ability and more through our senses. Far from being objective physiological processes, the senses are culturally mediated. The course foregrounds the category of religion as a key site for cultivating the senses in relation to social markers of difference.

R S 386H • Current Issues In Hebrew Bible

42523 • Wells, Bruce
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM CAL 21
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Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 386M • Greco-Roman Rel W Asia Minr

42525 • Friesen, Steven
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 554
show description

Please check back for updates.

R S 390T • Islam In Europe And America-Wb

42529 • Spellberg, Denise
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM • Internet; Synchronous
(also listed as HIS 381)
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Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 391L • Appro To Study Relig Lat Amer

42530 • Burnett, Virginia
Meets W 9:00AM-12:00PM PAR 214
(also listed as HIS 386K)
show description

Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 394T • Body In Indian Medcn/Myth

42535 • Selby, Martha
Meets W 5:00PM-8:00PM PAR 305
(also listed as ANS 384, WGS 393)
show description

Please see the graduate coordinator for more information.

R S 398T • Supv Teaching In Relig Studies

42565 • Seales, Chad
Meets T 1:00PM-4:00PM BUR 554
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The goal of this course is to give graduate students a chance to develop their own personal identity as a teacher/scholar in light of both field-specific disciplines and current standards and technologies of teaching. The RS 398T course is specifically designed to assist graduate students who will be teaching undergraduate courses in Religious Studies and related disciplines both as AIs at UT and in academic teaching positions after graduation. The course stresses teaching professionalization, conversance with standard literature on teaching, learning, and assessment, and practical experience in assembling personal teaching materials and syllabi for the academic market.