An interdepartmental program in Religious Studies

Last updated: September 10, 2014 at 3:14 p.m.

Objectives

The modern field of religious studies contributes significantly to a liberal arts education, cultivating the investigation of religious thought, ritual, spiritual insight, culture, history, and sacred texts. The Program for Religious Studies is designed to deepen each student’s understanding of religion and its manifestations through required interdepartmental exploration: surveying systematic approaches to the field and completing courses in at least two different religious traditions. This approach exposes students to several scholarly and pedagogical perspectives in a variety of religious phenomena, often in a comparative context.

The program fosters interaction between its faculty and students by requiring completion of either an independent study or a senior essay course. The university, with its commitment to ethical responsibility, and the wide range of religious and ethnic backgrounds represented in its student body, provides a unique context for examining religion with open-minded curiosity and sympathetic understanding.

Learning Goals

The modern field of religious studies is an important part of a liberal arts education, allowing for the study of religious thought, ritual, culture, history and texts, often in a comparative context. At Brandeis, there has long been a fine program in Judaic studies, but students here felt a need to consider other religious traditions as well. The program in Religious Studies was therefore initiated by a group of students seeking to expand the range of religious studies courses at Brandeis in order to deepen their understanding of a multitude of religions and their manifestations through the perspectives of different disciplines and departments.

The goal of the Program in Religious Studies (PRS) is to expose students to different scholarly and pedagogical approaches to a variety of religious teachings. For example, the study of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam will bring great depth to one’s understanding of the historical development of individual traditions during a given epoch, as well as of the related art, literature, and politics of the societies practicing these religions. Similarly studies in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism will provide deeper appreciation not only of the relevant texts, but also of East-West cultural encounters and fundamental topics such as enlightenment and the possibility of rebirth.

In this program, which is currently available only as a minor, students survey a variety of approaches to religious studies in an introductory core course (REL 107a), which provides an overview of the range of possible religions. This course serves as an extremely important basis for the subsequent studies in religion. Students must also complete courses in at least two different religious traditions. These traditions currently include Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students must also complete two elective courses from a list of specified courses which complement these traditions. Some students choose, in addition, to do an independent study in a particular area that is not covered by the available courses. Students can also write a senior honors thesis as approved by the chair of the program.

Core Skills: As an interdisciplinary program, PRS helps its students to gain a broad understanding of religions, the peoples who practice them, and their modes of belief, particularly of those religions outside the student’s usual experience. Students analyze texts, histories, and the ways in which human beings have understood their world as reflected in their beliefs, ethics, rituals, artifacts, and organizations of religions. Students also investigate the changing relationships between religion and elements of the wider culture, and learn the theories and methods used in the study of religion.

Knowledge: The exposure to a wide range of religions often opens whole new fields of inquiry to the student: some extend their studies into languages, literature, history, law, and even the sciences. The Program in Religious Studies, through its unique and dynamic interdepartmental course work, strives to deliver a deep understanding of the multi-faceted nature of religion.

Some of the majors and minors with which our students have combined their studies in religion include: Biology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Film/Television/Interactive Media, Health Science, Society & Policy, Environmental Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Music, Theater Arts, Art History, Classical Studies, Philosophy, History, Politics, Anthropology, Sociology, English, Comparative Literature, Medieval & Renaissance Studies, International & Global Studies, American Studies, East Asian Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Near Eastern & Judaic Studies, European Cultural Studies, Medieval & Renaissance Studies, Classical Architecture & Ancient History ,Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies, and Interfaith Chaplaincy.

After Brandeis: Some students continue their study of religion after graduating, in seminaries, in graduate programs, or in other related programs. For others, it remains an experience that deepens their education at Brandeis and enriches their work in other fields.

How to Become a Minor

Ideally a mapping out of an academic plan with the current Program for Religious Studies chair or another member of the Religious Studies program core faculty would occur early in a student's career; leading them to fulfill the core course, REL 107a or one of its alternative courses (NEJS 3a and ANTH 80a) by the completion of their Sophomore year. This “ideal” scenario is not required, however; and students are welcome to enter the program at any point as long as they are able to complete all degree requirements in a timely fashion. Students gaining an early start in fulfilling PRS requirements are obviously better able to maximize course selection, as a number of courses are not offered annually.

Committee

Marc Brettler, Chair
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Tzvi Abusch
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Bernadette Brooten (on leave academic year 2014-2015)
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Wendy Cadge
(Sociology)

Jonathan Decter
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Gila Hayim
(Sociology)

Patricia Johnston
(Classical Studies)

Sarah Lamb
(Anthropology)

Charles McClendon
(Fine Arts)

Jerry Samet
(Philosophy)

Affiliated Faculty (contributing to the curriculum, advising and administration of the department or program)
Tzvi Abusch (Near Eastern & Judaic Studies)
Bernadette Brooten (Near Eastern & Judaic Studies)
Yu Feng (German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature)
Patricia Johnston (Classical Studies)
Edward Kaplan (Romance Studies)

Requirements for the Minor

A. Core course: REL 107a (Introduction to World Religions), or ANTH 80a, NEJS 3a, or SOC 129a.

B. Students must complete at least two courses covering at least two different religious traditions from the traditions courses listed below. REL 151a and 161a may count towards this requirement.

C. Students must complete at least two courses from the list of electives listed below. REL 121a and 131b may count towards this requirement.

D. A Senior Essay (REL 97a or b) may replace one of the two electives with the approval of the program chair.

E. A passing letter grade must be obtained in each course taken for program credit. Pass/fail courses are not allowed. Students must achieve a GPA of at least 2.0 (C) in all program courses.

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

REL 97a Senior Essay
Usually offered every year.
Staff

REL 97b Senior Essay
Usually offered every year.
Staff

REL 98a Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

REL 98b Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

REL 107a Introduction to World Religions
[ hum nw ]
An introduction to the study of religion; this core course surveys and broadly explores some of the major religions across the globe.
Staff

REL 121a Mysticism and the Moral Life
[ hum wi ]
Studies the lives and writings of mystics and activists from Jewish, Sufi, Roman Catholic, and African American protestant traditions, who connect prayer, the experience of God, and ethical commitment. Special focus on Heschel, Merton, Thurman, Teresa of Avila, Sayyed Hossein Nasr. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kaplan

REL 151a The Buddha: His Life and Teachings
[ hum nw ]
Few human beings have had as much impact on the world as Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni, known to us as Buddha. This course explores his life and teachings as reflected in early Buddhist literature and Western scholarship. Usually offered every year.
Staff

REL 161a Chinese Religion and Thought: Understanding Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism)
[ hum nw ]
This course aims at widening and deepening students' knowledge of world religions by introducing to them distinctive Chinese religions and schools of thought with emphasis on two most significant ones, namely, Confucianism and Taoism. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Feng

REL/SAS 152a Introduction to Hinduism
[ hum nw ]
Introduces Hindu practice and thought. Explores broadly the variety of forms, practices, and philosophies that have been developing from the time of the Vedas (ca. 1500 BCE) up to present day popular Hinduism practiced in both urban and rural India. Examines the relations between Hindu religion and its wider cultural, social, and political contexts, relations between the Hindu majority of India and minority traditions, and questions of Hindu identity both in India and abroad. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Nair

REL/SAS 162b Religions in South Asia: India, Pakistan and Beyond
[ hum nw ]
Examines religious traditions of South Asia, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism, from the perspectives of scriptural texts, art, philosophy, history, anthropology and film. Explores the central ideas and practices of the region's religious traditions, as well as the role of religion in South Asian society, politics and culture. Usually offered every second year.
Staff

Religious Studies: Traditions Courses

The following courses are approved for the program. Not all are given in any one year. Please consult with Schedule of Classes each semester.

ANTH 80a Anthropology of Religion
[ nw ss ]
An introduction to the anthropological study of human religious experience, with particular emphasis on religious and ritual practice in comparative perspective. Examines the relationship between religion and society in small-scale, non-Western contexts as well as in complex societies, global cultures, and world historical religions. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Lamb or Ms. Schattschneider

CLAS 170a Classical Mythology
[ hum ]
An introduction to Greek and Roman mythology. Considers ancient song cultures, and the relationship between myth, drama, and religion. Also explores visual representations of myth. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Muellner

IMES 104a Islam: Civilization and Institutions
[ hum nw ]
Provides a disciplined study of Islamic civilization from its origins to the modern period. Approaches the study from a humanities perspective. Topics covered will include the Qur'an, tradition, law, theology, politics, Islam and other religions, modern developments, and women in Islam. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Lumbard

NEJS 3a Introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
[ hum ]
An introduction to the three major religions originating in the Near East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Areas of focus include historical development, sacred texts, rituals, and interpretive traditions. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Decter

NEJS 5a Foundational Course in Judaic Studies
[ hum ]
A survey of the Jewish experience and thought, focusing on the varieties of historical Judaism, including its classical forms, its medieval patterns and transformations, and its modern options. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Kimelman

NEJS 9a The World of the Ancient Near East
[ hum ]
An introduction to the peoples, history, religions, institutions, and culture of ancient Mesopotamia, Syria, Israel, Anatolia, and Egypt from prehistory to 330 BCE. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Wright

NEJS 111a The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
[ hum wi ]
Open to all students.
A survey of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Biblical books will be examined from various perspectives and compared to other ancient Near Eastern compositions. No knowledge of Hebrew is presumed. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Brettler

NEJS 114b Ritual and Cult in the Bible
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: HBRW 122a or b, NEJS 10a, or permission of the instructor.
A study of ritual and cultic texts of the Bible in Hebrew and their rites and phenomena with historical-critical, Near Eastern-environmental, social-scientific, and literary analysis. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Wright

NEJS 116a Ancient Near Eastern Religion and Mythology
[ hum nw ]
Open to all students.
An introduction to the religion, mythology, and thought of the ancient Near East. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Abusch

NEJS 128a Introduction to Christianity
[ hum ]
Open to all students.
An introduction to Christian beliefs, liturgy, and history. Surveys the largest world religion: from Ethiopian to Korean Christianity, from black theology to the Christian right. Analyzes Christian debates about God, Christ, and human beings. Studies differences among Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Brooten

NEJS 130a The New Testament: A Historical Introduction
[ hum ]
Open to all students.
A study of the main parts of the New Testament, with emphasis on the contents of the books and the historical development of early Christianity. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Brooten

NEJS 153a Between Ecstasy and Community: Hasidism in Jewish Thought and History
[ hum ]
Explores Hasidism, from the 18th century until today, as one of the dynamic forces in Jewish life, mixing radicalism and reaction, theology, storytelling and music, thick community and wild individualism, deep conformity and spiritual abandon. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Mirsky

NEJS 186a Introduction to the Qur'an
[ hum nw ]
Traces the history of the Qur'an as text, its exegesis, and its role in inter-religious polemics, law, theology, and politics. Examines the role of the Qur'an in Islamic teachings and its global impact. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lumbard

REL 151a The Buddha: His Life and Teachings
[ hum nw ]
Few human beings have had as much impact on the world as Siddhartha Gotama Shakyamuni, known to us as Buddha. This course explores his life and teachings as reflected in early Buddhist literature and Western scholarship. Usually offered every year.
Staff

REL 161a Chinese Religion and Thought: Understanding Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism)
[ hum nw ]
This course aims at widening and deepening students' knowledge of world religions by introducing to them distinctive Chinese religions and schools of thought with emphasis on two most significant ones, namely, Confucianism and Taoism. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Feng

REL/SAS 152a Introduction to Hinduism
[ hum nw ]
Introduces Hindu practice and thought. Explores broadly the variety of forms, practices, and philosophies that have been developing from the time of the Vedas (ca. 1500 BCE) up to present day popular Hinduism practiced in both urban and rural India. Examines the relations between Hindu religion and its wider cultural, social, and political contexts, relations between the Hindu majority of India and minority traditions, and questions of Hindu identity both in India and abroad. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Nair

REL/SAS 162b Religions in South Asia: India, Pakistan and Beyond
[ hum nw ]
Examines religious traditions of South Asia, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism, from the perspectives of scriptural texts, art, philosophy, history, anthropology and film. Explores the central ideas and practices of the region's religious traditions, as well as the role of religion in South Asian society, politics and culture. Usually offered every second year.
Staff

Religious Studies: Elective Courses

The following courses are approved for the program. Not all are given in any one year. Please consult with Schedule of Classes each semester.

AMST 50b Religion in American Life
[ ss ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took AMST 167b in prior years.
Considers the historical influence of religious belief on various aspects of American political, cultural, legal, and economic life. Topics include the use and effectiveness of religious language in political rhetoric, from the American Revolution to the War in Iraq; the role that religious belief has played in galvanizing and frustrating various reform movements; and the debate over the proper role of religion in the public square. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Farrelly

ANTH 105a Myth and Ritual
[ nw ss ]
Studies myth and ritual as two interlocking modes of cultural symbolism. Evaluates theoretical approaches to myth by looking at creation and political myths. Examines performative, processual, and spatial models of ritual analysis through study of initiation, sacrifice, and funerals. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Schattschneider

ANTH 164a Medicine and Religion
[ nw ss ]
Prerequisite: ANTH 1a or equivalent.
Considers the convergence of two cultural spheres that are normally treated as separate: medicine and religion. The course will examine their overlap, such as in healing and dying, as well as points of contention through historical and contemporary global ethnographies. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Hannig

CLAS 190b Ancient Mysteries, Cults, and Myths
[ hum ]
An investigation of the phenomenon of the ancient mystery cults as preserved in the surviving art and literature of antiquity. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Johnston

CLAS/FA 186a The Art and Archaeology of Korea
[ ca hum nw ]
Surveys the art, archaeology, and architecture of Korea from the Prehistoric period to the twentieth century. We will conceptualize the study of Korean material culture by highlighting striking parallels with ancient Greece. This course emphasizes the Korean peninsula's unique geographic placement in East Asia. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Koh

ENG 38b Race, Region, and Religion in the Twentieth-Century South
[ hum ]
Twentieth century fiction of the American South. Racial conflict, regional identity, religion, and modernization in fiction from both sides of the racial divide and from both sides of the gender line. Texts by Chestnutt, Faulkner, Warren, O'Connor, Gaines, McCarthy, and Ellison. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Burt

ENG 78b Modernism, Atheism, God
[ hum ]
Explores European and U.S. literature after Nietzche's proclamation, at the end of the 19th century, that God is dead. How does this writing imagine human life and the role of literature in God's absence? How does it imagine afterlives of God, and permutations of the sacred, in a post-religious world? How, or why, to have faith in the possibility of faith in a secular age? What does "the secular" actually mean, and how does it persuade itself that it's different than "religion"? Approaches international modernism as a political and theological debate about materialism and spirituality, finitude and transcendence, reason and salvation. Readings by Kafka, Joyce, Rilke, Faulkner, Eliot, Beckett, Pynchon, and others. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Sherman

ENG 108a Literature and Heresy
[ hum ]
A study of major texts of British literature through the lens of religious heresy. Does literature provide a refuge for heresy? Or is there something about literature that encourages heretical thinking? These questions are considered in light of dissident works by Milton, Blake, Shelley, James Hogg, and others. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Quinney

FA 33b Islamic Art and Architecture
[ ca nw ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 39b in prior years.
Introduces architecture and arts of the Islamic lands from seventh-century Levant to post-modernism in Iran, India, and the Gulf states. Provides an overview of major themes and regional variations, and their socio-political and historical context. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Grigor

FA 40a The Gift of the Nile: Egyptian Art and Archaeology
[ ca nw ]
Surveys the art, archaeology, and architecture of ancient Egypt and how various traditions to the present have approached its study. The course will discuss the unique setting of northeast Africa, the achievements of Pharonic Egypt, the periods when outsiders co-opted its glorious past, and recent issues of cultural heritage. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Koh

FA 42b The Age of Cathedrals
[ ca ]
Architecture, sculpture, and painting (including stained glass) in Western Europe from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, with particular attention to the great churches of medieval France. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. McClendon

FA 145a St. Peter's and the Vatican
[ ca ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 45a in prior years.
The history, growth, and development of Christendom's most famous shrine, with particular concern for the relationship between the design and decoration of the Renaissance/baroque church and palace complex and their early Christian and medieval predecessors. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. McClendon

FA 170a Arts of the Ming Dynasty
[ ca nw ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 15b in prior years.
Examines a broad array of arts from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The first half of the course focuses on activities in and around the Chinese court. The second half concentrates on monuments related to literati and popular cultures. Usually offered every three years.
Ms. Wong

FA 171b Buddhist Art
[ ca nw ]
May not be taken for credit by students who took FA 13b in prior years.
The history of Buddhist art on the Silk Road. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Wong

HIST 110b The Civilization of the High and Late Middle Ages
[ ss ]
Survey of European history from 1000 to 1450. Topics include the Crusades, the birth of towns, the creation of kingdoms, the papacy, the peasantry, the universities, the Black Death, and the Hundred Years' War. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Kapelle

HIST 123b Reformation Europe (1400-1600)
[ ss wi ]
Survey of Protestant and Catholic efforts to reform religion in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Topics include scholastic theology, popular piety and anticlericalism, Luther's break with Rome, the rise of Calvinism, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, the Catholic resurgence, and the impact of reform efforts on the lives of common people. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Sreenivasan

HIST 126a Early Modern Europe (1500-1700)
[ qr ss ]
Survey of politics, ideas, and society in Western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Focuses on the changing relationship between the emerging modern state and its subjects. Topics include the development of ideologies of resistance and conformity, regional loyalties and the problems of empire, changing technologies of war and repression, and the social foundations of order and disorder. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Sreenivasan

HIST 144a Mapping Boston’s Religions: A Digital History Seminar
[ ss ]
Studies a history of religion in the nineteenth-century United States, looking especially at interactions between diverse religions. Students will create a collaborative, student-directed digital history project as the main work for the course. Special one-time offering, spring 2014.
Mr. Mullen

HIST 206b Twentieth-Century Christianity: Secularization and Globalization
Examines the fundamental dynamics, issues, and findings recent scholarship on the transformation of Christianity in the twentieth century, with particular attention to the impact of war, secularization, and globalization. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Freeze

HUM 10a The Western Canon
[ hum ]
May not be taken by students who have taken ENG 10a or FYS 18a in prior years.
Foundational texts of the Western canon: the Bible, Homer, Vergil, and Dante. Thematic emphases and supplementary texts vary from year to year.
Staff

LAT 125a Medieval Latin
[ fl hum ]
Surveys medieval Latin prose and poetry from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries and their influence on subsequent English, French, and Italian literature. Materials will be studied in the original Latin and English. Offered on request.
Ms. Johnston or Ms. Walker

NEJS 29a Feminist Sexual Ethics in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
[ hum ]
Analyzes a variety of feminist critiques of religious texts and traditions and proposed innovations in theology and religious law. Examines biblical, rabbinic, and Qur'anic texts. Explores relation to U.S. law and to the social, natural, and medical sciences. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Brooten

NEJS 103a The Early History of God
[ hum ]
Studies the background and development of monotheism in ancient Israel. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Wright

NEJS 112a The Book of Genesis
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: HBRW 122a or b, NEJS 10a, or permission of the instructor.
An in-depth study of the Hebrew text of Genesis, with particular attention to the meaning, documentary sources, and Near Eastern background of the accounts of creation and origins of human civilization in chapters one to eleven, and of the patriarchal narratives, especially those about Abraham. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Abusch

NEJS 115b Gender and the Bible
[ hum ]
Open to all students.
The Hebrew Bible, a complex work, reflects a wide range of attitudes toward gender. This course examines these attitudes as they are reflected in issues such as the legal status of women, women in myths, leadership, prostitution, masculinity, and the gender of ancient Israel's deity. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Brettler

NEJS 127b The Jewish Liturgy
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: A 20-level Hebrew course or the equivalent.
A study of the literature, theology, and history of the daily and Sabbath liturgy. Emphasis will be placed on the interplay between literary structure and ideational content, along with discussion of the philosophical issues involved in prayer. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kimelman

NEJS 144a Jews in the World of Islam
[ hum nw ]
Examines social and cultural history of Jewish communities in the Islamic world. Special emphasis is placed on the pre-modern Jewish communities. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Decter

NEJS 148b Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews and Christians: Sources and Interpretations
[ hum ]
Introduction to the classical Jewish and Christian sources on same-sex love and on gender ambiguity and to a variety of current interpretations of them, to the evidence for same-sex love and gender fluidity among Jews and Christians through the centuries, and to current religious and public policy debates about same-sex love and gender identity and expression. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Brooten

NEJS 153b Abraham Joshua Heschel: Spirituality and Action
[ hum wi ]
Abraham Heschel's Hasidic spirituality and militant social action provide a meeting ground for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We examine his writings on prayer, mysticism, religious education, the prophets, the Holocaust, Israel, interfaith relations, civil rights, and the Vietnam war. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kaplan

NEJS 155b Introduction to Jewish Legal Thought
[ hum ]
Traces the history of Jewish law from the Bible to the present. Jewish law is indispensable for understanding Jewish life, past, present and future, and is a rich source of reflection on law, ethics and religion. This course examines contemporary debates and controversies and explores its spiritual dimensions. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Mirsky

NEJS 159a Modern Jewish Philosophy
[ hum ]
Surveys the contours of modern Jewish philosophy by engaging some of its most important themes and voices. Competing Jewish inflections of and responses to rationalism, romanticism, idealism, existentialism, and nihilism. This provides the conceptual road signs of the course as we traverse the winding byways of Jewish philosophy from Baruch Spinoza to Emanuel Levinas. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Sheppard

NEJS 162a American Judaism
[ hum ss wi ]
American Judaism from the earliest settlement to the present, with particular emphasis on the various streams of American Judaism. Judaism's place in American religion and comparisons to Judaism in other countries. Usually offered every year.
Mr. Sarna

NEJS 163b Half-Jews, Queer-Jews, and Bu-Jews: Mapping Jewish Identities in America
[ hum ]
Examines the various contours of Jewish identity in America from a sociological perspective. It begins with three fundamental assumptions: 1) that identities, including Jewish identity, are fluid, dynamic, and constantly in production 2) that identities are socially constructed and historically contingent and 3) that the discourse on religion, race, ethnicity, and gender shapes the production of Jewish identities. The class is designed to probe the multiple and often contradictory identities of contemporary American Jews, paying particular attention to the margins where Jewish identity is most contested and creatively remade. Central to this course are a series of assignments that ask you to think critically about the everyday experience of Judaism in America. Special one-time offering, fall 2014.
Ms. Sigalow

NEJS 164a Judaism Confronts America
[ hum ]
Examines, through a close reading of selected primary sources, central issues and tensions in American Jewish life, paying attention to their historical background and to issues of Jewish law. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Sarna

NEJS 164b The Sociology of the American Jewish Community
[ hum ss ]
Open to all students.
A survey exploring transformations in modern American Jewish societies, including American Jewish families, organizations, and behavior patterns in the second half of the twentieth century. Draws on social science texts, statistical studies, and qualitative research; also makes use of a broad spectrum of source materials, examining evidence from journalism, fiction, film, and other cultural artifacts. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Fishman

NEJS 166b Who is a Jew? Identity, Conversion, and Citizenship
[ hum ]
Examines the dynamics of conversion to and from Judaism from the rabbinic period to the present. Themes include the construction of identity, the place of the convert in the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, intermarriage and family, as well as social and legal dilemmas. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Freeze

NEJS 178b Masculinity and Femininity in Israeli Film, Literature, and Culture
[ hum ]
Taught in English.
Focuses on Israeli film, literature, and culture, exploring how film and literature represent and establish masculinity and femininity. Examines the ways in which film and literature reflect the politics, religions, conflicts, and ideologies of Israeli society. Usually offered every second year.
Ms. Szobel

NEJS 186b The Quran: Composition, Collection, and Commentary
[ hum ]
Prerequisites: IMES 104a or NEJS 186a or permission of the instructor.
Examines the historical development and collection of the Quran, and the emergence of the different schools of Quranic commentary within various branches of Islam throughout the Islamic world and the central themes upon which they focus. Emphasis is placed upon the guiding principles of Quranic commentary and the way in which they give rise to a hermeneutical tradition that is particular to Islam and has shaped the lives of Muslims around the globe. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lumbard

NEJS 190b Islamic Philosophy
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: IMES 104a or NEJS 186a or a course on Islam.
An examination of the development and teachings of the Islamic philosophical tradition, covering its development from the Greek philosophical tradition and in response to Islamic teachings, and the relationship between Islamic philosophy and theology up to the Safavid period. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lumbard

NEJS 191b Jewish Messianism from Antiquity to Zionism
[ hum ]
Messianism is an important component in Jewish history. This course examines the messianic idea as a religious, political, and sociological phenomenon in modern Jewish history. Examining how the messianic narrative entered Jewish political discourse enables a critical discussion of its role in Zionist activities as an example of continuity or discontinuity with an older tradition. Usually offered every year.
Staff

NEJS 194b Sufi Teachings
[ hum nw ]
An examination of the teaching and practices of the Sufi tradition. Explores the foundations of Sufism, its relation to other aspects of Islam, the development of Sufi teachings in both poetry and prose, and the manner in which Sufism is practiced in lands as diverse as Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India, Malaysia, and Europe. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Lumbard

PHIL 24a Philosophy of Religion
[ hum ]
An introduction to the major philosophical problems of religion. Discusses traditional arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of faith and mystical experiences, the relation of religion to morality, and puzzles about the concept of God. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 146a Idea of God
[ hum ]
Prerequisite: PHIL 1a or PHIL 66b or one course numbered PHIL 35a through PHIL 38b.
Engages in a philosophical investigation, not of religion as an institution but of the very idea of God. Studies the distinction between human being and divine being and addresses the issue of the relation of God's essence to his existence. Usually offered every second year.
Mr. Yourgrau

POL 145b Muslims in the West: Politics, Religion, and Law
[ ss ]
Few issues have caused more public furor than the accommodation of Islam in Europe and the United States. It is often overlooked that Muslims are developing the institutions of their faith in societies that offer everyone the freedom of choice and expression. This seminar looks at religious discrimination as a barrier to the civic and political inclusion of Muslim immigrants, the responses of governments, courts, and the general public, and what we know about the balance among "fundamentalist, " "moderate," and "progressive" Muslim viewpoints. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Klausen

REL 121a Mysticism and the Moral Life
[ hum wi ]
Studies the lives and writings of mystics and activists from Jewish, Sufi, Roman Catholic, and African American protestant traditions, who connect prayer, the experience of God, and ethical commitment. Special focus on Heschel, Merton, Thurman, Teresa of Avila, Sayyed Hossein Nasr. Usually offered every third year.
Mr. Kaplan

SOC 129a Sociology of Religion
[ ss wi ]
An introduction to the sociological study of religion. Investigates what religion is, how it is influential in contemporary American life, and how the boundaries of public and private religion are constructed and contested. Usually offered every year.
Ms. Cadge