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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An introduction to the Silk Road and its role as a facilitator of cross-cultural contacts. It covers a wide variety of topics ranging from trade and politics to religion and language to art and archaeology. In addition to the ancient Chinese, the Romans, and Greeks, we also consider the Mongols, Arabs, and Persians.
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.
Explores European and U.S. literature after Nietzsche'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.
Explores how the religious imagination shaped literary expression in colonial America and the early United States, and how early American religion is represented in contemporary culture. Authors may include Ann Bradstreet, Charles Brockden Brown, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, and Nat Turner.
Through case studies of cities, sites, and monuments, the course presents an overview of the art and the architecture of the Islamic world beginning from the seventh century up to the present. Some of the themes include, but are not limited to, Islamic material culture, orientalist imaginations, systems of governance and the colonial present, search for the local identity, urban modernity and nationalism, and globalization.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seeks to understand not only the system but the inner lives and cultures of slaves within that system. This course is a reading-intensive seminar examining both primary and secondary sources on American slaves. Focuses on the American South but includes sources on the larger African diaspora.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Bible’s depiction of gender, relationships, and social values in narrative, poetry, and law. Topics include the legal status of women, masculinity, prostitution, and how particular readings of the biblical text have shaped modern ideas about gender and sexuality.
Examines magical literature, rituals, and beliefs in the ancient Near East, especially Mesopotamia. Topics such as demonology, illness, prayer, and exorcism are covered; special attention is paid to witchcraft. This course is organized around the close reading of ancient texts.
A study of Jewish mysticism through history. While investigating the nature of mysticism and the idea of mysticism itself and the transformation of key motifs of Judaism into a mystical key, the course will also be concerned with how to read a Jewish mystical text. All readings are in English.
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.
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.
Introduces the New Testament and related early Christian literature as sources for the history and theology of the early church. Focus on exegetical methods, literary genres, and relationship to Judaism and the Roman world.
Explores how different Christian groups--from American evangelicals to Orthodox Palestinians--have wrestled with both the idea and reality of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. Special one-time offering, spring 2018.
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.
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.
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.
Explores selected topics that are central to Jewish thought and practice. An introduction to Judaism for those without background in Jewish texts and traditions, but also appropriate for those with background. Topics include covenant, ritual, idolatry, interpretation, gender, violence, chosenness.
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
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.
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.
Highlights the central role the question of “Who is a Jew" occupies in modern Jewish life and consciousness against the backdrops of social-scientific writings on status and identity, the history of conversion to Judaism, and present day Israel-Diaspora relations.
What does it mean to study a sacred text? What are the problems with doing so? What is sacred about a sacred text? How is studying a sacred text similar to and different from studying other texts? How do different religious traditions study texts differently?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Examines how religion can either escalate or mitigate conflict. Students study the influence of ideology, relationships, and actions of various faith traditions. We will explore the motivations of moderates and extremists as well as faith-based intervention roles and reconciliation processes.
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.
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
Studies the French philosopher Simone Weil, revolutionary and mystic. Is divine perfection reconcilable with human suffering? Weil shook the foundations of Christianity and Judaism attempting to answer this question and this course will rejoin her quest.
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.
Explores Hindu practice and thought through four millennia of scriptures, scholarship, and film. More specifically looks at 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.
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.