Please note: all course numbers listed here with an "x" before them are crosslisted with the Religious Studies Program but are primarily sponsored by another academic department.
V90.0001 – Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (Zito) Tuesday/Thursday; This course focuses on the fundamental theoretical and methodological issues in the academic study of religion.The course will familiarize students with some of the more important theories of the origin, character, and function of religion, providing them with the scholarly analytic tools to study religion as a human phenomenon.These include historical, psychological, sociological, anthropological, and hermeneutical perspectives.Students will read Durkheim, Marx, Freud, Weber, and several examples of modern works on religious life and practice.This course is a requirement for both the major and minor in Religious Studies and is offered only during the fall semester.Successful completion of the course also fulfills the MAP Societies and Social Sciences requirement.Permission of the department is required to register for this course.
xV90.0306 – Belief, Truth, and Knowledge (Malmgren) Monday/Wednesday; This course is an inquiry into the nature of inquiry.We often seek answers to questions and take ourselves to know the answers or have rational opinions, and to have good evidence for our views.In this course, students will be asked to step back and ask: What is the nature of evidence, and what it is to know something or to be rational?In answering these questions, we will examine versions of and responses to Skepticism – the belief that there is very little we can know or have reason to believe.This course is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.
xV90.0308 – History of Ancient Philosophy (Rosen) Monday/Wednesday; Western philosophy owes its birth to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.In their care many of the foundational questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind were raised for the first time and developed in striking and sophisticated ways.Students will try to determine which questions they asked, what their answers were, and whether we should accept their answers as correct even now.This course is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy.
xV90.0551 – Topics: Belief and Social Practice in Pre-modern China (Waley-Cohen) Tuesday/Thursday; Examines the core principles of various traditional Chinese systems of belief and the diverse and eclectic ways in which these were put into practice by Chinese men and women before the modern era.Topics include Confucian teachings; popular culture; Buddhist pilgrimage; temples and monastic life; sects and the rebellions they inspired; education; state intervention; health and diet; life cycle rituals (births, marriages, funerals); ancestor ‘worship’; foreign religions; and personal devotion.This course is sponsored by the Department of History.
xV90.0639 – The Making of the Muslim Middle East, 600–1400 (El-Leithy) Tuesday/Thursday; This course is a historical and comparative approach to the first half millennium of Islamic history. It traces the cultural and religious strands shaping the institutions, belief systems, and practices. Using primary sources, students explore the major debates in cultural history of this period.This course is sponsored by the Department of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies.
V90.0645 – Religion and Media (Boutros) Monday/Wednesday; The course will introduce students to the longstanding and complex connection between religious practices and various media. The course will examine the relation between religious practices and various media, including writing and orality, music and dance, film, radio, television, internet, gaming, and other forms of digital media. Students will also examine representations of religion and/in media and responses of religious groups to media (both in terms of religious responses to technological developments and in terms of responses to news coverage). Together we will develop a (mutable) definition of religion and/as/in media.
V90.0646 – Religion, Sexuality, and American Public Life (Pellegrini) Tuesday/Thursday; The United States was founded on the promise of religious freedom, and yet, at their base, U.S. laws and policies regulating sexual life derive much of their rationale from specifically religious notions of “good” versus “bad” sex, what bodies are “for,” and what kinds of human relationships are valuable.What are the implications of this entanglement between sex and religion for debates over such contested issues as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and sex education?If sex is a “special case,” does this contradict cherished constitutional principles of church/state separation and freedom of religious practice?Is “being” gay necessarily at odds with “being” religious and, even, with “being” American?As a way into these questions, we will consider a range of case studies, situating each in its deeper historical context.
xV90.0680 – History of Judaism I: The Emergence of Classical Judaism (Staff) Monday/Wednesday; This course focuses on the history of Judaism during its formative periods, including Hellenistic Judaism, Jewish sectarianism, and the ultimate emergence of the rabbinic system of religion and law.This course is sponsored by the Department of Hebrew & Judaic Studies.
xV90.0782 – Topics in Islamic Studies: Religion and Government in Classical Islam (Rowson) Tuesday/Thursday; The religion of Islam began as a community but quickly also became a state, and then an empire. Before modern times virtually all states ruled by Muslims were "Islamic states," religion being part of their professed identity and ideology. Yet to say that "In Islam there is no separation of church and state" is not only simplistic but in some essential ways wrong. Rulers and governments early on lost their ability to pronounce authoritatively on questions of religion, and religious scholars jealously guarded their independence, while feeling free to theorize extensively on both ideal and real government. The relation between religion and government in Islam has thus been a very complex one. In this course students will examine various aspects of that relation, in terms of both theory and historical reality, throughout premodern times. Important topics will include the institution of the caliphate, sectarian conflict (particularly Sunni-Shi`i) over the nature of the state, the role of the judiciary, and the influence of pre- and non-Islamic ideas (Greek, Persian, Turkic) on conceptions of government. Assigned reading will include selected primary sources in translation. Contemporary issues will not be a direct focus of the course, but will by no means be ignored.This course is sponsored by the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
V90.0832 – Introduction to Buddhism (Gardner) Tuesday/Thursday; In this course, students will form a basic acquaintance with some representative ideas and practices of the Buddhist tradition in its development of some two thousand five hundred years.A bulk of the course will be devoted to exploring the origins and development of Buddhism in India, the land of its birth, before using the final few weeks to make a survey of the transmission and vicissitudes of Buddhism elsewhere, lingering for stops in East and Southeast Asia.Throughout this time, students will be asked to use these materials continuously to test their own criteria for defining "religion," and their ideas of how it is possible to have fruitful encounters with the religious traditions of others (and this applies even to students who may be practicing Buddhists).Other key themes that students will encounter in this presentation of Buddhism include: (1) Buddhism and the visual arts and literature; (2) Buddhism and its troubled relationship with state authority and violence; (3) the modulating effect of factors like gender, class, and ethnic identity on the experience of Buddhism; and (4) Buddhism and its acculturation to new cultural spheres.
V90.0843 –Jesus and the Origins of Christianity (Peters) Monday/Wednesday; This course introduces students to the modern quest to separate the historical, human Jesus from the unreliable accounts of his behavior and teaching in the early Christian gospels.The background of this “quest” and its key techniques are surveyed in the first portion of the course; the remainder is spent applying these techniques to two very unusual ancient Christian writings: the sayings gospel “Q” and the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.