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Religious Studies

Spring 2017 Courses

RELS 103: Asceticism
Jessica D. Starling MWF 3:00PM - 4:00PM

Comparative approach to asceticism and examination of acts of self-discipline in Eastern (Jain, Hindu, Buddhist), Western (Stoic, Christian mystic), and modern secular (eco-activism, fasting diets, and extreme exercise regimes) cultural contexts. Consideration of the question: What good is self-discipline? Depriving oneself of sensual pleasures can be seen as an antidote to materialism and a means of liberating the soul from its fleshly shackles, but is denying our inborn desires a form of self-violence?

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 241: Religion/Culture Hindu India                                                        Claire Robison TTH 1:50PM - 3:20PM

Introduction to Hinduism in its Indian cultural context, with focus on theories of sacrifice, fertility, and discipline. Studies in classic Hindu sacred texts, with careful readings of myths of order and productivity. Analysis of reconstructed postcolonial Hinduism. Emphasis on studying religion from a critical and comparative perspective.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 242: Religions/Cultures East Asia                                                      Jessica D. Starling MWF 11:30AM - 12:30PM 

Chinese and Japanese world views. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Shintoism: their origins, development, interactions. Mutual influence of folk and elite traditions, expansion of Buddhism and its adaptation to different sociopolitical environments, effects of modernization on traditional religious institutions.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 254: Religion Modern America 1865-1995
Dr. Susanna Morrill TTH 1:50PM - 03:20PM 

Impact of religion in modern America from the end of the Civil War to the present day, emphasizing the interaction between America’s many religions and emerging American modernity. The fate of “traditional” religion in modern America; “alternate” American religious traditions; urbanization, industrialism, and religion; science, technology, and secularism; evangelicalism, modernism, and fundamentalism; religious bigotry; pluralism; new religions and neofundamentalism.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 273: Islamic Origins
Dr. Paul Powers MWF 9:40AM - 11:10AM

Major religious and sociohistorical developments in the Islamic world from circa 600 to 1300 C.E. Focus on the Qur’an, Muhammad, early Islamic expansions and dynasties, and interactions with non-Muslims. Examination of the formation of orthodox beliefs and practices (e.g., theology, ritual, law), contestation over religious ideals and political power, and the emergence of Shi’ite and Sufi Islam.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 357: Family, Gender, and Religion
Claire Robison MWF 1:50PM - 2:50PM

Theories and ethnographic case studies of family,gender, and religion. Topics may include the function of religious symbols in relation to gender and family roles, religious meanings of food, religious interpretations of marriage and childrearing, and domestic religion as a bridge between the sacred and profane. Emphasis will be on anthropological approaches to religion, and students will employ ethnographic methods in their research projects. Case studies will address Christian feasting and fasting in contemporary and medieval contexts, female shamans in contemporary Korea, Confucianism and the construction of gender roles in East Asia, and Buddhist temple families in Japan.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing.

RELS 373: Reformations Sixteenth Century                                                Benjamin Westervelt MWF 12:40PM - 1:40PM

 The religious, social, and political dynamics of the Islamic world, circa 1300 C.E. to present, especially the 19th-21st centuries. Earlier developments (e.g., the Qur’an, Muhammad, Muslim dynasties) considered in relation to the modern context. European colonialism, postcolonial change, reform and “fundamentalist” movements, Sufism, Muslim views of “modernity,” and changing understandings of politics, gender, and relations with non-Muslims.

Prerequisites: None.

Restrictions: Sophomore standing required.

RELS 490: Senior Thesis
Dr. Susana Morrill TTH 11:30AM - 1:00PM 

Survey of the history of cultural appropriations of Jesus through the centuries, ending with the contemporary search for the historical Jesus and its pop culture congeners. A case study in the appropriation of a classical religious figure. Gospel records; evidence of other ancient sources, including noncanonical gospels; early Christian writings; Western cultural appropriations of Jesus; and Jesus in modern film and literature.

Prerequisites: None.

Restrictions: Senior standing required.

Religious Studies

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