Spring 2024 Courses


RELS 104 Religion and Violence
Paul Powers MWF 11:30AM - 12:30PM
Investigation of the oft-made claim that “religion causes much of the world’s violence,” exploring the best arguments for and against this proposition framed by maximalist claims that religion is inherently prone to inspiring violence, and minimalist claims that religion is either peaceful or subordinated to other (e.g., economic or political) concerns. Consideration of various definitions of “religion” to see how it might motivate a range of behaviors both peaceful and violent. Attention given to pervasive religious phenomena (such as sacrifice, conversion, holy/just war, and apocalypticism) that might inspire violence, as well as theological and ethical frameworks that may counteract violence. In a multi-stage, guided research project, students will pursue case studies of specific instances of violence apparently related to religion, thereby testing and employing the analytical lenses developed in the course.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 106 Religion and Medicine
Jessica Starling MWF 12:40PM - 1:40PM
Critical examination of the relationship between religion and medicine, drawing on scholarship from religious studies, anthropology, sociology, and history. Examples from ancient Greece, China, and indigenous traditions. Particular attention to the secularization of Western biomedicine and the contemporary popularity of alternatives. Critical examination of the terms “religious,” “spiritual,” “secular,” “natural,” and “holistic.”

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 229 Reformations 16th Century 
Benjamin Westervelt MWF 10:20AM - 11:20AM
A historical perspective on the various religious movements, collectively known as the Protestant Reformation, that marked Europe’s transition from the medieval to the early modern period (circa 1400-1600). Review of medieval religious patterns. The status of Catholic institutions and ideas in crises of the late medieval period, the theologies of Luther and Calvin, radical movements, the political background of the Reformation, Catholic responses to Protestantism, and export of Early Modern Christianity beyond Europe. Readings and discussions concentrate on recent social historiography of the Reformation. Popular appeal of Protestant religiosity, social implications of Calvinism, roles of women in the Reformation, family patterns and the reformation, class structure, and competing religious cultures in urban and rural society.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 253 Prophets, Seekers, & Heretics
Susanna Morrill MWF 9:10AM - 10:10AM
Introduction to major themes and movements in American religious history from colonial origins to the Civil War. Consideration of Native American religious traditions, colonial settlement, slavery and slave religion, revivalism, religion and the revolution, growth of Christian denominationalism, origins of Mormonism, using a comparative approach in the effort to understand diverse movements. Central themes: revival and religious renewal, appropriation of Old Testament language by various groups (Puritans, African Americans, Mormons), democratization of religion.

Prerequisites: None.

RELS 358/458 Mysticism 
Paul Powers TTH 1:50PM - 3:20PM
A comparative and theoretical exploration of the various manifestations of mysticism and religious experience in different contexts and traditions. Includes classical and current theories of the nature of mysticism and its relation to asceticism and other aspects of religious belief and practice, drawing on sociology, anthropology,
psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science. Interrogation of the nature and epistemological status of experience. Numerous case studies, including sustained attention to Sufism, the Islamic mystical tradition. This course is cross-listed with RELS 458. Students taking the 300-level version of this course will complete a guided research project, identifying and mastering the range of scholarly positions on a theme, critical issue, or essential primary text, and will produce a technically sound research paper. The course can only be taken once and cannot be repeated at the 400 level.

Prerequisites: One Religious Studies course.

Restrictions: Sophomore standing required.

RELS 490 Senior Thesis
Susanna Morrill TTH 11:30AM - 1:00PM
Advanced readings and major works in religion. In consultation with faculty, selection of a thesis topic and further reading in the discipline and research in the topic area. Substantial written document demonstrating mastery of theory and methodology in the study of religion and theability to integrate these into the thesis topic.

Restrictions: Senior standing required.