RELG 110.00 Understanding Religion

Michael McNally, 2/3c
How can we best understand the role of religion in the world today, and how should we interpret the meaning of religious traditions–their texts and practices–in history and culture? This class takes an exciting tour through selected themes and puzzles related to the fascinating and diverse expressions of religion throughout the world. From politics and pop culture, to religious philosophies and spiritual practices, to rituals, scriptures, gender, religious authority, and more, students will explore how these issues emerge in a variety of religions, places, and historical moments in the U.S. and across the globe..

RELG 120.00 Introduction to Judaism

Laura Levitt, 2a
What is Judaism? Who are Jewish people? What are Jewish texts, practices, ideas? What ripples have Jewish people, texts, practices, and ideas caused beyond their sphere? These questions will animate our study as we touch on specific points in over three millennia of history. We will immerse ourselves in Jewish texts, historic events, and cultural moments, trying to understand them on their own terms. At the same time, we will analyze them using key concepts such as ‘tradition,’ ‘culture,’ ‘power,’ and ‘diaspora.’ We will explore how ‘Jewishness’ has been constructed by different stakeholders, each claiming the authority to define it.

RELG 140.00 Religion and American Culture

Michael McNally, 4/5c
This course explores the colorful, contested history of religion in American culture. While surveying the main contours of religion in the United States from the colonial era to the present, the course concentrates on a series of historical moments that reveal tensions between a quest for a (Protestant) American consensus and an abiding religious and cultural pluralism.

RELG 162.00 Jesus, the Bible, and Christian Beginnings

Sonja Anderson, 3a
Who was Jesus? What’s in the Bible? How did Christianity begin? This course is an introduction to the ancient Jewish texts that became the Christian New Testament, as well as other texts that did not make it into the Bible. We will take a historical approach, situating this literature within the Roman Empire of the first century, and we will also learn about how modern readers have interpreted it. Along the way, we will pay special attention to two topics of enduring political debate: (1) Whether the Bible supports oppression or liberation and (2) What the Bible says about gender and sexuality..

RELG 233.00 Gender and Power in the Catholic Church

Sonja Anderson, 5a
How does power flow and concentrate in the Catholic Church? What are the gendered aspects of the Church’s structure, history, and theology? Through readings, discussions, and analysis of current media, students will develop the ability to critically and empathetically interpret issues of gender, sexuality, and power in the Catholic Church, especially as these issues appear in official Vatican texts. Topics include: God, suffering, sacraments, salvation, damnation, celibacy, homosexuality, the family, saints, the ordination of women as priests, feminist theologies, canon law, the censuring of “heretical” theologians, Catholic hospital policy, and the clerical sex abuse crisis.

RELG 235.00 Religion and Identity in the Medieval Middle East

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri & William North, 4a
This course explores the emergence and formation of Islam as a faith in the medieval Middle East (sixth-eleventh centuries) and its impact on social relations and identities in the complex and evolving cultural and religious communities that populated this multifaceted region. Through close reading and discussion of primary sources (in translation) (Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian, Persian, Greek, and Latin) and scholarship, we will situate the development of Islam in the context of religious and social change in this period and to understand Islam’s role in the transformation of life in the region.

RELG 236.00 Black Love: Religious, Political, and Cultural Discussions

Paul Cato, 5a
In 2021, the passing of Black feminist bell hooks led the scholarly journal Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ) to publish a special issue on Black love: hooks’ expertise. As is often the case in discussions of Blackness and love, the issue included many allusions to the divine and suggested some ties between race, love, and religion. Drawing inspiration from WSQ, this class will investigate the role religion, spirituality, and belief play in conversations about Blackness, love, and their intersection. The syllabus will include an array of academic essays, personal reflections, and creative works, including those by Lorde, Hartman, and Wonder..

RELG 270.00 Philosophy of Religion 

Lori Pearson, 4/5c
A study of classic issues in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. Possible topics include: the existence and nature of God; the status and nature of religious experience; the problem of evil; the meaning of faith, belief, and truth; definitions of the self and salvation; and the significance of religious pluralism for claims about truth and God. Readings are drawn from the work of modern and contemporary philosophers and theologians. Prerequisites: Previous work in religion or philosophy will be helpful but is not required.

RELG 300.00 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion  

Lori Pearson, 2/3c
What, exactly, is religion and what conditions of modernity have made it urgent to articulate such a question in the first place? Why does religion exert such force in human society and history? Is it an opiate of the masses or an illusion laden with human wish-fulfillment? Is it a social glue? A subjective experience of the sacred? Is it simply a universalized Protestant Christianity in disguise, useful in understanding, and colonizing, the non-Christian world? This seminar, for junior majors and advanced majors from related fields, explores generative theories from anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary studies, and the history of religions.

RELG 399.00 Senior Research Seminar  

Kristin Bloomer, 2/3c

This seminar will acquaint students with research tools in various fields of religious studies, provide an opportunity to present and discuss research work in progress, hone writing skills, and improve oral presentation techniques.

Prerequisite: Religion 300 and acceptance of proposal for senior integrative exercise and instructor permission.