Winter 2022

REL 2380: Religion and Film, M-F 1:30-4:30, Prof. Orr
This course looks at the importance of religious thought in world cinema. It considers a wide variety of films – from independent and foreign films to mainstream Hollywood blockbusters – that are either overtly religious or that have religious themes at their core. Background readings on film theory and select world religions will help students critically assess the form and content of each film.

REL 2740: Horror and Religion: It Takes Many Forms, M-F 9-12, Prof. Peacock
A killer impales the bodies of an unsuspecting couple. The dead rise. An all-powerful ancient deity inflicts destruction on the planet. For many, these classic horror tropes conjure images of Jason Voorhees, zombie films, and the Lovecraft mythos respectively. It may be surprising to discover, however, that these terrible tales exist in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Religion and horror have always found comfort in each other’s arms. Elementally, horror deals in death and our fear of it. As such, when we’re watching Candyman or reading Stephen King we are also dealing with issues intrinsic to religion: the soul, the hope for an afterlife, and the potential of forces beyond our control to destroy that hope. This class will examine how religion and horror are closely enmeshed discourses on the unknown, how they speak similar languages and for what purposes, and how each possess the narrative potential to transform our lives and culture.

REL 2750: Life, Death, and Afterlife, M-F 9-12, Prof. Singh
One of the few certainties in life is death. Given humanity’s knowledge of this certainty, many of the deepest reflections throughout human history have concerned questions of life, death, and the possibility of life after death: What does it mean to be human? What is the meaning or purpose of our existence and demise? What lies on the other side of death? Can immortality or eternal life be attained? And how does one live well with (or without) this life-after-death in view? In this course, we will explore what a diverse range of religious texts, practices, and thinkers can teach us about life, death, and the afterlife. We will also place this religious-studies material in conversation with contemporary medical, psychological, and philosophical perspectives. Possible topics include death rituals, grief and coping practices, a comparison of theories of heaven with those of rebirth and impermanence, suicide, religious and medical quests for immortality, etc.

REL 2760: Religion, Science, & Technology, M-F 9-12, Prof. Higgins
This course introduces students to debates about the relationships between religion, science, and modern technology. Our readings and class discussions will place religious studies in conversation with science and technology studies and medical anthropology. We will begin the semester with a brief historical overview of relationships between religion, science, and technology in the Old World of Afro-Eurasia. Then we will turn our attention to the modern history of science and technology, from Europe’s 17th-century Scientific Revolution through the devastating uses of science and technology in WWII. We will ask how these developments impacted religious practices, ideas, and communities in different parts of the world. Finally, we will end the semester by examining ethnographic work on religion, science, and biomedical technology in different parts of the world today.

Spring 2022

REL 1000: Religion in a Global Context (Multiple Sections), Profs. Higgins, Orr, Pakdil, Russell, Singh
This course introduces students to the study of religion in its cultural and historical contexts and aims to familiarize students with the multi-faceted role of religion in the world including examination of social, economic, historical, political and ethical factors. Also counts towards Interreligious Studies; International and Global Studies.

REL 1200: Magic, T/Th 10:30-12:10 or 12:30-2:10, Prof. Marcus-Sells
Wizards and Wicca, angels and demons, entertainers and con-artists – the words and the worlds of magic beckon to us from television sets and new-age stores, speak in the language of children’s books and church sermons. But what is magic? And, more importantly, whose traditions and practices get called “magic”? This course examines the debates over magic in historic and contemporary contexts, examining traditions from Vodou to Islam. As we pay particular attention to the lines between the rational and the irrational, the authentic and the fake, and between commitment and entertainment our investigations will ultimately lead us to ask: what is religion? Also counts towards: Interreligious Studies; African/African-American Studies; International and Global Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies.

REL/POL 1710: God and Politics: Practices of Leadership, T/Th 12:30-2:10, Prof. Pakdil and Prof. Kesgin
It is an everyday occurrence across the globe that politics and religion intertwine with each other: religious leaders engage in politics and politicians invoke religion. This course explores such moments in human experience from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives and looks into practices in religious and political leadership across time and space. It selects case studies from a diverse group of religious and political leaders at the intersections of religion and politics like Moses, Muhammad, and Aisha; in the United States, Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II; and, beyond the United States, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Binyamin Netanyahu. Also counts towards International and Global Studies.

REL 1713: Harry Potter and Religion, MWF 12:30-1:40 or MWF 2:00-3:10, Prof. Howell
This course explores the religious response to the Harry Potter book series, as well as the historical relationship of magic, religion, and science. Some theologically conservative Protestants have claimed that the Potter books contain satanic messages, promote witchcraft, and celebrate practices of the occult. By contrast, many supporters of the books insist they positively convey Christian messages. By investigating the dispute, “Harry Potter & Religion” also examines the history of thought concerning “magic” and “religion,” the sometimes-blurred boundaries between religion and science, and the place of technologies of enchantment in all of the above–magic, religion, and science alike.

REL 1810: Buddhist Traditions, T/Th 11:00-12:10, Prof. Singh
This course surveys the religious philosophy, practices and cultural developments of Buddhism from sixth century BCE India to present-day America. In the course of this study we examine Buddhist ideas about the nature of the self, existence, the basis of knowledge, the nature and path to salvation, psychology, ethics, aesthetics, gender, mind-body theory and non-violence issues. Also counts towards Asian Studies; International/Global Studies; Interreligious Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies.

REL 1840: Christian Traditions, MWF 9:30-10:40, Prof. Monteith
Christian Traditions asks students to consider the long history of Christianity and the many ways that people have thought about and practiced its diverse forms. Rather than treat Christianity as just one thing that is stable across all times and places, this course notes the many different ways that Christians have found it meaningful. What issues have different Christians found important? How have different Christians thought about divine revelation? How have different Christians thought about their roles in society? Students will engage materials ranging from St. Anthony’s ancient desert battles with the devil to Joseph Smith’s encounter with the Book of Mormon to contemporary liberation theology. Also counts towards Interreligious Studies.

REL 1860: Irreligious and Secular Traditions, MW 2:00-3:40, Prof. Monteith
This course investigates traditions that—in many cases—would not identify themselves as “religion,” or which attempt to reject “religion” as a concept. Examples of such traditions include New Atheism, Satanism, the veneration of social and political systems, Scientology, and even some religions identified as “joke” religions, such as Discordianism or Pastafarianism. Students in this course will evaluate where the boundaries lie between “religion” and “not religion,” as well as consider how irreligious and secular traditions can offer meaning and value to their members. Also counts towards Interreligious Studies and American Studies.

REL 3110: Beyond Conflict and Tolerance: Interreligious Encounter and Social Change, T/Th 2:30-4:10, Prof. Orr
This course draws from the emerging field of interfaith studies and aims to bring theoretical models for understanding the nature and consequences of interreligious encounter into dialogue with data from historical and contemporary instances of encounter. It will provide students a historical framework for examining the encounter of religious traditions over time, familiarize them with typologies of encounter, and help them think critically about the nature of pluralism, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue. Advanced studies; also counts towards Interreligious Studies.

REL 3230: Satan and the Supernatural, MW 4:00-5:40, Prof. Huber
This course explores beliefs, traditions, and practices related to supernatural beings within the cultures of the Mediterranean world (e.g. ancient Judaism, Roman paganism, emerging Christianity, early Islam). Special attention will be given to the character of Satan, including how the character functions in communal contexts. This course primarily employs literary and historical approaches to the study of religion. While historical in focus, this course will give some attention will be given to contemporary constructions of the supernatural and/ or the satanic. Also counts towards Classical Studies, Interreligious Studies, and Jewish Studies.

REL 3820: Jewish Ethics, T/Th 10:30-12:10, Prof. Claussen
This course explores historical and contemporary Jewish approaches to ethics. We will read diverse Jewish texts and consider how Jewish values may speak to a range of moral and political issues. Topics for discussion include honesty, forgiveness, compassion, solidarity, social justice, and issues related to gender and sexuality, environmental ethics, war and violence, and other areas determined by student interest. Advanced Studies; also counts towards: Jewish Studies; Classical Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies; Interreligious Studies.

REL 4610: Moral Domination and Subversion, T/Th 12:30-2:10, Prof. Monteith
This course examines morality as a kind of power. Margaret Urban Walker describes morality as those behaviors for which we are accountable to others. This course will consider how such accountability shapes individuals’ self-understandings, as well as their understanding of other people. Where do boundaries get drawn on what is or is not acceptable and who draws those boundaries? How does social conditioning prime us to be moral? Who polices moral behavior and why? Can morality be resisted, and why do some people wish to resist?

REL 4970: Senior Seminar, MW 2:00-3:40, Prof. Marcus-Sells