Upcoming Religious Studies Courses

Winter 2021

REL 238: 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 274: Gods and Germs: Religious Responses to Disease, M-F 8:30-11:30, Prof. Bandy
While governments around the world were caught off-guard by the Covid-19 pandemic, religious communities have demonstrated versatile responses drawing on histories, theologies, rituals, and practical knowledge to prevent disease, prolong life, and promote health through systematic and organized efforts. Examples from the plague of Justinian, the Black Death, the Spanish Flu, the AIDS epidemic, and Covid-19 show how religions have not only explained the existence of disease but rendered outbreaks meaningful within religious frameworks. Gods and Germs introduces students to historical and contemporary explanations of disease and strategies for health and wellness across different religious traditions. Themes of the course will be devoted to theodicy, medical traditions, ritual technologies, wellness practices, and interpretive authority in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and contemporary Faith Healing communities. Also counts towards Public Health Studies (Socio-Cultural Focal Area).

REL 276: Sci-Fi Religion, M-F 1:30-4:30, Prof. Monteith
This course introduces students to fictional worlds that explore questions of meaning, existence, and alternative realities. Sometimes dark, sometimes utopian, these other worlds often serve to challenge or valorize contemporary norms. They also imagine how future advances could alter the human experience, as well as what non-human experiences might be like (aliens, cylons, self-aware software, and so on.) Although “traditional” religions may occasionally come up, this course will focus more on alternative and imaginary religions as they appear in sci-fi TV, movies, and stories.

REL 277: Gender and Race in Black Religions, M-F 8:30-11:30, Prof. Escalante
This course explores three interrelated concepts: gender, race, and religion. We will take an anthropological approach to these themes, which means we will study them as social phenomena. The traditions we will focus on are called “Black Atlantic religions” and include practices such as Santería and Vodou, and we will pay special attention to how they are practiced in the United States. Also counts towards African/African-American Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies; American Studies.

Spring Term

REL 110: Religion in a Global Context (Multiple Sections), Profs. Orr, Pakdil, Bandy
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 120: Magic, T/Th 2:30-4:10, 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.

REL 131: Jewish Biblical Literature, M/W 2:00-3:40, Prof. Claussen
This course introduces students to the critical study of biblical literature, focusing on the text known as the Hebrew Bible, Jewish Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament. We will explore the Bible in light of the ancient contexts in which it was composed, while also studying the way that ancient Jews and Christians interpreted and transformed the meaning of biblical texts.  We will read the Bible’s narratives, poems, proverbs, prophecies and laws, and consider its diverse approaches to topics such as power, holiness, gender, nature, love, death, God, and the relation of the people of Israel to other peoples. Also counts towards Classical Studies; Middle East Studies, International and Global Studies (Middle East Regional Concentration); Jewish Studies; Interreligious Studies.

REL 170: Religion, Race, and Resistance, T/Th 12:30-2:10, Prof. Peters
Christianity played a powerful role in the construction of the category of race and in the political and economic processes of slavery, colonization, and colonialism that shaped the modern era of global capitalism. In this course, we will pay particular attention to the religious history and experience of Native Americans and people of African descent in the United States with an eye toward understanding how religion has been used as both as a weapon to support and enforce racism as well as a source of liberation for black and Native peoples. Also counts towards African/African-American Studies.

REL 172: Epic Tales from India, T/Th 10:30-12:10, Prof. Allocco and Prof. Pennington
Through the study of popular culture, performing arts, and classical narratives, this co-taught course introduces the two great epic traditions of India, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. We will explore these influential stories from their origins in India and trace their spread throughout South and Southeast Asia as they take root in Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism. Students will develop projects that reflect the tremendous diversity of these epics as seen in TV, movies, comic books, oral recitations, dance dramas, and more. Also counts towards: Asian Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies; International/Global Studies: Asia Regional Concentration; Peace and Conflict Studies; Interreligious Studies.

REL 181: Buddhist Traditions, T/Th 12:30-2:10, Prof. Winfield
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 184: Christian Traditions, M/W 4:00-5:40, Prof. Huber
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 311: Religion Goes Global: Fanatics, Frauds, and Peacemakers, M/W, 2:00-3:40, Prof. Pennington
This course will examine the violent, rapidly evolving, and colorful religious world generated by the forces of globalization over the last half century. Students will study how inter-religious contact, technology, social media, migration, tourism, capitalism, and climate change have impacted the shape of 21st-century religion. Particular attention will be given to emerging forms of religious violence, the commodification of spirituality, and interreligious dialogue. Advanced Studies; also counts towards Interreligious Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, and International and Global Studies.

REL 360: Hindu Goddesses: From Myths to Movies, T/Th 2:30-4:10, Prof. Allocco
This course introduces several of the most important Hindu goddesses and considers how they are represented, characterized and embodied in textual, performance and ritual traditions. Students in this course will analyze the theologies, mythologies and poetry connected with particular goddesses and will explore how individual goddesses are approached in Hindu worship, ritual practice and festival celebrations. Advanced Studies; also counts towards: Asian Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies; International/Global Studies: Asia Regional Concentration; International Business.

REL 382: Jewish Ethics, T/Th 12:30-2:10, Prof. Claussen
This course explores historical and contemporary Jewish approaches to ethics. We will read classical Jewish texts, examine how understandings of Jewish ethics have been shaped by various modern cultures, and consider how Jewish ethics might speak to a range of contemporary moral and political issues. We will discuss diverse approaches to qualities such as honesty, curiosity, forgiveness, compassion, and solidarity, and we will explore topics involving gender and sexuality, religion and politics, war and violence, and a range of other topics determined by student preferences. Advanced Studies; also counts towards: Jewish Studies; Classical Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies.

REL 464: Africa in the Religious Imagination, T/Th 10:30-12:10, Prof. Marcus-Sells
The continent that we call “Africa,” was first described as such by explorers and missionaries who lived outside of its borders, and particularly by writers working from within the Christian and Islamic traditions. In contrast, prior to the colonial period, people living on the continent of Africa very rarely thought of themselves as “Africans.” This course will explore this dynamic between insider and outsider accounts of Africa. We will examine the utopian, dystopian, and racialized constructions of “Africa” in religious literature, from Muslim traders, to European explorers, to American missionaries and look at the various ways that people living on the continent have understood their own identities and traditions. Advanced Studies; also counts towards African/African-American Studies; International/Global Studies: Africa Regional Concentration.

REL 492: Senior Seminar, T/Th 8:00-9:40, Prof. Winfield