Winter 2022

REL 1710: God and Politics (Prof. Pakdil)
In everyday occurrences, one can witness various intersections between religion and politics in different settings, including religious and political leaders interfering in politics and religion, respectively. Through the concepts of secularization, social justice, health, fundamentalism, violence, social cohesion, religious and political leaders engage with each other. This course explores such moments in human experience from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives and investigates practices in religious and political leadership across time and space. It selects case studies from a diverse group of religious and political leaders, examining how political and religious leaders influence—and are influenced by—religion and politics. Also counts towards International and Global Studies.

REL 2380: Religion and Film (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 2710: Meaning and Happiness (Prof. Boswell)
This course will examine how individuals and communities define and find meaning and happiness. What are the factors that impact our sense of meaning and purpose? How do we determine what brings us happiness and a sense of well-being? We will learn how religious, spiritual, scientific, philosophical, sociological, and historical sources and perspectives have impacted the view of what it means to live a meaningful and happy life.

REL 2750: Life, Death, and Afterlife (Prof. Reynoso)
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.

REL/GBL 2860: India’s Identities: Religion, Caste and Gender in Contemporary South India (Prof. Allocco and Prof. Pennington)
This course emphasizes the diversity of contemporary Indian identities, devoting particular attention to religion, caste, and gender. This course brings students into a range of Indian religious spaces associated with Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions and into direct contact with Indians from an array of caste backgrounds, education levels, and occupations, allowing them to develop an informed appreciation of the diversity of the world’s largest democracy. Through directed study opportunities, lectures, and daily interactions with Indians who live and work in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, we will consider the nature of religious identity and practice; explore cultural expectations regarding gender (including arranged and other forms of marriage); assess the ways in which caste does and does not matter in contemporary society; and analyze how tradition and modernity interact in this rapidly changing nation. Experiential Learning Requirement; also counts towards Interreligious Studies; Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies; Asian Studies; International and Global Studies; Islamic Studies.

Spring 2022

REL 1000: Religion in a Global Context (Multiple Sections)
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 and International and Global Studies.

REL 1280: Religion, Race & Resistance (Prof. Green)
In this course we examine the role that Christianity played 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. 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 Interreligious Studies, African and African-American Studies, Poverty and Social Justice Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, American Studies.

REL 1710: God and Politics (Prof. Pakdil)
In everyday occurrences, one can witness various intersections between religion and politics in different settings, including religious and political leaders interfering in politics and religion, respectively. Through the concepts of secularization, social justice, health, fundamentalism, violence, social cohesion, religious and political leaders engage with each other. This course explores such moments in human experience from cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives and investigates practices in religious and political leadership across time and space. It selects case studies from a diverse group of religious and political leaders, examining how political and religious leaders influence—and are influenced by—religion and politics. Also counts towards International and Global Studies.

REL 1712: Religion and Storytelling (Prof. Wilensky-Lanford)
This class is an introduction to the critical study of religion that focuses on the complicated relationship between religion and popular culture in contemporary American society. First, we will ask what definitions of “religion” are implied by works of literature, and drama like Harry Potter, The Handmaid’s Tale, or Left Behind. What kinds of traditions are represented, what sources of authority are presumed? Then we will look at how those competing definitions lead to controversies and debates. Is there too much religion in contemporary popular culture—or too little? Why do some people find religious reasons to ban books? What does it mean to read the Bible “as literature”? Finally, we will explore how literature itself becomes religion through the creation and adaptation of new scriptures, myths, and narratives.

REL 1713: Harry Potter and Religion (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 (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 and Global Studies; Interreligious Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities Studies.

REL 1820: Hindu Traditions (Prof. Allocco)
This course introduces students to Hindu religious traditions and traces their development from Vedic times to the present day. Special emphasis will be placed on the diversity of theological orientations that characterize classical and contemporary Hinduism and are articulated across a broad spectrum of textual traditions, ritual expressions and social practices. Also counts towards: Asian Studies; International and Global Studies; Interreligious Studies.

REL 1840: Christian Traditions (Prof. Schrader Polczer)
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; International and Global Studies; Classical Studies.

REL 3736: Moral Domination and Subversion (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? Advanced Studies.

REL 3750: Buddhist/Jewish Spiritualities and Encounters (Prof. Winfield and Prof. Claussen)
What does it mean to take on a dual identity? How have mindfulness and other Buddhist practices shaped experiences of being Jewish? How have Jews and Jewish traditions shaped American Buddhism? How do some people incorporate aspects of both Judaism and Buddhism into their everyday lives? This co-taught course will critically examine the Bu/Jew Jew/Bu phenomenon that has emerged in America. Advanced Studies; also counts towards Jewish Studies; Asian Studies; Interreligious Studies.

REL 3110: Beyond Conflict and Tolerance: Interreligious Encounter and Social Change (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 4605: Black Radical Religion (Prof. Green)
This seminar examines the diverse religious philosophies and practices of African Americans along with the establishment of social justice movements in the United States. It explores the complex evolution of Black religion and the violent, political realities that shaped its development. The course will focus on the evolution of Black religion starting with the Exodusters and ending with the Womanist movement. Texts on Black political theology, popular culture, and militancy will be utilized to understand this important aspect of the Black experience. Prerequisite: One course in Religious Studies. Advanced Studies; also counts towards African and African-American Studies; American Studies.

REL 4970: Senior Seminar (Prof. Huber)
In this capstone seminar, students demonstrate that they can understand, participate in, and contribute to current discussions and debates in the field of Religious Studies. Students also reflect on their course of study in the major and its implications for their future.