“Theories & Methods in the Study of Religion”
Why study religion in a presumably ‘secular’ age? Trends and events around the globe have, in recent decades, overturned assumptions that the rise of modernity would result in the inevitable demise of religion. In this class, we will explore how—far from modernity’s opposite—the very concept of ‘religion,’ as well as practices, narratives, cosmologies, and images we call ‘religious’ are situated at modernity’s core. Students will engage with early Enlightenment writers, nineteenth century Romantic, positivist, and materialist theorists, twentieth century sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and critics, and twenty-first century ethnographers and social theorists to trace the long and ever- transforming arc of the place of religion in our most taken-forgranted concepts and practices.
“Intro to Buddhism”
This course is an introduction to the incredibly large and diverse religion called Buddhism, from its inception in India to its modern forms across the world. We will study a range of primary texts and scholarship designed to give students a basic orientation in Buddhist history, scriptures, communities, practices, art, and beliefs, as well as a sense of the kinds of things that Buddhists have tended to debate, disagree about, or struggle to interpret. The goal is not to reduce Buddhism to a list of tenets and historical facts, which would be impossible, but rather to give students a general idea of the categories, terms, problems, and traditions they may encounter in studying and learning about Buddhism
“Vampires, Zombies and Other Monsters”
Vampires, zombies, werewolves, trolls and bad faeries... Humanity has a long list of monstrously imagined transformations of ourselves. What do these creatures mean to us, historically and today? Why are they among us in the USA in ever more powerful stories on film and TV? What do we think we are becoming? This course will place our investigations of these alter-egos in the context of our imagination of the divine though history and ethnography, and alongside our intimate problems of managing sex, gender, race and class. Rich sources are found in the archives of religions, psychology, philosophy, film, TV and comics. There is much to be learned about our own fears and desires through contemplating the differences from ourselves that are just a bite, or a full-moon, away. (Junior/Senior status required.)
“Topics: African American Religion”
This course is an examination of the religions of African Americans, from the period of slavery to the present. We will also pay attention to the ways various African American religions have been and are shaped by contact with each other and with other traditions, beliefs, and practices.
“Topics: American Scriptures”
This course will be an exploration of sacred texts produced in the United States (everything from the Book of Mormon to Walden to the Seven Circle Koran) to "specialty" Bibles (Stanton's Woman's Bible, etc.).
“Virgins, Martyrs, Monks & Saints: Early Christianity”
What was it about Christianity that it made it so popular in the ancient world? Was it the martyrs volunteering for public execution? Monks’ sexual renunciation? The isolation of hermits living on the tops of columns in the wilderness? Or perhaps orthodoxy and its politically divisive anxieties about heretics and Jews? In fact, all these things (and more) explain how a small Jewish messianic sect from Palestine became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. This course will provide an introduction to the big questions in the history of early Christianity. The focus will be on early Christian literature, such as martyr texts, saints’ lives, and works of monastic spirituality and mysticism. Issues addressed will include the Christian reception of Greco-Roman antiquity, the origins of anti-Semitism, gender and sexuality in the early Church, and the emergence of Christian theology.
“Of Miracles, Events, and Special Effects”
Hent de Vries
This course seeks to determine the meaning and role of events in public or global religions under the expansion of new technological media. It does so from what, at first glance, seems a narrow and counter-intuitive proposal: to establish a dialogue among traditional theologies of the miracle, modern philosophies of the event, and contemporary media theories of the special effect. The challenge will be to analyze and compare these old and new archives in terms of their respective idioms and concepts, methods and arguments, metaphysics and politics, so as to develop a critical, heuristic and diagnostic interpretive tool for the larger questions at hand.
“Jews and Christians in the Ancient World”
Annette Yoshiko Reed
The early history of Judaism and Christianity. Explores self- definition and typology in the formulation of religious categories and the use of these categories in examining religious and other social phenomena. Questions the relationship of ideology and literary evidence to social reality