Advanced Seminar: Religion and Law RELST-UA.15, de Vries
Wednesday 11:00am-1:45pm. Class #8607. 4 Pts. 726 Broadway Rm. 542
From the medieval and early modern controversies regarding "the king's two bodies" and the "corpus mysticum," via the Lutheran doctrine of the "two kingdoms/governments," up to present-day debates on "political theologies," broadly defined, the premises and doctrines of so-called "divine economy," whether in the guise of the Catholic doctrine of providence or the Calvinist idea of predestination, have guided the understanding not only of canonical law and of catechism, at least within the Western Church, but also of modern emerging concepts, the interpretation as well as application of constitutional law, jurisprudence, and human rights. And a similar inflection or reorientation of public discourse and international relations, together with an ever widening and deepening sense of social and global justice, can be discerned in the accommodations that have either been granted or refused the growing non-Christian religious minorities within the legal framework of Western democratic states. The latter have been increasingly challenged to either rethink or reformulate their presumed neutrality and secularism (or, in the French context, their laïcité) and this all the more so since the wider world has other models on offer that seem more and more powerful and, likewise, remarkably adaptable to the ever changing conditions and opportunities in what is by now a multipolar world. Indeed, the political and, especially, legal adoptions and adaptations of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, next to Judaism and Islam, in contemporary states need to be seen for what they are, namely alternative modern paths in a largely post-secular world in which, paradoxically, the "spirit" of laws as well as new forms of political "spirituality" seem to weigh on matters more than ever.
This seminar will focus on foundational theological, philosophical, and juridical texts, together with a comparative set of concrete and controversial European as well as US legal cases, in order to investigate the theoretical and practical challenges as well as opportunities that the seemingly perennial confrontation between -- and, indeed, imbrication of -- religion and law has made inevitable and possible, locally and globally. Readings will include Ernst Kantorowicz, Henri de Lubac, Carl Schmitt, Erik Peterson, Jakob Taubes, Michael Walzer, Sari Nusseibeh, Joseph H.H. Weiler, Jürgen Habermas, Hans Joas, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Nancy Rosenblum, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, Jocelyn Cesari, Olivier Roy, and Samuel Moyn.
Ancient and Near East Mythology RELST-UA.125 (Same as HBRJD-UA.125), Fleming
Monday, Wednesday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #20464. 4 Pts. 25 West 4th Rm. C-13
The myths of the ancient Near East represent the earliest literary expressions of human thought. Students in this class read myths from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, Anatolia, and Israel, studying the myths themselves as literary works as well as exploring the ideas and broader issues that shaped them. These myths, including both extensive literary masterpieces such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and shorter work such as the Flight of Etana to Heaven, offer a window into the religious mentality of the ancient Near East, which in turn laid the foundation for many elements of modern Western culture.
Jesus and Judaism RELST-UA.158 (Same as HBRJD-UA.158), Reed
Tuesday, Thursday 3:30pm-4:45pm. Class #20627. 4 Pts. KJCC Basement
This course explores the Jewishness of Jesus and its reception with ancient, medieval, and modern Judaism. It begins by situating Jesus and his first followers in relation to the Jewish religion and culture of their time, considering the place of Judaism in the origins of Christianity. Then it explores reactions to Jesus' Jewishness within later Jewish literature, art, and philosophy--ranging from polemics to inspiration. In the process, the course will survey the history of Jewish/Christian relations from antiquity to the present.
Topics: The Life of the Buddha in Art and Narrative RELST-UA.244 (Same as EAST-UA.950.003), Vendova Syllabus
Tuesday, Thursday 3:30pm-4:45pm. Class #20489. 4 Pts. GCASL Rm. 383
The story of the life of the Buddha is one of the most important religious narratives with far-reaching influences which has remained important and well-known in all Buddhist traditions across different regions for more than 2200 years. Together with the biographical account of Buddha’s last existence as prince Siddhartha, the Buddhist tradition also celebrates the stories of many of his prior existences recounted in previous lives stories known as jatakas. Those biographical narratives are also at the front and center and the main subject of the earliest Buddhist art and their importance for the Buddhist visual and storytelling tradition and their lasting popularity even until today are uncontested and without parallel.
Intro to the New Testament RELST-UA.302, Istok
Tuesday, Thursday 9:30am-10:45am. Class #20762. 4 Pts. 194 Mercer Rm. 201
Introduces students to issues and themes in the history of the Jesus movement and early Christianity through a survey of the main texts of the canonical New Testament as well as other important early Christian documents. Students are given the opportunity to read most of the New Testament text in a lecture hall setting where the professor provides historical context and focus on significant issues, describes modern scholarly methodologies, and places the empirical material within the larger framework of ancient history and the theoretical study of religion.
Classical Mythology RELST-UA.404 (Same as CLASS-UA.404), Meineck
Tuesday, Thursday 11:00am-12:15pm. Class #8608. 4 Pts. 19 UP Rm. 102
Discusses the myths and legends of Greek mythology and the gods, demigods, heroes, nymphs, monsters, and everyday mortals who played out their parts in this mythology. Begins with creation, as vividly described by Hesiod in the Theogony, and ends with the great Trojan War and the return of the Greek heroes. Special emphasis on the return of Odysseus, as related by Homer in the Odyssey.
Creating the Good Society RELST-UA.428 (Same as HBRJD-UA.428), Gottlieb Syllabus
Monday, Wednesday 11:00am-12:15pm. Class #23531. 4 Pts. Location TBA
This course explores Greek, Christian and Jewish responses to the problem: How does one create a good society? Central questions to be explored include: What is the best form of government? What economic system is ideal? Should the government actively promote a vision of the good life or leave it to individual to decide the good for themselves? Should the government prioritize the freedom, equality, or happiness of its inhabitants? What role should religion and nationhood play in society? What models of education should the government promote? How does gender inform these considerations? The course will focus on careful analysis of primary texts. Thinkers to be studied include: Plato, Maimonides, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Mendelssohn, Marx, Hess. Having first taken the course: Living a Good Life: Greek and Jewish Perspectives is highly desirable.
Religion and Society RELST-UA.432 (Same as SOC-UA.432), Tavory
Tuesday, Thursday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #23480. 4 Pts. 295L 4156
For a very long time, human beings have talked about and gestured toward realms of existence that were somehow fundamentally different than everyday life. These have been realms with powerful beings, mysterious forces, and iron laws which can bestow healing, help, or affliction on those who inhabit the everyday world. Today, we’re most likely to associate these planes of existence with “religion,” though this is actually a relatively modern concept. People have for centuries debated the truth of particular religions, as well as—and not incidentally—what it might mean for a religion to be true. While these debates show little sign of subsiding, there are at least two ways in which religion is undeniably real: first, in the sense that people really act on their religious convictions and that these results have real consequences; and second, in the sense that religion exists as a concrete set of institutions in contemporary society—organizations, self-identifications, legal categories, and so on. It is these two kinds of religious truth on which this class focuses, bracketing as much as possible questions about other varieties. We’ll ask, for example: “What is religion?” “How is it related to other social institutions—government, law, culture, economy, and so on?” “What does it mean to be religious, and what do people get out of religion?” “What are the social consequences of religion? Do certain religions naturally lead to violence, terrorism, oppression, and environmental neglect—or happiness, charity, and prosperity?” “What are some significant contemporary religious trends, and what seems to be driving them?”
Religion and Media RELST-UA.645 (Same as ANTH-UA.220), Zito
Tuesday, Thursday 11:00am-12:15pm. Class #20458. 4 Pts. GCASL Rm. 383
This course will introduce you to the longstanding and complex connection between religious practices and various media. We will first analyze how human hearing, vision and the performing body have been used historically to express and maintain religious life through music, voice, images, words and rituals. Then we will spend time on more recent electronic media such as cassette, film, television, video, and the internet. Students should note that an anthropological/ historical perspective on studying religion will be pursued in the course. We will read, listen, view, log on, discuss and write.
Topics: Jews & Muslims: Perceptions and Polemics RELST-UA.650.001 (Same as HBRJD-UA.145), Russ-Fishbane
Monday, Wednesday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #20490. 4 Pts. 25 West 4th Rm. C-8
This course explores the intricate relations between Jews and Muslims from the formative period of Islam in the Middle Ages to the exodus of Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities in the twentieth century to the religious and political tensions in contemporary times.
Topics: Jewish Europe after the Holocaust RELST-UA.650.002 (Same as HBRJD-UA.689), Estraikh
Monday, Wednesday 9:30am-10:45am. Class #20466. 4 Pts. KJCC Basement
The social, political, and cultural forces that shaped Jewish life in post-1945 Europe. Topics include reconstruction of Jewish communities, repression and anti-Semitic campaigns in the Soviet Union and Poland, the impact of Israel, emigration, and migration, Jewish-Christian relations, assimilation and acculturation, and reactions to the Holocaust.
Women and Gender in Islam RELST-UA.728 (Same as MEIS-UA.728), Katz
Monday, Wednesday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #20918. 4 Pts. 45 West 4th Rm. B01
Examines the rights, roles, and the physical appearance of Muslim women. This course investigates the complexity of the messages and models relating to gender in one of the world’s most influential religious traditions. Beginning with the rise of Islam, the class observes how foundational texts and personalities are interpreted and reinterpreted for changing times.
Engaging Early Christian Theology RELST-UA.840 (Same as CLASS-UA.856), Becker
Monday, Wednesday 9:30am-10:45am. Class #20913. 4 Pts. 45 West 4th Rm. B06
What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ was both human and divine? How can the Christian divinity be one yet three? How are the sacraments such as baptism effective? Do we have freewill? These were some of the pressing questions the Church Fathers addressed in the early centuries of Christian history and their answers contributed to the Christian theological tradition for centuries to come. In this course we will examine some of the classic works of early Christian theology. Despite the often highly rhetorical and polemical character of their writings the Church Fathers nevertheless developed an intellectually rigorous field of knowledge, one that has had a significant intellectual historical as well as socio-political impact in the history of the Church. This is not a theological course but rather an introduction to some of the key texts in a historically significant mode of theological inquiry.
Permission required. Class #8609. 1-4 pts. Staff.
Topics: African American Religions RELST-UA.983 (Same as HIST-UA.117), Pickett
Tuesday, Thursday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #20465. 4 Pts. Tisch LC9
This course explores the history of religions among Americans of African descent from the period of the development of the transatlantic slave trade (1440s) to the present. Its aim is to introduce students to the complex ways religion has shaped the lifeworld of African Americans. Such study involves, among other things, encounters with the religious cultures of slaves and slaveholders in the antebellum South; the development of independent Black churches, the effects of emancipation, migration, and urbanization upon Black religious life; new black religious movements (e.g., Nation of Islam, Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, Black Hebrews); the impact of Black religious expressive culture (e.g., music, sermon, song, and film); the religious dimensions of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements; as well as contemporary developments and transformations in Black religious life. All of which requires attentiveness to how we tell the story of African American religions, and how scholars have developed and pursued the modern study of “Black religion.”
Independent Study RELST-UA.998
Permission required. Class #8610. 1-4 pts. Staff.
COURSES APPLICABLE TO THE MAJOR OR MINOR
Texts and Ideas: God CORE-UA.420.020, de Vries
Tuesday, Thursday 2:00pm-3:15pm. Class #8746. 4 Pts. Silver Rm. 504
What or who is – or was – “God”? And what or who might “He” still – or yet again – become, for us, whether we consider ourselves true believers or not? Do admittedly insufficient philosophical proofs for His existence that, throughout the ages have been attempted, add up, in the end? And, if so, in what sense or to what extent, precisely? Or, if God’s existence and essential predicates can neither be verified nor even sharply defined, can they instead be falsified, as has also been claimed? Are God’s concept and names – and there are, across past and present traditions and cultures quite a few in circulation – as many instances of “nonsense,” at least in rigorous logical, conceptual and argumentative, terms? Is to speak of and reason about “God” proliferate mere noise, an inchoate feeling of cosmic and existential dependence, nothing more?
This course is devoted to historical and contemporary efforts to nonetheless understand and justify this at once most familiar and strangest of invocations or references: the Being called highest, by many, but also eternal, all-knowing, perfectly good, itself enough, and much else besides.
We will discuss etymologies and genealogies of this increasingly controversial name, term, and concept, analyze different – apriori and a posteriori – proofs for God’s existence, demonstrations of His essential predicates, and differentiate between the mystical theological tradition of divine names and the natural of philosophical theological ascription of infinite attributes (in so-called apologetics, scholasticism, and onto-theology). We will also revisit some of their most successful refutations, which have not put the theological challenge (to logical, reasonable thought and, indeed, language as such) to rest and, perhaps, never will.
From Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas, Descartes and Kant, the philosophical concept of God – and, eventually, idea of the infinite – has both substantiated and distorted or undermined the theological imagination, just as it has, indirectly, affected the sentiments of the common faithful, of theologians and mystics. Yet modern thought has also claimed that, in the process, the very concept of God suffered the “death of a thousand qualifications.” From positive via negative to mystical theologies, critiques of idolatry and blasphemy, a recurrent insight has been that there is, perhaps, an ineliminable distinction between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that is, the God of the Bible, on the one hand, and the god of the philosophers and the learned scholars, on the other. While revelation and reason did not always seem to conflict, their sources and claims or aims were not quite the same. Moreover, it was often held that so-called natural or, technically put, onto-theology confused finite categories of common being, on the one hand, and the infinite or, more precisely, transfinite, virtual possibility or actuality for which “God” stands, on the other. Even where God was equated with nature, with the universe or cosmos, the distinction between transcendence and immanence gave way to other ways of theorizing His unique substance and eminent mode of existence, including the very mode of existence (or “way of life”) it, deep-down, inspired. And whereas recent critiques have questioned whether God so much as even needs to be – or suggest that He “may be” or, in any case, is still, if not forever, “to come” – the prominence that His name, concept or idea, has nonetheless acquired in intellectual and political life remains squarely in place. “God” is the alpha and omega of all thinking and discourse, religious and other, whether as the presumed carrier of all perfections or, indeed, as the sum and coincidence of all contradictions.
Readings will include both integral works and selective chapters, collections of letters and poems. In addition, several historical lexica will be regularly consulted and several relevant films will be screened.
COURSES ABROAD APPLICABLE TO THE MAJOR OR MINOR
NYU Florence - Magic, Religion, and Inquisition RELST-UA 9671 (Same as MEDI-UA.9995)
This course is made up of four sections. The first opens with an analysis of the intellectual foundations of the witch-hunt from late Antiquity to the early Renaissance. The second section concentrates on the most infamous handbook for witch-hunters, Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of the Witches”) and on the roots of medieval misogyny. The third section looks at the mass witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the backdrop of the break between Protestant and Catholic Europe, and examines the connections linking witch-hunting to the momentous social, political and religious changes of the times. In the fourth part, the course will shift focus to the grassroots level, shedding light on the economic and social mechanisms which lead a community to “make a witch”.