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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Course Descriptions

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

44095 • Brereton, Joel
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am UTC 3.102
(also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 310)
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This course surveys the central beliefs and patterns of life of living religious traditions of Asia. It will focus particularly on the basic texts or narratives of these traditions, on their essential histories, and on the concepts of humanity, the world, and the divine that are distinctive of each. In addition, the course will explore not only what people believe religiously but also what they do religiously.


Text:W. Oxtoby, R. Amore, (A. Hussain) World Religions: Religions of the East, 3rd ed/4th ed. The Ramayana by R.K. Narayan, The Life of the Buddha (Buddhacarita) translated by Patrick Olivelle, Zhuangzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson, Basho's Narrow Road translated by H. Satol


Grading:Each of three essays on the assigned reading 15%, Midterm exam 15%, Final exam 30%, Attendance 10%

download syllabus

R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

44115-44120 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 300pm-400pm WAG 101
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
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An examination of principal issues in contemporary philosophy of religion with special attention to religious pluralism.  The views and arguments of Western theologians and philosophers will be taken up along with claims and concepts growing out of Eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism, in particular).  Special topics include different views of the nature of a Divine Reality, arguments of rational theology, mysticism, and the theological problem of evil.


List of Proposed Texts /Readings:

On-line texts drawn from Philosophy of Religion: A Global Approach, ed. S Phillips (Harcourt Brace 1996).


Proposed Grading Policy:

Five two-page homework assignments (50%)

A mid-term exam (15%)

A final exam (30%)

Attendance (5%)

R S 313 • Intro To Jewish Latin America

44140 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets TTH 930am-1100am CLA 0.118
(also listed as ANT 310L, HIS 306N, J S 311, LAS 315)
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What can we learn about Latin American social worlds when we look at the place of Jews within it? Conversely, what we learn about Jewish social worlds when they unfold in Latin America?  This course examines both of these questions. Specifically, we consider the role of Latin America as both a refuge from and a source of antisemitism, a hub of immigration, a site of Zionism, and of Jewish success and philanthropy.  We also address themes of displacement, longing, belonging, marginalization, prejudice, immigration, community, cultural continuity, and memory, while considering Sephardi and Ashkenazi difference, and inter-generational conflict among Jewish Latin Americans. Overall, through reading, writing exercises, independent research and in-class films, the course is designed to provide students with an understanding of how Jews constructed individual lives and vibrant communities in predominantly Hispanic, Catholic countries of Latin America.

With these themes in mind, the course is divided into four units: 1) Historical literacy is a substantive introductory unit, which provides basic context from 1492 until the post-World War II period; 2) Jewish group identities in Latin American features readings on Jewish life and cultural forms in select national contexts (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Dominican Republic and others); 3) Memoir and personal narrative engages students in critical reading of creative non-fiction and ethnography that focuses on individual lives; 4) Contemporary realities explores current events, contemporary trends and popular culture in Jewish Latin America. Finally, over the course of the semester, drawing on course motifs, students will produce their own research papers addressing a specific research question in the Latin American national context of their choice.

Note: This course carries the Global Cultures flag. Global Cultures courses are designed to increase your familiarity with cultural groups outside the United States. You should therefore expect a substantial portion of your grade to come from assignments covering the practices, beliefs, and histories of at least one non-U.S. cultural group, past or present.

R S 313M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

44150 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm BUR 436A
(also listed as HIS 306N, J S 304M, MES 310)
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This is the first half of a two-semester survey of Jewish civilization, from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E. All materials are in English translation. The course will begin with readings from the Bible and the Ancient Near East, and at that time we will focus on the development of the civilization of the region now known as Israel or Palestine, including the complex cultural interactions of the second millennium B.C.E. We will have extensive readings from the Second Temple Period as well as classical rabbinic literature and other writings from the period known as Late Antiquity. The course will also include studies of Geonic and Medieval Judaism, including philosophy, poetry, and mystical writings.


  • First paper (5 pages): 25%
  • Second paper (5 pages): 25%
  • Final Exam: 50%

Regular attendance, careful preparation of assigned texts, and participation in class discussions are considered to be basic requirements of the course. 


  • Robert Selzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought
  • Jack Suggs, et al, eds., The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with Apocrypha
  • Other primary sources

R S 314K • Intro M East: Rel/Cul/Hist Fnd

44155 • Spellberg, Denise A.
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm UTC 4.134
(also listed as HIS 306K, MES 301K)
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This course surveys the history of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the end of the fifteenth century. Students will be introduced to basic aspects of the political, social, and cultural dimensions of Islamic civilization from Spain to Iran as they changed over time.

In the midst of mapping this broad view, we will focus our attention on how specific historical figures and events contributed to definitions of Islamic identity, community, and authority. Central themes include the emergence of Sunni and Shi`i identities, the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims, and the unique material and intellectual contributions of Islamic civilization to world history and other societies.

Required Books and Readings:

1. Jonathan A.C. Brown, Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction

2.  Ira Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (2002 edition only)

3.  D. A. Spellberg, Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ‘A’isha bint Abi Bakr

4. John Alden Williams, ed. and trans., The Word of Islam

5. Xerox packet of primary documents and articles


4 exams @ 25% each = 100%.


R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

44160 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am CLA 1.108
(also listed as CTI 304)
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Brent Landau

Bible and Its Interpreters Course Description

Fall 2014


Description: Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits—sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.

Required texts: 1) New Oxford Annotated Bible or HarperCollins Study Bible; 2) Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary (Norton, 1996); 3) Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography (Princeton, 2012); 4) course pack

Grading: attendance, participating, and posting of questions on Canvas discussion forum (20%); three papers of approximately 1500 words each (60%); a final exam (20%).


R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

44165 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.306
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)
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This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We willbegin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth ofChristianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individualknown as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).



Class attendance and participation: 15%Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% eachShort-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% eachExams: 45% total, 15% each



Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one, do the assigned readings from it, and bring it to every class meeting!iClicker.Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature (cheap) and/or Raymond Brown,Introduction to the New Testament (not so cheap). You are not required to buy orread either of these! Y

R S 316K • Black Spiritualities

44168 • Tinsley, Omise'eke
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A209A
(also listed as AFR 317E)
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Born out of civil rights struggles in the 1960s, African Diaspora Studies departments and programs represent one of the youngest fields in academia. Yet the development of Black intellectual traditions is far from new. In fact, Africans in the Americas have been elaborating systems for developing and recording our knowledges since the Middle Passage. Psychology, medicine, visual arts, dance, historiography, literature: African Diasporics developed corollaries to all of these, as we Creolized African, European, and indigenous knowledge bases to serve the needs of the enslaved and their descendants. Traditionally, academia has pigeonholed these intellectual pursuits under the rubric of “African Diaspora religion,” so reinforcing stereotypes of African “irrationality.” More recently, however, scholars in the field of African Diaspora studies have developed a new approach to these knowledge bases. These scholars have attempted, first, to engage African Diaspora ways of knowing on their own terms; and, second, to bring these submerged epistemologies into conversation with Western academic disciplines. In this course, students will both read and participate in such efforts to bridge vernacular and academic epistemologies.

Theoretical, historical, and literary readings centering these problematics will challenge us to complicate easy divisions between traditional and scholarly knowledge, and to think creatively about how relationships between the two inform historical and contemporary cultures of the African Diaspora.

Texts (needs to be specific texts, not “course packet” or “TBA)”:

Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn

Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy

Yvonne Daniel, Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble

Sharon Bridgforth, love conjure/blues


R S 319 • Introduction To Islam

44170 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.306
(also listed as ANS 301M, HIS 306N, ISL 310)
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The objective of this course is to give students an understanding of what it means to be Muslim, in terms of beliefs (cosmology and theology), practices (rituals and moral teachings), and culture. In order to achieve this three-part objective, we will read materials from various perspectives and of different genres. We will devote some time to the history of the foundations and civilization of Islam, for even if a religion is conceived in terms of universals and ideals, its actual manifestation is always tempered by historical, cultural and social context. We will explore the meaning of Islam as a worldview and a moral system through examining its doctrinal, ritual, philosophical, ethical and spiritual dimensions. This course is designed for students with no prior knowledge of Islam.


To be provided by instructor. 


Final exam, Midterm exam, Quizzes, Class attendance

R S 346 • Evangelical Christianity

44180 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm BUR 130
(also listed as AMS 327)
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This course is an introduction to the intellectual and social sources of evangelical Protestant traditions in the United States. It examines varieties of evangelical beliefs and practices. In the first section of the course, we address the self-professed ethical struggle of evangelicals to be in but not of the world.  We historically contextualize that struggle, tracing its more recent expressions back to the categorical rupture between sacred “selves” and profane “society” that was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.  In our second section of readings, we study how evangelicals continually work out this ethical tension in their everyday lives.  Surveying a range of themes, including science, sexuality, politics, and environmentalism, we examine how evangelicals have defined themselves in opposition to secular society but also have engaged the secular in an effort to convert souls, manage personal behavior, and transform American society in their image of Christian community. By the end of this course, students should be able to defensibly define “who is an American evangelical.”  They should be able to construct a broad historical narrative of nineteenth and twentieth century American evangelicalism.  And they should be able to use this narrative to evaluate evangelical encounters in the twenty-first century with at least one sub-type of American culture listed on the syllabus.



Mark Noll, American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction (2001).


Additional readings posted on Blackboard.



Attendance/Participation 15%

Reading Response Journal 25%

Short Essays 25%

Final Essay 35%


R S 346 • Religion In The American West

44185 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm BUR 436A
(also listed as AMS 327)
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The history of the American West includes the stories of American Indians, Anglo-American and African American settlers, as well as immigrants from Asia and Latin America. These diverse communities have brought an array of religious traditions and practices to the area and to their contacts with each other. The region has also played a key role in the development of several religious movements, including Mormonism and Pentecostalism. Focused on inter-religious contact and the connections between religion, race, and, gender, the class surveys religion in the American West from the pre-colonial period through the present. 



Maffly-Kipp, Laurie. Religion and Society in Frontier California.

Sutton, Matthew Avery. Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America. 

Wenger, Tisa. We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom



Papers – 40%

Exams – 30%

Participation – 10%

Final project – 20%

R S 346D • Native American Religion

44190 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BUR 220
(also listed as AMS 327)
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Before European colonization, the North American continent featured myriad Indian nations practicing many different religious traditions and ceremonies. In this course, we will examine the religious traditions of several American Indian groups: the Pueblos of the American Southwest, the Wendats of the eastern Woodlands, and the Lakotas of the Plains. We will look at the myths and rituals that composed these nations’ religious identities. We will then examine the ways that contact with Europeans affected their religious beliefs and practices. In turn, we will study how Native American communities have transformed old practices and fashioned new ones since those initial contacts. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to see the diversity among American Indian groups and the way in which religious ideas and practices serve living, changing communities of people. 


Readings may include:

Marmon Silko, Ceremony

Martin, The Land Looks After Us: A History of Native American Religion

Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks

Seeman, The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead



Papers – 40%

Exams – 30%

Participation – 10%

Final project – 20%

R S 352 • Relig/Fam Japanese Society

44200 • Traphagan, John W.
Meets MWF 900am-1000am BUR 134
(also listed as ANS 372, ANT 324L)
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More than any other social institution, the family represents the primary locus of religious activity for contemporary Japanese.  This course explores the structures of family, kinship relationships, and religion in Japan since the Meiji Restoration (1868) with a strong focus on the post-war era and examines how both religion and family have been used as concepts and institutions for the creation of national identity as well as the expression of individual identities.  Students will develop a strong understanding of contemporary Japanese religious ideas and rituals and their connections to kinship structures, with particular attention focused on how family and kinship structures and ideologies have changed in the post-war era.

R S 355 • The Bible As Literature

44215 • Kaulbach, Ernest
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm PAR 105
(also listed as CTI 345, E 358J)
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Instructor:  Kaulbach, E

Unique #:  35860

Semester:  Fall 2014

Cross-lists:  CTI 345, R S 355

Flags:  Writing

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: C L 315, E 603B, 316L (or 316K), 316M (or 316K), 316N (or 316K), or 316P (or 316K), or T C 603B.

Description: Become familiar with the principal texts, interpretations, and images of the Old and New Testaments, so as to be able to recognize the use of the Bible in any form of literature, e.g., sciences, history, medicine, law, music, art, etc. Since the West depends upon the interpretation of “Alexandria,” that's the interpretation we will study, although we will find that the West incorporates Jewish, Muslim, and pagan interpretations (as indicated by the required second text).

A list of readings will be distributed on the first class day. Students will be expected to read them all, even though I spend half of the semester only on Genesis.

Texts: Any RSV (Revised Standard Version) Bible; The Bible As It Was, James L. Kugel.

Requirements & Grading: Papers (50%), attendance (25%), final (25%); have to attain “A” in all three areas or “B” in all three areas to receive the respective “A” or “B.”

R S 357 • Envisn Muslim:mid Age/Today

44220 • Heng, Geraldine
Meets M 600pm-900pm PAR 105
(also listed as E 360S, ISL 372, MES 342)
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Instructor:  Heng, G

Unique #:  35895

Semester:  Fall 2014

Cross-lists:  ISL 372, MES 342, R S 357

Flags:  Global Cultures

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.

Description: Our course will survey how Muslims are represented in the dominant cultural media of two important periods: the period known in the West as the European Middle Ages—a time in which Europe first became conscious of Muslims through Islamic invasions, multiple forms of cultural contact and negotiation, and the international wars known as “the Crusades”—and in the contemporary world of the 20th and 21st centuries, when Muslims have, once again, become prominent in the Western imagination.

In the medieval period, we will read selections from European chronicles and romances, a Byzantine biography, Arab histories and biographies, and other cultural media, including illustrations and maps, to see how Europeans envisioned Muslims, and how Muslims envisioned themselves. In the contemporary period, we will view clips from digital media representing several genres—silent film, Hollywood action adventure movies, biographies, television comedy, musicals, Disney animation—to see how, and if, modern representations of Muslims differ from premodern representations. We will also view how Muslims represent themselves in digital media, including clips from Youssef Chahine’s “Saladin” and the Axis of Evil comedy tour.

Texts listed here are suggestive, not final. All premodern texts read in modern English translation. Chahine’s “Saladin” has English subtitles.

Texts: (tentative) Selections from Latin crusade chronicles; Autobiography of Usamah; Selections from Arab historians of the crusades; Anna Comnena, The Alexiad; Richard Coer de Lyon; Beha ad-Din, Biography of Saladin; Roman de Saladin; Sultan of Babylon; King of Tars; Ibn Fadlan, Journey to the Rus; secondary readings. 

Digital Media: (tentative) The Sheik; Kismet; Aladdin; Lawrence of Arabia; Saladin (Chahine’s); Kingdom of Heaven; The Kingdom; Paradise Now; Caramel; Axis of Evil comedy tour.

Requirements & Grading: Course requirements: a term paper of at least 12 pages (50%), 1 or 2 in-class presentations (30%), attendance (10%) and active participation (10%).

R S 357 • Sacred/Sec In Mod Euro Thought

44225 • Matysik, Tracie M.
Meets MW 400pm-530pm GAR 3.116
(also listed as CTI 335, HIS 362G)
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Europe was long thought to have undergone a process of “secularization” in the modern era, beginning roughly with the sixteenth century and becoming largely unstoppable by the nineteenth.  According to this narrative, “God” was supposed to have slowly disappeared from the political, social, and cultural arenas; the supernatural, the divine, and the sacred were supposed to have receded from daily life; and the European world was supposed to have found itself  “disenchanted.”  More recently, however, historians and critical theorists have begun to reassess this story, finding instead mutually-evolving processes of disenchantment and re-enchantment, as new formations of the divine and the sacred appeared on the intellectual and emotive landscape.  Some theorists now talk about “varieties of secularism” at play in the modern world, while others have resuscitated a language of “political theology” to discuss the ever-complicated relationship between the state, sovereignty, power, and the sacred or divine.

This course will introduce students to key themes and methodologies of intellectual history and social theory by exploring the dueling approaches to secularization and sacralization in modern European thought.  In the first two weeks, we will read recent theoretical works on the sacred and the secular (essays from Peter Berger, Simon Critchley, Charles Taylor, and others).  With theoretical tools in hand, we will turn to the period between 1800 and 1945 to read classic works in philosophy and social theory that thematize the sacred and the secular.  Drawing on founding works in social and human sciences (from sociology,  psychoanalysis, philosophy and beyond), we will investigate related sub-themes of violence, sacrifice, ritual,  redemption, the sublime, and transcendence.  We will also discuss select artworks from the Romantic period through Surrealism as a means to enhance our discussion of these themes. 

Central to our concerns will be the sacred and secular formations of modern ethics.  We will observe on the one hand how modern thinkers have sought to establish ethical systems on purely immanent and secular grounds, even as they intentionally or unintentionally retained notions of the divine and the sacred (e.g., Immanuel Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone).  On the other hand, we will grapple with explicitly religious works that nonetheless establish ethics on what might seem like secular-humanist foundations (e.g., Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling).  We will read works that seek to explicate the structure of religions and their guidelines for comportment according to social categories of the sacred and profane or the taboo (Émile Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religion; Roger Caillois’s Man and the Sacred; Sigmund Freud’s Totem and Taboo); and we will read works that seek to rediscover and/or re-insert the sacred into the modern and profane world (e.g., George Bataille’s Theory of Religion; Walter Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence” and “Theses on the Philosophy of History”; Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption). 

The course lends itself naturally to the requirements of the Flag in Ethics and Global Leadership.  Our readings themselves concentrate on the question of the secular and sacred foundations of ethical systems and decisions.  As a final project, worth 35% of the grade, students will be asked to identify and analyze a sacred, secular, or taboo function that governs moral presuppositions.  They may find such a function represented in a film, a novel, an artwork, a legal decision, a U.N. declaration, etc.  Their task will not be to assess whether or not the practice is “right” or “good” or “ethical,” but rather to analyze the practice in terms of its (usually unstated) sacred, secular, taboo, or ritual context.  They will be asked to ground their analysis in one or more of our core readings.


Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (excerpt)

G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of History (excerpt from the introduction)

Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality (Books I and II) (but may substitute The Gay

            Science, Book IV)

Émile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religion (selections)

Roger Caillois, Man and the Sacred (selections)

George Bataille, Theory of Religion (selections)

Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (selections)

—, “The Uncanny”

Franz Rosenzweig, Star of Redemption (selections)

Simon Critchley, Faith of the Faithless (selections)

Peter Berger, Desecularization of the World (introduction)

Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornell West, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere


Journal                         10%

Short Essay 1                        20%

Short Essay 2                        20%

Final Essay                           35%

Class Participation                  15%

R S 357 • The Church And The Jews

44230 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SAC 5.102
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G, J S 364)
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This course will examine the complex relationship between the Western Church and the Jews over the course of two millenia. We will analyze ideas about Jews as they were expressed in both elite and popular culture, from theological works and canon law to church art and popular preaching. We will especially try to understand how changing conditions of life in the Christian West gave rise to striking changes in attitudes and policies toward Jews - changes whose justification required a rethinking of Christian theology.

Required to purchase:Revised Standard Version of the Bible (any edition)We will make use of a website designed specifically for this course by the instructor. The website will be distributed in CD-Rom form. It includes many of the readings. Other assigned readings will be posted on Blackboard.

Grading:Class attendance and participation (10%), two unannounced quizes (20%), two 1-3 pp. assignments (20%), mid-term exam (20%), final exam (30%). Plus and minus grades will be used.

R S 357 • Rembrt/Rubens: N Baroq Art

44235 • Smith, Jeffrey Chipps
Meets MWF 900am-1000am DFA 2.204
(also listed as EUS 347)
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Out of the radical artistic experiments and social upheavals of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries one of the most brilliant, innovative periods in the history of art: the Northern Baroque. Much of the class will focus on the art of the Low Countries beginning with Rubens, van Dyck, and such Dutch artists as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, and their contemporaries. This was a period of intense specialization as artists created landscapes, still life pictures, portraits, and genre scenes. We shall explore the artistic and cultural developments in France, Germany, and England.

R S 358 • French Empire: The West/Islam

44250 • Brower, Benjamin Claude
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am UTC 3.124
(also listed as HIS 364G, ISL 372)
show description

Modern French imperialism advanced its claims to global power through a division of the world into a two parts. On one hand was a space of civilization and modernity and, on the other, there was a primitive space inhabited by people who needed to be liberated or dominated. In the Mediterranean world this thinking erected a frontier running across the middle of the sea. In the north there was the “West” or “Europe,” and in the south there was the “East” or “Islam.” The West, represented by France, was construed as the conveyor of modern values and progress, while the East was a place of archaism and reaction that needed to be renewed, by force if necessary. French thinkers called this the “civilizing mission,” and it justified France’s colonization of Muslim countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many parts of this thinking have survived the colonial era and mark attitudes in contemporary, post-colonial France. Religion is generally offered as the decisive category determining these divisions, with the Muslim societies of Africa and the Middle East set off as somehow essentially different and incompatible with France and its Christian or secular traditions.

Paying special attention to the religious and secular dimensions of the problem, our work in this course will critically consider how these cultural and political frontiers developed, and their use in contests for power. The focus will be on modern France and the Middle Eastern countries that fell under French rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly Algeria, but the course will examine these questions within a broader trans-national context across several historical periods.

COURSE OBJECTIVES: Students will learn the skills of historical analysis and interpretation, along with the empirical material associated with the course itself. This will include the ability to grasp the complexity of historical debates and rethink received understandings and concepts in light of new evidence. Coursework and evaluations will focus on students’ ability to articulate coherent and sustained arguments in writing and verbally. There are no pre-requisites beyond those generally associated with a course of this level.


You will need to purchase the following books or use reserve copies in library.

  • Kateb Yacine, Nedjma (University of Virginia Press, 2001). ISBN-13: 978-0813913131
  • Anonymous, The Song of Roland (Penguin, 1990) ISBN-13: 978-0140445329
  • Abdellah Hammoudi, A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage (Hill and Wang, 2006) ISBN-13:978-0809076093
  • Edward Said, Orientalism (Vintage, 1979) ISBN: 039474067X
  • Joan W. Scott, The Politics of the Veil (Princeton UP, 2007) ISBN: 0691125430
  • Lucette Valensi, The Birth of the Despot, Venice and the Sublime Port (Cornell UP, 2009) ISBN:0801475430

Additional required readings, as noted in schedule of class meetings, will be distributed electronically or placed on library reserve.

Other: Required material in the course also includes music, photographs, films and various visual texts such as music videos that will be played/projected in class.


GRADES:Midterm            25%

Final Exam            35%

Writing            25%

Participation            15%

R S 358 • Iran, Iranian Jews, And Israel

44253 • Sternfeld, Lior
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GAR 2.112
(also listed as HIS 364G, MES 343)
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Provided the harsh rhetoric between the two countries, it may be forgotten that Iran is home to the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel. Jewish existence there dates back to 2,700 years ago, and the relations between the country and its minority has known ups and downs. The picture became even more complicated when in 1948 Israel was established and Iran became its most important ally in the region. This course will introduce the history of the triangle made of Iran, its Jews, and Israel, from the nineteenth century to the present. We will examine central events in Iranian history and will see how it affected this relationship. Students will read and analyze primary sources and read critically secondary sources. We will also analyze popular culture products, such as documentaries, TV representations, and literature. One of the end results of the course will be creating an online wiki-style website that will be dedicated to Jewish histories of the Middle East. There will be a one-credit option for students to work with texts in Hebrew. Additional texts in Arabic and Persian will be provided for students who wish to explore them for research purposes.


A course packet will be available, and additional texts will be on Blackboard. Selected chapters from the following books:Levī, Ḥabīb. Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1999.Sarshar, Houman, ed. Esther’s Children : A Portrait of Iranian Jews. Beverly Hills  Calif.  ;Philadelphia: Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History ;;Jewish Publication Society, 2002.———. , ed. Jewish Communities of Iran: Entries on Judeo-Persian Communities Published by the Encyclopedia Iranica. New York: Encyclopedia Iranica Foundation, 2011.Tsadik, Daniel. Between Foreigners and Shi’is : Nineteenth-Century Iran and Its Jewish Minority. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2007.Yeroushalmi, David. The Jews of Iran in the Nineteenth Century Aspects of History, Community, and Culture. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009.


Class participation 25%Website Entry Essay 25% (first draft: 10%, final draft: 15%)Presentation 10%Final Paper (due at end of semester) 40% (proposal: 10%, paper: 30%)

A 93-100, A- 90-92, B+ 87-89, B 83-86, B- 80-82, C+ 77-79, C 73-76, C- 70-72, D 60-69, F 0-59

R S 358 • Islamic Law

44255 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CAL 200
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
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From the beginnings of Islam in the 7th century until today, observant Muslims have sought to live their lives in accordance with Islamic moral law, or shari‘a. This upper-division course is designed to give students a foundation in the substantive teachings of the shari‘a, which comprises not only what we normally think of as law, but also ethics and etiquette. Specific areas of coverage include the following: rules of ritual worship, ethical principles, etiquette, family and personal status law, criminal law, economic and contract law, constitutional and international law. Although the bulk of the course will concern classical Islamic law, we will take time out to discuss issues of contemporary concern as well, such as gender equity, human rights, medical ethics, and warfare. Readings will be in both secondary literature and primary texts (in translation). This course will assume a basic working knowledge of Islam. This course carries a writing flag and global cultures flag.


Tentative: The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, by Wael Hallaq The Spirit of Islamic Law, by Bernard Weiss Religion of Islam, by Muhammad Ali Supplementary readings (articles, book chapters)


5 Essays, Attendance, Preparedness & Participation

R S 358 • Pilgrimage Networks And Islam

44256 • Mohammad, Afsar
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.102
(also listed as ANS 379, ISL 340, MES 342)
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Performing a pilgrimage to Mecca is an ultimate religious obligation in Islam. Each year in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, millions of Muslims throughout the world travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform this obligation, hajj. The Prophet’s 631CE pilgrimage with his followers is now historically considered to be the first hajj performed by a clearly identified group of the Muslims. This pilgrimage became particularly famous in history for the Prophet’s heralding of a new era of Islam by defining certain practices such as destroying the idols, the five pillars of Islam, and re-constructing a Muslim community.

This course introduces us to these Muslim-related pilgrimage practices and their significance in contemporary Islam. Due to its high significance in Islam, several aspects of Muslim pilgrimage have now become a major component in current research in Islam from various disciplines such as religious studies, anthropology, history and politics. By closely reading few of these scholarly works, we look into the questions of the changing notions of pilgrimage and modern transformations of this classical ritual obligation.  

While studying various classical and historical sources of pilgrimage, we discuss how contemporary Muslim and non-Muslim communities understand this idea of pilgrimage. We analyze how these modern communities offer alternative interpretations or try to find different ways to meet this major religious requirement. Contemporary research also shows how Popular Islam with a blend of Sufism provides different pilgrimage modes to circulate the idea of local sainthood practices. We also read materials related to these variations of Sufi pilgrimage.


Required Texts:


  1. Bianchi Robert, Guests of God: Pilgrimage and Politics in the Islamic World, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0195342116.
  2. Eickelman, Dale and James Piscatori, Muslim Travellers: Pilgrimage, Migration, and the Religious Imagination, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN-13: 978-0520072527.
  3. Bigelow, Anna. Sharing the Sacred: Practicing Pluralism in Muslim North India, New York: Oxford University Press.  ISBN-13: 978-0195368239.
  4. Cooke, Miriam and Bruce Lawrence. Muslim Networks from Hajj to Hip-hop, The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN-13: 978-0807855881.
  5. Mohammad, Afsar. The Festival of Pirs: Popular Islam and Shared Devotion in South India, New York: Oxford University Press. 2013.

R S 358 • Sufism & Islamic Mysticism

44260 • Hyder, S. Akbar
Meets T 400pm-700pm CLA 0.126
(also listed as ANS 340, HIS 364G, ISL 340, MES 342)
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This class explores Sufism and other Islamic mystical traditions as they infused cultural milieus spanning four continents and fourteen centuries. The first half of the semester will focus on the historical developments in Islamic theosophical traditions of the Arab and Persian worlds. We will concentrate on the prose and verse traditions tied to Ali b. Abi Talib, Jafar as-Sadiq, Mansur al-Hallaj, Rabia al-Basri, Suhrawardi Maqtul, Ibn Arabi, Ibn al-Farid, Sanai, Attar, and Rumi. In the second half of the semester, we will move to a discussion of Islamic mysticisms' growth over time and beyond the porous borders of Arabia and Iran. The relationship between Sufism and modernism, Sufism and colonialism, and Sufism and post-colonial resistance movements will also constitute a significant part of this course. Issues of gender, sexuality, globalization and pluralism will be discussed throughout the semester. This class assumes no prior knowledge of Islam.

R S 358 • Sacred & Ceremonl Textiles

44265 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm PAR 103
(also listed as ANT 324L, MEL 321, WGS 340)
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From the birth to death textiles, clothing, and other material culture affects our daily lives. The communicative power of textiles and other types of material objects reflects both the everyday and ceremonial lives of people in a society. Although this course focuses on textiles and material objects indigenous to the Islamic world, some examples of non-Muslim communities will be included to draw a comparison. An attempt will be made to shed light on the culture of various Islamic societies. The study of the social and historical background of a community is essential for the interpretation of meanings and symbolism associated with textiles and other elements of material objects. Such a study will be combined in the course with topics like ceremonial gatherings; ceremonial textiles; adornment (jewelry, tattoos, body-painting); body modifications (piercing and body-reshaping); and the role of material objects in public and private celebrations. One of the areas which material objects represent relates to practices of rituals, taboos, and rotes of passage in the societies, which can be traced to the pre Islamic era. Muslim communities in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East will be the primary focus of the course, and an attempt will be made to trace the common origins of ritual practices and their representation as a result to of diffusion and contact with other regional practices. Course presentations will be supported by videos, slide show and various material objects.


Reader packet.


In Class presentations 15%

Attendance/ & participation 10%

First Exam 35%

Second Exam 40%

R S 358 • Arts Of Islam, 650-1500

44270 • Mulder, Stephennie
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm DFA 2.204
(also listed as MES 342)
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This course will survey Islamic visual culture from its beginnings in the seventh century A.D. up to the sixteenth century.  Our object is to investigate the temporal, spatial, and experiential aspects of Islamic architecture (including forms as varied as mosques, shrines, palaces, schools, and warehouses) - as well as the largely secular and often strongly figural tradition of Islamic painting, sculpture, ceramic, metal and glass objects. In particular, we will pay attention to how buildings and artistic objects were used: in which contexts, and by whom.  We will explore the tension between the rich and diverse regionalism of Islamic art and its simultaneous universal identity.  Has Islam, as one of the world’s great religions, given a special character to its art?  Or is the term “Islamic” perhaps a misnomer to describe an artistic tradition that spans 1,400 years and three continents?  We will also ask how certain external factors - for example accidents of preservation (i.e. more religious monuments survive than secular ones), or the many ways non-Muslims have perceived Islam – produced certain narratives about its artistic culture, both scholarly and popular.By the end of this course, students will be 1) familiar with the major events of Islamic history, 2) able to link these events with specific artistic achievements, and 3) know how to think critically about certain themes or ideas important for understanding Islamic artistic culture.

R S 368 • When Christ Was King

44290 • Butler, Matthew
Meets T 330pm-630pm UTC 3.120
(also listed as HIS 350L, LAS 366)
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This seminar focuses on the history of Catholicism in twentieth-century Mexico, often seen as Latin America’s most “Catholic” nation. Chronologically, the course runs approximately from the Revolution of 1910 to the constitutional reforms of the 1990s that restored the Church’s legal standing in Mexico. Conceptually, the seminar will explore both the political and institutional aspects of Catholicism; at the same time, however, we will stress that the Church is a diverse community of believers that is actively engaged in interpreting and transforming the social world on religious lines. Individual seminar topics will include Catholic responses to economic modernisation and the postrevolutionary persecutions of the 1920s and 1930s; the Church’s role both in underpinning and undermining the one-party (PRI) state of the post-1940 period; Catholicism’s contribution (via guadalupanismo) to the creation of a Mexican national identity; the role played by Liberation Theology in driving the neo-Zapatista revolt in the southern state of Chiapas; and Church responses to democratic reform and the onset of religious pluralism. As well as discussing secondary readings, students will analyse a number of significant primary documents in class and also complete a final project using primary documents.


Class reader

Matthew Butler, Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico’s Cristero Rebellion: Michoacán, 1927-1929 (2004)

Jason Dormady, Primitive Revolution: Restorationist Religion and the Idea of the Mexican Revolution, 1940-1968 (2011)


In-class participation (20%)

Reading reviews (x4 @ 10%) = 40%

Research for final paper (10%)

Final paper (30%)

R S 375S • What Is Religion?

44295 • Moin, A. Azfar
Meets MW 300pm-430pm BUR 436A
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This seminar course introduces students to classic and contemporary debates on the origin, nature, and significance of phenomena commonly thought of as religious. It examines the question “What is religion?” from a range of disciplinary perspectives including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, and gender studies. Students will learn to apply these perspectives to interpret specific case studies of religious practices. The course grade will depend on the quality of participation in class discussions, two response papers, two short essays, and a final research project. The final project can be either a synthetic essay that traces a key theme in two or more theoretical approaches discussed in class or an interpretive essay that evaluates an event, person, group, or object in the light of one or more of the approaches. Students will formally present their research paper in the last week of class.



  • Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion
  • Mary Douglas, How Institutions Think
  • Claude Levi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning
  • George Vaillant, Spiritual Evolution
  • Course packet of additional readings 



  • Attendance and participation 20%
  • Two response papers (2 pages each) 10%
  • Two short essays (4 pages each) 20%
  • Project proposal and bibliography (2-3 pages) 5%
  • Project presentation (10 minutes in class) 5%
  • Project paper (15 pages) 40%
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