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

Course Descriptions

R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

43080-43085 • Martinich, Al P.
Meets MW 1100am-1200pm CLA 0.130
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
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This course investigates four different attitudes that have been held about the relation of humans to God. First is an ancient view according to which God's existence is presupposed and all events are interpreted as expressions of God's will. Second is a medieval view according to which the existence of God and his various attributes are suitable subjects for proof and argument. Third is a modern view according to which God exists but little is known about him through reasoning. Fourth is a contemporary view according to which God is assumed not to exist, and it is asked whether anything has any value and whether human life has a meaning. Although the course is divided historically, our goal will be to identify what is true or false, rational or not rational about the views expressed in each.

R S 306 • Roots Religious Toleration

43090 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm WEL 2.256
(also listed as CTI 310, EUS 306, HIS 317N, J S 311)
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Religious intolerance seems to be endemic in human societies. It takes different forms, ranging from subtle discrimination to mass violence. There are times when it is less intense than at others. As a social phenomenon, there seems little chance that it can ever be eliminated.

But historically, political and legal structures have been developed that have ensured a high degree of freedom for religious minorities. These structures have been built gradually and with great effort. They have very particular roots in early modern Europe (sixteenth to eighteenth centuries). In this course we will try to understand in historical perspective how this happened, as well as the impact of this development on contemporary thinking.

To understand the extraordinary struggles of the early modern period, we’ll first have to understand the basic position and practices of the western Church toward heretics and non-believers as they were formulated in the first few centuries CE and as they were elaborated in the medieval period. We will then turn to the events and changed perspectives of the Reformation period. Finally, we will analyze the range of theoretical ideas about religious toleration proposed by European thinkers, and consider their practical implications. We’ll conclude with some reflections on the persistent problems that have arisen and still arise in the effort to achieve religious toleration, including recent issues particular to the multiculturalism experiment.

The course, then, has a three-part structure:

Part 1: A survey of the late antique and medieval European background;

Part 2: A look at how new conditions in the Reformation period encouraged the emergence of ideas of religious toleration;

Part 3: A study of a variety of theoretical positions – then and (briefly) now.


You will take an exam after the first two segments of the course (together, 50% of the grade), and a final exam (30%). In addition, you will write a 3-5 page exercise (10%), and attendance and participation will be evaluated (10%).

R S 306C • Comparative Religious Ethics

43095 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm BIO 301
(also listed as J S 311)
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The aim of this course is to examine and contemplate ideas about right and wrong as they are expressed in different religious traditions. We will use a case study approach to compare moral ideas related to: sexuality and gender, social justice, the environment, and violence. In looking at these topics we will discuss a variety of issues such as homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, just war, responses to the ecological crises, and the relationship of humans to the natural world. The course will focus on comparison across four broad areas of religious practice: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Native American religions. 

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43100 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm ECJ 1.204
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This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—non-Western forms of Christianity, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 313N • Jewish Civ: 1492 To Present

43105 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm WAG 214
(also listed as EUS 306, HIS 306N, J S 304N)
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This is the second half of a two-semester survey of Jewish civilization, from the Second Temple period (c. 500 BCE) to the present. In broad strokes, the sequence will give students a conception of a Jewish culture and history that has preserved important continuities, but has also undergone transformations as its bearers migrated, encountered other cultures, and adapted to changing circumstances.

This segment of the two-semester sequence, which can be taken independently of the first, will deal with the period from 1492 (the year of the expulsion of the Jews of Spain) to the present. It will give students a grasp of major demographic shifts, the impact of the Reformation, the emergence of new attitudes to Jews, the breakdown of traditional authority and the trend toward secularization. It will deal with the following transformative events: the rise of eastern European Jewry, the spread of kabbalah (a form of mysticism), the entry of Jews into a capitalist economy, Hassidism, Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), emancipation, modern antisemitism, Zionism, Jews in the Muslim world, the rise American Jewry, the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The thematic core of the course will be the concepts of exile and return – their various meanings and interpretations as new historical contexts took shape.


  • Eli Barnavi, A Historical Atlas of the Jewish People: From the Time of the Patriarchs to the Present.
  • Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, eds., The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History.


  • First mid-term (25%)
  • Second mid-term (25%)
  • Final exam (50%)


R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43110 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 930am-1100am PAR 308
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

R S 315 1 and CTI 304 1



SCHOFER, JONATHAN (; Burdine 524)

Meets TTH 930am-1100am in Parlin Hall 301

Office Hours: TTH 2:30-3:30pm and by appointment in Burdine 524


Course Description:

THE BIBLE AND ITS INTERPRETERS examines the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, the New Testament, and their significance over time.  This particular course will focus on the emergence of three longstanding religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) through the interpretation of sacred and foundational writings.  We will begin by examining the transmission and development of scriptural themes within Ancient Israel, identifying within the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament variations or re-tellings of common scenes, prophetic visions, and religious practices.  We will then examine the New Testament as interpreting and transforming the Old Testament to provide foundations for Christianity, with emphasis on Paul’s letters as well as elements of the Gospels.  The later part of the course will highlight three later texts that emphasize three trajectories of interpretation and innovation: the church Father Augustine’s Confessions for Christianity, the rabbinic anthology The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan for Judaism, and the Koran for Islam.  In each case we will emphasize the expansion and transformation of biblical sources in setting the course for each religion.


May be counted toward the writing flag requirement.

May be counted toward the global cultures flag requirement.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

Meets TTH 930am-1100am PAR 305
(also listed as CTI 304)
show description

CTI 304 The Bible and Its Interpreters

Cecilia Miller

Spring 2015


This course will explore the biblical foundation of the works of four of the greatest

Christian and Jewish thinkers: Augustine in Late Antiquity, Maimonides and Aquinas in

the Middle Ages, and Martin Luther in the midst of the Protestant Reformation.

Although these four thinkers are often viewed as being in opposition to each other, all

four drew heavily from some of the same books of the Bible in order to support their

theologies, especially from two divergent books from the Hebrew Bible, Genesis on

cosmic creation and the Psalms on internal spiritual development. In addition, from the

many New Testament books by Paul that address doctrines ranging from salvation to the

organization of the Christian community, Romans, in particular, is utilized authoritatively

by Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther.


Reading distinct genres of classic texts, including autobiography, history, theology,

philosophy, and meditations, this course will immerse students in some of the best-known

books of the Bible, and some of the most influential texts of the Christian and Jewish

traditions. Within the Christian tradition, both Catholicism and Protestantism will be

explored. Overall, the course will emphasize the abstract and often puzzling ideas to be

found in these texts, including predestination and free will. The class will also identify

religious and intellectual traditions that developed in response to Augustine, Maimonides,

Aquinas, and Luther, namely the Catholic Church, Medieval Philosophy, Scholasticism,

and Protestantism.


Throughout the semester students will develop critical analysis skills that will raise their

appreciation of the unfolding strains of Christian and Jewish influence in the humanities

and social sciences. At all stages of the class, the major focus will be on particular core

texts, with reference to selected secondary sources, which will be read for context. As

the semester progresses, the course will also emphasize comparative analysis of texts.

Students will develop an in-depth knowledge of a small number of core texts, while also

cultivating a sense of continuity and change over time.


In practical terms, the students will learn how to read classic books, how to prepare

concise and precise reading notes, how to debate in class discussion, and how to write

papers based on an argument/counter-argument format. These papers will focus on

specific test cases from the primary readings.


This is a writing-intensive class. Assignments: 2-page reading notes, in a set format, due

once a week, on Tuesday, AND two 5-page papers, in a set format, due during the

semester. There will also be a rewrite of the first paper. No exams. Close reading of set

texts and class participation required. Class participation will count as part of the final




The Hebrew Bible: Genesis and Psalms.

The New Testament books, by Paul, specifically Romans and Galations,

and Hebrews, previously attributed to Paul.

Augustine, Confessions and City of God.

Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed.

Aquinas, Summa Theologica.

Martin Luther, Ninety-Five Theses, On Christian Liberty, and Table Talk.

Baruch Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, 10, 20.

R S 316U • Hist Of Religion In The US

43115 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets MWF 900am-1000am CLA 0.128
(also listed as AMS 315, HIS 317L)
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This class explores how religious people and communities in the United States affirm their worldviews, understand the ethical life, engage in ritual acts, and organize their communal relations. It also looks at the way the American social environment has shaped these practitioners and their communities. In particular, this class explores an ongoing tension: the dominance achieved by majority religious groups and the religious diversity that marks the population and is protected by law. We will observe how this particularly American dynamic shapes religious communities. We will explore this tension through a historically organized survey of majority and minority religious groups. We begin with the continent’s original diversity in its hundreds of Native American traditions. We then move to dominant varieties of Protestant Christianity in relation to smaller groups, including colonial-era Jews, upstart Mormons, newly immigrated Catholics, African-American believers, and more recently arrived immigrants who practice Hinduism and Islam. While the class cannot cover the entire history of religion in United States history, it offers students greater historical understanding and tools for analyzing the ongoing dynamics of religious dominance and religious diversity in this country.

R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

43120 • White, L. Michael
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310)
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This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period. It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first-century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors: the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape. In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.  

In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged. Other course books provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.

R S 321 • Hist Of Hindu Relig Traditn

43125 • Brereton, Joel
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm SZB 330
(also listed as ANS 340, ANT 324L, CTI 375, HIS 364G)
show description

History of Hindu Religious Traditions

This course examines the principal themes of traditional Hinduism, the dominant religion of the Indian subcontinent. It gives special attention to the historical development of the tradition and its relation to social and cultural life in India. To the extent possible, the course will examine different forms of religious expression created within India. These include written texts that have been significant in the Hindu tradition, but they also comprise rituals that have been central to religious life, patterns of social action that embody Hindu values, and images and architecture that display the form and powers of the world.  

Written Requirements:
(1)  Nine microthemes (of the twelve or more posted). These microthemes are short (approximately one page), interpretive essays on assigned topics regarding the required reading or films.
(2)  Three quizzes.
(3)  Final essays due or written at the time of the final exam.

Microthemes  ………………………………………………   45%
Three quizzes………………………………………………   30%
Final essays   ………………………………………………   20%
Attendance…………………………………………………     5%

Required Texts:
Anantha Murthy, U.R., Samskara. tr. by A. K. Ramanujan.  
Dimmitt, C. and J.A.B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology:  A Reader in the Sanskrit Purāṇas.
Hawley, John Stratton and Vasudha Narayanan, The Life of Hinduism. PCL Library e-book.
Miller, Barbara Stoler, tr.,  The  Bhagavad-Gita.
Narayan, R.K., tr.,  The Mahābhārata

Origins: The Vedic Tradition
The Way of Insight: Religious Knowledge
The Formation of the Tradition: The Great Epics
The Way of Devotion: Worship of the Deities in Classical Hinduism
The Way of Action: Village Life and Regional Hinduism
Hinduism in Contemporary Society

download syllabus

R S 341 • Jainism: Relig Of Non-Violence

43130 • Davis, Donald R
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm NOA 1.110
(also listed as ANS 340)
show description

As one of the world’s oldest religions, Jainism has often been described as an atheistic soteriology, or method of personal salvation alone.  The intense religious, especially ascetic, discipline required of Jain monks and nuns is the most visible symbol of Jainism.  The cardinal virtue in this ascetic regimen is ahiṃsā, or non-violence, which characterizes every action performed by Jain monks and nuns and is held as an ideal for Jain laypeople as well.

Given the emphasis on ascetic practice in Jainism, one may not expect many lay Jains to be merchants who own thriving trading businesses in some of India’s largest cities.  The contrast, and seeming contradiction, between ascetic ideals and prosperous lives within the theological, ritual, and social frameworks of Jainism will be the principal subject of this course.  The early focus will be on Jain theology and philosophy, i.e. those concepts and world-views that Jain leaders have expounded and idealized since the founding of the tradition in the 5th century BC.  The second part of the course will shift attention away from the conceptual and theological to the practical and ritual aspects of Jain life in India.  In the end, you will have a solid working knowledge of the basic concepts of Jainism as well as a thorough understanding of everyday life in Jain communities.

R S 341 • Buddhist Art

43145 • Leoshko, Janice
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm DFA 2.204
(also listed as ANS 372)
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This course will consider Buddhist art throughout the world, but the primary emphasis is upon South Asia. We will look at early traditions that emerged in India, including pilgrimage to sites associated with the Buddha's life such as Bodhgaya and Sarnath, and at particular issues that have emerged in the study of Buddhist art The class focus upon how Indian Buddhist art shaped the devotion of Buddhist practioners allows students to examine ways in which these artistic traditions were transformed as the religion spread to other parts of Asia. Sites outside of India that may be discussed include Borobudur in Indonesia, Dunhuang in China, Sokkuram in Korea, Kyoto in Japan and Lhasa in Tibet.


The textbook for the class is available for purchase at UT COOP: Denise Leidy, The Art of Buddhism, An Introduction to Its History and Meaning, 2008 (A copy will also be on reserve in the Fine Arts Library.) In addition, there are alsoarticles that students are expected to read which will be available on Blackboard.

Grades are based on the following (each worth 25%Exam IExam IIParticipation (including class debate)Short paper; analysis/discussion of article (list provided later)

R S 341 • Living Epics Of India

43154 • Harzer, Edeltraud
Meets M 300pm-600pm MEZ 1.122
(also listed as ANS 372, C L 323)
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This course explores Indian Epics as a living tradition, rather than a relic of antiquity.
The two epics, the Mahàbhàrata and the Ràmàyaõa, are an essential part of the living cultural tradition of the Indian subcontinent that has survived for more than two thousand years. There is no India

without these two works. Both have been preserved in oral as well
as textual tradition. They are brought alive in their performances,
whether by storytelling (katha) or annual staging of gigantic theater
productions. The course aims to show that performative arts and regional language versions of the epics support the textual Sanskritic heritage in keeping the tradition alive. These epics have been most influential in the formation of the values of the Indian peoples. The Bhagavadgãtà, imbedded in the Mahàbhàrata, inspires continuous religious and moral interpretations. Together with the Mahàbhàrata and Ràmàyaõa, they represent a foundational source for the Hindu culture. Since there are many "tellings" of each narrative, we will sample different ones and study them as sources of information on other areas, such as social and political ideas, and as a source book for mythology. We shall

view some of these performances on video or DVD as well as study the texts. 

R S 341G • Yoga As Philosophy & Practice

43155 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm WAG 302
(also listed as ANS 372, PHL 356)
show description

This course will begin with an examination of the Yoga-sutra by Patanjali and two or three classical Sanskrit commentaries on it. We shall look at the text both as expressing a metaphysics and as a "how-to book" on yogic practice, focusing on certain bridge psychological concepts and theories. We shall also look at scholarly attempts to reconstruct the origins of yogic practices, particularly as proffered by (1) contemporary philosophers and (2) medical researchers. We shall pay some but less attention to modern psychological interpretations. No Sanskrit or previous background in Indian philosophy is necessary, but students with no previous coursework in philosophy or psychology should contact the instructor.

R S 346 • Debating The Bible In 21st Cen

43160 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am BEN 1.122
(also listed as AMS 327, CTI 375)
show description

This course investigates the ongoing controversy in the United States about the meaning and continued relevance of the Bible. No knowledge of the Bible is assumed, and the course will begin with a short overview of the Bible’s content. Topics to be discussed include: the variety of perspectives within mainstream academic biblical scholarship; debates within evangelical scholarship about what it means for the Bible to be “inerrant”; the creationism-evolution controversy; the use of the Bible in “hot button” social and political issues (gay rights, for example); “End-Times prophecy”; and the movement to have the Bible taught in American public schools, including in Texas.


This course meets the criteria for the Ethics and Leadership flag, because more than one third of the class is devoted to identifying the vast array of ethical issues embedded within the Bible and and to walking students through the decision-making process about the Bible’s continued relevance using insights from the field of practical ethics.

R S 346 • Creation And Evolution

43165 • Friesen, Steven J.
Meets TTH 930am-1100am JES A303A
(also listed as ANT 324L)
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The aim of this course is to promote fundamental scientific and religious literacy, critical thinking, and civil discourse.  Students explore definitions of science, religion, and mythology; the scientific basis of evolution; the debate on intelligent design; scientific and mythic cosmologies; the bases of human knowledge; the role of science and religion in morality and ethics; and contemporary politics surrounding science education.  The class is team-taught by specialists in physical anthropology and in religious studies.  Course materials -- including written essays, video interviews and debates -- serve as the fulcrum for in-depth classroom discussions in which students must articulate their ideas about challenging topics in a compelling, comprehensive and compassionate manner.  Students are further expected to record and share their ideas in concise, high-quality essays.

R S 346 • Religion In Amer Pol Thought

43170 • Budziszewski, J.
Meets MW 500pm-630pm MEZ 1.102
(also listed as GOV 335M)
show description

GOV 335M / RS 346:




Professor Budziszewski


Unique numbers:                Gov is 37910, RS is 43170.

Class meets:                         MW 5:00-6:30pm in MEZ 1.102

Prof's office hours:             M 12:00-3:00pm in MEZ 3.106

Prof’s email:                          

Prof’s office phone:                       512-232-7229 (phone does not record messages; email preferred)

Course website:                   Blackboard (subject to change)

Prof’s website:                         The Underground Thomist,




If the course is taken as Gov 335M, enrollment requires six semester hours of lower-division government; it may also be taken as RS 346, but seats in that section are limited.  It carries a writing flag and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing.  Within the Government Department, its field is Political Theory.




Religion in politics is an emotional issue for believers and nonbelievers alike, and there is a great temptation to simply clobber one's neighbor with a slogan like "Separation of church and state" or "In God we trust."  The purpose of this course is to help you get beyond the slogans.


We will be studying a large number of sources, mostly primary, mostly short, from the colonial period right up to the present.  Typically, we will read the religious arguments on each side of each of the issues we discuss.  Some sources discuss issues like whether faith should be enforced or whether revolution is consistent with the law of God.  Others discuss issues like the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses in the Constitution.  Still others discuss particular historical controversies, such as whose side God was on in the Civil War, what God thinks of war in general, or what God requires by way of racial justice.  A final set of readings concerns the quarrel between secularism and its critics.




For Unit 1, the requirement is a set of analytical outlines (20%); for Units 2, 3, and 4, the requirement is a 4-page take-home essay (20% each).  Fourteen short-answer-format quizzes are administered on scheduled dates (20%).  There is no cumulative final examination.  Attendance and participation do affect grades.


Unit 1 analytical outlines (uncurved)                20%

Unit 2 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)          20%

Unit 3 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)          20%

Unit 4 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)          20%

Curved quiz average                                         20%




The required readings will be in a packet available for purchase at the UT Copy Center, McCombs 3.136, phone: 471-8281.  You must have a personal copy of the packet, not only for study but also for use in class.


An entirely optional reading, Evangelicals in the Public Square (Budziszewski), will be on reserve at the PCL.

R S 346 • Amer Jewish Material Cul

43175 • Seriff, Suzanne
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 112
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365)
show description

This course introduces students to a burgeoning field of American Jewish cultural studies that deals with what cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai calls, “the social value of things.” Focusing on the interplay between material culture and Jewish identity, thought, and practice in contemporary America, the course explores how Jews think about, work with, use, wear, display and “perform’ objects in the course of their everyday lives. This is not a course just on the production of fine art by or about Jews, so much as it is about the everyday arts of adornment, celebration, liturgy, spirituality, memorialization and identity and the ways in which these various meanings are negotiated within distinct domains of prayer, performance, entertainment and display. Borrowing from the central concern of cultural commentator, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, we will pose the question, "What does it mean to show?"—or in this case, “to show, Jewishly?” -- and explore the agency of display in a variety of American Jewish settings: in the home, on the street, in houses of worship, on the body, in celebration and in public displays such as museum exhibits, world’s fairs, festivals, and other touristic attractions. We will look at how the everyday artifacts of American Jewish life are made to "perform" their meanings for us by the very fact of being consumed, collected, arranged, worn, addressed, touched, kissed, and carried, and about the powerful messages conveyed not only by the objects themselves but by the specific ways in which these objects are addressed and interacted with. In examining the meaning and value of things in the context of religious practice or cultural display students will have a chance to explore broader theoretical topics about what it means to be Jewish in a multi-cultural, multinational, multi-denominational democracy such as the United States, as seen through an exploration of issues of memory, sense of place, identity, performativity, belief, and spirituality. Drawing from the fields of folklore, Jewish studies, cultural studies, religious studies, literature, museum studies, film, and photography, the course introduces students to the vibrancy and meanings of Jewish material culture in American Jewish life and thought. The course will emphasize the development of critical thinking skills and cultural analysis. The class format will entail active, participatory, and empowering ways of learning based on class discussion, class field trips, and original oral historical and field-based research. The course is intentionally designed to be student-centered. Students will be discussing and presenting material during class sessions and interacting with one another and the instructor on a regular basis. Students will also have the opportunity to participate directly in the curatorial process of cultural representation, either through the planning and/or implementation of their own exhibit, or a critical analysis of a particular display of objects owned, made, collected, worn, displayed, used, venerated, and symbolized in American Jewish culture.

download syllabus

R S 346E • Religion And Film

43180 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm JES A216A
(also listed as AMS 321)
show description

This course surveys representations of religious beliefs, practices, persons, and institutions in popular film.  Focusing on the media consumption of box office movies in the United States, we will examine how religion is imagined in film and how that religious imagination relates to social constructions of national, ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identities.  Although we will briefly address some of the technical aspects of film production, our primary concern will be to interpret the ways in which films portray religion against the backdrop of American history. We will use the vehicle of the silver screen to reflect on how a shared religious imagination has shaped the way we understand ourselves as Americans.  By the end of this course, students should be able to think, discuss, and write critically about film from a religious studies perspective.  Students should be able to identify a range of religious traditions as depicted in film, compare and contrast those depictions, and situate them within a larger narrative of American religious history. 



Attendance/Participation 15%
Reading Response Journal 25%
Short Essays 25%
Final Essay 35%


Films on Reserve.
Readings posted on Blackboard

R S 352 • Self-Cultivation Trad China

43185 • Sena, David M
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 2.124
(also listed as ANS 372, CTI 375)
show description

Course Description
How does one transform oneself into a better person? This question lies at the heart of so many philosophical and religious traditions throughout the world. This was especially so in pre-modern China, where concern with self cultivation is fundamental to many intellectual and religious discourses, including Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. In this course we will examine ideas and practices in Chinese culture related to self cultivation as they are represented in writings drawn from a wide selection of philosophical, religious, and occult traditions. Far from providing a uniform understanding of this issue, these texts provide diverse examples of motivations, beliefs and techniques related to self cultivation. Whether the goal was to attain moral perfection, sagehood, immortality, buddhahood, or just tranquility, these beliefs and practices of self cultivation demonstrate a concern for human refinement that is deeply embedded within the culture of traditional China.

Final grades will be calculated according to the criteria below. Grades of plus/minus will be assigned as appropriate.

class participation: 20%
informal writing: 20%
short paper: 15%
midterm exam: 20%
final paper: 25%

Textbooks and Readings
Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000), ISBN: 0-87220-508-8.

Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006), ISBN: 0-87220-780-3.v

Additional required readings for the class will be distributed electronically.

R S 353 • Biblical Prophecy

43190 • Pat-El, Na'ama
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BEN 1.108
(also listed as MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

The course introduces students to the variety of prophetic types in the Old Testament, their development through history and their parallels in Near Eastern Literature.


Bible Petersen, D. L. (2002). The Prophetic Literature: an introduction. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0664254537


20% Class attendance, participation and preparation. 20% 2 review papers. 30% Midterm. 30% Final exam.

R S 353 • Gendering The Old Testament

43195 • Hackett, Jo Ann
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm BEN 1.106
(also listed as J S 363, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show description

What happens if you jettison the sweetly smiling, long-suffering, or dastardly evil biblical women we know from our youth and instead look at their stories through the modern lenses of feminism, sociology, anthropology, and women’s history? You will get a 21st-century picture of women’s motivations, women’s sources of power, women’s relationships with their men and their societies. Rather than exploring conventional religious/spiritual interpretations, we will nurture instead critical thinking and close readings of the stories of Ruth, Jezebel, Deborah, and many more.


To be determined.


Attendance 10%, Quizzes 50%, Oral report 10%, Final project 30%

download syllabus

R S 353 • Revelation/Apocalyptic Lit

43200 • Friesen, Steven J.
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CMA 3.114
(also listed as C C 348)
show description

This course surveys the origins of apocalyptic literature in Hellenistic Judaism and its later development among early Christians, dealing both with historical context and literary features. There is an emphasis on reading and discussion of several exemplary texts, including portions of Daniel, 1 Enoch, and the Revelation of John. The final section of the course deals with the significance of apocalypticism in American religion and culture.



40% Exams (midterm & final).

35% Research paper.

10% Misc. writing.

15% Participation.



Greg Carey, Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature (Chalice, 2005).

Mitchell Reddish (ed.), Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader (Hendrickson, 1995).

David Barr, Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Polebridge, 1998).

R S 353D • The Dead Sea Scrolls

43210 • Kaplan, Jonathan
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm PAR 301
(also listed as AHC 330, HIS 364G, J S 364, MES 342)
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For almost seventy years, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has influenced significantly our understanding of Second Temple Judaism, the formation of the Bible, and the origins of the religious movements of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. This course presents an in-depth study of the Dead Sea Scrolls in order to understand better the development of law, interpretation, ritual, messianism, apocalypticism, and prayer in the late Second Temple period. This course will include discussion of the archaeology of the Qumran community, textual production and transmission in antiquity, scribal practices in antiquity, and pseudonymous authorship.


VanderKam, James C. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. London: Penguin, 1998.


Class attendance and participation 10%; Quality of midterm examination 20%; Quality of final examination 30%; Quality of two “5 page papers“ 40%.

R S 357 • Geog Religion E Europe/Russia

43214 • Jordan, Bella B.
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm PAR 301
(also listed as GRG 356T, REE 345)
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Course description: This course is designed to give a comprehensive understanding of major religious culture regions in the former Eastern bloc countries. In the post-socialist period some of these societies are experiencing religious revival and others display high degrees of secularization. The course will focus on the analysis of such processes, including religious revival in the former Soviet republics, political and historical roots of divergence of Christian denominations in Central and Eastern Europe, Russian protestant movements like Old Believers and Dukhobors, traditional Islam in the Balkans and North Caucasus, Lamaist Buddhist traditions among Buryats and Tuvans of Siberia, and resurfacing of neo-shamanistic practices.

This course will discuss the most important features of these religious regions, such as religious art and architecture, most important beliefs and rituals, political and cultural reverberations of such practices for people, residing in these regions.

Basis for the grade:

  1. Students must take 2 exams, each worth 25% of the totals grade. Exams will contain Multiple Choice questions, short questions, a take-home essay and a map question. The exams will be of the same format.
  2. Students will write a term paper, worth 30% of the final grade. The paper must be 10-12 pages long, double-spaced, typed in 12-point font. The bibliography should contain scholarly publications, including books and articles from peer-reviewed journals.
  3. Working in a team of 2 or 3, students will prepare an oral presentation on a topic related to the term paper and approved by the instructor. The presentation’s length should not exceed 15 minutes.  20% of the grade.


Course policies:

1)   Make-up exams will be allowed only in cases of medical emergency, with the written proof from the doctor’s office. There will be no final exam.

2)   Late term papers will not be accepted. All the term papers must be submitted on May 1.

3)   Observation of religious holidays: according to the University of Texas at Austin regulations religious holidays are observed accordingly. The students need to notify the instructor in advance.

4)   Plagiarism will not be tolerated and students might face severe consequences in cases of plagiarism. Students must use their own ideas and words only and cite their sources very carefully.

5)   Cell phones must be put away during class time and computers may be used only for note taking or class activities.

6)   Though there are no points assigned for class attendance, attending lectures is strongly recommended as a prerequisite for success in this class.

7)   The University of Texas at Austin will provide accommodations for students with disabilities.


Required textbook: a course package available at University Co-Op.

R S 357 • The History Of Witchcraft

43215 • Levack, Brian P.
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WEL 2.308
(also listed as HIS 343P, WGS 345)
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Course description

The main purpose of this course is to explain the prosecution of more than 100,000 people, most of them women, for the crime of witchcraft in Europe and colonial America between 1450 and 1750. We shall study the formation and dissemination of both learned and popular witch beliefs from ancient times to the eighteenth century, the development of criminal procedures that facilitated the trial and conviction of accused witches, the religious motives for prosecuting witches during the age of the Reformation, and the social contexts within which accusations of witchcraft arose. The course will conclude with a discussion of the decline and end of witchcraft prosecutions and the revival of witchcraft practices in the twentieth century.

Reading list:

Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (3rd ed., 2006)

Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons (2001)

Brian P. Levack  (ed.), The Witchcraft Sourcebook (2004)

Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed (1975)

Carlo Ginzburg, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1983)


There will be three 80-minute exams and a final essay. Each assignment will count for roughly 25% of the course grade.

R S 358 • History Of Pilgrimage To Mecca

43229 • Brower, Benjamin Claude
Meets MW 400pm-530pm CLA 0.112
(also listed as HIS 364G, MES 343)
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This course presents a survey of the Hajj, Islam’s major pilgrimage to Mecca and the nearby Holy Places.  It will examine the Islamic pilgrimage from its beginnings in the seventh century C.E. through today.  In addition to the historian’s perennial attention to the theme of continuity and change, this course will focus on the political and social dimensions of Hajj. This includes understanding the unity and difference of Muslims as evidenced in the pilgrimage, and how it has functioned as a motor of social movement around the world.  Most importantly, we will study how states have used the Hajj to found their sovereignty and establish the legitimacy of their leaders.  This intersection of politics and pilgrimage was important to the first four Caliphs and the great Islamic empires of the early centuries of Islam, and it continued to be even for the European colonial powers when they counted Muslims among their subjects in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  And just as the Hajj served to support power, it could be used to contest it, as the long history of rebellions and oppositional movements working through the pilgrimage shows.


Asad, The Road to Mecca

Bianchi, Guests of God

McMillan, The Meaning of Mecca

Shariati, Hajj: Reflections on Its Rituals

Tagliacozzo, The Longest Journey

Wolf ed., One Thousand Roads to Mecca 


Midterm                     25%               

Final Exam                35%

Writing                      25%

Participation              15%

Plus/Minus grading will be used for all grading in this course.

R S 358 • Islam Early Mod World:rel/Cult

43230 • Moin, A. Azfar
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm JES A215A
(also listed as HIS 364G, ISL 372, MES 343)
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In this course, we will examine the religious and cultural developments across the Islamic world between the thirteenth and the eighteenth centuries, stemming from the rise of the Mongols and the end of the caliphate. After the Mongols destroyed the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad in 1258 and established their rule in large swathes of Asia, the Islamic world entered an era of momentous change. In Iran, Central Asia, and parts of the Middle East, Muslim religious identities experienced a phase of “confessional ambiguity,” marked by the widespread veneration of saints and shrines. To explore the significance of these shifts, we will focus on three themes: the spread of a new type of devotional, shrine-centered, Sufi Islam across Muslim Asia and the Indian Ocean world; the development of a new style of Islamic sovereignty that replaced the caliphate; and the rise of new forms of knowledge, both scientific and artistic, sponsored by the early modern Muslim empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and the Mughals.


Stephen Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals
Nile Green, Sufism: A Global History
Giancarlo Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration

Additional readings provided by instructor

Grading: Attendance: 10%; Quiz:10%; Essay: (6 pages) 20%; Mid-term: 30%; Final: 30%

R S 358 • Jewish Histories Of Mid East

43234 • Sternfeld, Lior
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm BEN 1.108
(also listed as HIS 364G, J S 364, MES 343)
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Jews have been part of Middle Eastern societies for thousands of years. They flourished at times, and endured hardships at others. They were part of every significant social and cultural transformation and the ever-evolving reality. Scholarship and conventional wisdoms often provide a problematic and ahistorical analysis that cemented reductive sentiments as History. Students will read and analyze primary sources and read critically secondary sources. We will delve into national historiographies and seek to find a nuanced narrative of Jewish histories of the region. 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, Arabic or Persian. Texts Course packetGradingA 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 0-59Class 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%

R S 358 • Religions Of The Middle Eas

43240 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm MEZ 1.306
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

How is Christianity in Egypt different from Christianity in the U.S.? What do Zoroastrians believe? Is there a relationship between Islam and the Baha’i religion? These are the types of questions that this course is intended to answer. The course will include a basic overview of Zoroastrianism, Judaism in the Middle East, Eastern Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i religion, with a focus on the manifestations of these religions in the Middle East. Focus will primarily be on cosmological doctrines, scriptures, moral principles, sacred history and geography, and liturgical practices, although historical and cultural developments within these traditions will be covered as necessary. Students may have opportunities to read primary texts as well, schedule permitting.


Tentative List - May Change: Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Hayim Halevy Donin, To Be a Jew Betty Jane Bailey and J. Martin Bailey, Who are the Christians of the Middle East? David Waines, An Introduction to Islam Peter Smith, The Babi and Baha'i Religions


3 unit tests, 15% each = 45% Final exam = 45% Attendance = 10%

R S 366 • Jewish Cuba

43260 • Weinreb, Amelia
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CLA 0.120
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365, LAS 324L)
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Cuba has a small Jewish community (between 1,000-1,500) whose origins are presumed to date back to 1492. By some accounts, the contemporary community is dying, and by others, it is vibrant. No matter the assessment, it is a community that has been written about and analyzed disproportionately for its size. As noted Cuban-American Jewish anthropologist Ruth Behar has proposed, Jewish Cuba presents the challenge of focusing on a small community to understand large philosophical and cultural issues: Diaspora, preserving identity in hybridized social worlds, and the concept of home. In learning about Jewish Cuba, students of are not only exposed to a nationally-specific case study in Jewish Latin America, but have the opportunity to study the relationship between state politics and Jewish life, Judaism under communist regimes, religious and linguistic revitalization movements, migration, and cultural survival. To explore these themes and concepts, this course uses scholarly texts and ethnographic accounts, but also personal memoirs, films, photographs, and documentaries about Jewish Cuba.

Core questions we address in the course are: What is Home? What is Diaspora? What is Revolution?  How do we write about it?

Note: This course carries a Writing Flag and a Global Cultures Flag.

R S 366 • Hist Pentecostalism Americas

43265 • Doran, Justin
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm JES A215A
(also listed as AMS 327, HIS 363K, LAS 366)
show description

Since its birth in the Southwestern United States a century ago, the Pentecostal movement has changed the way that Christians—both Protestant and Catholic—understand the everyday role of miracles in a modern, secularized world. This course provides a historical overview of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity across South, Central, and North America in the twentieth century. Although all readings are in English, the course balances materials and historical cases from Anglo North America with Latin American counterparts, attending especially to Brazil and Mexico. Throughout the course, we will focus on Pentecostalism’s transnational character and learn to critically engage anthropological and historical explanations for the movement’s enduring influence across Christian denominations.



Class participation (20%)

Critical Mapping Assignment (15%)

Two mid-term exams (20% each)

Final paper (7-9 pages, 25%)



Bowler, Kate. Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Burdick, John. The Color of Sound: Race, Religion, and Music in Brazil. New York: New York University Press, 2013.

Cox, Harvey. Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub, 1995.

Stoll, David. Is Latin America Turning Protestant?: The Politics of Evangelical Growth. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Wacker, Grant. Heaven below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001.

R S 373 • Sentience, Cultr, & Rlgn: Seti

43275 • Traphagan, John W.
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GAR 1.126
show description

Humans have long wondered whether or not we are alone in the universe. Are there other civilizations? If so, how are they similar or different from ours? Or are humans virtually alone in the universe, as has been proposed in the rare Earth hypothesis. This course explores the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and its relationship to both culture and religion. One central question we will consider is whether SETI is a product of particular cultural and historical trends that have arisen in the US and that are evident through other cultural constructs such as Star Trek. Our exploration will consider important key ideas such as the Drake Equation and the Incommensurability Problem and will look at meanings and motivations behind issues such as Percival Lowell’s quest to prove the existence of canals on Mars and the development of Scientology. Although to date there is no unequivocal evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), contemplation of the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as ETI in the human imagination, provides an opportunity to contemplate humanity and ideas about its place in the universe as well as the ways in which culture shapes our concepts of alien others.



Mid-term take-home exam 30%Internet research project 30% Final take-home exam 40%



Readings may include: Maria Lane’s Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet Carl Sagan’s ContactSteven Dick’s Life on Other Worlds: The 20th Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate Joe Lewel’s The God Hypothesis: Extraterrestrial Life and its Implications for Science and Religion.

R S 375S • Religion In The American South

43285 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 930am-1100am MEZ 1.104
show description

This course addresses the myths and ironies of religious life in the American South.  What makes this place more religious than other places in the United States?  What does it mean to say you are a southerner?  Does it mean you necessarily are an evangelical Protestant?  Which states belong to the South?  Is Texas one of them?  Answering these types of questions we will trace how religion and the region have changed over time.  We will address the relationship of religion to slavery in the Old South, to industry in the New South, and to ethnic diversity in the Global South.  Surveying that terrain, we will use case studies from each of those epochs, including examples of Catholics in New Orleans, Protestants in North Carolina, and Buddhists in Virginia, to examine the historical tension between the diversity and homogeneity of southern religion.  This will allow us to apply theories of region and religion to the ideas and practices of American southerners.  This course will have a writing flag, which means students will be required to submit three types of written work for instructor evaluation and peer comment.  With the goal of improving writing skills and critical thinking, students will keep a reading response journal which they will use for the basis of class discussion, they will construct three short essays for peer comments and revise those essays based on those comments, and they will work through the stages of a research paper, which will include an outline, a bibliography, a thesis statement, a draft, and a revised final submission.  This research paper, in which students investigate and present a topic of their choosing, using archival documents in the UT collections, will count for the independent inquiry flag.



Attendance/Participation 10%Reading Response Journal 10%Short Essays 30%Peer Response 10%Research Prospectus 10%Research Paper Draft 10%Final Paper 20%



Donald G. Mathews, Religion in the Old South (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).Charles Reagan Wilson, Religion in the South (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2009).

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