Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

42715 • 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. Part of the course, therefore, will consider the ways of life, forms of social action, and rituals practiced by different communities. Not all Asian traditions can be included in a one-semester survey. The traditions chosen have large numbers of adherents, possess particular historical significance, and represent different cultural areas. They include Hinduism, South and Southeast Asian Buddhism, South Asian Islam, Buddhism in Tibet, China, and Japan, Popular Chinese Religion, the Confucian and Daoist Traditions, and Shinto.

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R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

42720 • Martinich, Al
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm WAG 214
(also listed as 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 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42725 • Landau, Brent
Meets MW 300pm-430pm CLA 0.128
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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.


• Jeffrey Kripal et al. Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms (abbreviated on schedule as“Kripal”). Our (very unusual) textbook.• Three books from Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introductions series:  1. Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSIB”).  2. Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSIC”).  3. Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSII”).• An iClicker2 or iClickerGO mobile app.



• Class attendance and participation: 10%• Quizzes: 5% total, 1.67% each• Exams: 45% total, 15% each• Response Papers: 20% total, 4% each• Religious Site Report: 20%

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42727 • Amoruso, Michael
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm BIO 301
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This lower-division course is an introduction to the study of religion. We’ll explore three world religions—Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba Religion—through a focus on holy people and saints. The course is divided into three parts. In the first part, we’ll get our bearings through a study of a Catholic Cuban shrine in Miami, which will help introduce important key terms in the discipline, like religion, ritual, and sacred space—as well as influential scholarship, such as Emilé Durkheim’s classic theory of religion and Thomas Tweed’s contemporary work on religious “flows.” In the second part of the course, we’ll explore the world religions of Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba Religion, learning more about each through our focus on holy people and saints. The third and final part of the course will complicate things with a discussion of religious contact, conflict, and exchange. We’ll take an especially close look at religious mixture or syncretism, as well as people’s claims to religious purity and authenticity.

Required texts will include:

Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling (free eBook available through UT library)

Thomas A. Tweed, Our Lady of the Exile (free eBook available through UT library)

Paul Grieve, A Brief Guide to Islam (pending availability)

Other readings and documents will be available via Canvas.


Grading and Assignments  

Weekly reflection papers, due every Friday at the start of class (20%)

Class questions/attendance (15%)  

Class participation (5%)

Exams (three @ 20% each)

R S 312C • Introduction To Buddhism

42730 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm UTC 4.134
(also listed as ANS 301M)
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This course examines the history of Buddhism by tracing the development of its various schools, doctrines, and religious practices in Asia and beyond. We will explore the historical background against which it arose in India, and study traditional views of the life of the Buddha, the early teachings, and the structure of the Buddhist community of monastics and laypeople. We will examine the growth of Buddhism in India, the development of Theravāda Buddhism, and its spread into South East Asia. The emergence of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India and its spread into Central Asia and East Asia will be covered as well as the development of Vajrayāna Buddhism in Tibet. We will then examine the 19th century movement of Buddhist modernism in Sri Lanka and its relations to the Western world. This will be the basis for eventually exploring the various ways Buddhism came to Europe and America and examining the new forms and ideas it developed here.

C.S. Prebish, D. Keown. Introducing Buddhism.
J.S. Strong. The Experience of Buddhism.

Attendance/participation: 20%
Three quizzes: 30% (10% each)
Oral presentation: 20%
Final exam: 30%

R S 313C • Intro To The Old Testament

42735 • Pat-El, Na'ama
Meets TTH 930am-1100am MEZ 2.124
(also listed as CTI 305G, J S 311, MES 310)
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This class aims to introduce students to the modern study of the Hebrew Bible. The class will focus on the study of the Bible's history and literature and will explore the main methodologies used in its study. The final goal is to equip students for more advanced classes and research on the Hebrew Bible.


English Bible. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press. OR: HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Harper One. Textbook:Coogan, M. D. (2011). The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 2nd Edition. New York, Oxford University Press.

Grading Policy

25% Class attendance, participation and preparation

25% Quizzes

25% Midterm

25% Final exam

R S 313N • Jewish Civ: 1492 To Present

42740 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GAR 1.126
(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, and deals with the period from the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 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

42745 • Case, Megan
Meets MWF 900am-1000am PAR 103
(also listed as CTI 304)
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Before there was God, there was Enki; before God tamed the sea, Marduk defeated Tiamat. While much of the Western world has been shaped by the story of creation found in Genesis, what shaped those biblical accounts? The first half of this course focuses on this question, examining other creation accounts found in the ancient Near East, such as Atraḫasīs and the Enūma Eliš, in order to place the biblical stories in their wider cultural setting. In the second half of the course, we analyze various interpretations of creation found in the traditions of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout the entire course, “myth” serves as our guiding concept, as we consider whether the various creation accounts in the ancient Near East properly fit in that category.



  • Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
  • Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Robert A. Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Normon Solomon, Judaism: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • The Harper Collins Study Bible
  • The Study Quran, Harper Collins
  • Other readings will be posted on Canvas



Class Participation: 15%

Canvas Questions: 20%

Creation Story Small Comparisons: 15% (5% each)

Creation Story Large Comparison: 20% (10% comparison; 10% analysis)

Final Paper: 30% (5% 1st Draft; 5% Peer Review; 20% Final Draft)


R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42750 • Batlan, Katharine
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BUR 554
(also listed as CTI 304)
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This course aims at familiarity with controversial passages in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, with an emphasis on the cultural context in which these texts were created in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, as well as their noteworthy interpreters throughout United States history. We pursue this aim through reading the scriptures themselves, exploring the cultural context in which they were created, and a wide range of exegetes (or interpreters) of the Bible throughout American history. The first section of the course outlines the Bible’s role in colonial life and nation-formation. We will look at the most important passages for establishing colonies and, later, a new nation. In the second section of the course, we will look at major disputes of interpretation of the Bible in American history – including polygamy, slavery, science, and school Bible reading. We will refer to a variety of translations of the Bible, including King James, the Douay-Rheims, and the New Revised Standard Version. 

  Grading: 10% Participation 20% Intellectual Journals 25% Two Position Papers (10% and 15% each) 45% Final Paper (5% for articles, 10% for draft, 5% for peer review, 25% for final paper)   Required Texts:  A Bible - either the Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV or Authorized King James Version from Oxford University Press Memorial and Remonstrance by James Madison Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe Many readings will be posted on Canvas  

R S 316K • Amer Jews: The Yiddish Exp

42755 • Gottesman, Yitskhok (Itzik) N.
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GDC 2.402
(also listed as AMS 315, GSD 310, J S 311)
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American Jews: The Yiddish Experience

Writing FlagCultural Diversity Flag

 Course Description:

This course introduces students to the history and creativity of the Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United State from 1880 to 1925. These Yiddish speaking Jews from Eastern Europe became the largest segment of American Jewry and left an indelible stamp on the character of the nation. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to do so.

Using memoirs, films, novels, poetry, short stories and historical analysis the material will include: daily life on the Lower East Side, the  NY Yiddish theater; Jews in the Labor movement,  Jews in Hollywood, Jewish humor; Jewish American literature,  Jewish immigrants in the West and the South.

Required Textbooks: These books will be available for purchase at the University Coop.

  • My Future Is In America: Autobiographies of Eastern European Jewish Immigrants  Ed. Jocelyn Cohen
  • Jews Without Money Michael Gold
  • Bread Givers  novel by Anzia Yezierska
  • Yekl  novel by Abraham Cahan
  • A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York by Tony Michels
  • Tales of the Yiddish Rialto: Reminiscences of Playwrights and Players in New York's Jewish Theatre in the Early 1900's  by Lous Lipsky

Grading: Semester Grades will be determined as follows.

  1. 2 short papers (2-3 pages) , 2 long papers (7 – 9 pages)   55%
  2. In Class Participation and Attendance (30%) If you miss 5 or more classes you will drop one letter  grade.
  3. Oral presentations and reaction papers.  (15%)

Class Restrictions: Laptop use is forbidden unless you have prior approval from the professor in order to take notes on your computer. 

R S 316U • Hist Of Religion In The US

42760 • Graber, Jennifer
Meets TTH 930am-1100am NOA 1.124
(also listed as AMS 315, HIS 317L)
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This class explores the history of religions in the United States with a focus on changing ideas about and experiences of religious freedom. We will look at colonial-era precedents for church-state relations and accommodations for religious minorities, as well as new formulations of these arrangements in the early American republic. We will track efforts to protect religious practices by groups including Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Nation of Islam, and evangelical Protestants.  



Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom



Short papers and unit exams


R S 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

42765 • White, L. Michael
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm WCH 1.120
(also listed as C C 318, CTI 310, J S 311)
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An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire. The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature. Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Græco-Roman environment. The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context. Lectures will be supplemented with archaeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting. In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha. The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.



Bible with Apocrypha (recommended: Harper Collins Study Bible, student edition) L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity
W.A. Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians
A.F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism & Christianity in Roman World
A Reading Packet.


Three quizzes (in class): 20% Each
Final exam: 40%

R S 341 • Tantric Ascetics Modern India

42780 • Shankar, Jishnu
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GDC 2.402
(also listed as ANS 340)
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The religious landscape of India is as intriguing as it is vast.  One theme within this ocean of religious diversity is the undercurrent of Tantra which is often misunderstood, and frequently understood quite differently in India and the West.  Regarded as a system of transgressive ascetic practices, this current has put forth practitioners through history who are variously termed as the Kapalikas, the Siddhas, the Aughars, the Naths and more recently, even members of the Sant tradition.

This course takes a broad view of the present day ascetics who incorporate tantra in their religio-spiritual practices.  While we cannot avoid considering the history of these traditions, it is important to take a closer look at how even these transgressive ascetics change with a changing world and align their practices according to the needs of the time and place.  Our course looks at Shaiva and Buddhist practitioners of this tradition as they exist in the modern times, paying special attention to continuity in change and the resilience as well as tenacity of religious traditions in contemporary India.

R S 346 • Creation And Evolution

42795 • Friesen, Steven J.
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm CBA 4.324
(also listed as ANT 324L)
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Starting with the late 17th century inquiries of Nicholas Steno, debate and discussion on the question of evolution raged in biology until the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1930’s established evolution by mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection as the consensus paradigm of modern biology and the organizing principle around which the discipline is based. The universal adherence to evolutionary principles in biology stands in stark contrast to popular perceptions, where about half of the U.S. population reject the basic tenants of evolution, often on religious grounds.

In this course students learn the history of creationist and evolutionary thought and through this lens explore the different epistemological traditions used in religion, science, and the humanities. The aim of this course is to promote fundamental scientific and religious literacy, critical thinking and civil discourse in a class that is team-taught by a physical anthropologist and a specialist in Biblical literature. The course takes a broad look at how different religious traditions approach the question of origins, and how they interact with one another and with science. 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.

Through critical reading, civil discourse, and concise writing, students explore the scientific basis of evolution; different definitions of science, religion and mythology; the debate on intelligent design; scientific and mythic cosmologies; the bases of epistemologies; the role of science and religion in morality and ethics; and contemporary politics surrounding science education.



Dixon, Thomas. 2008. Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.Wood, Bernard. 2005. Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.Dennett, Daniel C. and Alvin Plantinga. 2011. Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? New York, Oxford University Press.



1. Attendance 7%2. Participation 8%3. Journal 30%4. Midterm 25%5. Final Exam 30%

R S 352 • Confucianism

42815 • Sena, David M
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 2.124
(also listed as ANS 372, CTI 375)
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Course Description
In this course we examine the philosophy and historical context of classical Confucianism.  Focusing on the translated writings of Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi, as well as on recently discovered texts found in ancient tombs, this course examines the systems of thought in early Confucian writings.  In addition to discussing the history of ideas, we will also pay close attention to the cultural background of the period and to the social context in which these texts were written by considering such issues as literacy and the transmission of specialized knowledge in ancient China.  The focus of the course will be on the classical period (sixth through third centuries B.C.E.), but we will also consider the legacy of Confucian thought and institutions in the early empire and beyond.

Course Goals
The primary goal of this course is to help you develop your ability to read closely and understand seminal texts from the classical period of Chinese literature.  A fundamental principle in this course is that we cannot fully understand classical Confucian texts without considering the social, intellectual, and cultural milieu within which these texts were generated.  Therefore the second goal will be to learn how to use social and cultural history as a method for enhancing one's understanding of texts.  Third, in focusing on Confucian thinkers and texts, we aim to understand the philosophical content of this important tradition, to understand the how these ideas fit within the larger social and intellectual context of ancient China, and to assess their relevance to our own lives.

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

The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Trans. Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr. New York: Ballantine, 1998 [PL 2478 L328].

The Essential Mengzi: Selected Passages with Traditional Commentary. Trans. Bryan W. Van Norden. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009.

Hsun Tzu: Basic Writings. Trans. Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1963 [B 128 H66 E55].

Additional readings available electronically.

R S 353 • Biblical Prophecy

42820 • Pat-El, Na'ama
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.120
(also listed as CTI 375, J S 363, 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 • Interp Jesus' Death & Resur

42825 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm SZB 330
(also listed as C C 348)
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The narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection stand at the center of the Christian religion. All four New Testament gospels contain accounts of these events; yet it is surprising how many differences there are between them. Similarly, Christians and others have come to strikingly diverse conclusions about the significance, historicity, and ultimate meanings of these events. This course will examine the narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection and their subsequent interpretation over the last two thousand years. We will begin with a very close comparative reading of the passion narratives and resurrection appearance stories of the canonical gospels. We will then examine other notable interpretations of these stories, including: accounts from early Christian apocryphal gospels; the early Christian development of models for understanding the significance of Jesus' death, including the atonement theory; Islamic revisions of the crucifixion narrative and their possible historical origins; and contemporary debates about the historicity of the resurrection, the adequacy of classical atonement theories, and the relevance of the mode of Jesus' death for the practice of capital punishment.



Attendance/Participation (20%)Two Take-Home Exams (40%)Final Research Paper (40%)


Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives. 2 volumes. Yale University Press, 1998.Francis Moloney, The Resurrection of the Messiah: A Narrative Commentary on the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels. Paulist Press, 2013.James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Orbis, 2013.Mark Lewis Taylor, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America. Fortress, 2001.Other readings available as PDFs on Canvas website.

R S 353 • Paul And His Social World

42830 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm JES A215A
(also listed as C C 348)
show description

Perhaps no other follower of Jesus has influenced the Christian tradition to the degree that the apostle Paul has. Among the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, his name appears on nearly half of them. He is variously remembered as the second founder of Christianity, the great apostle, and an apostate from Judaism. But who was Paul of Tarsus? What traditions influenced him? What did he teach, and how did others interpret his teachings?  This course will examine the life and letters of this first-century Jewish missionary, by interpreting Paul’s own writings within the context of diaspora Judaism and the broader Greco-Roman world. We will also explore his legacy within the early church, by considering some of the interesting and perhaps unexpected ways that later canonical and extra-canonical Christian authors tailored Paul’s teachings to suit their own contexts.        


John Gager, Reinventing Paul

Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians

Richard Pervo, The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity



3 short essays, 5-6 pages (45%, 15% ea)

Final Paper, 10-12 pages (40%)

Attendance and participation (15%)

R S 357 • Race In The Middle Ages

42845 • Heng, Geraldine
Meets W 600pm-900pm PAR 105
(also listed as E 360S)
show description

E 360S  l  5-Race in the Middle Ages

Instructor:  Heng, G

Unique #:  34680

Semester:  Spring 2016

Cross-lists:  R S 357

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

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

Description: In medieval literature, difference from the norm can be marked by skin color: unlike a Christian knight or lady in Western Europe, a Moslem or "Saracen" enemy may be depicted as black, while a "good" Saracen who is helpful to Western European knights may be depicted as piebald—black-and-white, spotted, or striped. In romances, when a Saracen converts to Christianity, his skin can change color at baptism, instantly turning dramatically white.

            In medieval history, Jewish communities living in Europe were required by canon law, from the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, to identify themselves, along with Moslems, by a distinction in their dress, including the wearing of a badge to mark them off from Christians. In England, Jews were required by law to wear the "badge of shame" from 1218 forth, till their expulsion from the country. Theological and scientific treatises theorized that Jews gave off a special stench, and their bodies could be marked by the possession of a tail or horns, and Jewish men bled like women, uncontrollaby. Jews were also thought to need the blood of Christians, especially children, and especially boys, to sustain themselves, and liked to torture and crucify children, especially boys, in re-enactments of the deicide of Christ.

            Literature and history thus suggest that the Middle Ages—like other periods before and after—were intensely interested in issues that we now today identify as "race-related." It is also clear that the concept of "race" in the medieval period is complicated by religion, as well as economic, political, social, military, and other factors that determine questions of race in Europe.

            Those of us familiar with cultural and political work on race also know that no theories of race exist as of yet which adequately treat premodern periods like the Middle Ages. With very few (highly controversial and disputed) exceptions, definitions of race have been devised from studies on cultures and societies that existed only during and after the Renaissance.

            This course thus constitutes an invitation to explore, with me, the changing patterns, meanings, and uses of racializing discourses in medieval Europe from the 12th through 15th centuries, by looking at some of medieval culture's most prominent texts, legends, and artifacts. We will look at literary romances and epics, travel literature, historical documents, manuscript illuminations, saints' legends, heraldry, genealogy, maps, and whatever else may be useful to us.

            We will consider the relationships circulating among "race", gender, sexuality, and heresy, in the Middle Ages; the role of "race" in the formation of medieval-style nations and empires; "race" in the consolidation of Christendom and Christian doctrine; and "race" as the specter of modernity in the Middle Ages. For purposes of comparison, we will also review selected texts originating from outside Europe, in the same medieval centuries.

            Simultaneously, we'll study essays and articles written by scholars working with postmedieval periods, and test definitions of "race" established by these scholars against our medieval texts and documents, to see if, and how, established theories of "race" might be revised, augmented, or replaced.

Texts (tentative): Illustrations from The Image of the Black in Western Art, Vol 2; The Vinland Sagas, The King of Tars (medieval romance); Parzival (medieval romance); Moriaen (medieval romance); Illuminations; The legend of William of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln (martyrology); Geoffrey Chaucer, The Prioress' Tale; Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland (ethnography); The Journey of William of Rubruck to the Mongols (ethnography); John of Plano Carpini’s History of the Mongols (travel literature); Marco Polo, Travels; Selected letters and documents of Franciscan missionaries in medieval China; The Hereford world map; Othello, The Merchant of Venice, a selection of articles. 

Requirements & Grading:  Requirements and grading as follows: 10% for attendance, 20% for participation, 20% for a presentation, and 50% for a term paper of at least 12 pages.

R S 357 • The Galileo Affair

42855 • Hunt, Bruce J.
Meets MW 300pm-430pm GAR 0.120
(also listed as HIS 350L)
show description

This course focuses on the life and work of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), particularly his conflict with Church authorities and his condemnation in 1633. We will also put Galileo’s work in several broader contexts: the development of science in the 16th and 17th centuries; court life and patronage in early modern Italy; and the history of relations between science and religion.

This course carries flags for Writing, Global Cultures, and Independent Inquiry. We will emphasize clear and effective writing, attention to cultural differences, independent research in primary sources, and active class discussion.


Richard Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible,

Maurice Finocchiaro (ed.), The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History,

Maurice Finocchiaro (ed.), The Essential Galileo,

Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter,

plus a set of additional readings.


Each student will co-lead a class discussion during the semester, and will write:

— a short paper (3–4 pages) on a topic related to the class presentation;

— a longer research paper (16–20 pages), a draft version of which the student will present and circulate to the class for discussion;

— a formal critique (2–3 pages) of another student’s draft paper.

Grades will be based on the class presentation (10%), the short paper (10%), the presentation of the draft of the longer paper (10%), the final version of the longer paper (45%), the critique (10%), and participa­tion in class discussions (15%).

R S 357 • 12th-Century Renais: 1050-1200

42860 • Newman, Martha G.
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GAR 0.132
(also listed as AHC 330, HIS 344G)
show description

European society changed so rapidly and extensively between 1050 and 1200 that medievalists often call it a "renaissance," ( a period of rebirth not to be confused with the later Italian Renaissance.) During this period, agricultural technologies changed, new forms of religious life developed, schools and universities emerged, cathedrals were built, towns became self-governing, and royal governments experimented with new forms of administration and law. Though a reading of primary documents - including love letters, memoirs, accounts of religious visions, chronicles of urban revolts, court poetry, theological treatises, and artistic creations – this course examines a series of these intellectual, religious, social, and political developments.

The goals of this course are for students 1) to identify the important events and figures in this period of rapid change; 2) to learn to read and analyze different types of medieval documents;  3) to understand how historical arguments and accounts are constructed from the analysis of primary documents; 4) to understand the interconnections between economic, social, religious, and cultural developments; and 5) to construct and write their own historical analyses.



Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987).

Galbert of Bruges, The Murder of Charles the Good, trans. James Bruce Ross (New York:  Harper and Row, 1967;  reprinted by Toronto University Press).

Paul Archambault, ed. , A Monk’s Confession:  The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995).

Peter Abelard and Heloise, Letters and other Writings, ed. William Levitan (Hackett Publishing Company, 2007).

Georges Duby, William Marshal:  Flower of Chivalry, (New York:  Pantheon, 1987).

Highly recommended:

Christopher Brooke, Europe in the Central Middle Ages, 3nd edition (London, Longman, 2000).

In addition, selected primary documents are available on Blackboard.


Course Requirements and Grades

•3 short (2-3-page) papers                               30% (10% each)        

•Map Test                                                       5%

•Midterm Exam                                                20%

•Final Paper (10 pages)                                    35%

•Class Participation                                           5%

•Attendance                                                     5%

R S 357 • The Church And The Jews

42870 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GAR 1.126
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 362G, J S 364)
show description

This course will examine the complex relationship between the Western Church and the Jews over two millenia. It will analyze ideas and policies regarding Jews as expressed in both elite and popular culture, from theology and canon law to church art and popular preaching. It will also survey the factors which led to striking changes in attitudes and policies over time, with emphasis on the interplay of the theological legacy and evolving realities.


Revised Standard Version of the Bible (any edition). This is available online if you don’t wish to purchase it.

The course will make used of a website designed specifically for it by the instructor. The website includes many of the readings. Other assigned readings will be posted on Canvas.


Class attendance and participation (10%), participation on Discussion Board (20%), two 1-3 pp. assignments (20%), mid-term exam (20%), final exam (30%).

R S 358 • Islam And Politics

42872 • Ayoub, Samy
Meets MW 330pm-500pm PAR 201
(also listed as GOV 365N, ISL 373, MES 341)
show description

This course is an introduction to modern Islamic political thought. It seeks to provide both an overview of key ideas and themes that have informed mainstream Muslim politics during the 20th century as well provide an engagement with influential thinkers and texts that have shaped Muslim political behavior during this period. We will examine the way in which modernity was negotiated in the emerging Muslims states, the debate on God’s sovereignty versus popular sovereignty and more broadly the moral bases of legitimate political authority. We will also explore how prominent Muslim thinkers have sought to engage with and respond to the rise of nationalism, socialism, capitalism, democracy, human rights, colonialism, imperialism and Zionism.


Roxanne Euben and Muhammad Qasim Zaman eds., Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Laden (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam, translated by John Hardie, revised translation and introduction by Hamid Algar (Oneonta, NY: Islamic Publications International, 2000).

Grading Policy

Response Papers 30% Class participation 20% Midterm 20% Final Paper 30% 30%

R S 358 • Rule Of Law In The Mid East

42873 • Ayoub, Samy
Meets MW 200pm-330pm PAR 1
(also listed as GOV 365N, ISL 373, MES 341)
show description

The rule of law has become one of the foundations of modern government. Its purpose is to limit the exercise of state power and to prevent its abuse. This course explores modern legal structures - legislative and judicial - in the Muslim World. The course engages with questions such as how modern legal orders respond to war, conflict, and revolution. It introduces students to the process by which traditional Islamic law was transformed into state law in the 19th and 20th centuries CE, by investigating debates on codification, legal modernity and legal borrowing. With the emergence of the modern nation-states across the Muslim World, many countries accorded constitutional status to Islamic law as "a source" or "the source" of law, and some states purport to base their entire systems on particular versions of Islamic law. The formation of the modern legal regimes in Muslim societies was a hybrid product of Islamic and western legal traditions, which raises questions about legal authority, legality, and the creation of modern legal and judicial institutions.


The Rule of Law in the Middle East and the Islamic World: Human Rights and the Judicial Process, eds. Eugene Cotran, Mai Yamani (I. B. Tauris (September 2, 2000) Mallat, Chibli. Introduction to Middle Eastern Law (Oxford University Press, 2009) Supplemental readings: To be placed on the course website

Grading Policy

Response Papers 30%

Class participation 20%

Midterm 20%

Final Paper 30% (on a topic selected in consultation with the instructor)

R S 358 • Rumi And Persian Sufi Trad

42874 • Hillmann, Michael Craig
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm BEN 1.106
(also listed as ISL 373, MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

Since the mid-1980s, collections of English translations of the Persian verse of Mowlana Jalaloddin Rumi (1207-1273) have found 500,000+ customers, making this premier Middle Eastern "Sufi" poet a bestselling author in the West and perhaps the most popular poet in America. In the late 1990s, feature articles on Rumi in The New York Times and Newsweek Magazine described the Sufi poet as a cult phenomenon in the contemporary world. In the Persian-speaking world, Rumi stands with Ferdowsi, Nezami, Sa'di, and Hafez as a poet of the first rank and the preeminent "mystical" voice in Persian literary culture.

This Rumi and Sufism course, designed for undergraduate students either with and without a background in Iranian Studies or Islamic Studies or the Persian language, examines the Rumi phenomenon through a close reading of representative texts of Persian poems in English translation in the three-fold context of: (1) The Koran, (2) the rise and nature of Islamic mysticism (= Sufism) in the Middle East, and (3) traditional Iranian literary culture. The three cited contexts serve as backdrop for appreciation of Rumi's poetry and the Rumi phenomenon, which course readings and discussion address.

In addition to its focus on the Koran, Sufism, and Iranian culture as embodied in the works of Rumi and other medieval Persian poets, the course also devotes significant attention to writing about writing in the form of six, two-page papers on assigned texts and a ten-page term paper on an assigned text in the framework of the three contexts cited above. Peer review of writing assignments are part of the process, and students receive extra credit for having drafts of assignments critiqued at the Undergraduate Writing Center. As for the term paper, students discuss a draft of it with the instructor at least a week before its due date.

Required Course Texts. Faridoddin 'Attâr’s Conference of the Birds, translated by Dick Davis and Afkham Darbandi (Penguin Classics, 2004, ISBN: 014044343); Reza Aslan, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperback Edition, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-8129-8244-2; The Koran, translated by N.J. Dawood (Penguin Classics, 2008, ISBN:1439515549); Franklin Lewis’s Rumi–Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings, and Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi (Oneworld 2007, revised edition, ISBN:1851685499); and “Rumi and the Persian Sufi Tradition: A Packet of Persian Texts in Translation and Essays on Sufism,” compiled by Michael Craig Hillmann, online at Hillmann and on the course’s Blackboard.

Course Grading. Course grading takes into account class recitation, including oral reports and group discussions (20% of the course grade), six two-page papers on assigned texts (4% of the course grade each), a term paper on an assigned text related to a course concept or context (15% of the course grade), and two review tests (20% of the course grade each). The grading scale is: 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+ (67–69), D (63-66), D- (60–62), and F (0-59). The course has no final examination. For information on excused absences, accommodations with respect to disabilities, and academic honesty, see the course Blackboard.

R S 358 • Gender/Art In Muslim World

42875 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm JES A209A
(also listed as ANS 372, ISL 373, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show description

This course is a survey of the development of Islamic art (inclusive of most expressive, and creative art forms) in the Muslim societies from the earliest to the present time with a focus on gender and contemporary artistic issues. Topics will include: gender and gender identities; art patronage, Orientalism, themes of power; and their influential roles in form and express formation, the dominant artistic traditions before and after 1900, the loss of traditional aesthetics due to Western influence, and the re-emergence of calligraphic art as an expression of “Universal Muslim Identity”, and themes of artistic expressions as it is related to current world events (war, occupation of land, and religious resurgence).

The Discussions incorporate analysis of historical, political, social & economical factors that gave rise to aesthetic changes in the regional cultures.  Selected biographical data on some of the most influential traditional and modern Muslim artists will be discussed, to provide a basis for the appreciation of the artistic works and the important roles played by the artists in regards to the theme of “Gender”, in both the traditional and the contemporary Muslim societies. 

Text: Reader Packets

Requirements: Upper Division Standing


Attendance:                              5%

Active Class participation        5%

Short quizzes                           20%

Class Presentation                   20%

First Exam                               25%

Second Exam                          25% 

R S 360 • Jesus, Africa, And History

42880 • Masango Chery, Tshepo
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm PAR 310
(also listed as AFR 372G)
show description

Explores the cultural, historical, linguistic, artistic, philosophical, and other intellectual traditions emerging from within Africa and as developed, reinterpreted, or reimagined in diasporic contexts. Exploration of the history of Christianity in Africa, from antiquity to the present, including the ways in which African interpretations and religious expressions of Christianity are presented in this history.

R S 365 • In Search Of King David

42891 • Hackett, Jo Ann
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CAL 422
(also listed as J S 363, MES 342)
show description

Israel’s second king, David son of Jesse, is remembered in later literature as the ideal king—he overcame obstacles to rule a large kingdom; he was loyal to and beloved of Yahweh, Israel’s god; he played the lyre and wrote psalms; he  was even the type of the Messiah, an idea taken over by the early Christians.  But is that really the way the Hebrew Bible paints him?  Was he a king by Yahweh’s design or a usurper?  Was he moved to compose a lovely poem to King Saul and his son Jonathan or responsible for their deaths?  What kind of loyal Yahwist would send his pregnant mistress’s husband to die in battle?

David is an enigma, no less to modern scholars than to ancient narrators.  We will examine his story in the context of the Hebrew Bible, of archaeology, of other kings in the ancient Near East, and of his relationships—with his family, with Saul, and with Yahweh.

This class carries both an Ethics & Leadership flag, and a Foreign Cultures flag.


Joel Baden, The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero

Grading Policy        

10% Attendance

25% Examination

20% Final Presentation

5% Draft of Final Presentation

10% Peer Reviews of Final Presentations

30% Systematic Moral Analysis reports (for the E&L flag)

R S 366 • Religions Of The Caribbean

42895 • Crosson, J. Brent
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SZB 296
(also listed as AFR 372G, ANT 324L, LAS 324L)
show description

In this course we will discuss the politics of religious practices in the Greater Caribbean, from Vodou and Rastafari to popular Hinduism. As a region, the Greater Caribbean encompasses the islands of the insular Caribbean, the Caribbean coasts of Central America and South America, Brazil, and the centers of Caribbean trans-migration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (this course will focus on Caribbean diasporas in New York City, for example). While the Caribbean is usually seen as African diasporic and Christian, West and Central African religions, Hinduism, Islam, spiritism, European esotericism, and indigenous religions all maintain long-standing and vibrant presences. We immerse ourselves in the complex nexus of Caribbean religions through explorations of practices including Cuban-Kongo religion, Haitian vodou, U.S. fantasies of voodoo and U.S. interventions in the Caribbean, Hindu popular religions in Trinidad and Guyana, Islam in the Caribbean, Black Carib religion in New York and Honduras, and Rastafarianism in Jamaica.



1. Barry Chevannes. Rastafari: Roots and Ideology2. William Earle and Srinivas Aravamudan. Obi; or the History of Three-Fingered Jack3. Karen McCarthy Brown. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn4. Paul Christopher Johnson. Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and theRecovery of Africa5. Aisha Khan, ed. Islam and the Americas6. Todd Ramón Ochoa. Society of the Dead: Quita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba



Class Attendance and Participation (15%)

Two Midterms  (25% each)

Final Exam (35%)

R S 368 • Church & State In Lat Amer

42900 • Stauffer, Brian
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am NOA 1.102
(also listed as HIS 346W, LAS 366)
show description

This class surveys the conflict-ridden history of Church-State relations in Latin America from the late colonial period to the current era of Pope Francis. Since Catholicism has exerted a singularly powerful influence in the region since the Iberian conquests of the fifteenth century, the class focuses especially on the history of the Roman Catholic Church and its changing relationship to Latin America’s emerging national states. Organized both chronologically and thematically, it examines the challenges facing Latin American churches after independence, the origins of the Church-State conflicts of the early republican period, and the development of liberalism and anticlericalism. We also consider the Church’s role in the partisan and revolutionary conflicts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and we assess its varied responses to the great political and social transformations of the period (the rise of social Catholicism and Catholic political parties, the “feminization of piety,” the mobilization of the laity, the development of Liberation Theology). In order to illuminate these broader themes and draw comparative conclusions between them, we focus in on particular cases (especially Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil) in our readings, lectures, and film viewings. Religious pluralism and the rise of Latin American Protestantism are also briefly considered in the final weeks of the course, particularly in light of the their ramifications for the development of nominally secular polities in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

R S 373 • Goddesses World Relig/Cul

42903 • Selby, Martha
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm BUR 216
(also listed as ANS 340, ANT 324L, WGS 340)
show description

This course will provide a historical and cross-cultural overview of the relationship between feminine and religious cultural expressions through comparative examinations and analyses of various goddess figures in world religions.  We will begin our study in Asia; specifically in India, where goddess worship is a vital part of contemporary Hinduism in all parts of the subcontinent.  From the goddesses of the Hindu tradition (Kālī and Lakṣmī, for example), we will move on to female figures in the Buddhist Mahāyāna pantheon (such as Kuan-Yin, popular in China, Korea, and Japan), and then on to some of the goddesses of western antiquity (Inanna, Isis, Athena, Aphrodite, and Mary in her aspects as mother and intercessor).  We will end the course with a study of contemporary goddess worship in the United States as an important expression of Neo-Paganism.  Issues relating to gender, sexuality, power, and violence (domestic and political) will be emphasized as themes throughout the course.

R S 373 • Sport, Religion, & Society

42905 • Traphagan, John W.
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GEA 114
(also listed as ANT 324L)
show description

Sport has become a major feature of life in industrial and post-industrial worlds, as well as in many parts of the developing world. People attend games, follow their teams in newspapers and on television, pray for teams and players to succeed, bet on their teams in office pools or through betting agencies, and talk about sports constantly.  In this course we will consider sport in relation to a variety of questions that contextualize sport as it relates to ritual and religious practice.  We will consider questions such as: What constitutes a sport?  What is the relationship between sport and religion?  How are sport-related institutions different from or similar to religious institutions?  The course considers these questions and explores the meaning and nature of sport in cross-cultural perspective.



Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream

Foer, How Soccer Explains the World

Price, Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America

Baker, Playing with God: Religion and Modern Sport



Wikipedia Project (40%) 

Mid-Term Exam (20%)

Final Exam (20%)

R S 375S • Relgn, Supernatrl, & Paranorm

42915 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 930am-1100am CLA 0.108
show description

Practically all religious traditions contain accounts of extraordinary events, typically called miracles. Such events tend to be enormously important for the legitimation of these religions, since they serve to demonstrate why that religion’s view of the world is “true.” And even today, in the technologically advanced twenty-first century, the vast majority of the world’s population believes that miracles do happen. Despite the obvious importance of miracles for many religious people, miracles nevertheless remain understudied by religious studies scholars, in part out of a discomfort with how such logic-defying events can be considered possible under present-day scientific paradigms. Even more neglected by religious studies scholars are those events and experiences of people in the modern world that are termed “paranormal” or “supernatural”: sightings of UFOs, contact with ghosts, people claiming to possess extraordinary physical or mental abilities. The analysis of such phenomena by professional scholars, whether in religious studies or in other fields, has tended to be very meager, in large part due to what some writers have called the “giggle factor” surrounding these events and experiences. This capstone seminar therefore has three central goals in mind: 1) to better understand the range of miraculous phenomena found in religious traditions and the meanings that various religions ascribe to them; 2) to examine from a religious studies perspective some impressive examples of paranormal phenomena in order to see whether they have anything in common with more traditional miracles (put most simply: what is the difference, if any, between seeing an angel or an apparition of the Virgin Mary and seeing a UFO?); 3) to begin to formulate some possible answers to one of the most asked questions about miracles and the paranormal: is this stuff actually real?



Jeff Kripal, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred

David Weddle, Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy

George Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal

Coursepack of additional readings



Class participation and attendance (25%)

Five short response papers (25%)

Final paper (including several graded stages and presentation (50%)