Department of Religious Studies

R S 302 • History Of Religions Of Asia

42665 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am UTC 3.122
(also listed as ANS 301R, CTI 310)
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This course offers a survey of the major religious traditions of Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism in South and East Asia, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto). It focuses on the historical development of their beliefs, practices, rituals, and customs in social context. The course will combine lectures with class discussions on readings.

Course materials:

  1. Willard G. Oxtoby, Roy C. Amore, eds. World Religions: Eastern Traditions. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. R. K. Narayan, The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  3. Zhuangzi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
  4. Readings provided as PDF files on CANVAS


Attendance/participation: 20%

Two quizzes: 20% (10% each)

Two short essays: 20% (10% each)

Midterm exam: 20%

Final exam: 20%

R S 304 • Judaism, Christianity, Islam

42667 • Moin, A. Azfar
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm GEA 114
(also listed as HIS 304R, ISL 311, J S 311)
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This course will focus on the three related religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which originated in the "near east" and today have a global reach. These religions are sometimes called “Abrahamic traditions” as they all claim a special relationship with the biblical figure, Abraham. We will explore the historical development, belief systems, practices, sacred texts, and cultural influences of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other. By the end of the course, you can expect to have a basic understanding of the essential characteristics of each tradition and the way they manifest in different cultural contexts in the past and present. This class will also provide an introduction to the field of religious studies by exposing students to some of the interdisciplinary methods used to understand religion as a central component of human culture.  These will include historical methods, the study of ritual, and the analysis of ideas. 










Attendance and participation 20%

Quiz 10%

Essay (5 pages) 20%

Mid-term 20%

Final exam 30%

R S 305 • Intro To Philos Of Religion

42680 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 300pm-400pm WAG 420
(also listed as CTI 310, PHL 305)
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An examination of principal issues in contemporary philosophy of religion with special attention to religious pluralism. The views and arguments of Western theologians and philosophers will be taken up along with claims and concepts growing out of Eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism, in particular). Special topics include different views of the nature of a Divine Reality, arguments of rational theology, mysticism, and the theological problem of evil.



Four two-page homework assignments, best three count (10% each = 30%)A mid-term exam (15%: true/false and short essay)Rewritten homework, three pages (15%)A final exam (30%)Attendance (10%)



Readings provided by instructor online.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42685 • Seales, Chad
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm CLA 0.130
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This course is an introduction to the study of the forms, functions, and meanings of religious practices as observed in human cultures. Surveying classical and contemporary approaches, we will examine how scholars have historically defined religion as an interpretive category. It will quickly become clear that few scholars agree on a definition or on a best method for study. This course will encourage you to define your subject of study and construct your own methods of theoretical analysis. To help you with this task, we will work together on specific case studies of religious practices in particular places.



  • Participation (20%)
  • Journal (30%)
  • First Exam (25%)
  • Second Exam (25%)



  • Pals, Daniel L. Eight Theories of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Additional readings posted on Canvas.

R S 313M • Jewish Civ: Begin To 1492

42695 • Schofer, Jonathan
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CMA 3.114
(also listed as HIS 306N, J S 304M, MES 310)
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This is the first half of a two-semester survey of Jewish civilization, from the origins of Ancient Israel to 1500 C.E. All materials are in English translation. The course will begin with readings from the Bible and the Ancient Near East, and at that time we will focus on the development of the civilization of the region now known as Israel or Palestine, including the complex cultural interactions of the second millennium B.C.E. We will have extensive readings from the Second Temple Period as well as classical rabbinic literature and other writings from the period known as Late Antiquity. The course will also include studies of Geonic and Medieval Judaism, including philosophy, poetry, and mystical writings.


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

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


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

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

42700 • Spellberg, Denise A.
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm UTC 4.134
(also listed as HIS 306K, MES 301K)
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This course surveys the history of the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the end of the fifteenth century. Students will be introduced to basic aspects of the political, social, and cultural dimensions of Islamic civilization from Spain to Iran as they changed over time. In the midst of mapping this broad view, we will focus our attention on how specific historical figures and events contributed to definitions of Islamic identity, community, and authority. Central themes include the emergence of Sunni and Shi`i identities, the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims, and the unique material and intellectual contributions of Islamic civilization to world history and other societies.



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

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

D. A. Spellberg, Politics, Gender, and th Islamic Past: The Legacy of 'A'isha bint Abi Bakr

John Alden Williams, ed., The Word of Islam

Xerox packet of documents and articles.



4 exams @ 25% each = 100%.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42705 • Landau, Brent
Meets MWF 1000am-1100am CLA 1.108
(also listed as CTI 304)
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Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; Genesis in the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.



  • Attendance (20%)
  • Participations (20%)
  • Writing Assignments (20%)
  • Rough Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)
  • Revised Final Term Paper (20%)



  • Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography.
  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
  • Roy Peter Clarke, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
  • Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary
  • A number of readings will be available as PDFs on the “Files” page of the course website.
  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible is optional.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42710 • Koefoed, Jonathan
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm JES A218A
(also listed as CTI 304)
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The Bible and Its Interpreters (CTI 304)

University of Texas at Austin, Fall 2015

Tuesday, Thursday, 2:00PM - 3:30PM



Jonathan Koefoed, Ph.D.

989-954-9887 (please email except in cases of rare need you may call this number)

Office Hours: T, TH 3:30pm-6:00pm


Prerequisites: None


Course Description: This course seeks to cultivate both a broad and a deep understanding of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament by asking three basic questions: What does the Bible say? How has it been interpreted across the centuries? Can our provisional answers to the first two questions inform enduring human questions about the world (nature), about society, about the self, and about the numinous (divine)? Inevitably, the answers to these questions will differ, and this course invites students to an ongoing quest of thoughtful interpretation of the Bible as well as a thoughtful interpretation of many biblical interpreters across the Western Intellectual Tradition. Assignments such as papers, daily in-class discussions, and a cumulative journal seek to promote this ongoing interpretation—as both an individual and a communal enterprise—while quizzes, instructor lectures, and a final examination will provide definition and clarity to ground our interpretation.


To address the first question, this course will engage in extensive and close readings of many biblical texts in their own right. We will carefully consider the books of Genesis, Exodus, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, the Hebrew Prophets, Matthew, John, and Romans. We will seek to understand not only what these texts said but also how later biblical authors interpreted the themes, tropes, and narratives of earlier authors. We will thus understand the evolution from scriptures into Scripture as itself a process of interpretation.


Alongside such biblical texts we will read some of the Bible's most profound interpreters. Students should thus leave this course with a deeper grasp of several seminal writers in the history of Western thought. Many of our supplementary texts will provide prose arguments about individual passages. Examples of such texts include Philo of Alexandria's analysis of the Cain and Abel story and Michael McClymond's synthetic account of contemporary "historical Jesus" scholarship. Other interpreters, such as Augustine or Aquinas, will provide prose arguments about the act of biblical interpretation itself. Still other prose writers, such as David Hume and Baruch Spinoza, highlight important philosophical problems related to the Bible's reliability and its supernatural claims. Finally, we will read certain influential literary works including selections from John Milton's Paradise Lost and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. These more imaginative works appropriate and reinterpret key biblical moments—in this case the Genesis creation and the death of Jesus respectively—in the process raising numerous important questions about the original stories themselves.


In sum, students should leave this course with a much deeper knowledge of and appreciation for the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament as well as a more robust understanding of the Western Intellectual Tradition.




Participation and Pop Quizzes: 20%

Paper 1: 20%

Paper 2: 20%

Synthetic Paper and Cumulative Journal: 25%

Final Exam: 15%


Required Texts:


The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version. Edited by Michael D. Coogan, Marc Z. Brettler, and Carol Newsom. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. Translated by Alastair Hannay. New York: Penguin Classics, 1986.

McClymond, Michael J. Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Course Pack Selections including John Milton, Philo of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, Bernard of Clairveux, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Baruch Spinoza, David Hume, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, El and Martin Luther King Jr. 

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42715 • Flexsenhar, Michael
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm MEZ 1.102
(also listed as CTI 304)
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The Bible and Its Interpreters

Fall 2015

CTI 304 Section 33015, RS 315 Section 42715

Class Hours: M W F 11:00am-12:00pm

Instructor: Michael Flexsenhar III


Most would agree that the Bible has profoundly shaped Western Civilizations. It has had countless interpreters and the significance of the Bible is apparent in communities and cultures both in the West and around the world. But what exactly is “the” Bible? Is it a book or a series or books? How did the Bible come to be? What does it mean? Is it scripture or story? And what if there is no such thing as “the” Bible, only Bibles? This course explores these questions and helps you formulate the answers by analyzing an assortment of biblical texts, many of which are likely to be unfamiliar–for example, the so-called “longer” version of Daniel, 1 Enoch (Book of the Watchers), and the Epistle of Barnabas.

The first part of the course introduces the category of Bible–what it does and does not mean–focusing on how, why, and among whom foundational biblical texts first formed within Ancient Judaism. Here we will identify key stories, figures, and themes that will reappear over and again. The second part of the course investigates how the interpretations of those biblical texts in new environments led to yet newer biblical texts and divergent religious traditions over the course of a few centuries. This means that we examine the role of newer and diverse communities–Jewish, Christian, and Muslim–in the re-interpretation of some “old” biblical texts. The final unit considers canons of scripture: how and when did they finally arrive? Here we will evaluate to what extent they were, and still are, significant for the formation and interpretation of bibles in various religious communities.


Written Assignments

10 very short, low-stakes writing assignments: 10%

3 short papers: 60%.

final paper: 30%


Required Texts

The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha

(Augmented Third Edition, 2007). ISBN: 0195288831


Jarsolav Pelikan, Whose Bible Is It? A Short History of the Scriptures (2005).

ISBN: 0670033855


Readings from the Mishnah, Talmud, and Qur’an, and from Philo, Thomas Aquinas, Baruch Spinoza, and others will be posted on Canvas. 

download syllabus

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42720 • King, Brad
Meets MWF 900am-1000am GEA 127
(also listed as CTI 304)
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CTI 304

The Bible and Its Interpreters: Creation, Sin, and Sexuality

Brad King

MWF 9-10 am


According to Genesis 1–3, God creates humankind in his own image and places them in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden. They disobey God, however, and eat from the Tree of Knowledge, resulting in their expulsion from paradise. Genesis further asserts that God cursed both Adam and Eve with a variety of punishments, including the mandate that Eve be submissive to Adam. Throughout history, this narrative of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve has played an important role in the way that religious communities conceptualize relationships between men, women, and the divine, but what it means and how that meaning relates to society has been interpreted and reinterpreted many, many times.

Over the course of the semester, we will investigate the ways that the narratives about Adam and Eve have been used to define the relationships between men, women, and the divine. Along the way, we will pay special attention to developments in the cultures within which the narrative is interpreted and/or reimagined, beginning with a critical examination of Genesis 1–3 alongside influential Jewish interpreters. Along with cultivating familiarity with these stories and some of their influential interpretations, this course also aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to understand how the meaning of a religious text is created and recreated through an interplay between a text’s authors, audiences, and the religious professionals whose jobs often include the task of explaining or interpreting scripture.

In addition to Biblical texts, much of the course will be dedicated to exploring and understanding the writings of important interpreters, such as Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE), who popularized the notion of “Original Sin.” Students will also read and discuss a variety of early Christian texts that were excluded from the New Testament, including so-called “Gnostic” texts like the Gospel of Mary and the Apocryphon of John.


This course is flagged for both “writing” and “global cultures” and counts towards the Certificate Program in Core Texts and Ideas.



Attendance and Participation: 15%

Reading Quizzes:                  25%

Exegesis Paper:                    15%

Research Paper:                   30%

Rough Draft                          5%

Revised Draft                       10%

Final Draft                           15%

=Total                                30%

Final Exam:                        15%


Required Texts:

Hendel, Ronald. The Book of Genesis: A Biography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.

Kvam, Kristen, Linda Schearing, and Valarie Ziegler. Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version (Any NRSV Bible that includes the Apocrypha will be acceptable, many of which are available online. Let me know if you have questions about a certain translation or version.) 

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

Meets TTH 600pm-730pm GAR 2.128
(also listed as CTI 304)
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CTI 304 The Bible and Its Interpreters

Cecilia Miller

Fall 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 grade.



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 315N • Intro To The New Testament

42725 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MEZ 1.306
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)
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This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We will begin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth of Christianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).



  • Class attendance and participation: 15%
  • Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% each
  • Short-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% eachE
  • xams: 45% total, 15% each



  • Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one.
  • Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature and/or Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament.

R S 325G • The Qur'an

42745 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm MEZ B0.306
(also listed as C L 323, CTI 375, ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
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In this course, we will study the religion of Islam through its sacred text, the Qur’an. To this end, this course will entail extensive reading of the Qur’an itself, as well as of other texts. In our studies, we will focus on the following themes of the Qur’an: cosmology and theology, ethical principles, ritual prescriptions, and legal injunctions. We will also examine some of the prominent symbols, images and rhetorical structures of the Qur’an. Through reading the prophetic narratives, we will have an opportunity to compare Qur’anic and Biblical accounts of the major prophets shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The syllabus also includes an inquiry into role of the Qur’an in Muslim devotion and as a medium for artistic expression. We will also discuss the tradition of interpretation (or “exegesis”), especially as it pertains to those verses that engender the most debate today: those surrounding politics, intercommunal (i.e. interreligious) relations, and women/gender. Prior knowledge of Islam is helpful but not required for this course.


  • William E. Shepard, Introducing Islam (2nd edition, Routledge, 2014)
  • John A. Williams, The Word of Islam (1st edition, University of Texas Press, 1994)

Additional readings will be selected from the following authors/works:

  • Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an
  • Imam al-Ghazali (d.1111), Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship (The Islamic Foundation)

Grading Policy

  • Final exam – 30%
  • 2 Tests – 25% each (50%)
  • Class attendance 20%

R S 341 • Indian Philosophies

42747-42749 • Phillips, Stephen
Meets MW 200pm-300pm WAG 420
(also listed as ANS 372, PHL 348)
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The course is divided roughly into three parts. Approximately the first six weeks are devoted to history and overview. Of special concern (and targeted on the midterm exam) will be the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, along with the claim that Vedanta philosophy (alternatively the teaching of the Buddha) is justified by mystical or yogic experience. We shall also take up questions of ethics, in particular the ahimsa ("non-injury") precept of Jainism and the karma-yoga teaching of the Gita. An overview of the nature of philosophy will occupy us in connection with an introduction to early Buddhism, as well as the transition to classical philosophy. The second part of the course, five weeks, will be devoted to classical Indian philosophy. We'll examine the controversy between the professional debaters of the Nyaya school ("Logic") and the Buddhist anti-intellectual Nagarjuna who rejects Nyaya's theory of knowledge and the school's identification of perception, inference, and testimony as "knowledge sources." Buddhist idealism and its debate with Nyaya will be our next focus, then the interschool controversy between Sankara's Advaita ("Non-dualistic'') Vedanta and the theistic Vedanta of Ramanuja, and finally the Nyaya view of Gangesa on inference and mukti, the "supreme personal good." The last four weeks, we shall return to Indian spirituality and some of the topics of the first part, looking at the Yoga-sutra, Tantra, neo-Vedanta, and modern works concerning meditation and spiritual discipline.

R S 346 • Latina/O Spirituality

42750 • González-Martin, Rachel V.
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm GAR 1.126
(also listed as AMS 370, MAS 374, WGS 335)
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FLAGS:   CD  |  Wr  |  II


This course introduces students to the religious and spiritual practices of diverse Latina/o populations living in the United States. Students will work with primary and secondary texts, ethnographic film and museum exhibitions to examine the diverse ways in which Latina/o communities’ create spiritual meaning in their lives. It will examine the religious and spiritual practices from the vantage point of transition and change as a way of understanding larger aspects of cultural and social change within 21st century U.S. Latina/o publics. This course incorporates materials and theoretical approaches relevant to multiple diasporic Latina/o communities including Afro Latino and Indigenous migrant communities. Students will learn about the diverse aspects of Latina/o spiritual, from the history of Latina/o Catholicism, to influences of West African ritual, to the rise of Latina/o Muslim conversion in the United States. It will expressly look at cultural productions from the vantage points of gender and race politics, and incorporate the spiritual tradition of women, queer communities, and various “othered” Latina/o identifying community members.


Aponte, Edward David. 2012. Santo!: Varieties of Latina/o Spirituality. New York: Orbis.

Baez, Edward J. "Spirituality and the Gay Latino Client." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 4, no. 2 (1996): 69-81.

Daniel, Yvonne. 2005. Dancing Wisdom: Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomble. Urbana: University of Illinois Press Otero, Solimar. 2014.

Yemoja: Gender, Sexuality, and Creativity in the Latina/o and Afro-Atlantic Diasporas. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Perez, Laura E. 2007. Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities. Durham: Duke University Press

Rodriguez, Roberto C. 2014. Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas. Tucson: University of Arizona Press

Romero Cash, Marie. 1998. Living Shrines: Home Altars of New Mexico. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press


Minute Papers/Attendance 10%

3 Film/Art-Exhibit Reviews 15%

Project Proposal & Annotated Bibliography 20%

Midterm Exam 20%

Final Exam 15%

Final Project 20%

R S 346 • Rep Of Jews Amer Pub Sphere

42760 • Seriff, Suzanne
Meets TTH 930am-1100am SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 325L, J S 365)
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This course explores an aspect of Jewish cultural studies that analyses how Jews and Jewishness are represented in the American public sphere through words, stories, images, exhibits, performances, and events—--even such unlikely places as public health and immigration documents. Special attention will be paid to a number of performative genres and display practices of American public culture including cartoons, museum exhibits, photographic displays, film, fiction, tv shows, and screenplays.   We will focus especially on the historical context of these displays, and the ways in which these broader national contexts are both reflective and constitutive of the particular image of the “Jew” in American public culture at particular times. We pay particular attention to specific moments in American and international public history when these “agencies of display” were used in the service of nation-building to forward distinct—and often competing—notions of Jews in American life as either “curiosities, freaks or racial specimens” on the one hand, or enthusiastic representations of the American assimilationist dream, on the other. Students will have the opportunity to participate directly in analyzing this process of cultural production—either through original field research, planning and designing a specific mode of display, or providing a critical analysis of an historic example of this production. 

download syllabus

R S 352 • Japan Rel & Westrn Imagination

42765 • Traphagan, John W.
Meets MWF 900am-1000am BUR 134
(also listed as ANS 340, ANT 324L)
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This course focuses on how Japanese religious traditions, particularly Zen, have been viewed from the perspective of people living in non-Japanese societies since the end of World War II.  Using Ruth Benedict’s book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword as a starting point, we will explore different ways in which non-Japanese have imagined Japanese religious and ethical ideas and both explained Japanese behavior and adopted (often stereotyped) ideas about Japan into their writings about philosophy and life.  We will discuss and deconstruct works by authors such as Alan Watts, Eugene Herrigel (Zen in the Art of Archery), and Roberg Pirsig (Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) as a framework for thinking about how Japanese religious and ethical ideas have been imagined in the West. 


  • Weekly reading reaction papers, 30%
  • Final, take home exam, 40%
  • Group project, 30%


We will discuss and deconstruct works by authors such as Alan Watts, Eugene Herrigel (Zen in the Art of Archery) and Robert Pirsig (Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) as a framework for thinking about how Japanese religious and ethical ideas have been imagined in the West.

R S 352 • Ritual & Religion In Korea

42770 • Oppenheim, Robert M
Meets TTH 500pm-630pm CLA 0.118
(also listed as ANS 340, ANT 324L)
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R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

42775 • Landau, Brent
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BUR 220
(also listed as C C 348)
show description

This course studies the vast array of writings that were read by early Christians but not included in the Bible. Readings will include: collections of Jesus’ sayings, such as the “Q Gospel” used by Matthew and Luke; fragments of lost gospels such as the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark; narratives about Jesus' birth and childhood, such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Revelation of the Magi; accounts of the apostles' travels, teachings, and miracles; Gnostic Christian writings discovered in Egypt; and apocryphal Jewish writings that were read in Christian circles. Familiarity with the New Testament will be helpful for participants, but not required.



  • Class Participation and Attendance: 15%
  • Quizzes: 25% (5 total)
  • 3-page Paper: 25%
  • Final Paper: 35%



  • Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha.
  • Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations.
  • Bart Ehrman, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament.
  • Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem.
  • Karen King, The Secret Revelation of John.
  • Hans-Josef Klauck, The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction.

R S 355K • Bible In British And Amer Lit

42780 • Kaulbach, Ernest
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm PAR 105
(also listed as E 358K)
show description

E 358K  l  The Bible in British and American Literature

Instructor:  Kaulbach, E

Unique #:  34550

Semester:  Fall 2015

Cross-lists:  R S 355K

Flags:  Writing

Restrictions:  n/a

Computer Instruction:  No

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

Description: The titles, “Paradise Lost” or “East of Eden” or even “Wealth of Nations,” tell us right off that the subject matter so titled has some relationship to the Bible: Adam and Eve lost Paradise, one brother killed another, the wealth of the world makes a pilgrimage to England. Our textbook sets passages from the Bible right next to extracts from these works of English and American literature.

In this class, we will explicate the extract in terms of the Biblical passage to develop some interpretive skills. We will learn about the author’s use of Biblical allegory, typology and the such which give his/her work sobriety; but we will also learn about the author’s use of irony, bathos and the such which make his/her work more lively.

Texts: The Bible and Literature: a Reader, D. Jasper and S. Prickett

Requirements & Grading: Writing assignments 50%, class attendance 50% (do not miss more than two classes unless you want to have your grade reduced one full letter).

R S 357 • Jewish Folklore

Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm GDC 2.402
(also listed as ANT 325L, GSD 360, J S 363, REE 325)
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FLAGS:  Wr  |  GC 

Course Description

Dybbuks, golems, evil eye are just some of the more well-known aspects of Jewish folklore, but this course will also examine the folklife of the Jews, their world view, their folk beliefs and fears. Call it folk religion if you will; many of these practices were dismissed by the "offical" Jewish religion as unJewish, but the "folk" persisted and eventually the practice became Judaized and accepted. The influence of the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, also led to the introduction of many customs.

Using literary sources, ethnographic memoirs, historical documents, films (among them "The Dybbuk" 1939), folkore collections and field trips (among them - to the oldest Austin Jewish cemetery), we will focus on what makes Jewish folklore Jewish. For example, the high literacy rate among Jews over the centuries and the people's close connection to the written word led to the development of specifically Jewish interpretations of internationally disseminated beliefs. Folklore genres -folktale, legend, folksong, folkmusic, custom, belief and, of course, Jewish humor will be included.

Grading Policy

Attendance, homework and class participation: 30%

Four short papers 30%

Midterm and final paper: 40%

Reading List

Joshua Trachternberg   Jewish Magic and Superstition

Joachim Neugroschel   Great Tales of Jewish Fantasy and the Occult

Moses Gaster    Maaseh Book

I. B. Singer    The Satan in Goray

Elizabeth Herzog/Mark Zborowski   Life is With People

R S 357 • Sacred/Sec In Mod Euro Thought

42795 • Matysik, Tracie M.
Meets W 400pm-700pm GAR 0.128
(also listed as CTI 335, EUS 346, HIS 362G)
show description

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

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

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

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




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

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

Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

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

            Science, Book IV)

Émile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religion (selections)

Roger Caillois, Man and the Sacred (selections)

George Bataille, Theory of Religion (selections)

Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (selections)

—, “The Uncanny”

Franz Rosenzweig, Star of Redemption (selections)

Simon Critchley, Faith of the Faithless (selections)

Peter Berger, Desecularization of the World (introduction)

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



Journal                         10%

Short Essay 1                        20%

Short Essay 2                        20%

Final Essay                           35%

Class Participation                  15%

R S 357 • North Renais Art 1350-1500

42800 • Smith, Jeffrey Chipps
Meets MWF 900am-1000am DFA 2.204
(also listed as EUS 347)
show description

This class is about the art and culture of northern Europe during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is inherently interdisciplinary since we have to address the reasons art was made, where it was placed, how it was used, and how it relates to broader historical developments. With the advent of book publishing and prints, these technological innovations impacted literacy and the dissemination of knowledge across Europe. This was a period where the status of the artist rose dramatically. Much of the art was religious so we explore iconographic themes.



  • Test 1 – 30%
  • Test 2 – 30%
  • Research paper – 40%.



  • Jeffrey Smith, The Northern Renaissance
  • Other readings online.

R S 357 • The Spanish Inquisition

42805 • Bodian, Miriam
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm GAR 1.126
(also listed as EUS 346, HIS 350L, J S 364)
show description

The Spanish Inquisition operated for three and a half centuries, and became one of the most notorious institutions in history. It is popularly known for its secret trials, autos-da-fe, and burnings at the stake. But why was it established? Why did it survive even when heresy seemed virtually eliminated? What purposes did it serve that allowed it to survive for so long? These are some of the issues we will explore in this course. Each student will carry out a project “tracing” one (fictitious) personality through the various phases of the inquisitorial process, from the time of arrest (or re-arrest) to the day of the sentencing. By discussing one another’s projects we will get a sense of the great diversity - in time and space, and in motives and aims - of this institution.



Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision

Lu Ann Homza, The Spanish Inquisition, 1478-1614


Attendance and participation (20%), project proposal (20%), draft of project (20%). Final project (40%).

R S 358 • Graffiti/Poster Art: Islm Wrld

42820 • Shirazi, Faegheh
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm PAR 101
(also listed as ANT 324L, ISL 373, MEL 321, MES 342, WGS 340)
show description

Too many portrayals of Islamic societies are treated as superficially as the issues involving the hijab and veiling. Among the hip and the fashionable, the religious fronts and political systems in contemporary Muslim societies (particularly in the Middle East and North Africa), a complex and complicated phenomenon has been developing for decades:  the “art of the wall,” namely, graffiti and poster art.

Poster art and graffiti are employed by various groups within the Islamic world to project their ideas through the mediums of photography, video, the film of documentary makers, the paint and ink of professionals, anonymous or amateur designers and artists to record the political and social events within urban areas. Such visual records depicting aspects of everyday life give voice to the people living and working within the Muslim world. An observer can see acts of rebellion as the anonymous young population in Muslim societies experiments with ways to test the limits of freedom. This is done with creativity and often with courage, which may cause concern to the political systems ruling over people whose freedom of speech and action are limited.

In this course, the students are introduced to a common and general principle of Islam, followed by a study of differences in culture and linguistic background of the people in lands of a Muslim majority. The major part of the semester is devoted to analysis and studying graffiti and poster art as it relates to social and political events unfolding. It is expected that the students become interested and learn that the interpretation of today’s Muslim youth through popular culture, expressed in the art and work of talented people manifesting their identities and personal expression about the world around them, provides a valuable access to learning and getting closer to the cultures that may seem strange, illogical, or somewhat hostile to the principles of “Western democracy.” This is an opportunity for us to look at the body and soul of people of ancient civilizations and of a recent troubled history with high hopes for a bright future from the perspective of those from the inside looking out.



Reader packets TBD


Grading Policy


R S 358 • State And Religion In Israel

Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.216
(also listed as GOV 365N, J S 365, MES 342)
show description

Israel is the “Jewish State.” What is a “Jewish State”? Is it a theocracy? A religious Democracy? What is the role of the Jewish religion and the Orthodox establishment in the day-to-day life of the Israelis? In the Israeli political arena? How affected are Israel's relationship with the world’s Jewish communities because of the status of religion in Israel?

We shall attempt to answer these questions and many others in this course. We shall begin with the new Jewish history of Zionism as the secular Jewish movement vis-à-vis- the Jewish Orthodoxy. We shall try to describe the ongoing tension between the Jewish religion and the Israeli democracy. We shall look at the religious laws enacted in Israel (such as conversion, Sabbath, and marriage). A description of the political arrangements accrued during the years with the religious parties shall be addressed (exemption from Army service, different and separate education systems). We shall look into the variety of religious practices of Judaism in Israel. Court decisions (especially Supreme Court) will also be introduced.

Proposed Readings

1. Perpetual Dilemma: Jewish Religion in the Jewish State [Paperback] [Jun 01, 1979] Abramov, Zalman S. and Gunther, Plaut W.

2. Civil Religion in Israel: Traditional Judaism and Political Culture in the Jewish State, Charles S. Liebman, Eliezer Don-Yahiya ISBN: 9780520048171

3. Articles and other publications that shall be given by me during course.


The course will be in a form of open discussions with the students.

Grades shall be given based upon 3 parameters: Class attendance and participation (40%), a mid-term short paper (20%) and final exam (40%).

R S 358 • Classical Islamic Studies

42830 • Azam, Hina
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm PAR 103
(also listed as ISL 340, MEL 321, MES 342)
show description

Course Description

This writing-intensive, upper-division course will provide an overview of the core religious disciplines of classical Islam, as well as a foundation in the methodologies of each discipline for those students interested in further study of any one of them. In this course, we will focus on the following four religious disciplines: Qur'anic exegesis ("tafsir"); critique of the Prophetic reports ("hadith"); theology ("kalam"); and law ("fiqh"). Readings will be in both secondary and primary texts (all in translation). Writing components will include short weekly essays and a final project. This course will assume a basic knowledge of Islam, such as is provided by the Introduction to Islam course (NOTE: This course carries a writing flag).



An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an Hadith Literature: Its Origin, Development and Special Features The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology A History of Islamic Legal Theories


Grading and Requirements

Attendance 14%

Class participation 14%

6 response papers 12% each

R S 365 • Hermits/Monks/Sts Early Christ

42845 • Smith, Geoffrey
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BUR 228
(also listed as C C 348, MES 342)
show description

When a rich young man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus famously replied: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mk 10:17-22). This course examines those early Christians who interpreted Jesus’ words literally and renounced friends, family, and material possessions and sought holiness in a life of self-denial. We will explore individual and communal forms of Christian monasticism, from Simeon the Stylite, who in an act of religious devotion lived for thirty-seven years atop a pillar, to Shenoute the Archimandrite, who oversaw a federation of monasteries intended to provide male and female monks with the opportunity to live as angels in heaven while still on earth. In this survey of Christian monasticism from the first through fifth centuries CE, we will not only marvel at the spectacular feats of these religious eccentrics, but also explore the social, economic, and religious factors that may have made a life of self-denial attractive to many early Christians. We will also consider the role of authority in these movements. Who had it? How did they get it? And in what ways did others contest it? All primary sources will be read in translation.  



  • 3 short essays: 45% (15% each)
  • Final paper: 40%
  • Attendance and participation: 15%



  • A. Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia: The Life of Saint Pachomius
  • B. Layton, The Canons of Our Fathers: Monastic Rules of Shenoute
  • R. Krawiec, Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity

R S 368 • When Christ Was King

42850 • Butler, Matthew
Meets M 300pm-600pm GAR 2.128
(also listed as HIS 350L, LAS 366)
show description

This seminar focuses on the history of Catholicism in twentieth-century Mexico, often seen as Latin America’s most “Catholic” nation. Chronologically, the course runs approximately from the Revolution of 1910 to the constitutional reforms of the 1990s that restored the Church’s legal standing in Mexico. Conceptually, the seminar will explore both the political and institutional aspects of Catholicism; at the same time, however, we will stress that the Church is a diverse community of believers that is actively engaged in interpreting and transforming the social world on religious lines. Individual seminar topics will include Catholic responses to economic modernisation and the postrevolutionary persecutions of the 1920s and 1930s; the Church’s role both in underpinning and undermining the one-party (PRI) state of the post-1940 period; Catholicism’s contribution (via guadalupanismo) to the creation of a Mexican national identity; the role played by Liberation Theology in driving the neo-Zapatista revolt in the southern state of Chiapas; and Church responses to democratic reform and the onset of religious pluralism. As well as discussing secondary readings, students will analyse a number of significant primary documents in class and also complete a final project using primary documents.


Class reader

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

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



In-class participation (20%)

Reading reviews (x4 @ 10%) = 40%

Research for final paper (10%)

Final paper (30%)

R S 373 • Modern Islam & Pop Fiction

42854 • Mohammad, Afsar
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.204
(also listed as ANS 320, C L 323, ISL 372)
show description




In this course, we will focus on various literary representations of modern Islam in contemporary popular fiction. Ever since the 1900s, Islam came to be redefined globally, as several modernist and post-modernist scholars/writers/artists began to turn their attention towards it, thus paving the way for what can be called a “Modern Islam.” Consequently, Islam has become a complicated site, which continuously goes through multiple revisions, making it difficult to speak of one narrative of Islam and Islamic belonging. We will read selections from major novels, a few stories and autobiographical essays published and well-discussed since the 1980s. These literary works represent Islam in its multiple complexities and differences. In order to figure out how these writers of popular novelistic texts represent Islam at the crossroads of modernity, we will engage with theories of modernity.



1.Aslan, Reza. Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle-East, W.W.Norton and Company. 2011. ISBN-13: 978-0393340778


2. Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Harvest Books. 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0156034029


3. Antoon, Sinan. The Corpse-washer, Yale University Press, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0300205640 4.Abdul-Ghafur, Saleema. Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, Beacon Press, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-0807083833



Weekly Online informal Journal (1-100 word post per week), worth 25% of final grade Reflective Assessment I (1500 words) worth 20% of final grade Oral Presentation (15 minutes class presentation followed by questions and answers), worth 20% of final grade Reflective Assessment II (2000 words), worth 25% of final grade Performance as a Peer Editor, worth 10% of final grade Required Class Activities: University Lectures PCL-Database Instruction session A Visit to the Harry Ransom Research Center

R S 373 • Science, Magic, & Religion

42855 • Crosson, J. Brent
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm SAC 4.118
(also listed as ANT 324L)
show description

In this course, we will interrogate the concepts of magic, science, and religion as culturally and historically constructed categories.  We will critically examine how the construction of science and religion, as well as the opposition of empirical knowledge and belief, were central to both the Enlightenment and the formation of the social and natural sciences.  Drawing on recent critiques of these foundational distinctions, we will question common-sense understandings of these categories and their relations, exploring the following questions:

  •  How did the experimental sciences emerge out practices of “natural magic” or evidence law?
  • How do our notions of religion and science reflect certain assumptions?  What are other ways of categorizing practices we might deem as religion or science?
  • How have the divisions between science, magic and religion, or between rationality and superstition, undergirded projects of modernity, colonization, and development?



  • Danny Burton and David Grandy.  Magic, Mystery, and Science.
  • George Saliba.  Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance.
  • Helen Verran.  Science and an African Logic.
  • Karol Weaver.  Medical Revolutionaries:  The Enslaved Healers of Eighteenth Century Saint Domingue.
  • Harry West.  Ethnographic Sorcery.



  • Eight Reading Quizzes (35%)
  • Topic, Research Question, and Thesis Statement (5%)
  • Revised Thesis Statement + Draft of Introduction + Outline of Paper (10 %)
  • Final Paper (30%)
  • Participation in Class Discussions (10%)
  • Oral Presentation (10%)

R S 375S • What Is Religion?

42860 • Friesen, Steven J.
Meets MW 300pm-430pm BUR 436B
show description

(Topic 1)

Religion has been a powerful force throughout human history, but what kind of force is it? This course allows students to examine some of the most important answers to that question from the last 150 years of academic study. We will consider psychological, sociological, economic, phenomenological, and anthropological explanations of religion. Participants in the course will also choose examples of religious phenomena and see how well the theories apply to those examples. Course sessions will emphasize discussion and analysis.



  • 50% Research paper. Stages include: proposal, outline, bibliography, 1st draft, 2nd draft
  • 10% Peer review of first drafts
  • 10% Short analyses: applying theories to examples
  • 10% Reading summaries
  • 20% Attendance and participation


  • Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion
  • Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
  • Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life
  • Karl Marx, The Portable Karl Marx
  • Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion
  • Reserve Readings


R S 375S • Radical Religion: Ascetics

42864 • Freiberger, Oliver
Meets M 300pm-600pm CAL 21
(also listed as ANS 379)
show description

Radical Religion: Ascetics and Holy Persons

Asceticism, as a concept and a way of life, exists in many religious traditions. Ascetics commit to bodily restraints that can be manifold and are practiced at various levels of intensity. From specific food restraints (for example, vegetarianism) to fasting to death; from celibacy to self-castration; from wearing simple robes to going naked; from shaving one’s head to severe self-mutilation; from living in a monastic community to locking one-self in a cell to constant wandering. Using case studies from various religions, this course discusses the concepts, practices, and goals associated with this radical way of life. It also introduces students to scholarly approaches to asceticism, which includes theories of the body and of culture more generally. Other topics discussed in class are the social status of the ascetic; asceticism and gender; asceticism and devotion; and asceticism and violence. Historical examples will be taken primarily from India (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism) and Mediterranean late antiquity (Greek/Roman religions, Christianity, Judaism).

Readings: Course packet


20% Attendance/participation

20% Reading responses

15% Partner project

45% Research essay