Religious Studies Courses

RELS 100 Introduction to Religion: Texts, Contexts, Practices 3 credits
This course introduces students to the critical study of religions and to the character of religious traditions as living, dynamic communities of interpretation with textual, ritual, moral, philosophical and practical dimensions. The course considers three different religious traditions through the lens of a topic or problem with which religions are concerned or through which they can be usefully analyzed. The topic and the traditions vary with the expertise and interest of the professor teaching the course, but one eastern tradition and one biblical tradition are always included. Attention is given to the nature and definition of religion and to  methodologies in the critical study of religion.

RELS 101-110 Biblical Literature Seminars 3 credits each
Each of the seminars below undertakes a critical study of a selection of Biblical texts which seeks (a) to locate and understand them in their original historical, cultural, and social contexts and (b) to recognize how they have functioned and continue to function in the construction of Western culture.


RELS 101 Women and the Bible Women and the Bible examines the role(s) of women in the Bible, the ways in which such roles were constructed and reinforced in the Western tradition, and the contemporary viability of this tradition. The course critically examines the polarity of “mother” and “fallen woman” as the prototypical models of “appropriate” female behavior and social acceptance, and the ways in which “salvation” is construed for each type.
RELS 102 Satan and the Existence of Evil
Satan and the Existence of Evil undertakes a historical analysis of the evolution of the character of “the Satan” and “the Devil” in the Bible, in the character of Lucifer in the Western tradition, and in contemporary discourse concerning evil. The course critically
examines the personification of evil in women, non-Christian religions, Christian minorities, and related “marginal” groups.

RELS 104 The Exodus, Liberation, and Hope
The Exodus, Liberation, and Hope examines the nature of the Biblical story of the exodus as an historical account of an actual event and as a theological construct for the Jewish and Christian religions. The course critically examines the use of exodus images in the early civil rights movement in America, especially in the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., and in a variety of liberation theologies in an effort to understand the relationship between religious images and social change.

RELS 106 Food, Sacrifice, and Communion
Food, Sacrifice, and Communion examines a variety of Biblical understandings of food and sacrifice in relation to sacred space, divine presence, and the divine law, reviews the status of food as a religious symbol in the lives of several medieval Christian women, and addresses issues and problems associated with “food” in contemporary American culture.

RELS 107 History, Violence, and the Will of God
History, Violence, and the Will of God examines the role of violence in a variety of Biblical texts (violence undertaken as the will of God, violence as an act of God, and violence as a human response to real-life experiences) in an effort to understand the relationship between violence and history, reviews various moments in the history of the church in which violence was used to generate or maintain power, and critically examines the role of violence in contemporary American culture—in films, on television, in music, and in the streets.

RELS 108 Death and the Afterlife
Death and the Afterlife is a critical examination of a selection of Biblical texts which deal with death, dying, and the “next life,” an exploration of ways Western culture has attempted to address and understand these issues, and a comparative analysis of similar themes in a variety of non-Western traditions. The course examines ways in which various constructions of “heaven” and “hell” reflect social structures, social values, and notions of justice.

RELS 110 Sex, the Body, and Religion
This course examines the origins of attitudes and beliefs in the Judeo-Christian traditions concerning human sexuality and the human body. Focus is on the contribution of such beliefs in the evolving relationship between the individual and society. The course begins with an exploration of Levantine fertility cults and traces their influence on early Judaism. Moving toward the emergence and eventual spread of Christianity, discussion centers on the continued influence of Near Eastern fertility traditions on gender differentiation, the “fall” of humanity, and procreation. Topics such as marriage and divorce, birth control and abortion, asceticism and celibacy, and death and resurrection of the body will be discussed within the context of Judeo-Christian tests and traditions.


RELS 220 Introduction to World Religions 3 credits
Introduction to World Religions is a thematic introduction to the study of religion and examines the multiplicity of ways in which humans throughout the world find and create meaning and value in their lives. Primary religious traditions of both the East and West, including ancient indigenous cultures and their contemporary expressions, are studied.

RELS 223 Hinduism and Buddhism 3 credits
This course considers two of the world’s religious traditions with roots in the Indian sub-continent. The focus of the course is on the development of non-dualism as a religious philosophy in contrast with western forms of dualism and monotheism; and on the rituals, forms of meditation, and social activities that constitute Hindu and Buddhist practice. Some attention will be paid to the construction of these traditions through western ideas of “religion” and on the place of Hindu and Buddhist forms of life in contemporary social and political contexts.

RELS 224 Religion and Culture 3 credits
Religion and Culture explores the relationship between religion and culture and the variety of ways in which they are mutually interactive in the construction of, for example, meaning, values, worldviews, practices, institutions, and artifacts. As part of that exploration, the course undertakes a critical analysis of the theoretical and methodological concerns associated with the academic study of religion.

RELS 228 Buddhism 3 credits
An introduction to the phenomenon known as ‘Buddhism,’ a term covering the pan-Asian tradition of discourse and practice centered around the significance of an Indian prince and ascetic who lived roughly 2500 years ago. Students consider the life and teachings of the Buddha in their historical and cultural context; Buddhist rituals and practices; and the development of Buddhism in its migration both east and west. Special attention is given to the encounter of Buddhism with western philosophy, theism, and culture, and to the American preoccupation with the Buddhism of Japan and Tibet.

RELS 229 Christianity 3 credits
This course begins with a brief examination of Jesus and the birth of the Christian movement; then focuses on the major institutional, theological and ritual developments that occurred in Christianity over the period in which Roman rule gave way to the Byzantine Empire. The second part of the course narrows its scope to Christianity in the west through a selective analysis of key periods and issues…[including] intellectual ferment and Christian interaction with Jews and Muslims in the Middle Ages; the 16th century Reformation; colonial expansion and inter-religious encounter; and Christianity and modernity.

RELS 231 Judaism 3 credits
This course will explore the origins of an ancient faith through a close examination of the early traditions and laws presented in the Hebrew Bible as well as the various cultural contexts of the ancient Near East that influenced them. The course utilizes the Hebrew Bible, portions of the Babylonian Talmud, and the Zohar to trace the development of these ancient traditions and practices into the various branches of modern Judaism and the foremost concerns and challenges faced by the modern Jewish communities.

RELS 233 Faces of Jesus in Theology, Art, and Literature 3 credits
This course is embedded in the realization that Christianity is not a single, unified system but a family of related traditions centered on the religious significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus himself is depicted in diverse ways throughout history. This course takes a selective journey through western and eastern Christian theologies, considering their relationship with artistic
and literary depictions of Jesus. Included in the scope of exploration are 1st century biblical texts and non-canonical gospels; classical theology and the Byzantine tradition; the medieval period; and contemporary Latin American and Asian Christian traditions. Some attention will be given to sacred architecture as theology in bricks and mortar. The course concludes with a reading of Shusaku Endo’s Silence as students consider the relationship between religious belief and visual representations of the divine.

RELS 259 Special Topics in Religious Studies 3 credits
From time to time, topics will be offered under this designation to address issues of particular currency, pursue topics of interest to students, or to make faculty research projects available for student learning.

RELS 270 Introduction to Biblical Hebrew 3 credits
This course provides the student with a working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew. With successful completion of this course, the student will be able to read selected passages of narrative in the Hebrew Bible with the aid of a lexicon. The course will begin with an introduction of the Hebrew writing system. The students learn to read and write consonants and vowel points in both block and cursive script. Following the students’ successful mastery of the writing system, the course undertakes Hebrew grammar and basic syntax, as well as Hebrew vocabulary. This course also introduces elementary conversational elements of modern Israeli Hebrew, such as basic greetings, introductions, and inquiries, thus this course emphasizes both written and oral skills.

RELS 271 Biblical Hebrew II 3 credits
The purpose of this course is to strengthen students’ comprehension of basic Biblical Hebrew. With the successful completion of this course, students will build a strong knowledge base in Hebrew vocabulary, verb paradigms, and grammar essentials. This course enables students to utilize and navigate a Hebrew-English lexicon to translate biblical passages successfully. Minor emphasis is placed on Modern Hebrew conversational skills and vocabulary.

RELS 301 Poetry, Prophecy, and (Poly)theism: A Critical Analysis of the Hebrew Bible 3 credits
This course is an historical-critical analysis of the books of the Hebrew Bible that emphasizes the historical, social, and ideological dynamics of various authorial traditions within this corpus. Additionally, these texts are analyzed within modern interpretive frameworks in order to recognize the ways in which themes from the Hebrew Bible continue to play a role in the
construction of Western thought and culture.

RELS 303 Job: Story and Theology 3 credits
Job: Story and Theology is an exegetical study of the book of Job which explores the ways in which story gives rise to theology. Central to the discussion is analysis of the relationship between the creator (God) and the creature (Job). In addition, several modern works of fiction are read which address questions concerning the relationship between creator and creature, the loss of comfortable worldviews, and the nature of human struggle.

RELS 305 Introduction to Biblical Archaeology 3 credits
This course is an introduction to the archaeology of the ancient Near East as it pertains to the Hebrew Bible. The initial phase of this course will explore basic archaeological field methods, terminology, and chronologies, and will offer a brief history of “biblical archaeology.” The second phase of the course examines a variety of major excavations throughout the Middle East and presents an overview of the archaeological data from these sites, ranging (in most cases) from the Late Bronze Age through Iron Age II.

RELS 311 Studies in the Gospels 3 credits
Studies in the Gospels is an introduction to methods of critical analysis in New Testament interpretation, highlighting the messages presented by the writers of the synoptic gospels. Students explore the ways in which both traditional and contemporary methods of exegetical analysis contribute to the discussion of the “historical” Jesus of Nazareth.

RELS 321 Myth, Symbol, and Ritual 3 credits
This course explores the relationship between ritual practices, symbols deployed in ritual actions, and the narrative and metaphysical elements of religious belief. Classical and contemporary formulations of this relationship will be considered. The course constitutes a critique of the popular reduction of religions to “belief systems” and gives special attention to the importance of ritual and the practices of the body in the construction of a religious worldview.

RELS 326 The World of Late Antiquity 3 credits
The World of Late Antiquity surveys the many different and competing elements of religious views found in ancient Greco-Roman culture through the first five centuries of the common era. Particular attention is given to the philosophical, sociological, theological, and political environment of ancient Mediterranean culture in an effort to understand the influence these views had on the Western tradition.

RELS 337 Religion and Philosophy in the Middle Ages 3 credits
The focus of this course is the development of religious and philosophical thought in the European Middle Ages, understood as the period from about the fourth to the fifteenth century. It addresses the roots of Medieval thought, the varieties of Medieval thought within and across the three European religions of the Middle Ages (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and of course Medieval religious practice, both authorized and otherwise. The course will explore the nature of intellectual and practical
creativity, autonomy and authority during the period; key religious imagery (e.g. Jesus as mother); key philosophical trends and concerns (e.g. the problem of universals, mind and the active intellect, semiotics, the development of universities, etc.); and the inter-religious dialogue, tolerance, and violence. (This course may be taken for credit as PHIL 337.)

RELS 352 Islamic Civilization 3 credits
This course is a survey of the emergence of Islam during late Roman antiquity and the middle ages, highlighting the life of the prophet Mohammed and the development of Islamic religion, philosophy, and literature in the early Islamic empires. Also considered is the development of Islamic fundamentalism in the modern world and institutional, operational, and environmental factors which demonstrate differences between the Islamic and the Western worlds.

RELS 417 A History of Biblical Interpretation 3 credits
A History of Biblical Interpretation undertakes a detailed analysis of the socio-cultural, historical, political, ideological, philosophical, methodological, and theological dynamics involved in the interpretation of the Bible in Western culture with particular emphasis on the modern period. Topics include the nature and role of authority, epistemology, science and religion, institutions and power, the development and rise of the historical-critical method, and the role of the church in the interpretation of the Bible.

RELS 487-488 Independent Study 3 credits

RELS 490 Senior Project 2-4 credits

RELS 495 Graduation Audit Non-credit
Registration for this course initiates a graduation audit process to verify that all requirements for graduation are scheduled to be met by the anticipated degree completion date.

 


Cultural Studies Courses


CLTS 201 Introduction to Cultural Studies 3 credits
A general introduction to the field of cultural studies, including key texts and theoretical frameworks. Emphasis is on familiarity with the general approach and developing facility applying it to cultural phenomena, including fiction, film, music, politics, journalism, religion, etc.

CLTS 202 Tolerance and Intolerance in Historical Perspective 3 credits
This course critically examines ideological frameworks of “tolerance” and “intolerance”, both theoretically and as they have been expressed or played out in history. Students consider various models of pluralism as well as homogenizing tendencies in a variety of cultures, sub-cultures, political forms, religious traditions, philosophical traditions, and historical moments. Students consider examples of both openness and repression, including such historical moments/episodes as the Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition, the golden age of Muslim Spain, crusades, expulsions/pogroms, the Holocaust/Shoah, and others. Students consider the relationship between religious/cultural elites and “the people” on these issues, the role of education, and the idea of a historical development toward more rather than less tolerance (perhaps the signature Enlightenment/Modernist program).

CLTS 210 Science, Technology, and Society 3 credits
The course is an historical examination of the effects of scientific and technological innovations upon various societies, with emphasis being placed upon technology and science of the Western world since 1850. (This course may be taken for credit as GENS 210).

CLTS 401-2 Common Seminar 3 credits
A theoretically-oriented seminar focusing on key words in cultural criticism, cultural studies, and cultural theory. The course is designed to encourage students to consider key questions in the field in a way that also allows them to synthesize the work they have done in the major. Enrollment limited to Juniors and Seniors.

 

 


Philosophy Courses


PHIL 100 Introduction to Philosophy 3 credits
This course is an introductory-level exploration of the major sub-divisions of the field of philosophy. Topics include such areas as logic, responsibility, ethics, virtue, political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, personhood, and “the nature of philosophy.”

PHIL 123 Introduction to Logic 3 credits
This course is intended for those who are beginning the study of logic. Distinctions are drawn between deductive and inductive procedures; informal and formal fallacies are studied; formal argument structures are noted; and methods of distinguishing between valid and invalid argument forms are introduced (including Venn Diagrams, Rule Sets, Truth Tables, and Rules of Inference).

PHIL 124 Introduction to Ethics 3 credits
A major goal of this course is to provide students with the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge of the fundamental principles and beliefs upon which individuals and groups have built or thought they built a system of morals or “ethics.” A variety of ethical stances are studied, with attention given to when they arose, the basis of their apparent appeal, and the consequences of acting in accord with those stances.

PHIL 250-259 Special Topics in Philosophy 3 credits each

PHIL 252 Philosophy of Mysticism 3 credits
Major emphasis in this study is given to trying to understand the basic claims that mystics make, assessing the kinds of certainty, truth, and insight claimed, and exploring the place of “the mystical” in human experience. Students examine what is involved in the experience and claims of several mystical groups or representatives from ancient to contemporary times.

PHIL 254 Contemporary Ethical Issues 3 credits
The focus of this course is “applied philosophy.” Typical of such endeavors, Phase One is considered an “informed” background
through a sweeping survey of the major strengths and weaknesses of the most popular and most tenable “ethical” stances. Then Phase Two is undertaken, involving a critical exploration of several ethical issues in the context of “morality and social policy,” e.g. euthanasia, the death penalty, hate speech, sexism, racism, oppression, economic justice, and welfare.

PHIL 333 History of Philosophy: Ancient through Modern 3 credits
Emphasis is placed on the dialogue-like journey of ideas through the minds of men and women through history and the consequences of changed interpretations of persons and institutions through different historical eras. In this study process students discover and evaluate common Twentieth Century assumptions. Through tracing development and change of Western
philosophy from the Pre-Socratic through the Modern eras, study focuses upon such topics as Metaphysics, Epistemology and Methods/Models, Ethics, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Religions.

PHIL 334 Existential Philosophy 3 credits
This course involves a study of works of certain predecessors of existentialism, the influences of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and themes and issues portrayed in selected works of Sartre, Camus, and others that may be taken as typical of that amorphous movement in the history of philosophy known as Existentialism.

PHIL 336 Twentieth-Century Philosophy 3 credits
The focus of this course is on selected works of several Continental and Anglo-American thinkers who have stimulated the “intellectuals” of the 20th century. Some have achieved a status equivalent to the “canonical” in philosophy; others have not as yet, but may be on their way.

PHIL 337 Religion and Philosophy in the Middle Ages 3 credits
The focus of this course is the development of religious and philosophical thought in the European Middle Ages, understood as the period from about the fourth to the fiftheenth century. It addresses the roots of Medieval thought, the varieties of Medieval thought within and across the three European religions of the Middle Ages (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam),
and of course Medieval religious practice, both authorized and otherwise. The course will explore the nature of intellectual and practical creativity, autonomy and authority during the period; key religious imagery (e.g. Jesus as mother); key philosophical trends and concerns (e.g. the problem of universals, mind and the active intellect, semiotics, the development of
universities, etc.); and the inter-religious dialogue, tolerance, and violence. (This course may be taken for credit as RELS 337).

PHIL 350-359 Advanced Topics in Philosophy 3 credits each

PHIL 353 History and Philosophy of Science 3 credits
This course is a study of the major ideas conceived by western thinkers in attempting to comprehend and describe the natural world. (This course may be taken for credit as GENS 353).

PHIL 355 Philosophy of Religion 3 credits
The major aspects of religion are examined from a philosophical perspective. Topics studied are the religious experience, the meaning and significance of faith, belief and criteria, knowledge, proof, evidence, and certainty, the concept of deity, and the impact of religion on human life.

PHIL 358 Aesthetics, the Arts, and Philosophy 3 credits
This study is an examination of the nature of aesthetic experience, its relation to other kinds of experience, and its place in art production, appreciation, and creativity; the notion of a work of art; language used in description, interpretation, and evaluation of art; and differing interpretations of aesthetics. Opportunities are provided for giving special attention to particular art areas as well as to “the Arts.”

PHIL 361 Ancient and Medieval Political Thought 3 credits
This course provides an introduction to ancient and medieval political thought. Fundamental questions examined include: What is the relationship between ethics and politics?; What is a good regime?; What is a good citizen?; What is the relationship between law and ethics?; What is the relationship between theology and political thought? Students are guided in a close reading of important political works, including Plato’s Apology and Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics,
and Augustine’s City of God. (This course can be taken as POLS 361.)

PHIL 362 Modern Political Thought 3 credits
As an introduction to modern and post-modern political thought, students examine the writings of important political thinkers of the past 500 years, including Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, and Camus. Emphasis is on the development of liberal democratic thought and its many recent critiques, including Marxism, feminism, and communitarianism. (This course can be taken as POLS 362.)
PHIL 451 Advanced Ethical Theory 3 credits
This course is a study of one or more modern ethical theorists and their challenges to (or defenses or reformulations of) classical ethical thinking. The course may be taught in a variety of ways, including focusing on a single theoretical issue and its practical ramifications or a single practical problem and its theoretical responses, a single philosopher or even single work.
A major research project and presentation are required components.

PHIL 487-488 Independent Study 2-4 credits