JDS 202 / REL 202

Great Books of the Jewish Tradition


Martha Himmelfarb

Introduces students to the classical Jewish tradition through a close reading of portions of some of its great books, including the Bible, rabbinic midrash, the Talmud, Rashi's commentary on the Torah (probably the most influential Bible commentary among Jews ever), the Zohar (the central work of Kabbalah), and the Guide for the Perplexed (Maimonides's great philosophical work). Students will consider what these works say about the relationship between revelation and interpretation in Jewish tradition and how they come to define that tradition. Two 90-minute classes.

COM 202 / JDS 203 / REL 203

Introduction to Jewish Cultures


Lital Levy

This introductory course focuses on the cultural syncretism and the global diversity of Jewish experience. It provides a comparative understanding of Jewish culture from antiquity to the present, examining how Jewish culture has emerged through the interaction of Jews and non-Jews, engaging a wide spectrum of cultures throughout the Jewish world, and following representations of key issues such as sexuality or the existence of God in different eras. The course's interdisciplinary approach covers Bible and Talmud, Jewish mysticism, Zionism, Jewish cinema, music, food, modern literature, and graphic arts. All readings and films are in English.

MUS 221 / REL 221

Choral Music


A survey of vocal literature (excluding opera) from the early Middle Ages to the present. Relations between text and music are stressed. The classes are devoted to a close study of two or three works. Two lectures, one class. Prerequisite: instructor's permission.

REL 222 / HUM 222

Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion


An examination of thinkers (e.g. Pascal, Hume, Marx, Emerson, Freud) and filmmakers (e.g. Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Friedrich) who distinguish between a way of life they regard as sinful, oppressive, or deluded and a process of change in which the alleged defects are overcome. The course provides an introduction to modern debates over what religion is and how it affects individuals and societies, for good or for ill. The course also concerns film as a vehicle for ethical reflection and social criticism. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

JDS 201 / REL 223

Introduction to Judaism: Religion, History, Ethics


Starting with ancient Israel's radically new conceptions of the divine, morality, and history, this course explores the complex nature of Judaism and its development as a religion and culture over millennia--a development marked by internal debates and external challenges to continuity and survival. Emphasis is on the traditional bases of Judaism, such as religious beliefs and practices, interpretations of sacred texts, and shared communal values. Attention also to the variety of Jewish encounters with modernity, philosophy, secularism, and non-Jewish cultures. Two classes, one preceptorial.

REL 225

The Buddhist World of Thought and Practice


An introduction to the thought and history of Buddhism. Emphasis is upon the beginnings of the religion in India, the interaction between Buddhism and the various cultures of Asia, basic schools of Buddhist religious philosophy, the relationship between thought and practice, and the place of Buddhism in the modern world. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 226 / EAS 226

The Religions of China


Stephen F. Teiser

A thematic introduction to the history of Chinese religion. Topics include: cosmology, family, shamanism, divination, mortuary ritual, and women. Readings are drawn from a wide range of sources, including sacred scriptures, popular literature, and modern ethnography. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 227

Tibetan Buddhism


Jonathan C. Gold

This course is a survey of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, focusing on the doctrines and practices associated with the main schools of tantric ritual and meditation. Topics covered will include: the origins of the distinct forms of Buddhism in Tibet; Buddhist responses to historical challenges; the special relationship between politics and religion in Tibet; the role of Tibetan Buddhist scholars and scholasticism; Tibet through the lenses of the Chinese, and the West; and Tibetan Buddhist art. Required field trip to the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 228 / EAS 228

Religion in Japanese Culture


Bryan D. Lowe

An introduction to Japanese religion from ancient to modern times, focusing on its role in culture and history. Representative aspects of Shinto, Buddhist, Confucian, and other traditions will be studied, as well as such topics as myth, ritual, shamanism, and ancestor worship. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 229 / HUM 229

Great Books in Buddhism


Stephen F. Teiser

Close reading of great stories in the formative period of Buddhism, 50 BC to 400 AD. Examines Buddhist literature against the background of religious doctrine and cultural history. Explores themes such as: previous lifetimes, rebirth and cosmology, genres of Buddhist narrative, parables, personal quests versus social justice, emptiness, and changing conceptions of the Buddha. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 230 / JDS 230

Who Wrote the Bible


The course will introduce students to the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") in its ancient Near Eastern setting. Key concepts often associated with the Hebrew Bible, such as God, damnation, sin, and history, will be scrutinized through a careful reading of a selection of Biblical texts including the Creation and Garden of Eden narratives in Genesis, the laws of Leviticus, the prophecies of Ezekiel and the poetry of Song of Songs. Particular attention will be paid to the transformations that the texts underwent through a continuous process of transmission and interpretation. Two 90-minute classes.

REL 235 / NES 235

In the Shadow of Swords: War, Martyrdom and the Afterlife in Islam


Shaun Elizabeth Marmon

This course is an examination of the changing concepts of martyrdom, holy war, and suicide in both Sunni and Shi'i Islam. How are war and martyrdom presented in the sacred texts of these traditions? Historically, how have Sunni and Shi'i Islam constructed, idealized, and also questioned the concept of the Islamic martyr and/or the holy warrior? In what ways have modern religious revivalism, revolutionary movements, and struggles for nationhood created a new and still contested understanding of the Islamic martyr? Course materials include sources in translation, films, Internet sites, and journals. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 236 / NES 236

Introduction to Islam


Shaun Elizabeth Marmon

The doctrines and practices of Islamic communities from the Prophet Muhammad up to and including the modern period. Topics covered include the Qur'an; Sunnis and Shi'is; Islamic law and philosophy; Sufism; Islamic art and architecture; Islamic understandings of physical space and time; the structure of Muslim households; gender issues; Islamic education; modern Islamic "fundamentalist" movements. Materials include sources in translation, films, modern novels. Guest speakers representing diverse Muslim perspectives will be an important component. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

NES 240 / REL 240

Muslims and the Qur'an


Muhammad Qasim Zaman

A broad-ranging introduction to pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Islam in light of how Muslims have approached their foundational religious text, the Qur'an. Topics include: Muhammad and the emergence of Islam; theology, law and ethics; war and peace; mysticism; women and gender; and modern debates on Islamic reform. This course examines the varied contexts in which Muslims have interpreted their sacred text, their agreements and disagreements on what it means, and more broadly, their often competing understandings of Islam and of what it is to be a Muslim. Three classes.

REL 242 / JDS 242

Jewish Thought and Modern Society


Leora Faye Batnitzky

What is the relation of Judaism and the individual Jew to the modern world? Is Judaism a religion, a nationality, an ethnicity, or a combination of these? This course explores various answers to these questions by examining various historical and cultural formations of Jewish identity in Europe, America, and Israel from the 18th century to the present, and by engaging particular issues, such as Judaism's relation to technology, the environment, biomedical ethics, feminism, and democracy. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 246 / JDS 246

Ancient Judaism from Alexander to the Rise of Islam


Martha Himmelfarb

This course offers an introduction to the development of ancient Judaism during the eventful millennium plus from the establishment of the Torah as the constitution of the Jewish people in the fifth century BCE--an event that some have seen as marking the transition from biblical religion to Judaism--to the completion of the other great canonical Jewish document, the Babylonian Talmud, in perhaps the sixth century BCE. The weekly lecture and assigned readings will provide historical context, but the focus of the course will be on primary texts that reflect the major developments in ancient Judaism, to be treated during a two-hour precept.

REL 251 / HLS 251 / MED 251

Christianity in the Roman Empire: Secret Rituals, Mystery Cults, and Apocalyptic Prophets


This course is a historical introduction to early Christian texts within and outside of the New Testament canon. We investigate how the Christian movement began, using ancient sources - Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Christian - about Jesus of Nazareth. We read the letters of the Apostle Paul and New Testament gospels, and the recently discovered gospels of Thomas and Mary. We will discuss the formation of the New Testament canon, views of Jesus, and attitudes toward gender, race and community. The course is accessible to students new to these sources, as well as to those familiar with them. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 252

Jesus: How Christianity Began


Elaine Hiesey Pagels

We investigate what is known about Jesus from earliest gospels, Roman and Jewish sources, and "gnostic gospels;" letters between a Roman governor and emperor telling why they had Jesus' followers tortured and executed; first hand accounts of conversion, trials and martyrdom's; how pagans saw Christians, and how the movement emerged from Judaism; debates over virgin birth, resurrection, sexual practices, gender roles; and how emperor Constantine's conversion-and the work of Augustine-transformed the movement. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 257 / AMS 397

Religion and American Film


Judith Weisenfeld

The controversy over Mel Gibson's [The Passion of the Christ] sits in a long history of complex interactions between religious Americans and popular movies. In this course we explore the politics of representing religion at key moments in American film and religious history. We consider how movies provide unique insight into aspects of American religious life and how representations of religion reveal the shifting contours of constructions of American identity. Topics include: censorship; representations of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities; gender, sexuality, and religion; recent filmmaking strategies of religious groups.

REL 258

Religion in American Society


A broad survey of religion in American society from the colonial era to the present. Emphasis on religious encounter and conflict; the relationship between religious change and broader social and political currents; religious innovations and transformations; immigrant religions; secularization, resurgence, and pluralism. Mix of primary and secondary source readings. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 261 / CHV 261

Christian Ethics and Modern Society


Eric Sean Gregory

An examination of the meaning of Christian ethics through a study of selected contemporary moral and political issues: bioethics, capital punishment, sex and marriage, pluralism, race, class, gender, the environment, the morality of warfare, torture, and the role of religion in public life. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

GSS 302 / LAS 314 / REL 300

Topics in the Study of Gender


Jessica Delgado

Advanced seminar; focus changes from year to year. In general the seminar uses contemporary and classic works of feminist theory to examine ideas about gender that have shaped modern culture. Topics have included feminism and liberalism, literature and ideology, and psychoanalysis and feminism.

POL 309 / REL 309

Politics and Religion


Close study of a number of texts that have illuminated the connection between religiosity and politics, and, in particular, the role of religious language and ideas to establish, preserve, reform, and redeem republics. Special attention will be given to the religious dimensions of revolutionary and messianic politics, and to the role that religiosity has played in the development of contemporary social movements and in the moral and political resistance to totalitarian regimes. Two lectures, one preceptorial.

REL 311

Religious Existentialism


Leora Faye Batnitzky

An in-depth study of existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierekgaard, Martin Buber, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Emmanuel Levinas. The course will focus on their respective arguments about the relations between philosophy and existence, reason and revelation, divine law and love, philosophy, religion and politics, and Judaism and Christianity. One three-hour seminar.

REL 312

Augustine and Aquinas


Eric Sean Gregory

A comparative study of the primary texts of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. Topics include: the problem of evil, human nature, the existence of God, freedom and grace, ethics and politics, and the relation of theology to philosophy. Attention also given to the legacy of these influential and contested thinkers. One three-hour seminar.