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REL 370

Advanced Topics in Religion

Usually a category of religious phenomena, such as religious experience, mysticism, the nature of deities; or the role and status of persons; healing in religious traditions; sectarian groups; major thinkers or movements; or themes and approaches in the study of religion. May be repeated for credit with different topics.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Arts and Humanities 1 course

Fall Semester information

Jeffrey Kenney

370A: Tps: New Religious Movements

This course will explore the idea and emergence of new religious movements (NRMs) over the past several centuries worldwide. Sometimes called alternative religions, NRMs represent a division of the study of religion intended to focus on religious groups that are seen as or define themselves as counter-cultural or somehow in-tension with mainstream religions and society--what in the past were labeled "sects" and "cults." Designed as a collaborative research-based course, we will spend 4-5 weeks reading about theories and ideas related to the formation of NRMs, and then we will form interactive research pods (2-3 students) that focus on specific NRMs and help the class address questions such as: Why do they emerge? Who joins them? What are the common characteristics/traits of NRMs? Why have they grown in number? What do they say about mainstream religions/religiosity?


Spring Semester information

Diane Fruchtman

370A: Adv Tps:Medieval Christianity: Saints, Sinners, and Scholars

In this course we will survey Christianity from Constantine to Luther, exploring through primary texts and secondary readings the development of Christian traditions in that 1200-year timespan. We will focus on ideas and institutions, politics and polemics, sainthood, pilgrimage, and philosophy. We'll deal with "saints" and "heretics," common-folk and clerics, princes and popes. We will address questions of gender, power dynamics, religious difference, and interfaith interaction. Coursework consists of reading, writing, and discussing the material--students will be expected to participate in every class discussion, to prepare a one-paragraph response to the readings once per week, to submit three short (3-4 page) essays over the course of the term, and to complete a final exam that will ask you to analyze documents using the skills and concepts you learned in class.


Jason Fuller

370B: Adv Tps:Indian Religions Today

In this class we will examine the contemporary landscape of South Asian religiosity -- from gurus to fakirs and Hindutva to Islamism. New religious movements will be considered along with traditions that claim millennia-old histories. Major traditions to be considered include Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Christianity. Special attention will be paid to the colonial context that gave birth to modern movements as well as the psychological, political, social and economic matrices within which Indian religions flourish today.


May Term information

Jason Fuller

370A: Adv Tps: Kolkata


Fall Semester information

Su Jung Kim

370A: Adv Tps: Buddhism and Gender

This course covers the role of Buddhism in lives of women in Asia and gender as a category of analysis for the study of Buddhism. Although the academic study of Buddhism and gender and women studies in Asia have become established fields of inquiry, there have been relatively few attempts to examine the Buddhist impact on women or other cultural influence on Buddhist attitudes toward women. In this course, we examine the images of the feminine in Indian Buddhism, role expectations of and ideals about Buddhist nuns and laywomen, attitudes toward women in Asian religious traditions, and finally the varieties of Buddhist ideals about women as well as the roles women played in Buddhism in Asia.


Justin Glessner

370B: Adv Tps: History of Satan

Since antiquity, writers have attempted to understand and define the idea of evil by giving it a voice. This course investigates the origins, development and significance of personified evil--Satan--from earliest appearances in the Hebrew Bible, second-temple writings, early Christian and rabbinic literature, and the Qur'an and other early Islamic sources, through Medieval and Renaissance literature to our own day. Through temptation narratives, morality dramas, cultural satires, and Faustian dilemmas, explorations of "the Adversary" have yielded some of the most compelling stories and characters ever imagined. In this course students will become familiar with the history and breadth of Satan's role as a character (or merely background presence) in literature while developing close-reading techniques for literary analysis that can be applied across diverse eras, forms, and genres. Students will be asked to strengthen their critical reading, writing, and speaking skills and to consider how our class topic can help illuminate aspects of our present-day culture and its history.