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RELIGST 149: Finding Utopia: Mysticism, Free Love, and New Religions of the Nineteenth-Century

This class explores radical experiments in 19th-century religious utopias. Ranging from the occult to free love to anarchism, we will encounter diaries from a polyamorous commune, seance accounts of astral travel, a journal from a "Sister of the New Life" striving to create a neighborhood modeled off the fairies that she thought inhabited her body, and theological treatises insisting that spiritual progress could only be achieved scientifically. Sources such as these will help us investigate the connection between religious innovation and concepts that continue to influence us today.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-SI
Instructors: Willburn, S. (PI)

RELIGST 150: Texts that Changed the World from the Ancient Middle East (COMPLIT 31, HUMCORE 111, JEWISHST 150)

This course traces the story of the cradle of human civilization. We will begin with the earliest human stories, the Gilgamesh Epic and biblical literature, and follow the path of the development of law, religion, philosophy and literature in the ancient Mediterranean or Middle Eastern world, to the emergence of Jewish and Christian thinking. We will pose questions about how this past continues to inform our present: What stories, myths, and ideas remain foundational to us? How did the stories and myths shape civilizations and form larger communities? How did the earliest stories conceive of human life and the divine? What are the ideas about the order of nature, and the place of human life within that order? How is the relationship between the individual and society constituted? This course is part of the Humanities Core: https://humanitiescore.stanford.edu/
Terms: Aut | Units: 3 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ER

RELIGST 151: Religious Poetry of India

India has a rich literature of devotional and mystical poetry composed by "poet-saints" in common vernacular languagesa, This passionate and contemplative poetry flourished between the 6th and 18th centuries, inspiring religious and social movements that are still vibrant today. It also lives as music, remaining popular and powerful in the form of songs in many styles. We will study this material through the lenses of poetry, religion, performance, and politics
Last offered: Winter 2017 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II

RELIGST 154: Buddhism and Science: A Critical Introduction to the Encounter

Buddhism has figured in the Western imagination as a "rational religion," a "philosophy" that is mostly compatible with science. While the notion of Buddhism as "scientific" is both controversial and open to exaggeration, in the last few decades, this positive image has helped to facilitate direct encounters between Buddhism and science in multiple settings--dialogues between scientists and Buddhist scholars on key topics such as mindfulness, collaborative presentations and workshops at academic conferences, scientific research on contemplative practices, and so forth. This course explores the many facets of the encounter between Buddhism and science. It aims to do so through discussion and debate of relevant scientific papers, traditional Buddhist literature, science and technology studies (STS), and anthropological literature. Topics to be addressed include, among others, the encounter between Buddhism and psychology; the study of Buddhist contemplative practices in the laboratory; the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and the "Mindful Revolution"; the creation of a Buddhist "science of happiness"; Buddhism and technology; and Buddhism, science, and the idea of secularism.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-SI

RELIGST 156X: Sounds of Islam (MUSIC 186E)

This course explores diverse intersections of sound and Islam in religious and secular contexts throughout the world. From studying Islamic philosophies about the art of listening to interrogating Muslim hip hop, we examine how sonic practices simultaneously reflect and shape different Muslim identities globally. Issues of nationalism, war and trauma, class, race and ethnicity, gender and sexualities, colonialism, social in/justice, and migration will remain central to our exploration of spirituality, secularism, piety, and religiosity for the individuals and communities making or listening to sounds of Islam.
Last offered: Winter 2020 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 158: Spiritualism and the Occult

How can the living communicate with the dead? From Leland Jr.'s ghost to his uncle, T.W. Stanford, millions of people in the nineteenth century practiced technologies of spirit communication from spirit photography to animated seance tables. Through close readings of stories, novels, such as Romance of Two Worlds in which the heroine astrally travels through outer space, seance accounts, and scientific treatises, including Waisbrooker¿s theory that the way to enlightenment is through having the right type of sex, this class explores their mystical culture and how it blurred the line between seen and unseen in an effort to expand the real.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-SI
Instructors: Willburn, S. (PI)

RELIGST 165: Modern Jewish Mysticism: Devotion in a Secular Age (JEWISHST 125)

The twentieth-century was a time of tremendous upheaval and unspeakable tragedy for the Jewish communities of Europe. But the past hundred years were also a period of great renewal for Jewish spirituality, a renaissance that has continued into the present day. Beginning with the writings of the Safed Renaissance, the Sabbateanism, and the Hasidic masters, our course will focus on key thinkers in the 19th and 20th centuries, including: Hillel Zeitlin, Martin Buber, Abraham Isaac Kook, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Arthur Green. Drawing upon essays, homilies, and poems, we will examine the ways in which their works re-cast and reinterpret the Jewish tradition in answer to the singular questions and challenges modernity. We will mark the development of their thinking against the two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the complex and multi-faceted processes of secularization. We will also consider the theological project of modern Jewish mystics in dialogue with modern Jewish philosophers (such more »
The twentieth-century was a time of tremendous upheaval and unspeakable tragedy for the Jewish communities of Europe. But the past hundred years were also a period of great renewal for Jewish spirituality, a renaissance that has continued into the present day. Beginning with the writings of the Safed Renaissance, the Sabbateanism, and the Hasidic masters, our course will focus on key thinkers in the 19th and 20th centuries, including: Hillel Zeitlin, Martin Buber, Abraham Isaac Kook, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Arthur Green. Drawing upon essays, homilies, and poems, we will examine the ways in which their works re-cast and reinterpret the Jewish tradition in answer to the singular questions and challenges modernity. We will mark the development of their thinking against the two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the complex and multi-faceted processes of secularization. We will also consider the theological project of modern Jewish mystics in dialogue with modern Jewish philosophers (such as Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas) as well as modern philosophers and scholars informed by Christianity (from William James to Charles Taylor). This course argues that the processes of sacralization, of reclaiming a life of mystical devotion, are best understood as a unique response to Jewish modernity rather than a retreat to past modalities of religion. In seeking to prove this point, we will explore writers whose work emerged in and engaged with different social and cultural domains. We will investigate their writings with an eye to issues such as power and identity, and will draw upon their works in charting the intersection of mysticism, literature, language and experience. Throughout our readings, we will keep our eye on the sustained impact of feminism on Jewish mysticism in the second half of the twentieth century. This course is structured as a seminar, and our class discussions will be rooted in the primary sources. It assumes no prior background of Judaism or any other religious traditions. All readings will be made available in English.
Last offered: Autumn 2019 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 166: The Divine Feminine in India (FEMGEN 166)

What happens when God is a woman? Is the Goddess a feminist? The Goddess, in her numerous incarnations, is foundational to much of Indian religiosity, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or even Jain¿and in turn, without her story, much of the theology and practice of these religions remains incomprehensible. This course examines the principal expressions of the theology and ritual worship of the Goddess in Indian history, from the Vedas to the Hindu Epics, to Indian philosophy, tantric ritual practice and modern global and new age movements in order to understand how the gendering of divinity affects theological speculation, religious experience, and embodied religious identity.
Last offered: Winter 2018 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 169: Sacred Words: Jewish Thought and the Question of Language (JEWISHST 129)

Jews have long been referred as the people of the book, but they might better be referred to as the people of the word. Drawing upon texts from the Hebrew Bible to the works of modern Hebrew writers like of Hayyim Nahman Bialik and Amoz Oz, this seminar will chart the development of Jewish thinking on language over the past two millennia. We will explore issues such as: the idea of canonization; oral versus written language; the nature and possibility of translation; the origins of language; notions of negative theology; mystical approaches to the word; the rebirth of Hebrew as a spoken and cultural language; and the limits of language after the Holocaust. This course will also bring Jewish thought into dialogue with contemporary philosophical reflections on issues of language. Modern explorations of language will prove an interesting way of deepening our understanding of the Jewish thinkers on one hand, and enriching contemporary intellectual discourse on the other.
Last offered: Spring 2018 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II

RELIGST 174: Religious Existentialism-Kierkegaard

Existentialism is often understood to be a secular or anti-religious philosophy of life, a substitute for Christian ethics in a post-theistic world come of age. Yet this twentieth-century philosophical movement owes many of its concerns and much of its vocabulary to the hyper-Protestant Danish thinker Soren Kierkegaard, and much of the best Christian and Jewish thought in the 20th-century (Bultmann, Buber, Tillich) adopted existentialism as the ¿best philosophy¿ for making sense of these traditions in a secular age. This course will examine the origins of existentialist thought in the writings of Kierkegaard and its appropriation by a handful of influential 20th- century religious thinkers.
| UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II
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