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RELIGST 165: Modern Jewish Mystics: 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. We will explore the mystic writings of figures from the Safed Renaissance, the Hasidic masters, with a particular focus on the works of Martin Buber, Hillel Zeitlin, Abraham Isaac Kook, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Arthur Green. We will examine their teachings in light of the challenges of the two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the processes of modernity and secularism. Consideration will be made of the unique cultural contexts of modern Israel and contemporary America.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Mayse, E. (PI)

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.
Terms: Win | Units: 4 | 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.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Mayse, E. (PI)

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

RELIGST 179: Doing the Sacred: Religion and Performance

This course investigates religion as practice and performance, rather than as belief and doctrine. A performance-centered emphasis helps us understand how domination and authority, as well as creativity and individual resistance, underlie culture. From initiatory rites to cyber sermons, human action offers raw, physical data that unveils the mechanisms of social control, ideology, and individual resistance. Reorienting religion from the perspective of religious acts / actors -- those who are doing something they consider sacred -- evokes many interpretive possibilities: How do these performances create and maintain communities? How do they resolve conflicts that arise within everyday affairs? In what ways do they generate meaning and shape identity? What can these enactments reveal about the constructions of power, gender, and race? This course explores such issues, probing the complicated relationship between human intention and social reality. Ultimately, a study of religion and performance seeks to understand how performance and transcendence interact to make participants into who they are.nnThe readings cover an array of religious traditions -- medieval and evangelical Christian, Hindu, Native American, Jewish, Buddhist, African and Haitian Vodou -- all of which present a rich repertoire of sacred drama, dance, and music. We will discuss performances that make modern readers uncomfortable, such as sacrifice and flagellation, and examine why they are meaningful within their specific cultural context. Finally, we will consider how secular practices and the internet mimic religious behavior. However divergent, all of these examples demonstrate how religious performance is no mere artifice, but a vehicle for the practitioner's own pious posturing -- one that is spiritually innovative and self-affirming -- yet shaped by hierarchical regimes.
Last offered: Spring 2015 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED

RELIGST 180: Gender Relations in Islam (FEMGEN 180)

This course investigates the ways in which gender identities and relationships between men and women have been articulated, constructed, and refashioned throughout the Muslim world. Starting with problematizing the fixed notions of gender and sexuality, we map the attitudes toward these notions through visiting a diverse array of sources from the Qur¿an, Sunna, and legal documents to historical and anthropological case studies, literature, and film from South East Asia to Europe and North America. We examine the notions of femininity and masculinity in the Qur¿an, family laws, and attitudes toward homosexuality and transgendered populations. We read examples of ambiguous use of language with regards to gender and sexuality in Persian poetry and mystical traditions. We study the dynamic relationship between Islam and Feminism in the Muslim world. Finally, we witness the implications of these attitudes in our case studies and stories, from a divorce court in Iran to a wedding in Sudan.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II, WAY-SI
Instructors: Najafian, A. (PI)

RELIGST 181: Heidegger and Mysticism (PHIL 133S)

The new paradigm for understanding Heidegger makes possible a fresh look at his long-standing interest in western mysticism as well as in Daoism. Part One: a radical recasting of Heidegger's thought, including his readings of the Presocratics (6th century BCE). In light of that, Part Two: a reading of selected texts of western mystics as well as Laozi's Dao De Jing / Tao Te Ching (6th century BCE).
Terms: Win | Units: 5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Sheehan, T. (PI)

RELIGST 205: Religious Poetry

Religious poetry drawn from the Islamic, Christian, Confucian and Daoist traditions. Limited enrollment or consent of the instructor required.
Last offered: Winter 2014 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II

RELIGST 208C: Architecture, Acoustics and Ritual in Byzantium (ARTHIST 208C, ARTHIST 408C, CLASSICS 175, MUSIC 208C, MUSIC 408C, REES 208C, REES 408C, RELIGST 308C)

Onassis Seminar "Icons of Sound: Architecture, Acoustics and Ritual in Byzantium". This year-long seminar explores the creation and operations of sacred space in Byzantium by focusing on the intersection of architecture, acoustics, music, and ritual. Through the support of the Onassis Foundation (USA), nine leading scholars in the field share their research and conduct the discussion of their pre-circulated papers. The goal is to develop a new interpretive framework for the study of religious experience and assemble the research tools needed for work in this interdisciplinary field.
Last offered: Spring 2014 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II | Repeatable for credit

RELIGST 224: Classical Islamic Texts (RELIGST 324)

The course is based on readings in primary Arabic sources in the key fields of pre-modern Islamic scholarship. The list of readings and topics will depend on the interests of the students. In addition to focusing on the language, contents, and context of the texts covered, the course introduces genre-specific historical research methods. The reading selections may be derived from Qur¿anic interpretation (tafsir), the hadith literature, adab, biographical dictionaries, fiqh, ta'rikh, kalam, or Sufism. Reading knowledge of Arabic is required.
Last offered: Autumn 2014 | UG Reqs: GER:DB-Hum, WAY-A-II | Repeatable for credit
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