Religious Studies

Chair of Undergraduate Studies: Susan Schreiner, S 300D, 702-8243
Director of Undergraduate Studies: Lucy Pick, S 306B, 702-8278

Program of Study

The field of Religious Studies engages perennial questions about religion and human society. It investigates religions and how they shape and are shaped by human cultures. The concentration in Religious Studies exposes students to different sources, problems, and methodologies in the study of religion. Students explore one particular question in depth through the writing of a senior paper. The program is designed to attract students who wish to take interdisciplinary approaches to the study of religion, including those that are historical, philosophical, theological, sociological, or literary-critical. The interests of such students may be descriptive, explanatory, or normative.

Program Requirements

A concentration in Religious Studies consists of twelve courses, including one introductory course and a two-quarter senior seminar. It is preferable that students consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies and declare their concentration in Religious Studies before the end of their second year. Students and the Director of Undergraduate Studies will work together to create a program of study. The goal is to develop depth in one area so that a satisfactory B.A. paper will be written in the fourth year.

Students will normally be permitted to count language courses toward their concentration that go beyond the College language requirement and are pertinent to the area of research of their B.A. paper. With the consent of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, students may be permitted to count two extra-departmental courses toward the concentration. Students are encouraged to explore more than one religious tradition through their course work.

Introductory Course. All concentrators in Religious Studies are required to take Introduction to Religious Studies (10100). It need not precede other course work in the concentration, but students are advised to have completed it by the end of their second year. It will normally be offered every year during the autumn quarter. This course will introduce students to some of the central themes in Religious Studies; its particular focus will vary according to the interests of the individual instructor.

Course Distribution. Religion is expressed in many forms throughout the world's cultures, and the academic study of religion therefore requires multiple perspectives on its subject. Students of religion should have some knowledge of the historical development of specific religious traditions, understand and critically engage the ethical and intellectual teachings of various religions, and begin to make some comparative appraisals of the roles that religions play in different cultures and historical periods. To introduce students to these multiple perspectives on religion and to provide a sense of the field as a whole, students are required to take at least one course in each of the following areas. To identify the areas, refer to the boldface letter at the end of each course description.

A. Historical Studies in Religious Traditions: courses that explore the development of particular religious traditions, including their social practices, rituals, scriptures, and beliefs in historical context

B. Constructive Studies in Religion: courses that investigate constructive or normative questions about the nature and conduct of human life that are raised by religious traditions, including work in philosophy of religion, ethics, and theology

C. Cultural Studies in Religion: courses that introduce issues in the social and cultural contingencies of religious thought and practice by emphasizing sociological, anthropological, and literary-critical perspectives on religion, and by raising comparative questions about differing religious and cultural traditions

Senior Seminar and B.A. Paper. The two-quarter senior seminar will assist students with the preparation of the required B.A. paper. During May of their third year, students will work with a preceptor to choose a faculty adviser and a topic for research, and to plan a course of study for the following year. These must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students will enroll in the B.A. Paper Seminar convened by a preceptor during the autumn and winter quarters. This seminar will allow students to prepare their bibliographies, hone their writing, and present their research. The B.A. paper will be due early in the spring quarter. Normally it should be between thirty and forty pages, with the upward limit being firm.

Grading. All students concentrating in Religious Studies must receive letter grades in all courses aimed at meeting the requirements of the degree program. Students not concentrating in Religious Studies may take Religious Studies courses on a P/N or P/F basis if they receive the prior consent of the faculty member for a given course.

Honors. Students who write senior papers deemed exceptional by their faculty advisers will be eligible for consideration for graduation with honors. They will be required to have a 3.5 grade point average or better in the concentration and a 3.25 grade point average or better overall.

Summary of Requirements

Concentration 1 Introduction to Religious Studies (RLST 10100)

1 course in historical studies in

religious traditions

1 course in constructive studies in religion

1 course in cultural studies in religion

6 additional courses in religious studies

2 B.A. Paper Seminar (RLST 29800)

B.A. paper



ALISON BODEN, Senior Lecturer, the Divinity School and the College; Dean, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel

CATHERINE A. BREKUS, Associate Professor, the Divinity School

DON S. BROWNING, Alexander Campbell Professor, the Divinity School; Director, Lilly Project on Family, Culture, & Religion

ANNE CARR, Professor, the Divinity School and the College

KRISTINE CULP, Senior Lecturer, the Divinity School; Dean, Disciples Divinity House

ARNOLD DAVIDSON, Professor, Department of Philosophy, the Divinity School, Committee on Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science, and the College

WENDY DONIGER, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor, the Divinity School, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations, Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and Social Thought, and the College

JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor, the Divinity School, Department of Political Science, and Committee on International Relations

MICHAEL FISHBANE, Nathan Cummings Professor, the Divinity School, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the College; Chairman, Committee on Jewish Studies

TIKVA FRYMER-KENSKY, Professor, the Divinity School and Committees on Jewish Studies and the Ancient Mediterranean World; Lecturer, the Law School

FRANKLIN I. GAMWELL, Shailer Mathews Professor, the Divinity School

W. CLARK GILPIN, Margaret E. Burton Professor, the Divinity School and the College; Acting Director, Martin Marty Center

DWIGHT HOPKINS, Associate Professor, the Divinity School

MATTHEW KAPSTEIN, Associate Professor, Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations, Division of the Humanities; Numata Visiting Professor, the Divinity School

JOEL KRAEMER, John Henry Barrows Professor, the Divinity School, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Committees on Social Thought and Jewish Studies

MARK L. KRUPNICK, Professor, the Divinity School, Department of English Language & Literature, and Committees on Jewish Studies and General Studies in the Humanities

BRUCE LINCOLN, Caroline E. Haskell Professor, the Divinity School, Middle Eastern Studies, History of Culture, and Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World; Associate Member, Departments of Anthropology and Classical Languages & Literatures

SABA MAHMOOD, Assistant Professor, the Divinity School

BERNARD MCGINN, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor, the Divinity School and Committees on Medieval Studies and General Studies in the Humanities

FRANÇOISE MELTZER, Professor and Chair, Department of Comparative Literature; Professor, Department of Romance Languages & Literature, the Divinity School, and the College

PAUL MENDES-FLOHR, Professor, the Divinity School

MARGARET M. MITCHELL, Associate Professor, the Divinity School, and Department of New Testament & Early Christian Literature

MICHAEL J. MURRIN, David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor in the Humanities; Professor, Department of English Language & Literature and Comparative Literature, the Divinity School, and the College

MARTHA C. NUSSBAUM, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law & Ethics, the Law School, Department of Philosophy, the Divinity School, and the College

WENDY RAUDENBUSH OLMSTED, Associate Professor, Division of the Humanities and the College; Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World

STEPHANIE PAULSELL, Director, Ministry Studies; Senior Lecturer, the Divinity School

LUCY K. PICK, John Nuveen Instructor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, the Divinity School

FRANK E. REYNOLDS, Professor, the Divinity School and Department of South Asian Languages & Civilizations

MARTIN RIESEBRODT, Associate Professor, the Divinity School, Department of Sociology, and Committee on History of Culture

RICHARD A. ROSENGARTEN, Dean, the Divinity School; Associate Professor, the Divinity School and the College

SUSAN E. SCHREINER, Associate Professor, the Divinity School

WILLIAM SCHWEIKER, Associate Professor, the Divinity School and the College

WINNIFRED FALLERS SULLIVAN, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer, the Divinity School

KATHRYN TANNER, Associate Professor, the Divinity School

DAVID TRACY, Andrew Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Distinguished Service Professor, the Divinity School and Committees on Social Thought and Ideas & Methods

ANTHONY C. YU, Carl Darling Buck Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities and Professor, the Divinity School, Departments of East Asian Languages & Civilizations, English Language & Literature, and Comparative Literature, and Committee on Social Thought


For a description of the numbering guidelines for the following courses, consult the section on reading the catalog on page 15.

Boldface letters in parentheses refer to the areas noted in the preceding Program Requirements section.

10100. Introduction to Religious Studies. Required of concentrators in Religious Studies. This course introduces students to some of the central concerns, problems, and materials of Religious Studies. Students are exposed to a range of primary and secondary source material grouped around a set of themes chosen by the instructor. Possible themes include canon, prophecy, revelation, initiation, priesthood, sacred space, discipline, and ritual. R. Rosengarten. Autumn.

11000. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (=BIBL 32500, RLST 11000). This course is a survey of the major books of the Hebrew Bible in their historical context, with consideration of the manner of composition and the abiding significance of the message. Staff. Autumn. (A)

12000. Introduction to the New Testament (=BIBL 32500, NTEC 21000/32500, RLST 12000). This course is an immersion in the texts of the New Testament with the following goals: through careful reading to come to know well some representative pieces of this literature; to gain useful knowledge of the historical, geographical, social, religious, cultural, and political contexts of these texts and the events they relate; to learn the major literary genres represented in the canon (i.e., "gospels," "acts," "letters," and "apocalypse") and strategies for reading them; to comprehend the various theological visions to which these texts give expression; and to situate oneself and one's prevailing questions about this material in the history of interpretation. M. Mitchell. Winter. (A)

20700. Medieval Women's Religious Writing (=GNDR 23700, HIST 19800, RLST 20700). The purpose of this course is to read different types of writing on religion by medieval women to investigate the relationship between gender and genre. We consider hagiography, letters, autobiography, theology, didactic treatises, and visionary writing by individuals such as Baudonivia, Hildegard of Bingen, Heloise, Christine de Pisan, and Teresa of Avila. L. Pick. Autumn. (A)

20800. Medieval Europe and Its Encounter with Islam (=HIST 19900, RLST 20800). Europe was confronted with Islam across military, economic, theological, philosophical, scientific, and cultural spheres during the Middle Ages. The nature of these different encounters evoked at times very different kinds of responses from hostility to curiosity to appropriation and assimilation. This course examines these encounters to understand the impression Islam made on medieval Europe. L. Pick. Spring. (A)

20900. Franz Rosenzweig's Concept of Revelation (=GRMN 24500/34500, HIJD 34000, JWSC 33600, RLST 20900). PQ: Third- or fourth-year standing. We consider the epistemological and theological significance of Rosenzweig's concept of revelation. The readings focus on pertinent essays, letters, and, above all, on the second book of this magnum opus, The Star of Redemption. E. Santner, P. Mendes-Flohr. Winter. (A)

21000. Religion in Early America (=HIST 19700, RLST 21000). This course is a survey of American religion from the founding of the colonies to the American Revolution. Topics include Puritanism, witchcraft, revivalism, slavery, female religious leadership, Native American religion, politics, and the coming of the Revolution. C. Brekus. Winter. (A)

21100. Judaisms in Late Antiquity (=RELH 29300, RLST 21100). Open only to students in the College. This course is a comparative study of representative traditions and genres from Judaisms in the wider Mediterranean work, 323 B.C. to 395 A.D. J. Z. Smith. Spring. (A)

23600. Myths and Symbols of Evil (=FNDL 22300, HUMA 21200, RELH 22300, RLST 23600). This course examines in depth Martin Buber's Good and Evil and Paul Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil. There are a few brief lectures, but emphasis is on seminar discussion and student participation. A. Carr. Winter. (B)

23700. Self, World, and Other: The Thought of Paul Tillich (=FNDL 21400, RLST 23700, THEO 46600). This course is a careful examination of the thought of one of the leading philosophers of religion, existentialist thinkers, and systematic theologians of the twentieth century, Paul Tillich. The course centers on a detailed reading of Tillich's major work, Systematic Theology. We explore Tillich's definition of religion as ultimate concern, his theory of religious symbols, and the account of theological method. Substantively, the course examines Tillich's treatment of major ideas in the Christian religion, namely, God, Christ, and human estrangement and redemption or, as he called it, New Being. The purpose of the course is to enable students to engage a major religious thinker on the most fundamental questions of human existence and to learn the demands and joy of systematic theological reflection. W. Schweiker. Winter. (B)

23800. The "I Am" in Descartes and Contemporary Thought (=DVPR 34900, PHIL 34900, RLST 23800, SCTH 40400). This course considers the most important models of interpretation of the "ego sum, ego existo," the transcendental interpretation of subjectivity, and its criticism of Descartes (i.e., Kant, Nietzsche, Husserl, and Heidegger), as well as the possibility of a non-transcendental subjectivity. J.-L. Marion. Spring. (B)

23900. Buddhist Thought in India and Tibet. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the range of philosophical thought and doctrine that have developed within the Buddhist traditions of India and Tibet. After an introduction to the relevant Indian background, we focus on the different ways Indian and Tibetan Buddhist thinkers have attempted to systematize central Buddhist texts. In particular, the course examines the ways in which various Buddhist philosophical approaches can all be seen to represent developments of the doctrine of selflessness. D. Arnold. Spring. (B)

26600. Agnon's Only Yesterday: A Novel (=FNDL 22900, JWSC 26000, RLST 26600). S. Y. Agnon, the greatest of modern Israeli writers, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966. In Only Yesterday he wrote (in Hebrew) of a young man who, like the author himself, emigrated to the Land of Israel during the period (early years of the twentieth century) of the Second Aliyah, "aliyah" referring to the ingathering or ascension of diasporic Jews to Palestine. This superb novel, perhaps Agnon's best, treats the complicated religious, nationalist-patriotic, social, and other dilemmas of the early emigrants to Zion. In telling his tale, Agnon draws on a multiplicity of Jewish religious-literary traditions (e.g., the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Midrash, Yiddish writing, and folktales). The text is Barbara Harshav's recent English translation. M. Krupnick. Spring. (C)

26700. Dante in Translation (=FNDL 22100, HUMA 24200, ITAL 22100, RLST 26700). A close reading of the Divine Comedy by Dante, highlighting the major problems and the most famous cantos. An important goal of the course is to give a view of medieval culture (e.g., the allegorical mode, the problem of state and church, and the culture of Scholasticism) taking Dante's work as a basis. Classes conducted in English. P. Cherchi. Winter. (C)

26800. The Mahabharata in English Translation (=FNDL 24400, HREL 35000, RLST 26800, SALC 48200). A reading of the Mahabharata in English translation (van Buitene, Narasimhan, P. C. Roy, and Doniger [ms.]), with special attention to issues of mythology, feminism, and theodicy. W. Doniger. Autumn. (C)

26900. The Kamasutra and The Laws of Manu: Sex and Religion in Ancient India (=FNDL 23600, GNDR 25800, HREL 32100, RLST 26900, SALC 25700). We discuss religion, sex, and politics in ancient India based on readings in The Kamasutra and The Laws of Manu. Texts in English. W. Doniger. Winter. (C)

27000. Asceticism and Civilization: Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism (=RLST 27000, SALC 29700). This course begins by looking at the concept of "civilization" and its uses. It then considers asceticism in the light of civilizational theory, taking as its focus the traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism in South and Southeast Asia. They are studied by means of texts and documentary films. The course ends by asking how we might view asceticism as a phenomenon of civilization from a general historical and analytical perspective. S. Collins. Winter. (C)

27100. Frazer's Golden Bough: Classics in the Study of Religion (=FNDL 23800, RELH 29000, RLST 27100). Open only to students in the College. This course undertakes a close reading of Frazer's one-volume edition of his work. J. Z. Smith. Autumn. (C)

29700. Reading and Research Course. PQ: Consent of faculty supervisor and director of undergraduate studies. Students must have completed at least one formal classroom course taught by the chosen faculty supervisor. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form. Staff. Autumn, Winter, Spring.

298. B.A. Paper Seminar. Required of concentrators in Religious Studies. This course meets weekly to provide guidance for planning, researching, and writing the B.A. paper. In later weeks, drafts of the B.A. paper are formally presented and submitted to a critique. Staff. Autumn, Winter. Not offered 2001-02; will be offered 2002-03.