Contacts | Program of Study | Program Requirements | Grading | Honors | Summary of Requirements | Minor Program in Religious Studies | Courses

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Program of Study

The program in Religious Studies introduces students to the academic study of religion. Students in Religious Studies learn how to think, talk, and write about religion in a way that is well-informed, rigorously critical, and responsibly engaged. The study of religion investigates the way human societies construct practices, seek meanings, and pose questions about their world. These investigations may be constructive, cultural, and/or historical. Since it touches all facets of human experience, the study of religion is a crucial conversation partner with other fields of study and draws on the entire range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines. Students in the program are able to explore numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, and are exposed to the sources, problems, methods, and methodologies of our diverse areas of study, including Biblical and Historical Studies; Ethics, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religions; as well as History of Religions, Anthropology, Sociology, and Religion and Literature. The interests of our students may be descriptive, explanatory, and/or normative.

Program Requirements

A major 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 major 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 BA paper will be written in the fourth year. Students are encouraged to explore more than one religious tradition in their courses. Students who wish to receive credit in the major for non-departmental courses must submit a petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Such requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. NOTE: The Office of the Dean of Students in the College must also approve the transfer of all courses taken at institutions other than those in which students are enrolled as part of a study abroad program that is sponsored by the University of Chicago. For more information, visit Examination Credit and Transfer Credit. Students with permission to enroll in graduate Divinity courses may count these toward the major.

Introductory Course

Students in Religious Studies are required to take RLST 10100 Introduction to Religious Studies. It need not precede other course work in the major, but students are advised to have completed it by the end of their second year. It will typically be offered every year during 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 RLST number range (see below).

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 (RLST 11000 through 15000, 20000 through 22900).

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 (RLST 23000 through 25900).

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 (RLST 26000 through 28900).

Senior Seminar and BA Paper

The two-quarter senior sequence (RLST 29800 BA Paper Seminar and RLST 29900 BA Paper) will assist students with the preparation of the required BA paper. During May of their third year, students will work with the 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 take part in the BA Paper Seminar convened by a preceptor during Autumn and Winter Quarters. This seminar will allow students to prepare their bibliographies, hone their writing, and present their research. Students will register for RLST 29800 BA Paper Seminar in the Autumn Quarter and for RLST 29900 BA Paper in the Winter Quarter. The BA paper will be due the second week of Spring Quarter. The length is typically between thirty and forty pages, with the upward limit being firm.

This program may accept a BA paper or project used to satisfy the same requirement in another major if certain conditions are met and with the consent of the other program. Approval from both departments is required. Students should consult with the departments by the earliest BA proposal deadline (or by the end of their third year, if neither program publishes a deadline). A consent form, to be signed by both departments, is available from the College adviser. It must be completed and returned to the College adviser by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student's year of graduation.


Religious Studies majors must receive quality grades in all courses in the major. With consent of instructor, nonmajors may take Religious Studies courses for P/F grading. Faculty will determine the criteria that constitute a Pass.


Honors are awarded by the Divinity School's Committee on Undergraduate Studies. Students who write senior papers deemed exceptional by their faculty advisers will be eligible for consideration for graduation with honors. To be considered for honors, students must also have a 3.5 GPA or higher in the major and a 3.25 GPA or higher overall.

Summary of Requirements

RLST 10100Introduction to Religious Studies100
One course in historical studies in religious traditions100
One course in constructive studies in religion100
One course in cultural studies in religion100
Six additional courses in Religious Studies600
RLST 29800BA Paper Seminar100
RLST 29900BA Paper100
Total Units1200

Minor Program in Religious Studies

The minor in Religious Studies requires a total of seven courses. RLST 10100 Introduction to Religious Studies is required of all minors. The remaining six courses should be chosen to reflect a broad understanding of the academic study of religion. Of these six, students must take at least one course in each of our three areas of study [Historical Studies (A), Constructive Studies (B), and Cultural Studies (C)]. Courses in the minor may not be double-counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors, and may not be counted toward general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

The student must complete a substantial (at least 10–15 pages) paper or project. This work should engage critically with primary source materials and exemplify methodological sophistication in the study of religion, and should earn a grade no lower than B-. It is expected that this paper will normally be written as part of the student's course work for the minor.  The Director of Undergraduate Studies will approve the paper for fulfillment of this requirement.

Students who elect the minor program in Religious Studies must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. Consent to complete a minor forms are available from the student’s College adviser or online at

Sample Program

The following group of courses would satisfy a minor in Religious Studies:

RLST 10100Introduction to Religious Studies100
RLST 11005Jewish Thought and Literature I: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible100
RLST 12000Introduction to the New Testament: Texts and Contexts100
RLST 21801Religion and Society in the Middle Ages100
RLST 23603Cosmos and Conscience: Looking for Ourselves Elsewhere100
RLST 24913Marginalized Theologies100
RLST 28900Magic, Science, and Religion100
Total Units700

Religious Studies Courses

RLST 10100. Introduction to Religious Studies. 100 Units.

This course introduces 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.

Instructor(s): L. Pick     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Required of students who are majoring in Religious Studies.

RLST 11005-20408. Jewish Thought and Literature I-II.

Taking these courses in sequence is not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. Students in this sequence explore Jewish thought and literature from ancient times until the modern era through a close reading of original sources. A wide variety of works is discussed, including the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and texts representative of rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewish philosophy, and modern Jewish culture in its diverse manifestations. Texts in English.

RLST 11005. Jewish Thought and Literature I: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 100 Units.

The course will survey the contents of all twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, and introduce critical questions regarding its central and marginal figures, events, and ideas, its literary qualities and anomalies, the history of its composition and transmission, its relation to other artifacts from the biblical period, its place in the history and society of ancient Israel, and its relation to the larger culture of the ancient Near East.

Instructor(s): S. Chavel     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 20004,BIBL 31000

RLST 20408. Jewish Thought and Literature II: The Bible and Archaeology. 100 Units.

In this course we will look at how interpretation of evidence unearthed by archaeologists contributes to a historical-critical reading of the Bible, and vice versa. We will focus on the cultural background of the biblical narratives, from the stories of Creation and Flood to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans in the year 70. No prior coursework in archaeology or biblical studies is required, although it will be helpful for students to have taken JWSC 20004 (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible) in the Autumn Quarter.

Instructor(s): D. Schloen     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 20005,NEHC 20405,NEHC 30405

RLST 12000. Introduction to the New Testament: Texts and Contexts. 100 Units.

Our main goal is a careful reading of the New Testament, while highlighting specific authors and specific passages.  We will gain some useful knowledge of the historical, geographical, social, religious,  cultural and political contexts of these documents and explore the major literary genres represented in the canon.  Some insights will be given in the history of research, and current methodologies will be reflected.  In the end, each participant should be able to find a personal way of dealing with these texts.

Instructor(s): M. Mitchell     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): BIBL 32500,FNDL 28202

RLST 20401-20402-20403. Islamic Thought and Literature I-II-III.

This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required.

RLST 20401. Islamic Thought and Literature I. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 950, concentrating on the career of the Prophet Muhammad; Qur'an and Hadith; the Caliphate; the development of Islamic legal, theological, philosophical, and mystical discourses; sectarian movements; and Arabic literature.

Instructor(s): T. Qutbuddin     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30601,SOSC 22000,NEHC 20601

RLST 20402. Islamic Thought and Literature II. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 950 to 1700. We survey such works as literature, theology, philosophy, sufism, politics, and history that were written in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. We also consider the art, architecture, and music of the Islamicate traditions. Through primary texts, secondary sources, and lectures, we trace the cultural, social, religious, political, and institutional evolution through the period of the Fatimids, the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, and the "gunpowder empires" (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals).

Instructor(s): F. Lewis     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30602,SOSC 22100,NEHC 20602

RLST 20403. Islamic Thought and Literature III. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 1700 to the present, exploring works of Arab intellectuals who interpreted various aspects of Islamic philosophy, political theory, and law in the modern age. We look at diverse interpretations concerning the role of religion in a modern society, at secularized and historicized approaches to religion, and at the critique of both religious establishments and nation-states as articulated by Arab intellectuals. Generally, we discuss secondary literature first and the primary sources later.

Instructor(s): O. Bashkin     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): This course does not apply to the medieval studies major or minor.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30603,SOSC 22200,NEHC 20603

RLST 20501. Islamic History and Society I: The Rise of Islam and the Caliphate. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 1100, including the rise and spread of Islam, the Islamic empire under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and the emergence of regional Islamic states from Afghanistan and eastern Iran to North Africa and Spain.

Instructor(s): C. Fleischer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Not open to first-year students
Note(s): Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general eduation requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30501,HIST 25704,HIST 35704,ISLM 30500,NEHC 20501

RLST 20604-20605-25801. Jewish History and Society I-III-II.

Taking these courses in sequence is not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. Students explore the ancient, medieval, and modern phases of Jewish culture(s) by means of documents and artifacts that illuminate the rhythms of daily life in changing economic, social, and political contexts. Texts in English.

RLST 20604. Jewish History and Society I: The Archaeology of Israel - History, Society, Politics. 100 Units.

The course will offer a historical and critical perspective on 150 years of archaeology in Israel/Palestine, beginning with the first scientific endeavors of the 19th century and covering British Mandate and pre-state Jewish scholarship, as well as developments in the archaeology of Israel since 1948. I will devote particular attention to the mutual construction of archaeological interpretation and Israeli identity and to the contested role of archaeology in the public sphere both within Israeli society and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The course will conclude with a discussion of the plausibility and possible content of an indigenous post-conflict archaeology in Israel and Palestine, based on 21st century paradigm shifts in archaeological discourse and field work.

Instructor(s): R. Greenberg     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 20001,CRES 20001,HIST 22113,NEHC 20401,NEHC 30401

RLST 20605. Jewish History and Society III: Israel Society and Jewish Cultures - Religiosity, Nation, Migration. 100 Units.

The class will discuss the connections between Israeli history and Jewish history. We will explore the history of the state since its establishment, its intellectual elites, their cultural production, as well as the protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins organized by Israeli Jews in Israel during the years 1948-2012. The class will reflect on tensions between Israelis of different origins, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi and Ethiopian communities in particular, and will discuss whether the arrival of various communities of Jews to Israel signified a liberating exodus from an oppressive  exile; we will therefore consider different periodizations of Israeli history in which the moment of arrival to Israel of various migrants/’olim (like Holocaust survivors, Mizrahi Jews, and others) marked the beginning of a difficult journey, aimed at achieving social mobility and citizenship rights in the Jewish state. We will also look at conflicts based on religion, especially the encounters between Haredi, national-religious and secular Jews in Israel. Finally, we will explore Israel’s relations with its Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian subjects in the occupied West Bank. The class will consider instances of politicized violence in Israel, and reflect on the ways in which their analysis could inform our thinking about social identities, nationalism, and religiosity. We will try to read against, and beyond, national Zionist narratives; unpack many national silences regarding the social and economic tensions embodied in these events, and study their implications with respect to visions of pluralism, binationalism, integration, and nationalism in Israel.

Instructor(s): O. Bashkin     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 20003,HIST 22202,NEHC 20403,NEHC 30403

RLST 25801. Jewish History and Society II: Messianism and Modernity. 100 Units.

This course will consider the changing function of the notion of the messiah as it developed and changed in the modern era.  It takes as its concrete starting point the Sabbatian Heresy of the 17th century and concludes with Derrida’s philosophical development of the concept of the messianic. The course’s aim is to use messianism as a focal point around which to consider the dynamic relationship between philosophy and Jewish civilization. It will examine the changing representations of the the Messiah within the history of Jewish civilization. Concurrently it will consider the after-effect of these representations on discourses of modernity and vice-versa, illustrating both how Enlightenment conceptions of progress helped to create the notion of “messianism” understood as an abstract idea, and how the modern/post-modern philosophical conception of the “messianic” as a force that interrupts time is dependent upon historical studies of the messianic dimension of traditional Judaism.

Instructor(s): S. Hammerschlag     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): JWSC 20002,HIST 22406,NEHC 20402,NEHC 30402

RLST 20911. Jews and Judaism in the Classical Era and Late Antiquity: From Temple to Text, from “Land” to “Torah” 100 Units.

This course will address the thousand-year evolvement of post-Biblical Judaism from a Temple and Land orientation to the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism. The first section of the course will focus on the political and cultural effects of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods on Jews and Judaism, with a stress placed not only on the social and political developments in Judea but on the early stages and subsequent growth of Jewish diaspora communities as well. In this context special attention will be given to the variegated literary corpus produced by Jews both in Judea and the diaspora. The second section will analyze the changes in Jewish life and self-identity in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70CE, and the gradual emergence of Rabbinic Judaism as an alternative expression of Jewish religious commitment. The Roman Empire's embracing of Christianity on the one hand, and the growing assertiveness of a Babylonian Rabbinic community on the other, will also be closely examined.

Instructor(s): I. Gafni     Terms Offered: Winter 2015
Equivalent Course(s): HIJD 30911,JWSC 20911,NEHC 20491

RLST 21311. Disease, Diet, and the Divine: Health and the Body in American Religions. 100 Units.

From 18th-century debates over smallpox inoculation to contemporary evangelical dieting culture, this course explores how religion has shaped human bodies in sickness and health in American history. We will explore some well-known episodes, like the emergence of Christian Science, as well as less-studied moments in the story of American religion and medicine, like the early-20th-century interest in the effect of tuberculosis on Jews. We will investigate the deep medical interests of early Methodists as well as the sometimes fraught relationship between modern medicine and Amish and Mennonite communities. This course will evaluate how religious thought and practice have interacted in the American context in the human pursuit to understand and change the human body and its health. We will read primary and secondary texts about different religious communities that span the history of America from European exploration to the present: from Algonquians to black Muslims, from Pentecostals to Roman Catholics.

Instructor(s): P. Koch     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HIPS 27013,HIST 27013

RLST 21400. Latin American Religions, New and Old. 100 Units.

This course will consider select pre-twentieth-century issues, such as the transformations of Christianity in colonial society and the Catholic Church as a state institution. It will emphasize twentieth-century developments: religious rebellions; conversion to evangelical Protestant churches; Afro-diasporan religions; reformist and revolutionary Catholicism; new and New-Age religions.

Instructor(s): D. Borges     Terms Offered: Spring

RLST 22311. The Ancient Romans and Their “Religion” 100 Units.

Roman religion is very rarely accorded a place of prominence in the history of religions of Late Antiquity or the modern academic study of religion. Too often when Roman religion is acknowledged it is as part of a more general picture of Greco-Roman paganism’s decline in the wake of Christianity’s rise to power. The purpose of this course then is to consider how we might understand Roman religion as a discrete yet dynamic set of discourses, practices, communities, and institutions in the contexts of both the late antique religious world and the modern academic study of religion. To this end, this course will introduce students not only to the basic elements of Roman religious life, but also to the dominant scholarly models used to engage the ancient sources. Finally, at a more theoretical level, this course also will challenge students to think critically about how religion as a modern analytic category may or may not be useful in understanding ancient cultures.

Instructor(s): D. Durdin     Terms Offered: Winter 2015
Note(s): No knowledge of ancient languages required.
Equivalent Course(s): CLCV 22314

RLST 22602. Protestant Reformation in Germany. 100 Units.

This course is designed to clarify and test the assumptions underlying the present state of knowledge about the Protestant Reformation. Its method consists of reading extensively in the historiography and reflecting intensively on the issues raised by that reading. So as to maintain a well-defined focus the course is limited largely to the Reformation in Germany. So as to develop a broad perspective the course is not limited to the most recent literature. We will begin with some of the most famous older interpretations (Hegel, Ranke, Engels, Troeltsch, Weber, Febvre). We will then go on to consider the redefinition of the historical agenda since the 1960s and the current state of our knowledge by reading the work of leading contemporary historians of the Reformation (e.g., Bernd Moeller, Thomas Brady, Heiko Oberman, Jean Delumeau, Peter Blickle, Heinz Schilling). I will focus on explaining the readings, but I will also leave room for questions and discussion.

Instructor(s): C. Fasolt     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 23002

RLST 23011. Faith and Reason. 100 Units.

Recently, a number of best-selling books by professional philosophers like Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), scientists like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and popular writers like Sam Harris (The End of Faith) have argued that modern science shows that religious faith is fundamentally irrational. This argument has not gone unanswered (for example, by Francis Collins in The Language of God and by Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg lecture). This course will examine the relationship between religious faith and reason. We will discuss four positions: (1) reason and faith are in conflict, and it is best to abandon science in favor of faith (religious fundamentalism); (2) reason and faith are in conflict, and it is best to abandon faith in favor of science (scientific atheism); (3) reason and faith do not make cognitive contact, and one can freely choose faith without conflict with reason ("non-overlapping magisteria," fideism); (4) reason and faith do make cognitive contact but are mutually supporting, not in conflict (harmonious compatibilism). We will focus on contemporary debates but also consider their historical roots (for example, Aquinas, Leibniz, Voltaire, Hume, William James). Among the topics to be discussed will be the nature of reason and faith, arguments for and against the existence of God, the problem of evil, evolution and intelligent design, cosmology and the origin of the universe, the rationality of belief in miracles and the supernatural, and evolutionary and neuroscientific explanations of religious belief and religious experience. (B)

Instructor(s): M. Kremer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 23011

RLST 23403. What Is Enlightenment? 100 Units.

What is enlightenment? How does one become enlightened, and who is enlightened? In Euro-American civilization, the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment championed the powers of human reason against religion and superstition to achieve scientific progress. Buddhism in the nineteenth century was represented by the heirs of Enlightenment as a religion for the Enlightenment to the point of not being a religion at all. Both traditions offer pathways to freedom (or liberation?) that draw on our rational capabilities, and both sponsor the production of knowledge that re-visions our place in the world. But they seem to be opposed: how could reason reject “religious” beliefs but also take part in “religious” traditions that aim to bring certain kinds of persons into being? We compare the mental models, discourses, methods of analysis, world-images, and practices of these traditions of enlightenment to assess the kinds of disciplines that their theoreticians and practitioners acquire and use.

Instructor(s): M. Browning, Staff     Terms Offered: Will be offered 2014-2015
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing
Equivalent Course(s): BPRO 28100

RLST 23603. Cosmos and Conscience: Looking for Ourselves Elsewhere. 100 Units.

Science and religion are two ways, among many others, that people can seek to know about reality: how do we construct ordered pictures of the whole—cosmos or civilization—and how do we relate to them in terms of action? How do we know what we do not know, and what does that kind of “knowledge” mean for the orientation and direction of human existence? How would cultural biases be affected by knowing that there are others “out there” in the universe, should we discover them? From various perspectives, this course addresses these questions of the origins, structures, and ends of reality as we look for ourselves—seek understanding of the human condition—in the cosmos but also in complex religious and cultural traditions. Whereas in our popular culture, science is often identified with the realm of knowledge and religion is simply “belief” or “practice,” the course also seeks to trace the rational limits of science and the rational force of religion with respect to the ethical problem of the right and good conduct of human life.

Instructor(s): W. Schweiker, D. York     Terms Offered: Not offered 2014-2015
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing
Equivalent Course(s): BPRO 23000,ASTR 23000

RLST 24201. Indian Philosophy I: Origins and Orientations. 100 Units.

A survey of the origins of Indian philosophical thought, emphasizing the Vedas, Upanisads, and early Buddhist literature. Topics include concepts of causality and freedom, the nature of the self and ultimate reality, and the relationship between philosophical thought and ritual or ascetic religious practice. (B)

Instructor(s): D. Arnold     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): DVPR 30200,HREL 30200,SALC 20901,SALC 30901

RLST 24202. Indian Philosophy II: The Classical Traditions. 100 Units.

Continuing and building upon SALC 20901/30901, we focus on the development of the major classical systems of Indian thought. The course emphasizes Indian logic, epistemology, and philosophy of language. (B)

Instructor(s): M. Kapstein     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): RLST 24201
Equivalent Course(s): DVPR 30300,HREL 30300,SALC 20902,SALC 30902

RLST 25115. Topics in the Philosophy of Religion: The Challenge of Suffering from Job to Primo Levi. 100 Units.

This course will focus on authors from the Jewish tradition, although some attention will be given to Catholic and Protestant perspectives, as found, for example, in liberation theology and in certain forms of religious existentialism. We will look at the various ways in which contemporary philosophers of Judaism have dealt with suffering, evil and God, especially after the experience of the Shoah. We will examine the often repeated claim that Judaism has approached the philosophical and religious challenges of suffering more through an ethics of suffering than on the basis of a metaphysics of suffering. After an introductory discussion of Maimonides on the Book of Job, readings for the course may come from authors such as E. Lévinas, J.B. Soloveitchik, Y. Leibowitz, H. Jonas, A. Lichtenstein, D.W. Halivni, D. Shatz, and E. Berkovits. The course will culminate in a philosophical analysis of some of the most important writings of Primo Levi.

Instructor(s): A. Davidson     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): All students interested in enrolling in this course should send an application to by 12/01/2014. Applications should be no longer than one page and should include name, email address, year and major for undergraduates, department or committee for graduate students. Applicants should briefly describe their background and explain their interest in, and their reasons for applying to, this course.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 25115,DVPR 35115,HIJD 35115,ITAL 25115,ITAL 35115,JWSC 26115,PHIL 35115

RLST 25601. Religion and Human Evolution: Reading Bellah. 100 Units.

This course will be a close reading of the magnum opus of one of this generation’s most important sociologists, Robert Bellah’s Religion and Human Evolution. The text will be read and analyzed attentive to historical, theological, and ethical questions about the place of religion in the development of human social life.

Instructor(s): W. Schweiker, W. Otten     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Limited to third- and fourth-year students with priority given to Fundamentals and Religious Studies majors.
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 26107

RLST 26800. The Mahabharata in English Translation. 100 Units.

A reading of the Mahabharata in English translation (van Buitenen, Narasimhan, Ganguli, and Doniger [ms.]), with special attention to issues of mythology, feminism, and theodicy. (C)

Instructor(s): W. Doniger     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 24400,HREL 35000,SALC 20400,SALC 48200

RLST 27710. Indian Secularism and Religious Nationalism. 100 Units.

In light of the recent ascent to power of the BJP in India, this course will ask one fundamental question: how can India be both officially secular and governed by Hindu Nationalists? We will begin with a study of the history and unique form of Indian secularism followed by an investigation into secularism’s impact on legal matters in India. The course will then shift to a study of Hindu nationalism’s history, ideology, and role in various events such as the Gujarat riots. In the final third of the course, we will turn to recent writings on secularism in India that cast Hindu nationalism as a threat to secularism, critique secularism itself, or offer more complex assessments. These debates will make it difficult to give a straightforward answer to the course’s fundamental question, and will even challenge the logic of the question itself. Our conversation will be open to various opinions as well as comparisons with secularism and religious nationalism in other countries.

Instructor(s): C. Preston     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): SALC 25704

RLST 28304. Byzantine Art: Iconography. 100 Units.

This course is designed to familiarize students with some of the more prominent topics, sacred and profane, depicted in the visual arts of Byzantium and (where applicable) with their textual sources. Through close analysis of the specific functions, capacities and constraints of images we will gain a critical understanding of the place of the visual arts in Byzantine culture. Students will become familiar with the methodology and resources that are indispensable for approaching issues of iconography and iconology. During the quarter, students will improve their ability to describe systematically and with sophistication visual images in different media, styles and techniques.

Instructor(s): K. Krause     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 44604,HCHR 44604,RLIT 44604

RLST 28704. The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium: History, Theory, and Practice. 100 Units.

In order to appreciate the pivotal religious significance icons had in Byzantium for private devotion, in the liturgy, in civic ritual, and in military campaigns, we will survey the visual evidence along with a vast array of written sources. We will explore the origins of the Christian cult of icons in the Early Byzantine period and its roots in the Greco-Roman world of paganism. Through close analysis of icons executed over the centuries in different artistic techniques, we will examine matters of iconography, style and aesthetics. We will also have a close look at Byzantine image theory, as developed by theologians from early on and codified in the era of Iconoclasm.

Instructor(s): K. Krause     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 44014,HCHR 44004,RLIT 44004

RLST 28914. Munich-Chicago Performance Laboratory: Jephta's Daughter. 100 Units.

In July 2015, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich will present the world premiere of a piece tentatively titled Jephta's Daughter, to be directed by Saar Magal (choreographer and director, Tel Aviv) and conceived by Magal in collaboration with University of Chicago professor David Levin. Magal and Levin will offer a laboratory course in which to prepare the piece. As presently conceived, the piece will combine theater, dance, oratorio, film, contemporary composition, and a variety of contemporary performance idioms to adapt and interrogate the story of Jephta's daughter (in the Book of Judges, from which the story is adapted, she remains nameless). We are hoping to attract students keen to explore a broad cross-section of materials through seminar-style discussion and experimentation on stage. (We will work through biblical criticism, films like Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers (2013) or Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Love-Faith-Hope, operas like Mozart's Idomeneo, oratorios like Handel's Jephta and Carissimi's Jephta, and a range of critical theory, including Rene Girard's Violence and the Sacred and Derek Hughes's Culture and Sacrifice). Stage work will encompass improvisational, physical, and text-based work. Students with an interest in any of the following are especially welcome: adaptation, theater practice, performance theory, dramaturgy, design, and/or editing.

Instructor(s): David Levin, Saar Magal     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Undergraduate students require consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): GRMN 28914,GRMN 38914,JWSC 28914,MUSI 28914,MUSI 38914,RLIT 38914,TAPS 28417

RLST 29700. Reading and Research Course. 100 Units.

Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring
Prerequisite(s): Consent of faculty supervisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note(s): Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form.

RLST 29800. BA Paper Seminar. 100 Units.

This class meets weekly to provide guidance for planning, researching, and writing the BA paper.

Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Consent of faculty supervisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note(s): RLST 29800 and 29900 form a two-quarter sequence that is required of fourth-year students who are majoring in Religious Studies. Students will register via pink slip.

RLST 29900. BA Paper. 100 Units.

This class meets weekly to assist students in the preparation of drafts of their BA paper, which are formally presented and critiqued.

Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): RLST 29800 and 29900 form a two-quarter sequence that is required of fourth-year students who are majoring in Religious Studies. Students will register via pink slip.


Undergraduate Primary Contact

Director of Undergraduate Studies
Lucy Pick
S 306B