Spring 2016

RN 104 Religions of the World: Western   This course focuses on the three related religious traditions  of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These three religious traditions are often referred to as “western,” although they all have origins in the “near east” and today have a global reach. These religions are sometimes called “Abrahamic traditions” as they all claim a special relationship with the biblical figure, Abraham. We will explore the historical development, belief systems, practices, sacred texts, and cultural influences of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other. By the end of the course, students can expect to have a basic understanding of the essential characteristics of each tradition and how these essential characteristics both adapted to specific cultural/historical contexts and helped to shape new cultural/historical contexts. Students can also expect to gain some facility with analytical approaches to thinking about religion in comparative context.

RN 212 Christianity  In this introduction to Christianity, we will examine the nature of Christianity and Christian self-understanding in its multifaceted world context. After a brief orientation to the framework of Christian history, the course will proceed thematically, exploring a range of beliefs and practices in theological, social, cultural, and historical contexts. In examining any given theme, we will range widely over time and space, considering a variety of approaches to each subject from within Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and dissenting traditions. The course does not presume a familiarity with Christianity in any of its manifestations, and students with a personal background in one Christian tradition will be encouraged to expand their understanding of the religion from a variety of perspectives.

Other Courses

RN 242/ HI 203 Magic, Science and Religion from Plato to Voltaire

This course explores the ways in which boundaries defining and separating magic, science, and religion emerged in western thought and culture from late antiquity through the European Enlightenment, when the definitions generally recognized in western culture today were delineated. We will consider the nature of “magic,” “science” and “religion” in historical context, the relationship between learned and popular thought and practice, and the interplay of disciplines we would define oppositionally (e.g., astrology and astral magic with astronomy, medicine and healing), while exploring underlying assumptions about God, Nature and natural forces.

RN 307/607/TX817 Medieval Christianity

This course explores the variety and evolution of Christian beliefs and practices in medieval Europe from the fifth century CE (emergence of distinctive Latin and Greek Christianities) through the early sixteenth century (the Reformation) within and outside formal Church structures. We will read and analyze primary sources on diverse topics including the conversion of Europe and religious acculturation of pagan peoples, the power and appeal of Christian saints, Christian kingship and notions of appropriate Christian power, monastic, scholastic, and lay piety, pilgrimage and Crusade, dissent and institutional response, the relationship to those outside the faith, the religious crisis of the fifteenth century and the breakdown of Latin
Christian unity.

RN 337/637 Gender and Judaism

The introduction of gender as a category of analysis in recent decades has had a dramatic impact on all fields in the social sciences and humanities, religious and Judaic studies included. In this course, we will look at some of the ways that a consideration of gender reshapes our understanding of Judaism and, more particularly, Jewish history from ancient to modern times.

RN 410/710 Religion, Community, and Culture in Medieval Iberia

In this course, we will explore interactions between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in medieval Europe’s most religiously diverse region – from the establishment of an Islamic al-Andalus in 711 CE through the final Christian “reconquest” of the peninsula and expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and expulsion of the Moriscos (Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity) in 1609. Themes include religion and communal identities, the complexities of cultural engagement in pluralistic environments, and toleration and its limits. You can expect to gain an understanding of current scholarship in the field, to develop familiarity with primary sources and methods for interpreting them, and to engage both of these things in the construction of a substantive research paper (for undergraduates) or bibliographic essay (for graduate students).

RN 413/713/TX 813 Gender in Medieval Christian

The emergence of a vibrant tradition of vernacular Christian literature and theology in thirteenth-century Europe opened the doors of Christian mystical thought and practice to an increasingly wide audience. In this seminar, we will focus our attention on some of the classic mystical texts and visionary literature from the high and later Middle Ages, both Latin and vernacular, orthodox and heterodox. Exploring the varieties of mystical expression and the social and cultural contexts underlying them, we will pay particular attention to the role of gender and authority in mystical writing, practice, and teaching.

RN 470/770 HI 407/707 TX 871 Topics in Medieval Religious Culture: Magic, Witchcraft, and the Demonic in Medieval Europe.

TR 12:30PM-2:00PM

Explores magic, witchcraft, and the demonic as understood, employed, and feared in medieval Christian and Jewish communities. Emphasis is on the relationship between literate and “folk” ideas and practices; intersections with formal religious practice;  and forms of social control, including counter-magic, proscription, and inquisition. Students can expect to gain an overview of current scholarship in the field, to develop familiarity with the primary sources and methods of interpreting them, and to engage both of these things in the construction of a substantive research paper. The course is a seminar, meaning that students will be expected to interact with the material and each other in discussion on a regular basis.