Graduate Level Courses in the Department of Religion
See the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Bulletin for all courses offered by the Division
Fall 2015 Graduate Courses
CAS RN504/AH504/STH TX831
Religious Architecture in Islam: Mosques, Shrines, and Tombs
Topics in Religion and the Visual Arts
This course will examine a select group of buildings from the Islamic world in terms of architecture and religious practice. Topics will include monuments such as the Ka’ba, the Dome of the Rock, or the Taj Mahal as well as themes like pilgrimage, tomb visitation, and ritual prayer.
CAS RN526/XL470/LC470/STH TX867
The Story of the Stone
Topics in Religion and Literature in East Asia
A masterpiece of world literature, depicts the interworkings of love, tragedy, honor, and drama within a Buddho-Daoist cosmos set in the everyday life of Chinese Confucianism. This course emphasizes the religious traditions of Chinese culture.
CAS RN555/LI555/XL383/STH TX888
A close reading of one text, Dante Aligheri’s Inferno, with attention to its medieval contexts: philosophical, theological, and historical. Analysis of the poetic means by which Dante represents both human evil and human hope. Bi-lingual text. Lectures and discussion in English.
CAS RN563/HI596/AH539/AN548/STH TX847
Muslim Societies: An Interdisciplinary History
Faculty: Betty Anderson
Examines the states, empires, faiths, and ideologies of the Muslim world over a 1500-year period, including states from North and West Africa, through the Middle East, to Turkey, Iran, and then to Central and Southeast Asia.
GRS RN607/STH TX817
Explores Christian beliefs and practices in medieval Europe within and outside formal church structures. Topics include accommodation of pagan culture, constructing identity, clerical and lay piety, heterodox practice and institutional response, and encounter with non-Christian traditions.
GRS RN612/STH TX802
Buddhism in America
The transplantation and transformation of Buddhism in the United States. Time period ranges from the eighteenth century to the present, but the emphasis is on contemporary developments, including the new Asian immigration, Jewish Buddhism, feminization, and engaged Buddhism.
GRS RN616/STH TX856
Focuses on formations of Islam in colonial and postcolonial periods. How modernist and Islamist thinkers have negotiated the encounter between tradition and modernity.
Prereq: one course in RN or PH, or CC101/102, or consent of instructor.
GRS RN622/STH TX822
History of Judaism
Major trends in post-biblical Judaism; academy and synagogue; Mishna and Talmud; Babylonian diaspora; medieval poetry, philosophy, and mysticism; codes of law; organization of the Jewish community “in exile”, the land of Israel; Jewish, Islamic, and Christian civilizations.
GRS RN625/STH TX818
Jewish Mysticism I: Formative Traditions
Analysis of the development of Jewish mysticism from the biblical to the early medieval era. Emphasis on the forms of mysticism–and the texts in which they are embedded–from the rabbinic era. No knowledge of Hebrew is required.
GRS RN634/STH TX834
Dead Sea Scrolls
Examination of the ancient Hebrew documents discovered in the Judean desert. Their authorship; the theological significance of the Scrolls; their relations to Ancient Judaism and early Christianity; the controversy over their release and publication.
GRS RN638/STH TT811
Mysticism and Philosophy:
Jewish and Islamic Perspectives
Thematic introduction to mysticism and philosophy, with a focus on dynamics of religious experience. Readings from medieval Jewish and Islamic philosophy; Sufi mysticism and philosophy; Kabbalah, Biblical interpretation, Sufi poetry, Hebrew poetry from the Golden Age of Muslim Spain.
GRS RN640/STH TX853
The emergence of the Quran as a major religious text, its structure and literary features, and its principal themes and places within the religious and intellectual life of the Muslim community.
GRS RN644/STH TX814
Islam and the West
Considers centuries of cooperation and conflict between Islam and the West, including the “Golden Age” of Islamic Spain, the Crusades, medieval European views of Islam, enslaved Muslims in the New World, colonialism and its legacies, and Western Muslim communities today.
GRS RN675/AN775/STH TX875
Culture, Society, and Religion in South Asia
Ethnographic and historical introduction to the Indian subcontinent with a focus on the impact of religion on cultural practices and social institutions.
GRS RN684/STH TX884
Background of German (and European) anti-Semitism. Rise of Nazism and early oppression, initial Jewish reaction, mechanics of destruction, ghettos, camps, world response and nonresponse, literature of the Holocaust, and religious implications.
GRS RN690/AR742/STH TX815
Archaeology in the Holy Land
In Israel, archaeology is part of current events. The study of remains from the Israelite to the Muslim conquests (c. 1200 BCE — 640 CE) to learn how material evidence created and still plays a role in a larger historical drama.
Prereq: sophomore, junior, or senior standing.
GRS RN697/PH656/STH TT821
Faith and Doubt
Topics in Philosophy and Religion
This course is designed to run side by side with the Institute for Philosophy and Religion’s fall lecture series on the topic of “faith and doubt” in the philosophy of religion. Should we think of faith the opposite of doubt, or is doubt a necessary component of faith? Should faith be considered a “virtue”? If so, what is its relationship with other virtues? Do people have faith only when they cannot know, or is faith another form of knowledge? These questions, and others like them, will be examined in a wide range of texts drawn from the religious, philosophical, and literary traditions in the both the East and the West.
GRS RN727/STH TX827
20th Century American Religion
Topics in American Religion
Exploration of 20th century American religion, with a focus on how liberal Protestants defined and practiced religion (as individual experience) and fostered in the process major shifts toward secularization, religious pluralism, and “spiritual but not religious.”
GRS RN766/STH TX854
Religion and the Problem of Tolerance
Explores the religious roots of tolerance as an alternative to secular, more liberal foundations for pluralism. Grapples with the challenge of tolerance to the revealed religions and the ways different societies have met or failed to meet this challenge.
GRS RN796/STH TZ802
Social Science Approaches to Religion
Introduces major theoretical questions in the social scientific study of religion. Examines approaches of Marx, Durkheim, and Freud among others.
STH TM863/STH TM963
Seminar exploring African Christian theologies and cultural issues, with special emphasis on Southern Africa. The course covers such themes as the nature of God, the problem of evil, environmentalism, gender, and indigenous churches. Also offered as STH TM 863 for masters students.
Advanced Seminar in Religion and Social Change
This seminar examines the relationship between religious ideas and practices and the world of micro and macro social change. It gives attention to both the conservative and radical potential within religion, as well as to the structures that either limit or facilitate the exercise of religious power. It covers both major theoretical perspectives and relevant research literature, with focused attention on a variety of historical and contemporary cases.
STH TS829/STH TS929
Christian Ecological Ethics and Political Issues
This course will introduce students to the character and dimensions of the ecological crisis and will; to help them reflect theologically and ethically on ecological problems, to develop or enhance their particular faith tradition’s theoretical and practical engagement with ecological issues, gain knowledge of the intersection of ecology and economics, and political and public policy implications of this relationship, and to formulate public policy possibilities and practical projects to address and seek to solve ecological problems.
STH TT832/STH TT932
Centered on one of the major theological works of the twentieth century, the Systematic Theology, this course is designed to assist students to contextualize, interpret, and analyze the thought of Paul Tillich and to assess its significance for contemporary theology. (Requires TF 701/702 or equivalent)
Religion and Science
This course examines the relationship between religion and science (R&S) through three main lenses. The first is historical: it surveys antique, medieval, and modern developments in the interaction between R&S in the West. The second is methodological: it focuses on ways of construing the R&S relation today, with an emphasis on dialogue and integration approaches. The third is applied: it concentrates on a specific issue in current R&S research–namely, God, evolution, and suffering in nature (sometimes called the “problem of natural evil”). The course is open to all graduate students. No background in science is necessary. (Requires TF 701/702 or equivalent)
STH TT948/GRS PH880
Advanced Systematic Theology III: Sanctification and Religious Life
Study of both personal and communal dimensions of the religious life. Examines the church and the religious practices of ritual, symbol making, and paths of spiritual perfection. Develops a systematic doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the church.
STH TT816/STH TT956
Atheisms and Theologies
The general aim of this course is learn about varieties of atheism-older “classic atheism,” so-called “new atheism” of recent years, and theologically inspired forms of atheism-and to understand the various theological responses to atheism. Questions of particular importance are: (1) How strong are traditional and new atheistic arguments? (2) Where does or should theology stand in relation to the arguments of atheism? (3) What are the origins of modern atheism? (4) Should postmodern mystical theologies and iconoclastic anti-anthropomorphic theologies that reject a determinate divine being be considered atheistic? If so how does this sort of atheism relate to other types? The class is intended for advanced masters students and doctoral candidates interested in con-temporary theology and its conceptual roots in older theological debates.
Spring 2015 Graduate Courses
GRS RN624/STH TX824
Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
Chronological exploration of rabbinic Judaism’s major documents, using a modern scholarly anthology. The Mishnah; legal and legendary selections from the midrashim and both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. Themes: monotheism, sin and atonement, heaven and hell, conceptions of gender, the impact of rabbinic texts on medieval and modern Judaism.
GRS 645/STH TX845
A survey of major trends in Islamic jurisprudence from the seventh century to the present; the structure of Islamic law, its regulative principles, its place in Islamic society, and the mechanisms by which it is elaborated and applied.
GRS RN648/STH TX881
Rumi and Persian Sufi Poetry
Introduction to the Persian Sufi poet Rumi’s narrative and lyric writings. Focus on Islamic mysticism, the innovative aspects of Rumi’s poetry, and the problem of profane vs. sacred love. All readings in English translation.
Carries humanities divisional credit in CAS.
History of Religion in Pre-Colonial Africa
The study of the development of religious traditions in Africa during the period prior to European colonialism. An emphasis on both indigenous religions and the growth and spread of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the continent as a whole.
GRS RN685/STH TX899
Representations of the Holocaust in Literature and Film
Questions of representation in literature and film about the Holocaust, including testimonial and fictive works by Wiesel and Levi, Ozick, and others; films include documentaries and feature films. Discussions of the Holocaust as historical reality, metaphor, and generative force in literature.
GRS RN687/GRS AN784/STH TX887
Anthropology of Religion
Myth, ritual, and religious experience across cultures. Special attention to the problem of religious symbolism and meaning, religious conversion and revitalization, contrasts between traditional and world religions, and the relation of religious knowledge to science, magic, and ideology.
GRS RN692/STH TH869
Religious History of Boston
The Greater Boston area contains one of the richest historical legacies in the United States. This course examines distinctive aspects of that historical legacy, by focusing upon the religious history of Boston. Includes required visits to specific Boston area historical sites.
GRS RN712/STH TT855
Theology of Christian Mysticism
A concentrated venture in philosophical theology. Lectures, reading, and discussion center on the thought, not the praxis, of selected major mystics in the Christian tradition. Overviews Greek philosophical backgrounds; closely examines Eckhart, Nicholas of Cusa, Boehme, and William Blake.
GRS RN730 B1/STH TX880 B1
Shamanism in East Asia
Topics in East Asian Religions
Approaches to shamanism in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea). Reading of original texts in translation and secondary scholarly studies. Topics include shamanism and: state and local religion; myth and poetry; gender and mediumship; ancient and modern religion.
GRS RN735/STH TX836
Women, Gender, and Islam
Investigates the way Muslim religious discourse, norms, and practices create and sustain gender and hierarchy in religious, social, and familial life. Looks at historical and contemporary challenges posed to these structures.
Prereq:(CASRN104 OR CASRN214) or equivalent.
GRS RN739/STH TX859/SPH LW739
Exploration of Jewish perspectives on life, death and dying, abortion, the new reproductive technologies, organ transplantation and genetic engineering. Examination of the impact of the Nazi doctors, racial hygiene, euthanasia, and genocide on contemporary bioethics.
Prereq: junior standing or consent of instructor.
GRS RN760/ STH TX805
TR 12:30PM-2:00PM This seminar will examine ethical and religious issues raised by the Holocaust, including: anti-Semitism; treatment of Jewish women; nature of the perpetrators; actions of different countries; importance of ideology; the nature and degree of Jewish resistance; post-Holocaust theology.
GRS RN790/AR735/STH TX820
Materiality and Religion in Late Antiquity
Topics in the Materiality of Ancient Mediterranean Religions
How does one direct the power of a saint’s relic? What is involved in the worship of a statue? Why were amulets so vital in ancient religions? What determines the layout of a god’s temple, a church, or a synagogue? What did people do with books besides read them? How did Islam influence sacred space? This course looks at the architectural, iconographic, votive, magical, and other physical aspects of religion in Mediterranean antiquity. We begin with the life of images and statues in the Roman world, both those in temples and those brought into homes, and proceed to the material context of formative Judaisms and Christianities in the eastern Mediterranean world, looking at ritual assemblages and magic, the various roles of images in these “anti-idolatrous” religions, and various arrangements of sacred space. We will incorporate modern perspectives on the power of the image in ritual and everyday life while engaging our modern cultural preconceptions and labels concerning “idolatry,” “fetish,” and “superstition.” The course will conclude with research presentations of students’ independent projects on primary materials from archaeology, museums, or published volumes.
GRS RN753/STH TX893
The Body and Sexuality in Classical Religious Texts
Topics in Religion and Sexuality
Treats foundational primary sources in translation on sex and the body in several world religions. Consideration of differences in sources: genre, gender, modern/classical. Traditions include Greek, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist.
GRS RN768/ STH TX868
Symbol, Myth, Rite
Historical overview of ritual behavior, the role of symbolism in the study of culture, and the narrative quality of worldview and belief. Emphasis on verbal performance and public display events in specific cultural contexts.
CAS RN524 A1/XL560 A1/LR 383 A1/STH TX826 A1
Russian Literature and Spirituality
Topics in Religion and Literature
In this course we explore how Russian authors experimented artistically with religious ideas (e.g., spirit, soul, heaven, hell, crucifixion, resurrection, sin, redemption, prophecy, immortality) in the increasingly anti-religious environment of late imperial and Soviet Russia. Authors include Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Leskov, Bely, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Platonov, and the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. We also read excerpts from philosophers and theorists, including Solovyov, Bakhtin, and the Russian formalists.
CAS RN524 B1/XL560 B1/STH TT806 B1
The Unique Individual in Literature (narrative fiction) and in Religious Thought
Topics in Religion and Literature
Readings from the fiction of Goethe, Melville, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, poetry and short stories of Poe. Comparison between the discursive (religious thought) and non-discursive forms (literature) for apprehending and expressing the mystery, paradox and fragility of human life.
CAS RN795/STH TZ803
Humanities Approaches to Religion
Introduces major theoretical questions in the humanistic study of religion. Examines the nature and origin of religion as well as definitions and critiques of religion from comparative, historical, sociological, literary standpoints as well as postmodern and gender studies approaches.