Courses for Fall 2022

Title Instructors Description Cross listings Fulfills Registration notes Syllabus Syllabus URL
RELS 0008-001 India: Culture and Society Anannya Bohidar
Ayesha Sheth
What makes India INDIA? Religion and Philosophy? Architectural splendor? Kingdoms? Caste? The position of women? This course will introduce students to India by studying a range of social and cultural institutions that have historically assumed to be definitive India. Through primary texts, novels and historical sociological analysis, we will ask how these institutions have been reproduced and transformed, and assess their significance for contemporary Indian society. HIST0851001, SAST0008001 Humanties & Social Science Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0050-401 Gender, Sexuality, and Religion Megan E Robb What does it mean to be a gendered individual in a Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, or Sikh religious tradition? How important are gender differences in deciding social roles, ritual activities, and spiritual vocations? This course tackles these questions, showing how gender - how it is taught, performed, and regulated - is central to understanding religion. In this course we will learn about gendered rituals, social roles, and mythologies in a range of religious traditions. We will also look at the central significance of gender to the field of religious studies generally. The first part of the course will be focused on building a foundation of knowledge about a range of religious traditions and the role of gender in those traditions. This course emphasizes religious traditions outside the West. Although it is beyond the scope of this class to offer comprehensive discussions of any one religious tradition, the aim is to provide entry points into the study of religious traditions through the lens of gender. This course will emphasize both historical perspectives and contemporary contexts. We will also read religion through feminist and queer lenses - we will explore the key characteristics of diverse feminist and queer studies approaches to religion, as well as limits of those approaches. GSWS0050401 Cross Cultural Analysis
Humanties & Social Science Sector
RELS 0055-401 Introduction to Indian Philosophy Kaustubh Naik
Deven Patel
This course will take the student through the major topics of Indian philosophy by first introducing the fundamental concepts and terms that are necessary for a deeper understanding of themes that pervade the philosophical literature of India -- arguments for and against the existence of God, for example, the ontological status of external objects, the means of valid knowledge, standards of proof, the discourse on the aims of life. The readings will emphasize classical Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical articulations (from 700 B.C.E to 16th century CE) but we will also supplement our study of these materials with contemporary or relatively recent philosophical writings in modern India. PHIL1252401, SAST0050401 Cross Cultural Analysis
History & Tradition Sector
RELS 0110-001 Science and Religion Donovan O Schaefer Science and religion are often assumed to be two areas with no zone of overlap. Or they are seen as rivals, destined to make sparks whenever they come into contact. This course explores the interactions of science and religion. It will consider perspectives from science and technology studies on how the nature of "science" has changed over time, the history of science in its dynamic interactions with religion, and contemporary cognitive and evolutionary perspectives on the origins of religion. https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS0110001
RELS 0301-401 Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament Quinn Daniels An introduction to the major themes and ideas of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), with attention to the contributions of archaeology and modern Biblical scholarship, including Biblical criticism and the response to it in Judaism and Christianity. All readings are in English. JWST0303401, NELC0300401 Humanties & Social Science Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0305-401 Great Books of Judaism: Medieval Jewish Bookshelf Talya Fishman Since the early medieval period, Jews have been known as "the People of the Book". Yet the books they produced and consumed changed drastically over time and place, spanning a variety of known genres and inventing new ones. These works, in turn, shaped the texts, ideas, and lives of Jews and others for millennia, spawned vast commentary traditions, and inspired new works. This course engages prominent Jewish texts, such as the Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic Literature, the works of major medieval philosophers, pre-modern intellectuals, and modern authors, situating them in their literary, cultural, and social contexts, and examining their later reception. JWST0305401, NELC0305401, NELC5210401 Arts & Letters Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0350-301 First-Year Seminar in RELS: Religion, Identity and the Self Anthea Butler
Justin Mcdaniel
The rise of the “nones”, people that do not identify as belonging to one religious tradition coupled with alternative forms of “spirituality” (self-help, yoga, martial arts, meditation and wellness practices, paranormal and occult practices, etc.) have dismantled links between religious tradition and cultural identity for many people. These spiritual practices reside outside of “traditional” religious systems, and promote self-transformation, self-fashioning, and self-awareness , outside of religious traditions’ focus on community building, shared beliefs, and standardized creeds. This course explores spirituality and how identity and community have changed over the 20th and 21 century. The course seminar format will include discussions/debates between Professors Butler and McDaniel, guest speakers from fields such as psychology/neuroscience, ethnic studies, environmental science, computer science, literature, and gender and sexuality studies. Humanties & Social Science Sector
RELS 0500-401 East Asian Religions Ori Tavor This course will introduce students to the diverse beliefs, ideas, and practices of East Asia's major religious traditions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Popular Religion, as well as Asian forms of Islam and Christianity. As religious identity in East Asia is often fluid and non-sectarian in nature, there religious traditions will not be investigated in isolation. Instead, the course will adopt a chronological and geographical approach, examining the spread of religious ideas and practices across East Asia and the ensuing results of these encounters. The course will be divided into three units. Unit one will cover the religions of China. We will begin by discussing early Chinese religion and its role in shaping the imperial state before turning to the arrival of Buddhism and its impact in the development of organized Daoism, as well as local religion. In the second unit, we will turn eastward into Korea and Japan. After examining the impact of Confucianism and Buddhism on the religious histories of these two regions, we will proceed to learn about the formation of new schools of Buddhism, as well as the rituals and beliefs associated with Japanese Shinto and Korean Shamanism. The third and final unit will focus on the modern and contemporary periods through an analysis of key themes such as religion and modernity, the global reception and interpretation of East Asian religions, andthe relationship between religion and popular culture. The class will be conducted mainly in the form of a lecture, but some sessions will be partially devoted to a discussion of primary sources in translation. The course assignments are designed to evaluate the development of both of these areas. No previous knowledge of East Asian languages is necessary, and all readings will be available in English on the Canvas site in PDF form. EALC0500401 Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0790-401 The Religion of Anime Jolyon Thomas Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790401, EALC1550401 Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS0790401
RELS 0790-402 The Religion of Anime Stephen Garrett
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790402, EALC1550402 Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
RELS 0790-403 The Religion of Anime Hector J Kilgoe
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790403, EALC1550403 Arts & Letters Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0790-404 The Religion of Anime Gabriel Raeburn
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790404, EALC1550404 Arts & Letters Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0790-405 The Religion of Anime Stephen Garrett
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790405, EALC1550405 Arts & Letters Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 0790-406 The Religion of Anime Gabriel Raeburn
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790406, EALC1550406 Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
RELS 0790-407 The Religion of Anime Hector J Kilgoe
Jolyon Thomas
Be it shrine maidens, gods of death, and bodhisattvas fighting for justice; apocalypse, the afterlife, and apotheosis... the popular Japanese illustrated media of manga and anime are replete with religious characters and religious ideas. This course uses popular illustrated media as a tool for tracing the long history of how media and religion have been deeply intertwined in Japan. CIMS0790407, EALC1550407 Cross Cultural Analysis
Arts & Letters Sector
RELS 1130-401 How to Read the Bible Steven Phillip Weitzman The aim of this course is to explore what the Bible means, and why it means such different things to different people. Why do people find different kinds of meaning in the Bible. Who is right in the struggle over its meaning, and how does one go about deciphering that meaning in the first place? Focusing on the book of Genesis, this seminar seeks to help students answer these questions by introducing some of the many ways in which the Bible has been read over the ages. exploring its meaning as understood by ancient Jews and Christians, modern secular scholars, contemporary fiction writers, feminist activists, philosophers and other kinds of interpreter. JWST1130401, NELC0365401 Arts & Letters Sector https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS1130401
RELS 1610-401 Medieval and Early Modern Jewry Anne O Albert Exploration of intellectual, social, and cultural developments in Jewish civilization from the rise of Islam in the seventh century to the assault on established conceptions of faith and religious authority in 17th century Europe, that is, from the age of Mohammed to that of Spinoza. Particular attention will be paid to the interaction of Jewish culture with those of Christianity and Islam. HIST1610401, HIST1610401, JWST1610401, JWST1610401, NELC0355401, NELC0355401 History & Tradition Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 1710-401 Jews in the Modern World Beth S Wenger
Alexandra Zborovsky
This course offers an intensive survey of the major currents in Jewish culture and society from the late middle ages to the present. Focusing upon the different societies in which Jews have lived, the course explores Jewish responses to the political, socio-economic, and cultural challenges of modernity.Topics to be covered include the political emancipation of Jews, the creation of new religious movements within Judaism, Jewish socialism, Zionism, the Holocaust, and the emergence of new Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. No prior background in Jewish history is expected. HIST1710401, JWST1710401, NELC0360401 Cross Cultural Analysis
History & Tradition Sector
https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=HIST1710401
RELS 1710-402 Jews in the Modern World Beth S Wenger
Alexandra Zborovsky
This course offers an intensive survey of the major currents in Jewish culture and society from the late middle ages to the present. Focusing upon the different societies in which Jews have lived, the course explores Jewish responses to the political, socio-economic, and cultural challenges of modernity.Topics to be covered include the political emancipation of Jews, the creation of new religious movements within Judaism, Jewish socialism, Zionism, the Holocaust, and the emergence of new Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. No prior background in Jewish history is expected. HIST1710402, JWST1710402, NELC0360402 Cross Cultural Analysis
History & Tradition Sector
RELS 1710-403 Jews in the Modern World Beth S Wenger
Alexandra Zborovsky
This course offers an intensive survey of the major currents in Jewish culture and society from the late middle ages to the present. Focusing upon the different societies in which Jews have lived, the course explores Jewish responses to the political, socio-economic, and cultural challenges of modernity.Topics to be covered include the political emancipation of Jews, the creation of new religious movements within Judaism, Jewish socialism, Zionism, the Holocaust, and the emergence of new Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. No prior background in Jewish history is expected. HIST1710403, JWST1710403, NELC0360403 History & Tradition Sector
Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 1710-404 Jews in the Modern World Beth S Wenger
Alexandra Zborovsky
This course offers an intensive survey of the major currents in Jewish culture and society from the late middle ages to the present. Focusing upon the different societies in which Jews have lived, the course explores Jewish responses to the political, socio-economic, and cultural challenges of modernity.Topics to be covered include the political emancipation of Jews, the creation of new religious movements within Judaism, Jewish socialism, Zionism, the Holocaust, and the emergence of new Jewish communities in Israel and the United States. No prior background in Jewish history is expected. HIST1710404, JWST1710404, NELC0360404 Cross Cultural Analysis
History & Tradition Sector
RELS 2180-401 Media and Culture in Contemporary Iran Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the culture and media of modern Iran, with a critical perspective on issues such as identity formation, ethnicity, race, and nation-building. It focuses on how these issues relate to various aspects of modern Iranian culture -- such as religion, gender, sexuality, war, and migration -- through the lens of media, cinema, and literature. CIMS2705401, GSWS2705401, NELC2705401, NELC6700401
RELS 3099-009 Honors Thesis Seminar Steven Phillip Weitzman Required of honors majors who choose the research option.
RELS 3110-001 Religion & Politics in America Gabriel Raeburn For over a century, scholars predicted religion’s influence in the public sphere would decline due to the forces of modernization and secularization. They were wrong. Religion remains a strong influence on politics in America, shaping laws on the state and national level. This seminar analyzes the relationship between religion and politics in the United States from a historical and contemporary perspective. Students will examine liberal and conservative viewpoints regarding religion on a range of topics, including abortion, gay rights, race, the environment and capitalism https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS3110001
RELS 3560-301 Living Deliberately Justin Mcdaniel Students who are not Religious Studies Majors and are not honors students must gain permission from instructor to enroll in this course. This is an experimental course in which students will experience monastic and ascetic ways of living. There will be no examinations, no formal papers, and very little required reading. However, each participant will need to be fully committed intellectually and participate in the monastic rules in the course involving restrictions on dress, technology, verbal communication, and food. The course subject matter is about ways in which nuns, monks, shamens, and swamis in various religious traditions (Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Jain, Taoist, Hindu, Animist, among others) have used poetry, meditation, mind-altering chemicals, exercise, magic, and self-torture to cope with pain and suffering, as well as struggle with spiritual, ethical, and metaphysical questions concerning the nature of the soul, the afterlife, and reality. Through monastic and spiritual practice, this course hopes to provide students with an opportunity to struggle with these questions themselves. Perm Needed From Instructor
RELS 3999-009 Directed Reading Steven Phillip Weitzman Students arrange with a faculty member to pursue a program of reading and writing on a suitable topic.
RELS 4305-401 Spirit and Law Talya Fishman While accepting "the yoke of the commandments", Jewish thinkers from antiquity onward have perennially sought to make the teachings of revelation more meaningful in their own lives. Additional impetus for this quest has come from overtly polemical challenges to the law, such as those leveled by Paul, medieval Aristotelians, Spinoza and Kant. This course explores both the critiques of Jewish Law, and Jewish reflections on the Law's meaning and purpose, by examining a range of primary sources within their intellectual and historical contexts. Texts (in English translation) include selections from Midrash, Talmud, medieval Jewish philosophy and biblical exegesis, kabbalah, Hasidic homilies, Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, and contemporary attempts to re-value and invent Jewish rituals. JWST4305401, NELC4305401 Cross Cultural Analysis
RELS 5000-001 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion Donovan O Schaefer This graduate seminar will map the theories and methods underpinning the contemporary study of religion. To draw this map, we will consider the history of the field. We'll proceed by examining how problems within religious studies have been resolved in different ways at different times, constructing a web of dialogs and debates between different figures across history. Specific topics to be considered will include experience, discourse, embodiment, feminism, postcolonialism, science, and materiality. https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS5000001
RELS 5022-401 The Icon Ivan Drpic This seminar explores the Byzantine icon and its legacy. Spanning nearly two millennia, from the emergence of Christian sacred portraiture to the reception of icon painting by the early twentieth-century Russian avant-garde, the seminar will introduce you to the history, historiography, and theories of the icon. While our focus will be on Byzantium and the wider world of Orthodox Christianity, especially in the Slavic Balkans and Eastern Europe, the seminar will also engage with fundamental questions concerning the nature, status, and agency of images across cultures. Topics to be addressed include iconoclasm and the problem of idolatry; the social and ritual lives of icons; authorship, originality, and replication; viewer response and the cultural construction of vision; the frontier between art and the sacred image; and the afterlife of the icon in modernity. Open to graduate and undergraduate students. AAMW5320401, ARTH5320401
RELS 5410-401 Religion and the Visual Image: Seeing is Believing Jamal J Elias Seeing is Believing engages in a historical, theoretical, and cross-cultural analysis of the place of visuality in religion and of religion in visual culture. We will examine images, buildings, places, objects, performances and events. The geographical, cultural and historical scope of the material is broad, including subjects from Europe, the Islamic World, non-Muslim South Asia, the US and Latin America from the medieval period until the present. Theoretical works will be read in conjunction with representative examples to invite intellectual engagement in a socially and historically grounded way. Important issues to be covered include the relationship of visual to material culture; visual theories versus theories of vision; locating religion in human sensory experience; perception at individual and collective levels; authentics, fakes and simulacra; iconoclasm and image veneration; aesthetics, use and utility; and things. NELC6560401, SAST5410401
RELS 5550-301 History of Print Culture in South Asia, 1600 to the present Megan E Robb This course asks the question: what changes with the arrival of print in South Asia? The printing press arrived in India in force in 1800, within 25 years, hundreds of publications proliferated in several South Asian languages. The adoption and response to print in South Asia offers understanding not only regarding information dissemination but also authority production among a wide range of religious and cultural groups in South Asia. We will consider critically the relationship between material culture, networks of political power, modes of authority transmission and religious meaning in South Asia from 1600 to the present. This course will start with a unit considering the techniques of manuscript knowledge reproduction and transmission across South Asia from 1600 to 1800. We will then consider the rise of the East India Company's Press in the late 18th century, the development of print techniques, and the appearance of the private publishing company. We will then consider the rise of Lahore as a printing hub and center of print culture in the 19th century, alongside the wider entrenchment of a newspaper print network, railway and postal networks. The early 20th century sees the rise of both large urban and qasbah-based newspaper networks, alongside a thriving print culture in the context of nationalist movements and communal conversations. A final unit on the post-Partition milieu looks a the rise of digital and new medias. Crucial to our conversation will be the symbiotic role of print and formation of new boundaries around the category of religion.
RELS 5570-301 An Intellectual History of Pakistan : Religion and politics Pirzada Muhammad Ali Usman Qasmi The course will introduce students to significant events in Pakistan’s history, critical foundational moments, and key religious-political texts. To make the course theoretically rigorous, I have conceptualized it in a broader framework of intellectual history. My focus would be on probing an interrelated set of questions about class, postcoloniality, Cold War politics, worker mobilizations, Political Islam, a non-Western history of citizenship and democracy, decoloniality, and feminist movements. Thus, the course’s focus is not on a chronology of events in Pakistan but on providing a reading praxis and a form of inquiry with which we should understand the postcolonial histories of the global South. https://coursesintouch.apps.upenn.edu/cpr/jsp/fast.do?webService=syll&t=202230&c=RELS5570301
RELS 6101-401 Topics in Medieval Studies: Premodern Animals (c.500-c.1500) Emily R Steiner From St. Cuthbert, whose freezing feet were warmed by otters, to St. Guinefort, a miracle-performing greyhound in 13th-century France, to Melusine, the half-fish, half-woman ancestress of the house of Luxembourg (now the Starbucks logo), medieval narratives are deeply inventive in their portrayal of human-animal interactions. This course introduces students to critical animals studies via medieval literature and culture. We will read a range of genres, from philosophical commentaries on Aristotle and theological commentaries on Noah’s ark to werewolf poems, beast fables, political satires, saints’ lives, chivalric romances, bestiaries, natural encyclopaedias, dietary treatises and travel narratives.
Among the many topics we will explore are the following: animals in premodern law; comfort and companion animals; vegetarianism across religious cultures; animal symbolism and human virtue; taxonomies of species in relation to race, gender, and class; literary animals and political subversion; menageries and collecting across medieval Europe, the Near East, and Asia; medieval notions of hybridity, compositeness, trans-species identity, and interspecies relationships; art and the global traffic in animals (e.g., ivory, parchment); European encounters with New World animals; and the legacy of medieval animals in contemporary philosophy and media.
No prior knowledge of medieval literature is required. Students from all disciplines are welcome.
CLST7710401, COML5245401, ENGL5245401
RELS 6560-401 Religion in Modern South Asia Davesh Soneji This core seminar introduces graduate students to key themes in the study of religion in modern South Asia, with a focus on debates related to Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity in India from the nineteenth century to the present. Drawing upon a range of methodological and theoretical approaches, the seminar covers themes such as colonial and missionary constructions of religious categories, Orientalism and textual authority, social and religious “reform” movements, questions of caste and gender, and debates about religious nationalisms, democracy, and secularism. SAST6645401