What is Religion?

In spite of repeated announcements of its demise, religion remains a vibrant and powerful force in the modern world.  Whether one considers oneself religious or not, religious literacy is a basic requirement for citizens of a modern society.  This is all the more true in a global context where religion often stands in as a marker for significant cultural differences.  In these workshops, which will be offered throughout the academic year, students will encounter various living religious traditions.  While each workshop will be devoted to a different religious tradition and will be taught by its own instructor, they will all follow a parallel structure, with attention given to both the theory and the practice of the tradition and with an examination at the end of the session. Each one-credit module will meet for eight sessions. Students may choose to enroll in just one module, or they may take several modules.  A student who successfully completes four modules will satisfy the Rethinking Difference requirement.



HUM 135 DN   What is Judaism?

David Nelson

. . W Th .

5:00 – 6:20 pm

ASP 302


1 credit  This short course will examine the fundamentals of Jewish history, belief, thought, and life. Our readings will be from primary sources spanning 2500 years of Jewish literature. Students with or without prior knowledge will gain a historically contextualized understanding of Torah, the cycle of the year, the development and functioning of the synagogue, the purposes of daily Jewish religious practice, the importance of story-telling and argument,  and the beliefs that unite – and divide – the Jewish people.  This class will meet April 2, 3, 9, 10, 23, 24, 30 and May 1.



HUM 135 UK   What is Islam?

Usman Khan

M . . . .

6:30 – 7:50 pm

OLIN 201


1 credit  This course will offer a comprehensive overview of the main texts, practices, and articles of belief in Islam as they developed in history.  Students will be able to sketch an outline of Islamic history from Muhammad to the present day. However, particular focus will be placed upon the development of Islamic beliefs and practices in both Sunni and Shiite traditions. Students will be able to articulate the basic tenets of Islamic thought and its development over time. Students must be able to describe the various elements of Islamic practice, and demonstrate an awareness of the great variety in Islamic expression, belief/theology, practice, and culture. Further, students will be exposed to some of the contemporary issues regarding Islam, such as, terrorism, Jihad, and women’s rights.  This class will meet January 27 – March 17th.





HUM 236  On the Road: Anti-Social Images, Sounds, Writing

Francesca Slovin /

Geoff Waite

. . . . F

1:00 –  4:00 pm

OLIN 301


1 credit  From antiquity to the present, traveling remains a privileged “metaphor” (‘to travel across,’ ‘to transfer,’ ‘to translate’) in virtually all social and cultural activities: spatial and temporal, psychological and physical, physical and metaphysical.  Against this vast historical backdrop, our course focuses on that moment in the 1950s and ‘60s and thereafter (in America and Europe) when people (male and female, couples and loners) either chose or are forced to be “on the road,” and there to commit various anti-social acts, including robbery and murder. Also important is what happens when the written word is transferred or translated into audio-visual media and vice versa. What is lost in translation?  As science fiction has told what is always already known: this road is through space but also as “time travel.” We begin this course with the traffic jam (l’ingorgo) and then experience where tourists and travelers are headed.  This course will meet for 5 weeks, February 7th  – March 7th.



HUM 325   How to Form an Opinion

Seth Lipsky

. . . Th .

4:40 – 7:00 pm

OLIN 101


4 credits The art of writing editorials, columns and blog posts – and getting them published. This course focuses not on what to think but on how to form an opinion and write an essay, column or blog posting that will get past an editor and into print. Emphasis is laid on the role of reporting and on the competitive nature of journalism. Each class is broken into two parts. The first half is a discussion of famous examples of opinion writing. These include “Is There a Santa Claus?”, which was issued in the September 21, 1897, edition of the New York Sun and is the most widely reprinted piece in all of journalism; “A Job for the Summit,” the Wall Street Journal editorial that in June 1979 moved the seven leaders of the industrial world to scrap their agenda for the Tokyo Summit and focus on the plight of the Indochina refugees; “Twilight of the Kings,” the Chicago Tribune’s editorial on the outbreak of World War I; and Jimmy Breslin’s  famous column on the assassination of President Kennedy. The second half is conducted as an editorial board meeting in which students pitch essays and an editor reasons them out. This is the time in which students are taught the craft of pre-meditating a strategy for getting a piece past an editor and into print – the role of original reporting, the tactic of writing about an event before it happens, and the value of rhetoric and style. Assignments are made. Finished pieces are shared and discussed with the class. Class size:  15