REL COL Religion COlloquium

Professor: Jonathan Brockopp

CRN: 12471

Time: Mon 6:00 pm - 7:20 pm OLIN 306

The religion colloquium meets every other Monday for discussion of senior projects, new books in religion and other topics of interest for the critical study of religion. Its purpose is to foster a community of inquiry among students and faculty, providing a forum for engaging issues of common interest. The course carries one credit, and students who have moderated into religion are expected to register for four semesters of the colloquium, for a total of four credits. Students from other programs are also welcome. The primary requirement of the course is active participation in the Monday night sessions, for which students will receive a grade of Pass, Fail or Honors. In addition, students are required to lead one discussion every year. For juniors, this may be on a recent article or book in religious studies; seniors will make a presentation of their senior project.


REL 102 Beginning Biblical Hebrew II

Professor: Benjamin Vromen

CRN: 12296

Time: Tu Th 9:00 am - 10:20 am LC 206
Wed 9:00 am - 10:20 am LC 208

The second semester is devoted to the acquisition of the basic pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar of modern Hebrew for students with no, or little experience with the language. In the second semester the direction will be towards spoken language fluency, written expression, and the reading of literary Hebrew. Which of these is to be most emphasized will be largely determined by the students' interest. Indivisible.


REL 103 Buddhist Thought and Practice

Professor: Brad Clough

CRN: 12297

Time: Tu Th 10:30 am - 11:50 am LC 115

Cross-listed: Asian Studies
The purpose of this course is to provide a historical overview of the Buddhist tradition. Through the reading of narrative, philosophical, and practical texts, we will examine the problems of the historical Buddha and the development of early Buddhism, master the basic terminology of Buddhist thought, use that terminology to study the development of Buddhist doctrine, and examine the significance of monastic life and meditational practice in Buddhism.


REL 105 The Religion of Islam

Professor: Jonathan Brockopp

CRN: 12298

Time: Tu Th 9:00 am - 10:20 am OLIN 203

This survey course covers the history of Islam from the birth of its Prophet to the emergence of the modern nation-state. It explores the major components of the religion (including Islamic law, mysticism, and theology), the requirements for believers, and central themes such as monotheism, prophethood, ritual, and society. The course is concerned more with the history of religion than with modern Islam as such, although it has great relevance for understanding contemporary Muslim attitudes.


REL 234 Liturgical Semiotics: Theory and Practice

Professor: Kathleen Mandeville

CRN: 12473

Time: Fr 10:00 am - 1:00 pm OLIN 202

The purpose of this course is to investigate the relationship of sense, time, and place to liturgical practice. God is apprehended through physical reality; one might say that all liturgy is a "play" in which the physical elements of text, movement, music, costume and props and their corresponding symbolic function serve to engage the participants in an encounter with the divine. The course will be divided between seminar and practicum. In our seminar work, we will explore how different faith traditions employ the visual, textural and choreographic elements in their liturgical practices and to what theological ends these elements signify. We will examine some of the world's great religious festivals such as the Day of Dead in Mexico, the Passion Week celebrations in Poland the Ratha-Yatra festival in Puri, India. In the practicum portion of the course, students will design and create ritual events and be asked to articulate and justify their aesthetic and theological choices (no particular religious conviction is required to take this course). The summation of the class will be the production of a festival event, open to the Bard community at large. It is hoped that through both the investigation of varying liturgical practices and the activity of creating ritual, students will encounter and reflect on the themes inherent to their work: the relationship of orthodoxy to innovation, the congruence of sense, time and place in ritual and the dialectic between tradition and culture.


REL 238 Approaches to the Study of Zen Buddhism

Professor: Brad Clough

CRN: 12465

Time: Tue 4:15 pm - 6:15 pm OLIN 203

Cross-listed: Asian Studies
Over the course of this century, the West has been particularly fascinated with the philosophy and practice of the Zen Buddhist traditions from East Asia. Those endeavoring to transmit and "translate" Zen to the West have engaged in an intriguing variety of approaches to understanding this religion. These have encountered their own problems and limitations, and have developed unique insights. This course will examine the variety of approaches, beginning in the first half of the semester with investigations of genres of primary Zen texts that have raised particularly difficult hermeneutical issues, such as "mythologized" history (The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, The Transmission of the Lamp), "extra-rational" dialogues (Koan collections, like the Blue Cliff Record and the Gateless Barrier) and artistic presentations of spiritual realization (Haiku poetry, landscape painting, etc.). In the second half of the semester, we will look at some of the most influential approaches to understanding Zen in the West, including the seminal writings of D.T. Suzuki, popular books by Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts, and the innovative post-modern deconstructionist work of the French Buddhologist Bernard Fauré (The Rhetoric of Immediacy, Zen Insights and Oversights). Class members will also be involved in the anthropological "participant-observer" approach to understanding culture. Pre-requisite: college-level coursework on Buddhism, or permission of the instructor.


REL 246 Feminism and Islam

Professor: Jonathan Brockopp

CRN: 12302

Time: Tu Th 1:20 pm - 2:40 pm OLIN 303

Cross-listed: Gender Studies
The veil, polygamy, arranged marriages--these are the images many Westerners have when they envision women in the Islamic world. While the images may be accurate, their interpretation by Muslim and Western feminists may be radically different. Given these divergent views, the question arises whether Muslim women and other women can speak to one another, and if so, what they would say. This course will approach this question by first examining several issues: the role of multicultural voices in the feminist movement, the critique of Islamic society by Western feminists and human rights activists, and the concerns raised by Muslim feminists about their relationship to other women throughout the world. The course will attempt to place Western and Muslim feminists in dialogue with one another, seeking to develop a deep understanding of the place of women in modern Islamic society and to probe questions of oppression and agency. Readings will draw from feminist philosophy, novels, case studies, and legal theory.


REL 316 Seeing Gods: Vision, Image, and Temple

Professor: Richard Davis

CRN: 12303

Time: Wed 1:20 pm - 3:20 pm OLIN 303

of related interest: Medieval Studies
Does God have a body? Can we see it? Can and should this be represented in artistic form? In medieval and modern India, Hindu gods and goddesses are visible beings who present themselves to their devotees in visions, in icons, and in grand image-filled temples. Other religious traditions, by contrast, have often considered the embodiment of God in material form as deeply problematic or as a sacrilege. This seminar examines the practices, issues, and debates surrounding divine icons and the religious arts in a comparative perspective. We will examine the arts and practices of Hindu theism, including visions of the gods, the iconography and aesthetics of divine imagery, the rituals of image worship, and the cultural and political roles of Hindu temples. We will look at the recurrent debates over the status and propriety of religious icons with the Judaic and Christian traditions, as well as critiques from within Hindu traditions. Finally we will consider recent attempts to understand theoretically the continuing hold of images on the human imagination.


REL 320 Modern Study of Religion

Professor: Jonathan Brockopp / Richard Davis

CRN: 12299

Time: Mon 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm OLIN 310

The academic study of religion--even the concept of religion itself--has come through the interaction of Western civilizations with other cultures, often deemed more primitive in their beliefs and practices. Theories about religion thus constitute a peculiar intellectual history: each hypothesis with its own investments and prejudices about the origin and nature of the religious behavior of others. In examining this intellectual history, our texts will necessarily be interdisciplinary, including the works of early speculators such as Max Mueller, E. B. Tylor, and Wilhelm Schmidt; the anthropological theories of Bronislaw Malinowski, Claude Levi-Strauss, Victor Turner, and Clifford Geertz; the psychological approaches of Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung; the philosophical/comparative ideas of Rudolph Otto, W. C. Smith, and Mircea Eliade; and the historical works of R. Pettazzoni and J. Z. Smith.