Courses

Religious studies concerns the distinctive beliefs and practices, sacred literatures and cultural expressions of the religious traditions of the world. Students explore some of the most creative expressions of the human spirit in its responses to personal and cultural concepts of the divine. Special emphasis is placed on contemporary expressions of religious thought in cultures. 

Courses

REL-100 HEBREW BIBLE (4)
Rich in tradition, history, and literary artistry, the Bible is a collection of books that has influenced much of Western culture. It has shaped the moral and artistic imaginations of Jews and Christians, artists and authors, musicians and theologians, both religious believers and non-believers. The Bible’s complexity has also made it a crossroads of contested interpretations for centuries. What does the Bible say? What does it mean? Who decides? This course is designed as an introduction to (1) the content of the Hebrew Bible in its socio-historical, literary, and cultural contexts; (2) the critical methods for interpreting the Hebrew Bible; and (3) the diversity of hermeneutical approaches to reading biblical texts. The Bible is an engaging text that contains a diversity of voices. In turn, this class will emphasize student engagement with the material, and it will privilege attending to diverse voices in the biblical text and among the Bible’s interpreters.

REL-112 THE BIBLE AND LIBERATION (4)
This introductory course will explore the various readings of biblical texts from and with the marginalized and disenfranchised, with particular attention to ethical, political and cultural concerns and debates in biblical scholarship.

REL-113 ASIAN RELIGIONS (4)
This course surveys the rich diversity of religious beliefs and practices that have taken
shape in South and East Asia. How have these religions offered their distinctive understandings of the human condition and how one should live one's life? We will examine doctrines and practices of the Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian traditions by reading classical texts and by examining how these doctrines and practices are lived today.

REL-121 ENGAGED JUDAISM (4)
Engaged Judaism explores the histories, cultures, identities, religious and secular practices of critical thought, and notions of diaspora for Eastern European and Middle Eastern Jews. Students examine anti-Jewish oppression and Jewish involvement in social justice, human and civil rights movements.

REL-125 INTRODUCTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS (4)
An exploration of the theoretical and historical foundations of human rights from a multidisciplinary perspective. Presents human rights as a framework of analysis and as a moral discourse. Examines group rights—for example women, indigenous peoples, or inmates—and analyzes particularly challenging human rights problems such as genocide, torture and immigrants’ rights.
(Cross-listed with POL-125)

REL-130 RELIGIONS OF INDIA (4)
This course examines the beliefs and practices of the religious traditions of India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam.

REL-133 RELIGIONS OF CHINA AND JAPAN (4)
This course examines the beliefs and practices of the religious traditions of China and Japan, including Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Zen Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism.

REL-195 TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES (4)
Topics vary from year to year, including Buddhism in America, and the course may be repeated for credit when the content changes.

REL-202 THE MIDDLE AGES: IMAGES AND IDEAS (4)
Key monuments from the Early Christian through the Gothic periods will be examined. Issues of patronage, the impact of the changing liturgy on art, the interaction of economic, social and political factors on the production of cathedrals and monasteries, sculpture, stained glass and the luxury arts will be addressed in this course.
Prerequisite: ART-150 or permission of the instructor
(Cross-listed with ART-202)

REL-203 THE ART OF THE RENAISSANCE (4)
This course will concentrate on the apogee of painting, sculpture and architecture of Italy. The art of the Trecento, Quattrocento and Cinquecento (c. 1300-1550) traces a visual arc between the rediscovery of nature by Giotto to the visual exploration of artists like Masaccio, Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello to the grace of Botticelli, and culminates in the dominant personalities of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The period also embraces the reaction generated by these creative "titans" – that is, Mannerism. What were the points of intersection between these periods of innovation and experimentation in the north and the south? Venice will provide a wonderfully spirited resistance to the High Renaissance in Rome and the careers of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese will be contrasted to those of Michelangelo and Raphael. Although the course by definition focuses on the great masters, we will also consider issues of gender (where are the "great mistresses"?) and the role of patronage as it evolved during the Renaissance. Matters of technique as well as social, economic, and political changes will be discussed in relation to the birth of this golden age of Renaissance art. Finally, we shall consider the unique position that art occupied in the Renaissance.
(Cross-listed with ART-203)

REL-204 READING THE BIBLE WITH WOMEN (4)
What role do women play in the Bible? What does it mean to listen for their voices? How have their roles been understood through history? The Bible is full of captivating female characters who often play pivotal roles in biblical narratives and poetry. We will study the dynamic function that several of these women play in the biblical text, and we will also consider what they reveal about the lives of women in ancient Israel and early Christianity. This course will also consider their fascinating history of interpretation. These women have long captured the imagination of commentators, poets, artists, and playwrights, and their “afterlives” provide a window into the changing and contested roles of women in society. This course requires no prior knowledge of the Bible. The major assignment of this course will be the creation and production of a digital story about a woman biblical character and her interpretation.
(Cross-listed with WS-204).

REL-206 PROTESTANTISM (4)
This course will examine the history and formation of Protestant Christianity from the Reformation to today. Particular attention will be given to faith, practice and identity. The course will include field trips to different Protestant communities in the Atlanta area.

REL-210 SCIENCE, RELIGION AND WOMEN (4)
A consideration of various topics of mutual interest to science and religion such as creation, origins of life, medical ethics and environmental concerns. Special emphasis will be given to the roles of women in the sciences and to the feminist science debate.
(Cross-listed with WS-210)

REL-214 ANTHROPOLOGY OF RELIGION: MYTH, RITUAL, AND SYMBOL (4)
This course examines the nature of religious institutions, rituals, beliefs, and experiences. By drawing upon anthropological theories of religion and selected ethnographies, we seek to understand the complex interplay between the beliefs, practices, and experiences of religion(s) and the socio-cultural contexts in which they are embedded. How do religions relate to the social order? Are they reflections of it or contested sites upon which political, economic, and cultural struggles are fought? Is religion primarily a social or psychological phenomenon? What is the nature of religious rituals and what role do they play in the construction of identity? How do sex and gender inform the nature of religious experience? What are myths and symbols? In order to explore these questions, students will be asked to engage with the anthropological corpus of theoretical and ethnographic writings on
religion. In addition, there will be an opportunity to apply these concepts to the students’ own lived realities through field exercises that combine theoretical analysis with participant observation.
(Cross-listed with ANT-214)

REL-217 RELIGIONS OF AFRICA (4)
Basic elements of African religious beliefs and practices. It aims to treat in a coherent, though summary way, the principal themes and topics of African religious teaching and to examine how the various themes and topics cohere with one another and influence African life. The course will survey African traditional religions, along with the impact of Islam and Christianity in Africa.
(Cross-listed with AS-140)

REL-219 TRANSATLANTIC VOODOO (4)
Traces Voodoo/Vodun religious traditions from West Africa to the Caribbean and North America, including the history of European contact and the slave trade, European views of African religions, and the cultural and symbolic meanings of Voodoo spirits and dancing.
(Cross-listed with AS-219 and ANT-219)

REL-221 JUDAISM (4)
Basic beliefs and practices of Judaism, from the exodus from Egypt to the present. Special attention given to Judaism as a dynamic civilization, women’s roles, Jewish Feast Days, institutions, life cycle practices, values and major branches of the religion.

REL-224 FEMINISMS AND RELIGION (4)
The roles of women in shaping religious history from the ancient to the modern period, accompanied by the development of feminist theories in various world religions. Primary historical writings and theological statements, as well as contemporary cultural expressions.
(Cross-listed with WS-224)

REL-231 ISLAM (4)
The course will focus upon Islam. It will survey Islamic history, its distinctive forms of faith and practice, its roles in society and its worldwide involvement in a host of issues related to social, economic and political developments. The course will explore sympathetic, critical and creative perspectives on Islam, particularly as related to the struggles of today’s Muslim women. The course will include opportunities for experiential learning, primarily in the form of field trips to one or more Islamic communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

REL-232 BUDDHISM (4)
This course examines the life and teachings of the Buddha, the religious institutions that he founded to carry on his doctrine and the ways that Buddhism later developed in India and spread through Asia and to the West.

REL-233 TIBET THROUGH FILM AND LITERATURE (4)
This course examines the construction of Tibet as a mythic object of fantasy in the Western imagination. Close attention will be given to the way Tibet has been portrayed in a variety of literary and film genres.

REL-235 JESUS IN HISTORY AND CULTURE (4)
An examination of the quest for the historical Jesus, with an analysis of literary and cultural sources (especially from film, music and art), and also the ethical implications of Jesus’ life and message, from the 19th century to contemporary times.

REL-242 RELIGIONS OF EAST ASIA (4)
This course examines the religious traditions of East Asia, including Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

REL-243 RELIGIONS OF SOUTH ASIA (4)
This course examines the religious traditions of the South Asian subcontinent, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam.

REL-251 GENDER, SEXUALITY, AND ISLAM (4)
Gender and sexuality are crucial to understanding the political, social, and economic life in the world today. Gender and sexuality studies challenge a number of traditional, academic, and cultural perspectives. In this course, we will be using critical texts from a wide variety of disciplines to examine gender and sexuality in the Muslim context. Using gender and sexuality as our main lens of analysis, we will be able to tease out the complex relationships between religion and culture and think about how particular constructions of culture have been pivotal to the reproduction of each of these social structures. In the final section of the course, we will look at transnational discourses that shape the way in which Islam and “the woman question” is imagined in relationship to gender and sexuality. We will also learn about Orientalism, colonialism, and the role of global inequalities.

REL-252 ISLAM AND/IN THE WEST (4)
This course examines the interaction between Islamic and Western civilizations during the past fourteen hundred years. The first part of the course is devoted to the analysis of key terms and concepts that will serve as the foundation for the remaining parts of the course. Different concepts such as Islam, Shari’a, the nation state, free speech, rationality, democracy, and secularism will be discussed in their historical contexts. The second part of the course is structured chronologically and covers from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century. In the final part of the course, we will survey the history of Islam in the West, with a focus on the U.S. and France, and examine case studies to discuss contemporary questions on political Islam, civilizational clash, and the future of coexistence.

REL-263 RELIGION, ETHICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE (4)
In this course we will investigate how a variety of religious ethics and social justice theories and practices address past and current social, cultural and political issues . We will learn about the ethical dimensions of individual and systemic practices in the context of religion, along with ethical reflection, decision making, and activism. Special focus will be on feminist and womanist approaches to ethics and women religious leaders.
(Cross-listed with WS-263)

REL-295-299 TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES (4)
Religious studies courses numbered REL-295, -296, -297, -298 or -299 represent courses covering a special topic in religious studies that will be taught on a one-time basis or courses cross-listed with religious studies that are offered by other disciplines (example ART-296/REL-296 Late Medieval Art and Devotion).

REL-309 RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION EUROPE (4)
Culture, politics, religion and society in Europe from approximately 1350 to 1648. The rise of Italian city-states, humanism, northern Renaissance, Luther, Calvin and Wars of Religion.
(Cross-listed with HIS-308)

REL-312 THE AGE OF THE CATHEDRALS (4)
Study of the period of cathedral building from circa 1140 to circa 1350 in France, England, Italy and Spain. Theory and construction practices, the iconography of sculpture, painting and architecture, and the vicissitudes of stylistic change will be explored. Is the cathedral the embodiment of the Heavenly Jerusalem on earth?
Prerequisite: ART-150, one 200-level ART course or permission of the instructor
(Cross-listed with ART-312)

REL-316 THE POLITICS OF THE APOCALYPSE (4)
An interdisciplinary course that includes biblical studies, politics, ethics, literary criticism, philosophical and critical theory, social movements, history, art, music, dance, and film studies. We will consider the apocalyptic imagination and representations in religion, politics, and culture.
Prerequisite: one course in religious studies

REL-325 ETHNOGRAPHY OF RELIGION (4)
This course will guide students as they pursue a semester-long independent ethnographic study of a religious community in the Atlanta area. Students will conduct participant observation fieldwork in a religious setting of their choosing.
Prerequisite: One course in religious studies or anthropology.
(Cross-listed with ANT-325)

REL-334 SEX, GENDER AND EMBODIMENT IN BUDDHISM (4)
This course examines the ways that different Buddhist societies have addressed the challenges of human sexuality, gender, and physical embodiment. Attention will be given to Buddhism in India, Tibet, and America.
Prerequisite: REL 232 or instructor permission
(Cross-listed with WS-334)

REL-340 BLACK PROTEST THOUGHT IN AMERICA FROM SLAVERY TO THE PRESENT (4)
Political, social and ideological currents which influenced and shaped the black struggle for freedom, citizenship and equality.
(Cross-listed with AS-335 and HIS-335)

REL-370 COMMUNITY-BASED INTERNSHIP (2-4)
An academic internship that links theory and systematic analysis to practical community-based service, ethics, and learning in a local organization. This course may be taken for 2-4 hours credit (for 2 credit hours: 4-5 hours each week on-site; for 4 credit hours: 8-10 hours each week on-site with an organization), and other academic requirements include research, keeping a reflective portfolio and the presentation of a case study.

REL-380 CULTURE AND ETHNOGRAPHY OF AFRICA (4)
This course offers an examination and appreciation of African cultures in the present context and in historical perspective. Course topics include kinship, gender, politics, religion, economics, and colonialism. Students read several ethnographies for an in-depth understanding of specific cultures.
Prerequisite: ANT-101, ANT/REL/AS-219, SOC-101, AS-170, HIS-257, or AS-140/REL-217
(Cross-listed with AS-380 and ANT-380)

REL-385 RELIGION, EDUCATION, AND ACTIVISM (4)
In this course we will explore, through historical and current justice issues, the educational theories and practices of religious organizations, and grassroots movements for social change. Students will also engage and gain competence in the practice of human rights education through a variety of models of liberatory educational practices, including popular education, theatre for social change, community-based living, participatory action research, and movement building.
Counts toward the Human Rights Minor.
Prerequisite: one course in either Religious Studies or Education
(Cross-listed with EDU-385)

REL-390 THEORIES OF RELIGION (4)
This course will survey the major theoretical perspectives that help to define the field of religious studies, particularly in relationship to philosophy and the social sciences. The course also will help students to develop criteria for making useful assessments of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various theories, and their continued relevance to both the descriptive and the normative tasks of religious.
Prerequisite: one religious studies course or instructor’s permission

REL-395-399 TOPICS IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES (4)
Religious studies courses numbered REL-395, -396, -397, -398 or -399 represent courses covering a special topic in religious studies that will be taught on a one-time basis or courses cross-listed with religious studies that are offered by other disciplines (example HIS-396/REL-399 Race, Empire and Islam in Modern Central Asia).

REL-410 DIRECTED READING (1-4)
Directed reading courses are open to qualified juniors and seniors to pursue reading outside a program's listed courses. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.

REL-440 DIRECTED RESEARCH (1-4)
Directed research courses are open to junior and senior majors to work with a faculty member on a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.

REL-450 INTERNSHIP (1-4)
Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.

REL-465 SENIOR RESEARCH SEMINAR IN RELIGION (4)
The focus of the seminar is on research, writing and peer editing in the field of religion. Students will focus on a specific research project and work with the instructor of the seminar, with consultation with a second faculty member when warranted by the research topic.
Prerequisite: Restricted to senior religious studies majors and minors.

REL-490 SENIOR THESIS (4)
A senior thesis gives superior students the opportunity to write a thesis about a project related to particular field of intellectual or artistic interest. Please see the Special Curricular Opportunities section for more information.