Class Schedules

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Fall 2015 Class Schedule - updated November 25, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Number/Section  Title
Days Time Room Instructor
RELI 100-01  Introduction to Islam: Formation and Expansion
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am MAIN 003 Brett Wilson
RELI 100-02  Introduction to Islam: Formation and Expansion
TR 03:00 pm-04:30 pm MAIN 003 Brett Wilson
*First Year Course only* This course charts the formation of Islam and the expansion of Muslim peoples, from the life of the Prophet Muhammad to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad. It will examine Muslim institutions, beliefs, and ritual practices in their historical contexts. In addition to the basics of Muslim practice and belief, the class will introduce students to mystic traditions (Sufism), Islamicate statecraft, and intellectual/legal traditions as well as cultural trends including art, architecture, and literature.

RELI 111-01  Introduction to Buddhism
MWF 09:40 am-10:40 am MAIN 001 Erik Davis
RELI 141-01  Non-Classical Mythology
W 07:00 pm-10:00 pm CARN 206 Peter Harle
RELI 194-01  Lies, Life and Religious Ethics
MWF 10:50 am-11:50 am ARTCOM 102 Barry Cytron
Our study of Christian and Jewish moral perspectives has two goals: 1.) to understand how and why these inherited religious traditions are used to answer contemporary ethical problems, and 2.) to explore the extent to which, within as well as between these distinctive religious cultures, authoritative texts and community practices often yield diverse viewpoints. Issues include: abortion and biomedical parenting; organ donation; assisted suicide and euthanasia; “quality” of life and caring for the dying; scarce resources and responsibility to the other; truth telling and patient autonomy; and the environment and religious stewardship.

RELI 235-01  Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
TR 03:00 pm-04:30 pm MAIN 001 Erik Davis
RELI 238-01  Catholics: Culture, Identity and, Politics
MWF 01:10 pm-02:10 pm MAIN 002 James Laine
*First Year Course only* The study of Christian traditions in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular, has often emphasized the study of theology and the history of the institutional Church. Scholars studying non-Western religious traditions, however, have in recent decades given close attention to the culture of which any given religious tradition is a part, studying as much the popular culture as elite and institutional expressions. This course is an attempt, in part, to apply the approaches developed by comparative historians of religion and anthropologists to the study of some of the cultures influenced by Catholicism, and to understand current issues and debates on, for example, sexual politics, liturgy, or theology and Church authority, in that context. We will begin with a consideration of the place of Catholicism within American culture, some of the conflicts between American and Catholic values, in light of the long history of the Catholic Church in the West. We will then turn to particular cultural and ritual expressions of Catholic faith. There will also be opportunities to study various aspects of Catholic culture in Minnesota through field trips, and independent projects. Here some of the ethnic diversity among Catholics in Minnesota --Germans, Irish, Latin Americans, Native Americans, Poles, African-Americans, Vietnamese, Koreans—may be considered. We’ll begin with a visit to a big lefty church that meets in a school gym with a stage full of old hippies playing electric guitars at mass. Then we’ll attend a conservative Latin mass with full orchestra and choir performing one of Mozart’s masses. Are these two churches part of the same religion? The theologian might say yes, the anthropologist might disagree.

RELI 245-01  Arabic Reading and Translation
W 07:00 pm-10:00 pm MAIN 003 Brett Wilson
*Cross-listed with CLAS 345-01*

RELI 294-01  Martin and Malcolm: Racial Terror and the Black Freedom Struggle
TR 01:20 pm-02:50 pm MAIN 001 William Hart
*Corss-listed with AMST 294-03* In this course we explore the complicated lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.—the convergences and divergences. We analyze the intersections of racial identity, religious affiliation, and political orientation and their relations to the prevailing notions of manhood. How did Malcolm and Martin enter the black freedom movement? How did their religious affiliation facilitate or hinder entry? How did their participation in the movement inform their understanding of religion? Within their respective imaginations, what kind of “religio-political and ethical figure” is America—Egypt, or Promised Land, Zion or Babylon; messianic nation or apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare? How do Martin and Malcolm perform, enact, and embody the notion that “black lives matter?”

RELI 294-02  Sacred Madness
TR 01:20 pm-02:50 pm MAIN 011 Gregory Lipton
Traversing the borderlands between “enlightenment” and psychopathology, this course examines how charismatic spiritual “masters” often authorize the subversion of their own rational, legal, and ethical traditions. Our point of departure begins with the phenomena of ecstatic transcendence and mystical iconoclasm found in many classical religious formations, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. We then turn to explore the lives, doctrines, and communities of contemporary iconoclastic spiritual leaders such as Gurdjieff, Jim Jones, Father Yod, Chogyam Trungpa, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Frithjof Schuon, Ammachi, and Adi Da Samraj. Through the theoretical perspectives of psychology of religion and philosophy of religion, we will wrestle with the problems that arise in the dialectic of mysticism and power, including questions of spiritual “liberation” and morality, transcendent/messianic identification and megalomania, and the master-disciple relationship and individual autonomy.

RELI 394-01  Human Sacrifice: Killing for God and State
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am NEILL 228 William Hart
Though sacrifice is often viewed as the exclusive property of religion, this course is organized around the claim that religion and statecraft (the art of governing a nation well) are connected through practices of human sacrifice. Thus, in this course, we use "human sacrifice" as a comparative category to understand aspects of religion and statecraft, especially war, capital punishment, torture, terrorism, and genocide. Though torture,terrorism, and genocide are important, our special focus is warfare and capital punishment, which encompass the other sites of human sacrifice. The central questions are the following: Why do gods and states demand blood; whence the impulse to human sacrifice? What are the relations between divine sovereignty, political sovereignty, and sacrifice? What are the modalities of human sacrifice? Is human sacrifice inevitable?

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Spring 2016 Class Schedule - updated November 25, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Number/Section  Title
Days Time Room Instructor
RELI 130-01  Folklore and Religion
W 07:00 pm-10:00 pm CARN 206 Peter Harle
RELI 145-01  Pagans, Christians and Jews in Classical Antiquity: Cultures in Conflict
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am THEATR 204 Andrew Overman
*Cross-listed with CLAS 145-01*

RELI 194-01  Sufism: The Islamic Quest for Intimacy with the Beloved
TR 01:20 pm-02:50 pm MAIN 011 Gregory Lipton
With attention to both classical texts and contemporary contexts, this course examines the formative development of Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, and its rich legacy of embodied piety and mystical intimacy. Drawing on the teachings of key Muslim mystics, we will explore the sacred sources, unitive doctrines, and metaphysical cosmology of Sufism, as well as its devotional practices, celebrated poetry, and contested tradition of ecstatic discourse.

RELI 194-03  End Times: Apocalyptic Thought in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament
M 07:00 pm-10:00 pm CARN 305 STAFF
The word “apocalypse” likely conjures images of prophets and prophecies of the end of the world, best-selling Left Behind novels, millenarian movements, and political, economic, and environmental doomsday scenarios. To many, “apocalyptic” thinking is something to be ignored if possible, or dismissed as the perverted religiosity of extremist religious groups. Yet, apocalyptic beliefs are by no means limited to marginal groups, or even religious folks. Apocalyptic thinking pervades contemporary culture! In this course, we will study apocalypticism from its origins in Early Judaism, its development in Early Christianity, and varied expressions of apocalypticism in contemporary consciousness. We will consider what leads someone to develop an apocalyptic worldview as well as the defining characteristics thereof, and consider some of the ethical problems inherent in apocalyptic thought – e.g., what does an apocalyptic worldview mean for treatment of the environment, or for women? Finally, we will reflect on whether and in what ways an apocalyptic worldview can continue to serve as an appropriate vehicle for the expression of religious belief today

RELI 200-01  The Qur'an (Koran)
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am MAIN 011 Gregory Lipton
This course is an introduction to the Qur’an as the textual crystallization of the Prophet Muhammad’s religio-historical legacy and the principal source of divine guidance for Muslims since the inception of Islam. Students will read the Qur'an in translation, explore traditions of Qur'anic interpretation, and engage recent academic approaches to understanding the text in terms of its history, structure, main themes, and prophetology.

RELI 236-01  Sanskrit and Classical Religion in India
MWF 10:50 am-11:50 am MAIN 111 James Laine
*Cross-listed with ASIA 294-03, CLAS 294-03, and LING 294-03*

RELI 294-01  Ancestors and Ghosts: The Fiction of Black Religion
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am NEILL 228 William Hart
This course explores notions of ghosts, spirits, “hain’ts,” and ancestors in African American novels. We track these sacred figures through a variety of novels and assess their relations with historical trauma, resilience, and triumph. The readings include: James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972), Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977), Paule Marshall, Praisesong for the Widow (1983), and a unit on Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979), Parable of the Sower (1993), and Parable of the Talent (1998).

RELI 294-02  Jews and Politics
TR 09:40 am-11:10 am MAIN 009 Cytron, Zis
*Cross-listed with POLI 294-03* From biblical Egypt and Persia to ancient Rome, from 19th century France and Germany to 21st century America, the Jewish community’s “loyalty” to the state has been called into question in veiled (and not so veiled) attempts to delegitimize Jewish political views, aspirations, and identities. Historically, how has the Jewish community viewed itself politically in relationship to authority? How have notions of Jewish power and powerlessness manifested themselves over time? As famed political theorist Michael Walzer asks, “Are there characteristic forms of ‘politics’ and thinking about ‘politics’ associated with Jewish culture and life?” This course explores these questions and others through spirited class discussions, close reading of texts, and short, critical writing assignments.

RELI 394-01  Slaves, Animals, and Fetuses
TR 01:20 pm-02:50 pm NEILL 228 William Hart
This courses addresses ethical “rhetoric.” We explore the construction of animals and fetuses as slaves. We focus on the uses of the metaphors of enslavement and abolition by advocates of animal welfare, rights, and liberation and by opponents of abortion, associated reproductive technologies, and the very notion of reproductive freedom. We explore the chain of associations that emerge between slavery, race, humanity and animality. The central thesis of this course is that the historical enslavement of people of African descent provides the model for the ethical rhetoric of animal rights advocates and opponents of abortion.

RELI 394-02  Native Peoples in Minnesota: Resilence and Resistance
M 07:00 pm-10:00 pm MAIN 010 Monica McKay
Minnesota's Native history includes such notable features as the largest mass execution in U.S. history, one of the only "closed" Indian reservations in the country, the birth of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the late 1960s, and ongoing legal actions to assert resource use rights retained in nineteenth century land cession treaties. Yet many people who live their whole lives in this state know very little - and/or hold only misconceptions - about the state's history and about their Native neighbors. This course will introduce students to the Dakota and Ojibwe people of Minnesota and will use their experiences of colonization as our lens on Minnesota history, with the hope that learning about how the indigenous peoples of this state have both persevered through and actively resisted colonization will better equip students to become active participants in the ongoing effort to decolonize Minnesota.

RELI 469-01  Approaches to the Study of Religion
TR 03:00 pm-04:30 pm MAIN 001 James Laine

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