Fall 2020 Classes

Fall 2020 Courses

Religion course descriptions can be found below, beneath our class posters.

Please note that some advertised classes are offered only through Harvard Divinity School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Committee on the Study of Religion

Fall 2020 Class Schedule

 

 

 

RELIGION 47 (Seminar)

Christian Ethics and Modern Society

Lockwood, Charles

R 03:00 PM-05:45 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 156433

This course provides an introduction to Christian conceptions of conduct, character, and community, as well as contemporary disputes over their interpretation and application. What do Christian ideals imply for issues relatedto race, gender, religious pluralism, and secularism? How are Christian principles related to the ethos of liberal democracy and modern ideals of rights, equality, and autonomy? Readings and discussions will highlight a variety of contemporary perspectives and approaches to Christian ethics, and special emphasis will be given to moral and political concerns including race and racism; love, sexuality, and marriage; the environment; capitalism and consumption; abortion and euthanasia; and war and peace.

 

RELIGION 60 (Seminar)

Narratives of Religious Conversion in American Literatures

Lamberth, Courtney

Capacity: 12 Course ID: 216414

Narratives of grace, lament, and conversion appear in multiple forms of American literature rooted in Christianity including fiction, sermons, first-person accounts, poetry, and essays. Images of violence and suffering are often used in depicting, describing, and imagining these religious experiences. Through close reading of text in several genre, this course focuses on how the relationship between the human and the divine is depicted through experiences of lament, conversion and grace. Authors will include Jonathan Edwards, Emily Dickenson, Herman Melville, William James, W. E. B. DuBois, Howard Thurman, James Baldwin, Flannery OConner, Toni Morrison, and Annie Dillard.

 

RELIGION 91R (Tutorial)

Supervised Reading and Research

Lamberth, Courtney

Capacity: 9999 Course ID: 122928

Religion 91R is a course of supervised reading and research on a special topic in the Study of Religion. The course involves close reading and written work, both of which are evaluated by the faculty director with a letter grade and written comments. Students who wish to enroll in a 91R must receive the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 91R is ordinarily open only to concentrators. The instructor of the course must be a member of the Harvard faculty.

 

RELIGION 98R (Tutorial)

Tutorial - Junior Year

Lamberth, Courtney

Capacity: 999 Course ID: 111985

Part of the sequence of small seminars focused on critical thinking and writing skills for concentrators, this course provides in-depth study of selected themes, texts, traditions or time periods.

 

RELIGION 99A (Tutorial)

Tutorial - Senior Year

Lamberth, Courtney

Capacity: 999 Course ID: 118745

A required component of the senior year tutorial is a biweekly seminar, led by the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies. Covers research methods and strategies in thesis writing. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B).

 

RELIGION 99B (Tutorial)

Tutorial - Senior Year

Lamberth, Courtney

Capacity: 999 Course ID: 159849

A required component of the senior year tutorial is a biweekly seminar, led by the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies. Covers research methods and strategies in thesis writing. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B).

 

RELIGION1059 (Lecture)

Who Needs God? Rethinking God in Light of Hindu and Christian Theologies

Clooney, Francis

MW 10:30 AM-11:45 AM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 124879

This course reflects on God the idea, the reality, the significance in light of Hindu and Christian scriptures, from philosophical and theological perspectives, and with reference to spiritual paths to union with God all re-read in light of modern theological questions and doubts about the very idea of God. Issues include: the meaning of God and knowledge of God; reasons to believe (or not) in Gods existence; Gods relationship to the world, humans, all living beings; divine embodiment and salvation by God; theism and polytheism before and after secularism and atheism. Knowing both Hindu and Christian traditions on God clarifies each tradition, as we learn from their great similarities and great differences. And: how might studying God comparatively change our God-talk, God-practice, God-love here and now? Quiet course for noisy times. Weekly written responses, plus two 10-12 page papers.

 

RELIGION1083 (Conference Course)

Religion and Family

Thomas, Todne

W 03:00 PM-05:00 PM Capacity: 25 Course ID: 208128

Religion and family are contested concepts that become politicized as they are mobilized and debated in the public sphere. Religion and family are also often depicted as separate forms of social organization. This course explores the ways in which religious and familial concepts, institutions, and relationships intersect to shape the lived experiences of religious participants who create and imbue their relationships with social and sacred significance. In particular, we will examine how rituals, practices, and meanings surrounding sexuality, marriage, parenthood, siblinghood, and genealogy become important signifiers of religious identity and membership. Our discussion of these case studies will also open up broader conversations about the politics ethnicity/race, gender, sexuality, fundamentalism, and trans/nationalism and their imprint on modes of religious and spiritual belonging. Jointly offered with the Divinity School as HDS 2126.

 

RELIGION1134 (Lecture)

Genesis: Narrative Artistry and Theological Meanings

Levenson, Jon

TR 10:30 AM-11:45 AM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 112855

A close critical reading in English of the book of Genesis with an eye both to the storytellers' techniques and to the moral and theological dimensions of the text. Emphasis will be given to literary and religious rather than historical and editorial issues.

 

RELIGION1420 (Seminar)

Early Christian Thought 3: The Syriac Tradition

Stang, Charles

TR 10:30 AM-11:45 AM Capacity: 20 Course ID: 109686

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the Syriac Christian tradition in the late antique and medieval periods. Syriac-speaking Christians constitute an ancient community that stretched from the Eastern Mediterranean to China, a community diverse in its beliefs and practices, prolific and accomplished in its literary output, and bound by a common language (Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic). This course will cover the early, diverse period of Syriac literature (2nd and 3rd centuries); the subsequent "golden" age of Syriac literature, associated with such authors as Ephrem and Jacob of Serug; some forms of asceticism and spirituality peculiar to Syriac Christianity; and finally, the stretch of Syriac Christianity eastward, to India and China

 

RELIGION1521A (Seminar)

The Man of Light: The Philosophy and Spirituality of Henry Corbin

Stang, Charles

F 12:00 PM-03:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 216334

This seminar will focus on the writings of Henry Corbin (1903-1978), the philosopher of religion and scholar of Islam, especially the Persian tradition. The aim of the seminar will be to read Corbins major works; to understand his controversial place in the history of the study of religion in general, and of Islam in particular; to appreciate him as a creative and constructive philosopher and theologian in his own right; and to assess his legacy for the 21st century.Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year to receive credit

 

RELIGION1529 (Seminar)

The Holocaust and the Churches, 1933-45

Madigan, Kevin

M 09:00 AM-11:00 AM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 124910

This seminar will approach the Nazi persecution of European Jewry from several disciplinary perspectives. Initially the seminar will explore the topic historically. In these weeks, the seminar will use a variety of historical materials dealing with the history of European anti-semitism, German history from Bismarck to the accession of Hitler, the evolution of anti-Jewish persecution in the Third Reich, and the history of the Holocaust itself. Sources to be used will include primary sources produced by the German government 1933-1945, by Jewish victims-to-be or survivors, documentary films, and secondary interpretations. The aims of this part of the seminar will be to understand the basic background to and narrative of the Holocaust, to introduce students to the critical use of primary historical sources, and to familiarize them with some of the major historiographical debates. Then the members of the seminar will ponder religious and theological reactions to the Holocaust. The seminar will also consider the historical question of the role played by the Protestant and Catholic churches and theologies in the Holocaust. The seminar will conclude with an assessment of the role played by the Holocaust in todays world, specifically in the United States. Throughout the seminar, participants will use various literary and cinematographic sources and test their limits in helping to understand and to represent the Holocaust.

 

RELIGION1537 (Seminar)

Justice, Human Rights, and Religion

Fiorenza, Francis

R 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 107394

This seminar course introduces some current interpretations of justice, human rights, and religion. It explores some implications of different conceptions of justice for an understanding of human freedom, identity, dignity, and equality. It will discuss contemporary economics, cultural, and societal challenges to traditional conceptions of justice. Attention will be given to the work of Rawls, Fraser, Habermas, Pögge, West, Sen & Nussbaum, Derrida, Butler, Benhabib, Young, Wolterstorff, Cohen, and Kasper.

 

RELIGION1538 (Lecture)

Liberal and Liberation Theologies in Dialogue

McKanan, Daniel

MW 09:00 AM-10:00 AM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 126762

This course will explore the possibilities for fruitful interchange between classic liberal theologies and contemporary theologies of liberation. We will begin with major texts of American liberal theology (Channing, Emerson, Bushnell, Rauschenbusch), then turn to the defining liberationist texts (Gutierrez, Cone, Daly), and conclude with several attempts to integrate the traditions.

 

RELIGION1661 (Seminar)

Yoga Sutras in a Comparative Perspective

Clooney, Francis

T 03:00 PM-05:30 PM Capacity: 20 Course ID: 126783

This seminar is for students interested in the study of primary Indian/Hindu texts, read in translation and in the context of a comparative dynamic of reading religiously across the boundaries of traditions. The Yoga Sutras the 195 sutras is the focus of the course, along with its primary commentary (Vyasas Bhasya), plus selections from other classic commentaries, and the modern Light on the Yoga Sutras by BKS Iyengar. All these will be read (in English). Some comparisons will be made, by way of noticing parallel Hindu and Buddhist versions of yoga, and instances of Muslim and Christian reception of the Sutras. No language prerequisite, but students who know Sanskrit will be encouraged to make use of their expertise.

 

RELIGION1701 (Lecture)

Introduction to Buddhist Scriptures and Their Critical Interpretation

Hallisey, Charles

T 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 124399

An introduction to basic issues in the contemporary understanding of textuality, psychology, reading, and interpretation and their relevance to engaging Buddhist texts as scriptures. Examples of Buddhist scriptures will be drawn primarily from the Mahayana traditions.In accommodation to the necessity of remote learning in the fall term, 2020, class format will be of three types: 1 hour in lecture and large group discussion (Tuesdays 12-1); one hour in small group discussion (Tuesdays, 1-2); and one hour in tutorial format (one hour to be arranged for two students to meet weekly via Zoom with instructor).

 

RELIGION1731 (Conference Course)

Women, Gender, and the Quest for Social Justice: Cases in Buddhism

Gyatso, Janet

TR 12:00 PM-01:15 PM Capacity: 15 Course ID: 216456

We will do two things in this course: take in the history, literature, visual imagery, and theoretical pronouncements around the nature of women and gender in Buddhist materials; and cultivate the critical and hermeneutical skills for processing these materials and contributing to a just and woke future. We will read together a variety of Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhist texts, displaying repressive, subversive, and liberative visions alike. We will study autobiographical writing of historical women, images of female divinity, and notions of non-binary genders as well as as the third sex. Significant attention will be paid to the contemporary female ordination movement, and to other modern Buddhist efforts for social justice and environmental protection. Lectures may be taped and viewed before class, and small breakout discussion groups will be an important part of the in-class pedagogy. Prior knowledge of Buddhism helpful but not required.

 

RELIGION1741 (Conference Course)

Modern Buddhism and Fiction

Hallisey, Charles

W 03:00 PM-05:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 125675

An examination of how fiction is a vehicle for religious imagination and reflection in the modern Buddhist world. The genres of fiction will include both the novel and the short story, with examples drawn widely from across the Buddhist world and beyond.In accommodation to the necessity of remote learning in the fall term, 2020, class format will be of three types: 1 hour in lecture (Wednesdays 3-4); one hour in small group discussion (Wednesdays, 4-5); and one hour in tutorial format (one hour to be arranged for two students to meet weekly via Zoom with instructor). Enrollment is limited.

 

RELIGION1802 (Lecture)

Introduction to Islamic Mystical Traditions

Asani, Ali

T 12:45 PM-02:45 PM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 113442

This course offers an introductory survey of mystical traditions of Islam, popularly labelled as Sufism. It explores the fundamental concepts, practices, and institutions associated with these traditions, their historical development and their influence on the devotional, cultural and social lives of Muslim communities through the centuries. Through case studies drawn from the Middle East, South Asia, West Africa and North America, the course examines ways in which these traditions have developed and promoted alternative perspectives on what it means to be Muslim, challenging in recent times sectarian, legalistic and politicized understandings of Islam such as Wahhabi, Islamism and jihadism. The course assumes no prior knowledge of Islam.

 

RELIGION1812 (Seminar)

Islam and Religious Diversity

Boylston, Nicholas

W 03:00 PM-05:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 207014

The problem of religious diversity recurs in all of the major branches of Islamic thought and appears in complex permutations in diverse cultural contexts. Focusing primarily on pre- modern Islam, this course invites students to investigate perspectives on the religious other in the Quran, Islamic law, theology, philosophy and Sufism. In the final portion of the course we will look at Muslim Spain, Mughal India, and the Muslim-Confucians of late imperial China as examples of how these complex dynamics played out on the ground. The larger aim of this course is for students to develop interpretive skill in dealing with the internal complexity of a number of Islamic discourses and contexts by pursuing a single problematic across them. To this end the course will be taught in seminar format and participants will be encouraged to engage creatively with primary and secondary sources to develop their own scholarly points of view.

 

RELIGION1820 (Lecture)

Being Muslim in South Asia: Religion, Culture and Identity

Asani, Ali

W 12:45 PM-02:45 PM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 111918

South Asia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. And yet, within South Asia, Muslims are a minority. What is Islam and what does it mean to be Muslim in South Asia? After briefly examining the historical development of Islamic institutions in the subcontinent, this course will focus on how ideas about Islam are shaped by evolving literary, linguistic, social and political landscapes. Special attention will be given to the effects of colonial and nationalist ideologies on Muslim experiences in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as well as the disputed territory of Kashmir. We will also explore the impact of reform and revivalist movements and state-enforced policies of Islamization and Hinduization on women and minorities. The course is appropriate for those who want a birds eye view of the Islamic tradition in South Asia, as well as those interested in exploring issues facing contemporary Muslim societies beyond the Middle East. Jointly offered as Islamic Civilizations 178 and HDS 3625.

 

RELIGION2001 (Seminar)

The History of the Study of Religion

Rivera Rivera, Mayra

W 09:00 AM-11:00 AM Capacity: 18 Course ID: 118557

An examination of the study of religion from early modernity to the present, with attention to key thinkers, methods, and theories. Required common doctoral seminar for first-year PhD candidates in the Study of Religion or an affiliated department (in the latter case, must have express permission of the Instructor.)

 

RELIGION2002 (Seminar)

Contemporary Conversations in the Study of Religion: Seminar

Hardacre, Helen

W 03:00 PM-05:45 PM Capacity: 15 Course ID: 122916

An engagement with the theoretical and methodological issues that scholars of religion across the various research areas deem to be the most urgent and compelling in the discipline today, accompanied by sustained consideration of the major stages in graduate students progress to the Ph.D.

 

RELIGION2058 (Conference Course)

Religion and Neoliberalism

Thomas, Todne

T 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 25 Course ID: 208110

As it is popularly conceptualized, neoliberalism is a political and economic system that calls for the deregulation of capitalist enterprises, the increasing privatization of government services, and the application of market rationalities in the operation of social institutions. Yet, how does neoliberalism interface with religion? What religious sensibilities are encoded in and spread amidst neoliberal formations? Through our review of theoretical texts and anthropological monographs, this course investigates religion and neoliberalism around some of the following loci: Christian temporal reckonings that shape renditions of millennial capitalism and late liberalism, moral orders, co-constitutive discourses and institutions of prosperity and accumulation, and conflicting paradigms of selfhood and belonging. Offered jointly with the Divinity School as HDS 2125.

 

RELIGION2427 (Seminar)

The Book of Revelation: Text, History, and Interpretation

Bazzana, Giovanni

R 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 15 Course ID: 216371

The course will be focused primarily on the Greek text of the Apocalypse of John, devoting time to the observation and discussion of issues relating to textual transmission, translation, interpretation, and theological hermeneutics. Through the additional reading of other ancient, modern, and contemporary texts the course will also approach the colorful and contested history of interpretation of this puzzling biblical book. Revelation will be posed within the ancient historical context of Jewish and Christian apocalypticism, but discussion in the course will range through the many facets of Revelations history of interpretation, from antiquity to today, addressing contested issues such as its stance towards violence, its ambiguous treatment of empire and gender, or its controversial canonicity. Two semesters of Greek are required. If HDS courses will be offered online, the seminar will be split in two parts, one synchronous and one asynchronous. Jointly offered in the Divinity School as HDS 1560.

 

RELIGION2549 (Seminar)

Women, Religion, and the Problem of Historical Agency

Braude, Ann

T 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 113871

This course examines recent scholarship on women in American religious history, focusing particularly on questions of narration, agency and power. We will ask several interrelated questions: How have historians integrated women into narratives of American religious history? Whose stories have they highlighted, and why? How have they conceptualized women as historical agents? We will read major interpretive works as well as theoretical accounts of gender, social structure, and power. Readings will explore the diversity of religious traditions in America, including Puritanism, Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, African-American Christianity, evangelicalism, and Islam. Jointly offered in the Divinity School as HDS 2186

 

RELIGION2549 (Seminar)

Women, Religion, and the Problem of Historical Agency

Brekus, Catherine

T 12:00 PM-02:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 113871

This course examines recent scholarship on women in American religious history, focusing particularly on questions of narration, agency and power. We will ask several interrelated questions: How have historians integrated women into narratives of American religious history? Whose stories have they highlighted, and why? How have they conceptualized women as historical agents? We will read major interpretive works as well as theoretical accounts of gender, social structure, and power. Readings will explore the diversity of religious traditions in America, including Puritanism, Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, African-American Christianity, evangelicalism, and Islam. Jointly offered in the Divinity School as HDS 2186

 

RELIGION2993 (Seminar)

A Poetics of Difficulty

Hollywood, Amy

T 03:00 PM-05:00 PM Capacity: 12 Course ID: 216354

Through the careful reading of and exploratory writing about selected works of contemporary poetry, together with some key pieces of criticism and philosophy, the seminar will explore different modalities of difficulty. The hypothesis driving the course is that in difficult times, reading difficult writing can be a vital and affectively powerful task. Readings will likely include work by Susan Howe, Nathanial Mackay, Rae Armantrout, Dan Beachy-Quick, Myung Mi Kim, Claudia Rankine, Dawn Lundy Martin, Harryette Mullen, Elizabeth Robinson, Lisa Robertson, TC Tolbert, and Cameron Awkward-Rich.

 

 

RELIGION3005A (Colloquium)

 

Doctoral Colloquium in Religion, Gender, and Culture

 

Hollywood, Amy

W 6-8pm Capacity: 12 Course ID: 216362 

The Religion, Gender, and Culture Colloquium explores the intersections of feminist theory with other theories of difference and the broader study of religion. Interested PhD, MTS, ThM, and MDiv students should contact the instructor. May be taken on a Sat/Unsat basis only. This is an indivisible course. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Jointly offered in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as Religion 3005.

Course meets biweekly.

 

RELIGION3425A (Seminar)

New Testament Seminar for Doctoral Dissertations

Bazzana, Giovanni

Capacity: 30 Course ID: 125389

Biweekly presentation of research projects. May be taken on a Sat/Unsat basis only. This is an indivisible course. Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Jointly offered with the Divinity School as HDS 1995A.

 

RELIGION3505A (Thesis Research)

Colloquium in American Religious History

Brekus, Catherine

T 06:00 PM-08:00 PM Capacity: 999 Course ID: 118565

Presentation and discussion of the research of doctoral candidates in American religious history.Students must complete both terms of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.