Religion plays a major role in human affairs. To understand more fully the nature of the relationship between society and the individual, it is essential to have some understanding of religion. The religious studies immersion engages students in the study of religion from the perspective of major Western and non-Western traditions through courses in disciplines such as anthropology, history, literature, philosophy, and psychology.
Notes about this immersion:
Students must select three courses from at least two distinct disciplines (e.g., anthropology, English, history, philosophy, or psychology)
Philosophy majors must take two courses in disciplines other than philosophy.
Choose three of the following:
Ritual and Performance
The world’s cultural diversity is most vividly and dynamically displayed through ritual and festival. Ritual is anything but superfluous; rather, some of the most important work of culture is accomplished through the performance of ritual. Through cross-cultural comparison, by way of readings and films, we explore the following dimensions of ritual: symbols, embodiment, emotion, discipline, contestation of tradition and authenticity, and the orchestration of birth, childhood socialization, gender, maturation, marriage, community, hierarchy, world renewal, and death. Written expression is enhanced through drafting, revision, and peer review.
This course examines the spread of Islam beyond its origins in the Middle East, and the cultural and social clashes, but also the mutual adjustments that have followed. This course explores core tenets of Islam, but also how its practices and beliefs are altered as practitioners in different countries alternately adopt, co-opt, massage, react to, and reject elements in accordance with the meaningful social, cultural, and political lives they build for themselves. The compatibility of Islam with Western society is often debated in contemporary public discourse. This debate is typically marked by an assumption that Islamic beliefs clash with Western secular democratic ideals, an assumption which results in tensions over mosque building, headscarves, and other public signs of Islamic faith. We will explore the diverse ways of being Muslim from a cross-cultural perspective and the sometimes-challenging negotiation of fulfilling these religious tenets while living in Muslim-minority places.
Culture and Politics in the Middle East
With a focus on everyday life in families, communities, and nations, we examine the diverse cultures and peoples of the Middle East in the context of political and economic forces that have shaped their lives in the past and present. We examine European colonialism and its modern-day legacies, including ethnic inequalities, economic vulnerability, labor migration, urbanism, and social unrest. We look at how art, music, oral traditions, and literatures have engaged critically with the forces of political change and neo-colonialism. We consider political activism, religious diversity, changing experiences and expectations of women and men, rebellion, revolution, and war, and the impacts of and creative responses to globalization. The cultural, political, social, and religious dynamics of Middle Eastern peoples will be discussed from a humanistic perspective.
Mythology and Literature
This course is a scholarly investigation into the cultural, historical, social, psychological, religious and spiritual, literary and performative dimensions of world myth. It examines different approaches to the study of myth emerging from disciplines such as anthropology, history, literary studies, and psychology. Special attention will be paid to the effects of these narratives on literature and other kinds of cultural texts, past and present. We will also use myth to develop, and critically reflect on, comparative approaches to world cultures.
Medieval & Renaissance Music
The beginning of the Western tradition of art music can be traced to Medieval Europe ca. 600 CE, as systems of music notation began to develop in and disseminate through important liturgical text sources. This desire to preserve and disseminate certain musical-textual traditions grew and developed steadily throughout Christendom over the next millennium, in both sacred and secular contexts. This course examines this development of music and text during the Medieval and Renaissance periods (ca. 600-1600 CE), with attention drawn to specific aspects of cultural context and performance practices that offer modern musicians and music connoisseurs a solid basis for experiencing the music in live performance, both in active listening (concert/liturgy attendence) and in participating (in-class singing).
Histories of Christianity
The history of Christianity is not simply the history of the religion of the west. Rather, Christian history is a long and complex movement that has profoundly affected Asia, Africa, Europe, and the New World. At various times there were several competing ideologies of Christianity, of which the west's was only a single example. Christianity also has a long history of interacting with other religions, from Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism to Judaism and Islam. This course will trace the development of Christianity paying special attention to how the Christian tradition developed in places such as Africa and Asia. We will, of course, also study Christianity in its western forms, but we will make an effort to dive into the rich tradition of this religion in all its many forms.
Philosophy of Religion
This course will examine critically definitions, assumptions, and arguments central to religion. Topics may include interpreting the nature of religion, arguments for and against the existence of God, the relation between theology and philosophy, the relation between God and the world, paganism, the problem of evil, and the nature of religious language and experience.
East Asian Philosophy
This course is an introduction to the origin and development of the philosophical traditions of primarily China and Japan through a consideration of selected thinkers, schools, and classic texts of Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Zen. Questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics are emphasized with reference to the nature of reality and the person, social harmony and self-realization, causality, right action, and enlightenment. Comparisons may also be made with Western philosophers, both contemporary and classical.
Existentialism is distinguished by its emphasis on human existence and the way its meaning is created through actions and choices. Existentialism focuses on the concept of individual freedom in an effort to respond authentically to the possibilities which life presents, emphasizing the importance of certain psychological states (e.g., anxiety, anticipation of death, fear, care, responsibility, and hope) and extreme situations in bringing us to an awareness of our radical freedom. This course will consider such philosophers and writers as Dostoevski, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Berdyaev, Heidegger, Jaspers, Camus, Sartre, Kafka, Beauvoir, Marcel, Buber, Ortega, and Unamuno.
This course is an introduction to the philosophical thought during the medieval period (approximately 300 C.E. to 1500 C.E.). It will consider the thought of various major figures from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions, and will take up this period's two principal areas of concern: the philosophy of religion and theology, on the one hand, and metaphysics and epistemology, on the other.
The nineteenth century marks a radical shift in the history of philosophy and culture and stands in its own right as a distinct period of thought between the modern era and the contemporary era. This course will consider such philosophical positions as idealism, empiricism, existentialistic romanticism, Marxism, evolution, nihilism, positivism, pragmatism, and the role of the arts and aesthetics. Philosophers considered include Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Mill, Marx, Darwin, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Comte, Bradley, Green, Peirce, and James.
Psychology of Religion
This course examines (primarily social) psychological approaches to religious and spiritual belief, behavior, and experience. Topics include psychological approaches to religion, religious development in children and adolescents, religious development in adults and old age, religious conversion, religious orientation, religious attitudes and behaviors, religion and well-being, group dynamics in religious communities, religion as a total institution‚ cults and deprogramming, need theories and religion, and religion and politics.