Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton's Religious Studies Department is to provide students with an understanding of religion not simply as social institution or dogma, but as a powerful facet of human experience and culture.
134 (Americanism, Ballots, and Consumption), 247 (Religion and Gender in American History), 241 (Religion in the American West), 256 (Islam and Modernity in South Asia), 244 (Religious Conflicts), 144 (Indian Buddhism), 129 (Native American Spiritualities), 239 (Native Rituals and Religious Freedom), 260/460 (The Self Beyond Itself), 243 (Indigenous Oral Traditions), 257 (The New Testament), 317 (Jesus and the Gospels).
At the time the concentration is elected, the concentrator shall propose a carefully developed program of study including, if desired, study abroad, for the approval of the department. Honors are awarded on the basis of a cumulative average of at least 3.3 (88) achieved in courses approved for the concentration and the completion of 501 with a 3.5 (90) or better.
A minor consists of five courses, including 290/291 and at least one course at the 300 level, proposed by the student and approved by the department.
Beginning with the class of 2020 the major will include at least two courses in two different traditions, geographies, and/or historical eras.
Courses from other departments may be approved for concentration or minor credit through a petition to the department.
Some courses have prerequisites due to the technical nature of class material and others are reserved for juniors and seniors; however, the department is usually flexible within constraints of demand and class size, and permission is at the consent of the instructor.
Cross-cultural comparison of the parable. Emphasis given to parable as a form of religious speech. Includes selections from Jesus, Zen masters, Borges and Galeano. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Humphries-Brooks.
Religious Diversity in the USA.
Religious diversity has been noted in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. But smaller cities like Utica have also diversified, seeing unprecedented population shifts in recent years. This course will take advantage of our proximity to Utica, and explore the mosques, temples, synagogues, and churches that exist there today, as well as explore the rich religious history of Central New York, including the Great Awakenings, Utopian communities, and recent immigration patterns. (Writing-intensive.) This course is only open to first years. Maximum enrollment, 16.
Encountering Hinduism: Sacrifice, Soul, and Image.
This survey examines historical and current practices of Hinduism in a variety of social and religious contexts. It introduces students to essential beliefs, doctrines, institutions, and popular practices of Hinduism. Readings are drawn from the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Epics and devotional poetry. Its multi-disciplinary approach draws upon literary, artist and performative sources including popular media and film. Not open to seniors.
Native American Spiritualities.
In order to develop a broad understanding of the religious lives of Native Americans, we explore diverse practices and worldviews. We begin with an examination of how Native American worldviews are unique and differ from modern-Western worldviews. With this grounding, we delve into explorations of the multifaceted history of Native American traditions including the Ghost Dance, the Sun Dance, religious freedom issues pertaining to the use of peyote, struggles over sacred places, and complex native engagements with Christianity. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as American Studies 129.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Schermerhorn.
American Freedom and Religious Thought.
The Bible has been used throughout American history to justify various oppressions including slavery, gender inequality, and homophobia. Through exploring the biblical material that has historically supported such injustices, and the religious thought that has contributed to liberation movements, this course will seek to discover the meanings of the defining American mantra of “freedom.” We will examine such “theological” thinkers as Jefferson, Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and James Baldwin. (Proseminar.) 20 hours of a community-based internship in a local non-profit is a required component of this class. Maximum enrollment, 16. Jeff McArn.
Americanism, Ballots, and Consumption: The ABCs of American Religion.
This course explores a variety of roles religion has played in American culture(s) and some of the ways that American culture has influenced Americans’ religious practices. We will focus on three areas: identity (Americanism), politics (Ballots), and economics (Consumption). In particular, we will consider how religion is involved in the construction of American identity and the exclusion of some people from American polity; how religion is (and is not) intertwined with our political system; and how religion affects – and is affected by – Americans’ economic practices (Same as American Studies 134.)
The Sacred in South Asia.
What constitutes the sacred in south Asia? Is it a person, place, river, hill, temple or nature/ecology? Where and how did the notion of sacrality emerge in South Asia? Is it linked exclusively to religious institutions or is it found in the daily lives of people? This course will examine these questions by exploring the multiple religious traditions of South Asia and examining their essential beliefs, doctrines, institutions, rituals and popular practices through a study of texts, material culture, films and ethnographic accounts. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
An introduction to origins, essential beliefs, popular practices and institutions of Buddhism. Examines the life of Buddha, his teachings (Dharma) and Buddhist communities through a range of Buddhist texts, art and archaeological sources. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 144.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Abhishek Amar.
Pop Culture/Pop Religion.
Looking at graphic novels and comics, listening to music, watching television and playing video games can all lead us to understand religion. Religion may be about ancient texts and doctrines, but it is also reconceived in the present day through popular cultural texts. Alternates between popular culture artifacts and theories of religion, allowing students to rethink the religious underpinnings of much "secular" popular culture, but also to rethink the idea of religion as well. Rodriguez-Plate.
Modern Jewish Thought: Politics and Religion.
Examination of the rise of pluralism and democracy as Jews became full citizens of the modern Western state. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
Ancient Jewish Wisdom.
Exploration of major themes in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament). (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
The Education of Desire.
A close reading of Spinoza's masterpiece, The Ethics, with a view to understanding its contemporary implications in the light of the new brain sciences. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies or Philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
Religion in Film.
Study of the religious in film. Focus on the relationship between myth-making in film and post-modern culture. (Same as American Studies 215.) Humphries-Brooks.
Coming of Age.
This course presents several case studies of adolescent rites of passage, including the Navajo Kinaaldá puberty ceremony, gender socialization of Hasidic adolescents in Brooklyn, and youth innovation among Latina gang members in Northern California. Students examine ways in which these adolescent girls and boys navigate coming of age through rituals, observances and obligations, and the communities’ policing of adolescent behavior through discourses about childhood, adulthood, and change. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Meredith Moss.
Indigenous Revitalization Movements.
This course examines cultural and linguistic revitalization efforts among various cultural groups, particularly indigenous peoples of North America. This interdisciplinary course will draw from the fields of anthropology, religious studies, linguistics, and education in order to study the history of traditional religious and linguistic practices in several communities and the various forms of revitalization efforts programs being used. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Moss.
Religion and Language.
This course examines complex relationships between the categories of ‘religion’ and ‘language,’ particularly the ways in which discourse and linguistic variation constitute social groups and police social boundaries. In particular, we will use tools of critical discourse analysis to extrapolate ideologies at work in various discursive communities and communities of practice. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
What is pilgrimage? Why do people go on pilgrimages? We begin to answer these questions by exploring pilgrimage traditions from across the globe to see religions, not as static, but as dynamic, living, and in motion. In attending to movement--crawling, walking, dancing, riding, driving, or flying--we investigate how traveling across sacred landscapes connects pilgrims with the places they travel through as well as those who have gone before them. Topics may include methods and theories in pilgrimage studies from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Seth Schermerhorn.
Native Rituals and Religious Freedom.
Is American religious freedom a reality, an unfinished project, or merely a myth? This course explores how Native Americans have struggled for religious freedom in the United States, focusing on contemporary legal battles to protect sacred lands, repatriate ancestral remains and objects, and defend the ceremonial consumption of peyote. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as American Studies 239 and Government 239.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Seth Schermerhorn.
Religion in the American West.
This course explores and considers three themes in the history of religion in the American West: migrations (movement in and out of the region), locations (the designation of particular places as special), and adaptations (changes over time, in response to changing conditions). The course will use a variety of primary and secondary sources – some texts, but also films, photographs, and other kinds of sources. Students will also do their own research and contribute to the construction of a website about the religious history of the American West. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as American Studies 241.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
The Rise and Fall of David.
A literary reading of the biblical Book of Samuel as historical and political fiction. Comparison with other great works of literature on political themes. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. Ravven.
Indigenous Oral Traditions.
This course examines various elements of indigenous oral traditions, including oral literatures, such as creation stories, narratives, oratory, and song. We will study the indigenous modes of performance, such as tone and pitch, gestures, silence, back-channeling, turn-taking, taking of floor, and traditional openings and closings. We will also examine intercultural communication in order to analyze communicative norms, including conversational norms, metaphors, puns, and humor. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Moss.
Is religion a source of conflict in the modern world? Investigates examples of religious difference and negotiation from Asia and Europe. Focus on political and religious differences over sacred space, conversion, and Love-Jihad, and interactions among Hindus and Muslims in India. (Same as History 244.) Abhishek Amar.
Religion and Gender in American History.
In this course students examine the ways in which religious ideas have shaped Americans’ conceptions and performances of femininity and masculinity, and vice versa. Using case studies from the colonial period through contemporary times, we will explore the ways in which religion both constrained the performance of gender and the ways women and men found (and, sometimes, created) liberating resources within religious traditions. We will pay particular attention to the intersection of religion and gender with race, class, and sexuality. (Same as Women's and Gender Studies 247.)
Islam and Modernity in South Asia.
This course develops a nuanced understanding of Islam and its role in shaping socio-religious and political landscape of modern and pre-modern South Asia. Questioning misconceptions of Islam, it examines its mideast origins, Qur'an, theology, law, religious practices, Shi'i and Sufi traditions, expansion in South Asia, colonialism, and modernity. Readings include secondary, literary, architectural and archaeological sources. Next offered Fall 2018. Not open to students who have taken RELST 213: Islam and Modernity in South Asia (Same as History 256.)
The New Testament.
A critical introduction to the literature and history of New Testament Christianity. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
The Self Beyond Itself.
The Self Beyond Itself: Ethics, Science, and Religion. Multidisciplinary Study of why and when people are ethical --and why and when they are not. Review of contemporary research of neuroscientists on the moral capacity. (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16. H Ravven. (Writing-intensive.) (Proseminar.) Next offered Fall 2018. Maximum enrollment, 16.
Philosophy as Spiritual Quest.
Exploration of the spiritual power attributed to philosophy by religious philosophers from classical Greece to modern times through readings from Greek, Jewish, Islamic and/or Christian philosophical works. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy and/or religious studies. (Same as Philosophy 281.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
Scholars imagine, analyze, and interpret religions in a wide variety of ways. This Seminar explores phenomena from multiple religions, drawing upon a range of disciplines including history of religion, textual studies, material and visual culture, and ethnography. Students will engage in inter-disciplinary interpretive projects in collaboration with faculty of the Religious Studies department. (Proseminar.) Prerequisite, One Religious Studies course or consent. Maximum enrollment, 16. Q Newell and S Schermerhorn.
Seminar: Native Ecologies.
This interdisciplinary seminar explores the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of indigenous peoples. Drawing upon scholarship from such diverse fields as acoustic ecology, ethno-ecology, ethnography, geography, environmental history, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and religious studies, we will examine indigenous knowledge about particular species and relationships between them. (Same as Environmental Studies 310.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Jesus and the Gospels.
A comprehensive introduction to the four Gospels, with special emphasis on the nature of early Christian views of Jesus. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one course in religious studies. Next offered Fall 2018. Maximum enrollment, 20.
Holocaust Literature and Films.
An examination of victims, perpetrators, rescuers, resistors, and bystanders through selected memoirs, fiction, documentaries, and other films. Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies, Literature, Film, or History. Maximum enrollment, 12. Ravven.
Topic: Seminar in American Religions.
Topic for 2017: Mormonism in America and the World. The United States is one of the most religious of the world’s industrialized nations, so understanding the nation requires an understanding of religion’s role in American history and culture. This course provides an in-depth examination of selected themes in American religious history, culminating in student-driven research projects. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in American history or Religious Studies, or instructor consent. (Same as History 338.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar: Death, Dying and the Afterlife.
How do humans prepare to die? What happens to the soul after death? What techniques are used to achieve immortality or better afterlife? Examines death and the afterlife from medical, philosophical and religious perspectives, focusing on Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. (Writing-intensive.) Not open to those who have taken Religious Studies 119 or 248 (Same as History 357.) Maximum enrollment, 12. A Amar.
Seminar: Religion, Art and Visual Culture.
What do the visual arts tell us about religions in ways that written texts alone cannot? How do religious practices actually train religious people to see? Such questions will begin our examination of various media (including painting, calligraphy, architecture, film, and comics) in conjunction with various religious traditions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism). Prerequisite, one course in either art history or religious studies. Required weekend field trip to New York City. (Same as Art History 375.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Raging Gods: Scorsese and Coppola's Religious Films.
The religious in the films of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. As American New Wave auteurs they contribute to the emergence of a new sacramental style in American film. We pay attention to the film traditions that inform their development, e.g. Italian neo-realism, horror, film noir and French New Wave. A look at the influence of their Roman-Catholic, Italian-American religious culture. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies and/or cinema & new media studies or consent of instructor. (Same as American Studies 421.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Senior Project Seminar.
Students perfect research skills necessary for the senior project. Keeping their project in mind, students review relevant literature, develop conceptual and theoretical frameworks, and collect and study source materials. Subsequently they submit a proposal, abstract, annotated bibliography and drafts leading to the final project. Emphasis given to analysis of structural, institutional, and social categories of race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, and abilities/disabilities. Prerequisite, Restricted to senior majors in Religious Studies. Maximum enrollment, 12. .
A project resulting in a substantial essay supervised by a member of the department. Prerequisite, consent of instructor. Open to qualified students. The Department.
Continuation of the honors project resulting in a substantial essay supervised by a member of the department. Prerequisite, consent of instructor. Open to qualified students. The Department.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)