Heidi M. Ravven
Richard H. Seager
Stephenson Humphries-Brooks, Chair
Quincy D. Newell
S. Brent Rodríguez Plate
J. Seth Schermerhorn
Jay G. Williams, emeritus
A concentration in Religious Studies consists of nine courses including a 100 entry-level course, a 400 level seminar in which the senior project is normally completed, and 290: Theories and Methods or 291: Imagining Religions, all of which must be taught by faculty of the department. 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 400 level, proposed by the student and approved by the department. (The 290/291 requirement applies to the class of 2017. For the class of 2015 and the class of 2016, minors are encouraged but not required to take 290/291 ).
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.) (Oral Presentations.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Humphries-Brooks.
118F,S Religion and Environmentalism.
Introduction to religious studies through contemporary spiritual ideas about and practices concerning nature and the environment. Topics may include New Age religion, ecofeminism and green ideals in visionary architecture and art. Special attention to eco-Hinduism, Aboriginal Dreamtime land management and green Buddhism. (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Not open to seniors. Maximum enrollment, 16. Seager.
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.
129F 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.) (Oral Presentations.) Open to first year students only. (Same as American Studies 129.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Seth Schermerhorn.
Who owns Christianity? By the twenty-first century, the heartland of Christianity has shifted from Europe and North America to the Global South (Latin America, Africa, and Asia). Topics include the global reach of Christian missions and local appropriations of Christianity. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
133F,S 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. (Oral Presentations.) (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.
134F 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 Newell.
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. (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Open to 1st years only. Maximum enrollment, 16.
The course explores Indian Buddhism by studying essential beliefs, doctrines, institutions, and popular practices. The origins and establishment of Buddhism in ancient India, traditional interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings (Dharma), growth and development of the Buddhist community (Sangha), Buddhist practices and transmission in different areas of South Asia, and the revival of Buddhism are among the topics. Participants engage with analysis and discussion of readings from secondary textbooks as well as original literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 144.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
World Films, World Faiths.
Introduces the practices and beliefs of several major world religions (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) through the medium of film. Exploring Japanese anime, Indonesia documentaries, videofilms from Ghana, Bollywood mythologicals, Jesus-films from Latin America, Korean-Buddhist films, contemporary fictional glimpses into Jewish life, and more, shows how religious people live and struggle and find joy, by using the audio-visual medium of film. Evening film screenings.
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.
Religion in the Wild.
Jesus, Moses, Siddharta, and Mohammed all had significant experiences in the wilderness. These experiences shaped their lives and the religious traditions that they helped found. We will read from and about philosophers, mystics, and spiritual seekers who have gone to untamed spaces for inspiration. We will then turn toward the modern world, and its ongoing spiritual/secular impact, reading works by H.D. Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder, Sara Maitland, and Jonathan Franzen, and look at films including Into the Wild and The Straight Story. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Instructor's Permission Only. (Same as Environmental Studies 155.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
200/300F,S 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. Ravven.
202F Ancient Jewish Wisdom.
Exploration of major themes in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament). (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
The Politics of the Bible.
Close reading of selections from the Bible (Old Testament) that address the nature of political leadership, of the political community, of justice and the best form of government. Comparison with works from other cultures that focus on justice, the political life, or offer biographies of political leaders. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Not open to students who have taken RELST 242W: Rise and Fall of David. Maximum enrollment, 20.
204F 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.) (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies or Philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
207S Borderland Religion.
An examination of expressions of religion and spiritual politics on and around the Mexican / US frontier. Topics include the Spanish conquest and expansion north; pre-Columbian and Catholic elements in Mexican and Mexican-American religion; folk healing; the ethos of New Mexico; and Chicano ideology and art. Some theoretical attention to boundaries, border crossing, and inner and outer frontiers. (Oral Presentations.) Not open to those who have taken 107. Richard Seager.
215F 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.
The Word and the Spirit.
Poetry in translation from China, Japan, India, and Persia. What are the essential spiritual problems that humans face and what answers to them do these poets discover? What can we learn about the Sacred from these ancient and medieval writers? (Same as CompLit 218.) (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies or Comparative Literature. Maximum enrollment, 20.
Buddhist Worlds in the USA.
Introduction to the Buddhist religion with primary focus on different forms of Buddhism in U.S. history and on the contemporary scene. Attention to Buddhist spirituality in both the Euro-American and Asian immigrant communities.
234F Sacred Journeys.
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.
Sensual Religion: Seeing Gods, Hearing Drums, Touching Stones, Dancing Bodies.
Playing drums, performing stories, touching stones, creating wildly colorful altars, dancing, eating and drinking special substances, are all basic religious activities. Religions are deeply, stubbornly physical and sensual. This class aims to re-imagine approaches to religion by grounding them in physical encounters between human bodies and sensual objects. Examples will range across Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish rituals and symbols, and readings will cross from art history to cultural anthropology to cognitive science, as well as religious studies. (Writing-intensive.) (Oral Presentations.) Maximum enrollment, 20.
239S 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.
241F 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.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Newell.
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.) (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
243S 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.
Conflict and Coexistence in South Asia.
This course examines interaction, competition, conflicts and dialogues between Hinduism and Islam to study the process through which these traditions shaped the socio-religious and political landscape of South Asia. Themes include the emergence of new syncretic traditions, practices and rituals, kingship, conversion, communal conflict and riots, and modernity. The course problematizes understanding of these themes by combining secondary literature with primary (literary, epigraphic, and archaeological) sources and adopts an integrative approach. (Same as History 244.)
Art and the Spiritual in America.
An examination of American art, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as an expression of the American quest for spiritual life and truth. Each student will research one particular artist from the period. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies, American Studies, or Art History. Maximum enrollment, 20.
256F 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, Qura'n, theology, law, religious practices, Shi'i and Sufi traditions, expansion in South Asia, colonialism, and modernity. Readings include secondary, literary, architectural and archaeological sources. Not open to students who have taken RELST 213: Islam and Modernity in South Asia (Same as History 256.) Abhishek Amar.
257S The New Testament.
A critical introduction to the literature and history of New Testament Christianity. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Humphries-Brooks.
260/460F 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.) (Oral Presentations.) (Proseminar.) Maximum enrollment, 16.
281S 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.) (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, One course in philosophy and/or religious studies. (Same as Philosophy 281.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Ravven.
Methods and Theories in the Study of Religion.
Critically examines, through primary readings and case studies, representative methods from the history of the academic study of religion. Special attention to the theories that inform each method. (Writing-intensive.) Preference given to religious studies majors. Maximum enrollment, 20.
291S Imagining Religions.
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.
Religion and Media.
Investigates the role of various media in shaping religious traditions especially Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Beginning with studies of orality and literacy, we move into the impact of the printing press, then electronic media including Internet and video games. Prerequisite, one course in religious studies or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
306S Roots of Wisdom.
A comparative study of wisdom literature from the ancient world and its expression of the essential spiritual questions of humanity. Ecclesiastes, Job, Plato, several Upanishads, Chuangzi, Liehzi among others will be studied. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in Religious Studies or Philosophy. Maximum enrollment, 20. J Williams.
308/408F,S Seminar: Yoga West and East.
With 15 million practitioners in the US alone, yoga is now a global phenomena. We look at ancient and modern yoga theory and practice and processes by which they have been transmitted to the West in the last two centuries. We consider what it means to be a yogi today with attention to topics such as the Indian origins of yoga, yoga and the body, the place of yoga in western alternative spirituality, and the yoga industry today. Class culminates in individual or small group projects and presentations on a selected aspect of the phenomena. Prerequisite, 1 Course in Religious Studies or Instructor consent. Maximum enrollment, 12. R Seager.
310S 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. Maximum enrollment, 12. .
Seminar Religion and Modern Art.
Investigates the ways religious traditions have continued to influence the visual arts into the modern and postmodern periods. Topics range from the theosophical inclinations of Kandinsky and Mondrian to the mystical inclinations of abstract expressionism, from the "blasphemous" images of Ernst and Dix to the meditational video work of Gary Hill and Bill Viola. Media covered include painting, sculpture, video, architecture, and film. Recent exhibitions such as "Negotiating Rapture," "Traces du Sacre" and "The Third Mind" will be discussed. Prerequisite, one course in religious studies or art history. Includes mandatory two-day trip to NYC. (Same as Art History 313.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Study of pursuits of higher consciousness in social and historical context. Focus on yoga moving from India to the West, secondary attention to Aztec sacrifice, Christian asceticism, and comparable phenomena. Projects consist of individual and collaborative research into a range of media resources for a website about the interpretation of altered states. Prerequisite, two courses in religion or consent of the instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Image, Style and Revolution.
An exploration of image, style, and ideology in the formation of revolutionary consciousness with special attention to the idea of “cosmic race” in modern Mexico. Topics include the use of montage in Sergei Eisenstein’s film Que Viva Mexico, the work of Mexico’s great public muralists, the Aztec image, and utopian views of matriarchal indigenous society. Basic technological training will enable students to produce media projects focused on the interpretation of images in a social and historical context. Prerequisite, two courses in religion or consent of the instructor. 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. Maximum enrollment, 20.
Environmentalism as Metaphor: Spirit, Nature and Civilization in Industrial and Post-Industrial America.
The concept of environmentalism in contemporary American religion, scholarship, literature, ecology movements, and utopian and dystopian visions. Reading, research and oral and final written reports. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar: Death, Dying and the Afterlife.
How does religion make sense of death? Can we conceptualize death? How has death been understood from cultural, social, philosophical and medical perspectives? Along with these questions, this course will examine the variety of ways in which Indian religions approach death, dying, and death related issues. The course will primarily look at historical attitudes toward death, disposal of the dead/rituals, memorialization and remembrance through a study of religious literature and archaeological materials. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, Open only to seniors, juniors and sophomores with one course in Religious Studies or History or consent of the instructor. Not open to those who have taken RelSt 119 or 248 Maximum enrollment, 12.
Religion in the United States: Pluralism, Change, Tradition.
A look at the history of the religious life of the United States within Hamilton College's geographic region. From the Onondaga traditions through 19th-century Utopian communities, to present day religious practices of immigrants from Italy, Bosnia, Thailand and elsewhere, this course relies on several site visits to the buildings and lands that various communities have considered sacred. This course has a service learning component (Project SHINE). (Same as American Studies 327.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
Artists' Books and Sacred Texts.
This course looks at the ways books have been used in creative ways in the western religious traditions. This includes artistic books, illustrated manuscripts, and varieties of Bibles, Qurans, Torahs, and other sacred scriptures. We examine a history of "The Book," including technological developments in printing and bookbinding, and how these artistic aspects influence beliefs and practices. Course will include projects in which students will create their own books. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One course in religious studies or art history, or consent of the instructor. (Same as Art History 328.) Maximum enrollment, 12.
338S Topic: Seminar in American Religions.
Topic for 2016: 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. Prerequisite, One course in American history or Religious Studies, or instructor consent. Maximum enrollment, 12. Newell.
This course exposes students to the Hindu texts to develop a sense of their historical development, key Hindu ideas, and the complex and diverse ways of expressing religiosity. The course examines selected written, oral and performed texts of the Hindu tradition in a variety of social, historical and religious contexts. Readings include translations from a variety of Indian literary genres ranging from the Vedas, Upanishads and epics to devotional poetry and modern oral narratives. Art, music, dance, and films related to the texts will supplement the primary sources. (Same as History 355.)
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.
Seminar in The Celluloid Savior.
A seminar on the representation of Jesus in motion pictures. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies and/or film or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar in Early Christianity.
Exploration of topics in the routinization of Christianity from sect to religion during its foundational period. Attention to literature, history and the social dynamics of change. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies or consent of instructor.
421S 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. Humphries-Brooks.
Seminar in Early Christian Mysticism.
Examination of earliest Christian mysticism as religious experience and social movement. Consideration of antecedents and selected later developments. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
Seminar in Sacred Space.
Consideration of historical and contemporary spatial expressions of religion, art, architecture, religion and other cultural forms in the old Spanish borderlands region of northern Mexico and the United States, with particular attention to cross-cultural phenomena. Prerequisite, two courses in religious studies or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12.
501F,S Honors Program.
A project resulting in a substantial essay supervised by a member of the department. Prerequisite, consent of instructor. Open to qualified students. The Department.
502F,S Honors Program.
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.