Comparative approach to asceticism and examination of acts of self-discipline in Eastern (Jain, Hindu, Buddhist), Western (Stoic, Christian mystic), and modern secular (eco-activism, fasting diets, and extreme exercise regimes) cultural contexts. Consideration of the question: What good is self-discipline? Depriving oneself of sensual, pleasures can be seen as an antidote to materialism and a means of liberating the soul from its fleshly shackles, but is denying our inborn desires a form of self-violence?
History of the field. Psychological, literary, anthropological, sociological and historical, approaches to the study of religion. Readings by major theorists. Should normally be taken no later than the junior year.
Introduction to Buddhist thought and practice. Indian origins, contemporary Theravada Buddhism, emergence of the Mahayana, Buddhism and society in Tibet, Zen and Pure Land traditions of East Asia, and the Western reception of Buddhism. Problems in the study of Buddhism.
Formation and development of Western Christianity, from late antiquity through the late medieval, period (circa 250 to 1450 C.E.). The relation of, popular piety to institutional and high cultural, expressions of Christianity. Issues such as, Christianity and the late Roman empire, the, papacy, monasticism, religious art and, architecture, and heresy and hierarchy discussed, using theological texts, social histories, popular, religious literature.
Major religious and sociohistorical developments, in the Islamic world from circa 600 to 1300 C.E., Focus on the Qur'an, Muhammad, early Islamic, expansions and dynasties, and interactions with, non-Muslims. Examination of the formation of, orthodox beliefs and practices (e.g., theology,, ritual, law), contestation over religious ideals, and political power, and the emergence of Shi'ite, and Sufi Islam.
Recent research into the relationship between the, social setting of early Judaism and Christianity, and the texts both religions produced. Special, attention to the sociohistorical aspects of, selected regional expressions of Judaism and, Christianity (e.g., Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt)., Readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish, pseudepigrapha, the New Testament, other early, Christian literature, and media interpretations of, Judaism and Christianity to the present.
The perceptions and realities of religious, resurgence in a supposedly secularizing world., Focus on the historical, theological, social, and, political aspects of Christian and Islamic, fundamentalism. Themes include secularization, theories and their critics; changing, understandings of religion and modernity;, connections among religion, politics, violence,, sexuality/gender, and identity.
Recent research into the relationship between the, social setting of early Judaism and Christianity, and the texts both religions produced. Special, attention to the sociohistorical aspects of, selected regional expressions of Judaism and, Christianity (e.g., Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt)., Readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish, pseudepigrapha, the New Testament, other early, Christian literature, and media interpretations of, Judaism and Christianity to the present. Emphasis, on original student research. With instructor, consent, may be taken twice for credit.