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Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College.


J. David Dawson, Provost and Constance and Robert MacCrate Professor in Social Responsibility
Joshua Dubler, Visiting Assistant Professor
Anne M. McGuire, Associate Professor
Tracey Hucks, Associate Professor and Chair
Terrence Johnson, Visiting Assistant Professor
Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor (on leave 2006-07)
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor (on leave 2006-07)
Sarah Schwarz, Visiting Assistant Professor

The Department of Religion at Haverford views religion as a central aspect of human culture and social life. Religions propose interpretations of reality and shape very particular forms of life. In so doing, they make use of many aspects of human culture, including art, architecture, music, literature, science and philosophy - as well as countless forms of popular culture and daily behavior. Consequently, the fullest and most rewarding study of religions is interdisciplinary in character, drawing upon approaches and methods from disciplines such as anthropology, comparative literature and literary theory, gender theory, history, philosophy, psychology, political science and sociology.

A central goal of the department is to enable students to become critically informed, independent and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas and practices that have decisively shaped human experience. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of the texts, images, beliefs and performances of various religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Students especially interested in Asian religions may work out a program of study in conjunction with the East Asian Studies department at Haverford and Bryn Mawr and with the Religion department at Swarthmore. Like other liberal arts majors, the religion major is meant to prepare students for a broad array of vocational possibilities. Religion majors typically find careers in law, public service (including both religious and secular organizations), medicine, business, ministry and education. Religion majors have also pursued advanced graduate degrees in anthropology, history, political science, biology, Near Eastern studies and religious studies.

For more information, see the department Web site at (

Major Requirements

Eleven courses are required for the major in religion. The exact structure of the student's program must be determined in consultation with the major adviser, whom the student chooses from among the regular members of the department. All majors should seek, with their advisers, to construct a program that achieves breadth in the study of various religious traditions, as well as a concentration in one of the department's three areas.

The major program must satisfy the following requirements:

a. Six courses within one of the department's three areas of concentration:

A. Religious Traditions in Cultural Context. The study of religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop. Critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins and ideas.

B. Religion, Literature and Representation. The study of religion in relation to literary expressions and other forms of representation, such as performance, music, film and the plastic arts.

C. Religion, Ethics and Society. The exploration of larger social issues such as race, gender and identity as they relate to religion and religious traditions. Examines how moral principles, cultural values and ethical conduct help to shape human societies.

These six courses within the area of concentration must include the department seminar in the major's area of concentration: RELG 301 for Area A; RELG 303 for Area B; RELG 305 for Area C. Where appropriate and relevant to the major's program, up to three courses for the major may be drawn from outside the field of religion, subject to departmental approval.

b. Junior colloquuium: An informal gathering of the junior majors once each semester.

c. Senior Seminar and Thesis, RELG 399b.

d. At least four additional half-year courses drawn from among outside the major's area of concentration.

e. At least six of each major's 11 courses must be taken in the Haverford Religion Department. Students planning to study abroad should construct their programs in advance with the department.

f. In some rare cases, students may petition the department for exceptions to the major requirements. Such petitions must be presented to the department for approval in advance.

g. Final evaluation of the major program will consist of written work, including a thesis, and an oral examination completed in the context of the Senior Seminar, RELG 399b.

Requirements for Honors

Honors and high honors in religion are awarded on the basis of the quality of work in the major and in the Senior Thesis (399b).

RELG H101 Introduction to the Study of Religion [A,B,C]

An introduction to the study of religion from three perspectives: overviews of several religions with classroom discussion of primary sources; cross-cultural features common to many religions; theories of religion and approaches to its study and interpretation. Typically offered in alternate years. (staff) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H110 Sacred Texts and Religious Traditions [A]

An introduction to religion through the close reading of selected sacred texts of various religious traditions in their historical, literary, philosophical and religious contexts. (McGuire)

RELG H118 Hebrew Bible: Literary Text and Historical Context [A,B]

The Hebrew Bible, which is fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity, poses several challenges to modern readers. Who wrote it, when and why? What was its significance then and now? How does one study the Bible from an academic point of view? Using literary, historical, theological and archeological interpretive tools, this course will address these questions and introduce students to academic biblical studies. Typically offered in alternate years. (Schwarz)

RELG H121 Varieties of Judaism in the Ancient World [A,B]

From Abraham to Rabbi Judah the Prince, Judaism has been transformed from a local, ethnic religious cult to a broad-based, diverse religion. Many outside cultures and civilizations, from the ancient Persians to the Imperial Romans, influenced the Jews and Judaism through language, culture and political contacts. Absorbing and adapting these various and often opposing influences, the Israelite, and then Jewish, community re-invented itself, often fragmenting into several versions at once. This course will study those changes and developments which brought about these radical transformations. Typically offered in alternate years. (Schwarz)

RELG H122 Introduction to the New Testament [A,B]

An introduction to the New Testament and early Christian literature. Special attention will be given to the Jewish origins of the Jesus movement, the development of traditions about Jesus in the earliest Christian communities, and the social contexts and functions of various texts. Readings will include non-canonical writings, in addition to the writings of the New Testament canon. (McGuire)

RELG H130 Material Religion in America [C]

An introduction to various forms of religious material practices in America . We will examine how persons and communities interact with material objects and media to explore and express religious identity. Topics may include religion and sports, dance and ritual, food and dress, and the visual arts. Typically offered in alternate years. (K. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H132 Varieties of African American Religious Experience [A]

This course will examine the history of religion in America as it spans several countries. Each week lectures, readings and discussions will explore the phenomenon of religion within American society. The goal is to introduce students to American religious diversity as well as its impact on the shaping of larger historical and social relationships within the united States . This study of American religion is not meant to be exhaustive and will cover select traditions each semester. Typically offered in alternate years. (Hucks)

RELG H201 Introduction to Buddhism


RELG H202 The End of the World as We Know It [A]

Why are people always predicting the coming endtime? This course will explore the genre of apocalypse, looking for common themes that characterize this form of literature. Our primary source readings will be drawn from the Bible and non-canonical documents from the early Jewish and Christian traditions. We will use an analytical perspective to explore the social functions of apocalyptic, and ask why this form has been so persistent and influential. (Schwarz)

RELG H203 The Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretations [A,B]

This course will critically study select Hebrew Biblical passages (in translation) as well as Jewish and Christian Biblical commentaries in order to better understand how Hebrew Biblical texts have been read, interpreted and explained by ancient and modern readers alike. Students will also learn to read the texts critically and begin to form their own understandings of them. Typically offered in alternate years. (N. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H204 Women and Judaism [C]

Women's roles in Judaism and Jewish life have been defined by the religious precepts and civil laws described in the Bible and interpreted by the rabbis in a patriarchal age. These interpretations have led to an institutionalized hierarchy within the religion, which has limited women's access to religious ritual and education. Nevertheless, women have carved out areas for themselves within the Jewish religious, social and political systems as well as fulfilled the roles prescribed to them. This course will study the women of Jewish history who have participated in and shaped Jewish religious, social and cultural life. (N. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H206 History and Literature of Early Christianity [A,B]

The history, literature and theology of Christianity from the end of the New Testament period to the time of Constantine . Typically offered in alternate years. (McGuire) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H216 Images of Jesus [A,B]

Critical examination of the varied representations of Jesus from the beginnings of Christianity through contemporary culture. The course will focus primarily on literary sources (canonical and non-canonical gospels; prayers; stories; poems; novels), but artistic, theological, academic and cinematic images of Jesus will also be considered. Typically offered in alternate years. (McGuire)

RELG H221 Women and Gender in Early Christianity [A,C]

An examination of the representations of women and gender in early Christian texts and their significance for contemporary Christianity. Topics include interpretations of Genesis 1-3, images of women and sexuality in early Christian literature, and the roles of women in various Christian communities. Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course and consent of instructor. Typically offered in alternate years. (McGuire) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H222 Gnosticism [A,B]

The phenomenon of Gnosticism examined through close reading of primary sources, including the recently discovered texts of Nag Hammadi. Topics include the relation of Gnosticism to Greek, Jewish and Christian thought; the variety of Gnostic schools and sects; gender imagery, mythology and other issues in the interpretation of Gnostic texts. Typically offered in alternate years. (McGuire)

RELG H231 Religious Themes in African American Literature [B]

This course will explore African American literary texts as a basis for religious inquiry. Throughout the course we will examine African American novelists and literary scholars using their works as a way of understanding black religious traditions and engaging important themes in the study of religion. Authors discussed may include James Baldwin, Maryse Conde, Zora Neale Hurston, Ishmael Reed and others. (Hucks) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H240 History and Principles of Quakerism [A,C]


RELG H242 Topics in African American Religious History [A]

This course will investigate various traditions of the black religious experience from slavery to the present. Religious traditions examined within the course may include slave religion, black Christianity, Gullah religion, Santeria and Islam. We will examine the relationship of these religious traditions to American social history as well as explore how they adapted over space and time. Typically offered in alternate years. (Hucks) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H245 Topics in American Religion [A]

This course will examine the influence of forms of Islam on the African American community throughout its history. Though the course will begin with the intra-African slave trade and the antebellum period, the bulk of the course will focus on 20th Century persons and events, particularly the Nation of Islam, its predecessors and successors. Offered occasionally. (Hucks)

RELG H256 Zen Thought, Zen Culture, Zen History

(Glassman) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H281 Modern Jewish Thought [C]

Jewish responses to modern philosophy and science that challenge traditional Jewish religious expression and thought. The course examines how Jewish thinkers engage modern debates on historical inquiry, biblical criticism, existentialism, ethics and feminism. Our goal will be to assess those debates, and determine how these thinkers construct and defend modern Jewish identity in the face of competing options. Readings may include Adler, Buber, Cohen, Heschel, Mendelssohn, Rosenzweig and Spinoza. (K. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H284 American Judaism [A]

An exploration of the cultural, social and religious dynamics of American Judaism. The course will focus on the representation of Jewish identity in American culture, and examine issues of Jewish material, gender and ritual practices in American history. We will study how Jews express identity through material objects, and how persons work with objects to produce religious meaning. (K. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H299 Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion [A,B,C]

An introduction to the history of the study of "religion" in the modern West. Beginning with Kant's distinction between natural and revealed religion we will follow the curious and contested history of second-order reflection upon religion as it has been carried out in theological, philosophical, psychological, anthropological and sociological spheres. Readings may include: Benjamin, Derrida, Douglas , Durkheim, Eliade, Foucault, Freud, Geertz, Haraway, Hegel, James, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Otto, Schleiermacher, Smith, Tylor and Weber. (staff) Not offered in 2006-07.

All religion department seminars may be repeated for credit with change of content.

RELG H301 Seminar A: Religion and Magic [A]

Magic or miracle? Prayer or spell? Science or superstition? By studying primary sources and modern scholarship, this course will explore the ways in which the boundaries defining and separating the categories of magic and religion have been constructed in Western culture. As this course is a concentration seminar, a central goal will be to develop skills in research and textual analysis, and to work critically with various interpretative approaches. Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course and consent of instructor. (Schwarz)

RELG H303 Seminar B: Evangelicalism, Anti-Slavery and Feminism in Uncle Tom's Cabin [B]

This seminar will explore the themes of 19th-century evangelicalism, chattel slavery, abolitionism and early feminism in the 1852 landmark text Uncle Tom's Cabin. Students will be exposed to primary and secondary literature spanning the 19th to the 21st centuries which document and examine the impact of this classic text on American religious and racial cultures. Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course and consent of instructor. (Hucks)

RELG H305 Seminar C: Ethical Dimensions of Fieldwork [C]

This seminar will involve close readings of ethnographic studies that explore the area of religious culture. The course will engage themes such as the ethical dimensions of ethnographical fieldwork, race and gender in cultural context, author/subject interaction, religious and cultural analysis and interpretation. Authors discussed may include Karen McCarthy Brown, Clifford Geertz, Marcel Mauss, Robert Orsi, Loudell Snow, Victor Turner, Traci West and the anthropological works of Zora Neale Hurston. Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course plus approval of instructor. (Hucks)

RELG H310 Religion and Gender in Modern Pre-Japanese Literature


RELG H330 Seminar in the Religious History of African-American Women [C]

This seminar will examine the religious history of African American women in the United States. Using primary and secondary texts from the 19th to the 20th centuries, this course will explore the various religious traditions, denominations, sects and religious movements in which African American women have historically participated. The course will also analyze the ways in which specific social conditions such as slavery, migration, racial segregation and class and gender discrimination have historically influenced the religious lives of African American women. (Hucks) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H338 Seminar in American Civil Religion [A,C]

(staff) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H343 Seminar in Religions of Antiquity and Biblical Literature [A,B]

Advanced study of a specific topic in the field. The course may be repeated for credit with change of content. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. (McGuire) Not offered in 2006-07.

RELG H399 Senior Seminar and Thesis

Research and writing of the senior thesis in connection with regular meetings with a thesis adviser from the department. Prerequisite: RELG 301, 303, or 305 and the approval of the Department of Religion. (Hucks, McGuire, Schwarz)

RELG H460 Teaching Assistant


RELG H480 Independent Study [A]

Conducted through individual tutorial as an independent reading and research project. (staff)

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