Bryn Mawr

Return to current Catalog Home

2007-08 Catalog Home

Academic Calendars
2007-08 and 2008-09

About the College

Contact and Web Site Information

Student Responsibilities and Rights

The Academic Program

Academic Opportunities

Academic Awards and Prizes

Libraries and Educational Resources

Student Life


Fees and Financial Aid

Scholarship Funds

Loan Funds

Geographical Distribution of Students

Board of Trustees


Administration and Alumnae Association

Areas of Study

Africana Studies
Arts Program
Athletics and Physical Education
Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology
Comparative Literature
Computer Science
East Asian Studies
Environmental Studies
Film Studies
Fine Arts
French and French Studies
Gender and Sexuality
General Studies
German and German Studies
Greek, Latin and Classical Studies
Growth and Structure of Cities
Hebrew and Judaic Studies
Hispanic and Hispanic-American Studies
History of Art
International Studies
Neural and Behavioral Sciences
Peace and Conflict Studies
Political Science
Romance Languages



Search Bryn Mawr
 Admissions Academics Campus Life News and Events Visit Find


Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College .


J. David Dawson, Constance and Robert MacCrate Professor in Social Responsibility (on leave 2007-08)
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
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor
Travis Zadeh, 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 advisor, whom the student chooses from among the regular members of the department. All majors should seek, with their advisors, 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: Religion 301 for Area A; Religion 303 for Area B; Religion 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, Religion 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, Religion 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).

Introductory Courses

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. (Dubler)

RELG H103 Religion in Philadelphia [A]

An introduction both to the study of religion and to the city of Philadelphia , this course explores the history and ethnography of religious practice in the City of Brotherly Love from colonial days to the present. (Dubler)

RELG H107 Vocabularies of Islam [A]

Provides students with an introduction to the foundational concepts of Islam, its religious institutions, and the diverse ways in which Muslims understand and practice their religion. We explore the vocabularies surrounding core issues of scripture, prophethood, law, ritual, theology, mysticism, literature, and art from the early period until the present. (Zadeh)

RELG H110 Sacred Texts and Religious Traditions

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) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H118 Hebrew Bible: Literary Text and Historical Context

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. (N. Koltun-Fromm)

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 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. After the destruction of the temple, in 70 C.E., the rabbis gradually came to dominate Jewish life. This course will study those changes and developments which brought about these radical transformations. Typically offered in alternate years. (Schwarz) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H122 Introduction to the New Testament

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 2007-08.

RELG H132 Varieties of African American Religious Experience

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 in 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. (Hucks) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H137 Introduction to Black Religion and Liberation Thought

An introduction to the theological & philosophical claims raised in Black Religion & Liberation Thought in 20th C America. In particular, the course will examine the miltiple meanings of liberation within black religion, the place of religion in African American struggles against racism, sexism and class exploitation and the role of religion in shaping the moral and political imaginations of African Americans. (Johnson)

Intermediate Courses

RELG H201 Introduction to Buddhism

(Glassman) Not offered in 2007-08.

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 2007-08.

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, throughout the ages, 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 2007-08.

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 2007-08.

RELG H208 Religion, Ideology, Power [A]

Drawing on social theory, anthropology, literature, journalism, legal cases and film, this course explores the various ways that religion may be figured in modern discourses on power, subjugation and emancipation, most especially as it functions within the purview of the State. (Dubler)

RELG H210 The Divine Guide: An Introduction to Shi'ism [A]

This course examines the religious, social, and political dimensions of Shi'i Islam, from its early formation until the modern period. Topics include authority and guidance; theology and jurisprudence; messianism and eschatology; scriptural hermeneutics and exegesis; ritual and performance; gender and the body; and modern intersections between religion and politics. (Zadeh)

RELG H216 Images of Jesus

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. (McGuire) Not offered in 2007-08.

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 and consent of instructor. Typically offered in alternate years. (McGuire)

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 Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ishmael Reed, Maryse Conde and others. (Hucks)

RELG H240 History and Principles of Quakerism SO


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)

RELG H245 Slavery, Catechism, and Plantation Missions in Antebellum America

This course will examine the influence of forms of Islam on the AfricanAmerican 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. (Hucks) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H250 Jewish Images, Imagining Jews

An exploration of how Jews imagined themselves, and how others imagined Jews, through various works of art (literature, film, sculpture, painting, and photography), with particular focus on modern American visual culture. (K. Koltun-Fromm)

RELG H256 Zen Thought, Zen Culture, Zen History SO


RELG H262 Islamic Literature and Civilization [B]

Islam refracted through its diverse cultural expressions (poetic, Sufi, Shar'ia, novelistic, architectural) and through its geographic and ethnic diversity (from Morocco to Indonesia , focusing on Arab and Persian cultures). (staff) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H264 Religion and Violence

Drawing on rich anthropological and theological traditions, this course will explore the logic, function and rhetoric of phenomena such as sacrifice, martyrdom, and scapegoating. Our efforts to understand touchstone works of modern philosophy and anthropology will be aided by the screening of thematically related movies. (Dubler) Not offered in 2007-08.

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)

RELG H286 Religion and American Public Life

This course examines the role of Christianity in shaping America 's religious identity(ies) and democratic imagination(s). The course will also examine whether, if at all, citizen s are justified in retrieving their religious commitments in public debates. The course will include readings from W.E.B. Du Bois, Jeffrey Stout, Richard Rorty, Ronald Thiemann, and Seyla Benhabib. (Johnson)

RELG H288 Religion Ethics and Politics [A]

This course investigates the relationship of moral and religious traditions to domestic and international political order. (Johnson)

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: Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Marx, Nietzche, Freud, Tylor, Durkheim, Weber, James, Otto, Benjamin, Eliade, Geertz, Foucault, Douglas , Smith, Haraway and Derrida. (staff)

Seminars and Independent Study

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

RELG H301 Seminar A: Jerusalem : History and Representation [A]

Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course and consent of instructor. (N. Koltun-Fromm)

RELG H303 Al-Andalus: Religion & Literature in the Iberian Peninsula [B]

Prerequisite: Major declaration or at least one 200-level course and consent of instructor. (Zadeh)

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 Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, Loudell Snow, Marcel Mauss, Robert Orsi, Karen McCarthy Brown, 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 H307 Before the Sublimity of God: Wonder in Islamic Traditions [A]

This seminar explores how Muslims have understood, approached, and represented the sublimity of God's creation. (Zadeh)

RELG H309 Religion and Prison in America [A]

This seminar explores the intersection of religious practice and incarceration in America . (Dubler)

RELG H310 Religion and Gender in Premodern Japanese Literature

(Glassman) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H318 Religion, Modernity and Colonialism [A]


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 nineteenth to the twentieth 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)

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

(staff) Not offered in 2007-08.

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)

RELG H353 Seminar in Islamic Philosophy and Theology [B]

Selected topics and figures in Islamic philosophy, scholastic theology (kalam) or mystical philosophy. The relation of Islamic philosophy to Greek, Jewish and Indian thought are also discussed. Prerequisite: consent of instructor. (staff) Not offered in 2007-08.

RELG H399 Senior Seminar and Thesis [A]

Research and writing of the senior thesis in connection with regular meetings with a thesis advisor from the department. Prerequisite: RELG 301, 303, or 305 and the approval of the Department of Religion. (McGuire, Hucks, N. Koltun-Fromm, K. Koltun-Fromm, Johnson, Dubler, Zadeh)

RELG H460 Teaching Assistant


RELG H480 Independent Study [A]

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


Bryn Mawr College · 101 North Merion Ave · Bryn Mawr · PA · 19010-2899 · Tel 610-526-5000