Religion

Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College.

Faculty

J. David Dawson, Constance and Robert MacCrate Professor in Social Responsibility
Tracey Hucks, Associate Professor and Chair
Terrence Johnson, Assistant Professor
Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor
Anne M. McGuire, 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 (http://www.haverford.edu/relg/index.html.)

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 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 colloquium: 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 Religion 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. (staff) Typically offered in alternate years.

RELG H108 Vocabularies of Islam

Introduction to the foundational concepts of Islam and the diverse ways in which Muslims understand and practice their religion. Topics include scripture, prophethood, law, ritual, theology, mysticism, and art. (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)

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, 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. After the destruction of the temple, in 70 CE, one group, the rabbis, gradually came to dominate Jewish life. Why? This course will study those changes and developments which brought about these radical transformations. (staff) Typically offered in alternate years.

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 H124 Introduction to Christian Thought [C]

An examination of some central concepts of the Christian faith, approached within the context of contemporary theological discussion. Basic Christian ideas will be considered in relation to one another and with attention to their classic formulations, major historical transformations, and recent reformulations under the pressures of modernity and postmodernity. (Dawson)

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)

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)

RELG H137 Black Religion and Liberation Theology

An introduction to the theological and philosophical claims raised in Black religion and liberation thought in 20th-century America. In particular, the course will examine the multiple 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)

RELG H169 Black Religion and Liberation Thought: An Introduction

An introduction to the central concepts of Black liberation thought in 20th-century America. The aim is to determine what defines the field and evaluate its contribution to theology and philosophy. Readings from theological, philosophical, and literary sources. (Johnson)

Intermediate Religion Courses

RELG H201 Introduction to Buddhism

(Glassman)

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. (N. Koltun-Fromm) Typically offered in alternate years.

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. 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. In the modern era, however, many women have challenged the institutions that define these roles. This course will study the development of these institutions and the women of Jewish history who have participated in and shaped Jewish religious, social, and cultural life. (N. Koltun-Fromm)

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. (Mcguire) Typically offered in alternate years.

RELG H212 Jerusalem: City, history and representation

An examination of the history of Jerusalem as well as a study of Jerusalem as religious symbol and how the two interact over the centuries. Readings from ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary sources as well as material culture and art. (N. Koltun-Fromm)

RELG H214 Prophetic Imaginations in the American Tradition

An examination of prophecy as a form of social criticism in colonial and contemporary America. The course identifies the prophetic tradition as an extension of the American Jeremiad. Particular attention is given to Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King Jr. (Johnson)

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)

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. (McGuire) Typically offered in alternate years.

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. (McGuire) Typically offered in alternate years.

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

(Lapsansky)

RELG H242 The Religious Writing of James Baldwin [A]

(Hucks) Typically offered in alternate years.

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

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. (Hucks)

RELG H248 The Quran

Overview of the Qur’an—the scripture of Islam. Major themes include: orality/textuality; sanctity and material culture; revelation, translation, and inimitability; calligraphy, bookmaking and architecture; along with modes of scriptural exegesis as practiced over time by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. (Zadeh)

RELG H250 Jewish Images, Imagining Jews

(K. Koltun-Fromm)

RELG H256 Zen Thought, Zen Culture, Zen History

(Glassman)

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)

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)

RELG H277 Modern Christian Thought [C]

The impact of modernity and postmodernity on traditional Christian thought in the West. Readings may include Hume, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Barth, Rahner, von Balthasar, Segundo, Tracey, Frei, McFague, Irigaray, Cone, Lindbeck, Marion, and Milbank. (Dawson)

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, citizens 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 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)

Religion Seminars and Independent Study

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

RELG H301 Seminar A: The Letters of Paul in Cultural Context [A]

(McGuire)

RELG H303 Seminar B: Material Religion [B]

(K. Koltun-Fromm)

RELG H305 Seminar C: Religion and Ethnography: The Ethical Dimensions of Fieldwork [C]

(Hucks)

RELG H306 Of Monsters and Marvels: Wonder in Islamic Traditions

From contemplating the cosmos to encountering the monstrous, this course explores the place of wonder in Islamic traditions through readings from the Qur’an, exegesis, prophetic traditions, popular literature, travel narratives, descriptive geography, philosophy, and theology. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor. (Zadeh)

RELG H308 Mystical Literatures of Islam

Overview of the literary expressions of Islamic mysticism through the study of poetry, philosophy, hagiographies, and anecdotes. Topics include: unio mystica; symbol and structure; love and the erotic; body/gender; language and experience. (Zadeh)

RELG H310 Sex and Gender in Japanese Buddhism

(Glassman)

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)

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

(staff)

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

Prerequisite: consent of the 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 the instructor. (staff)

RELG H360 Image, Icon, Idol [B,C]

(Dawson)

RELG H399 Senior Seminar and Thesis [A]

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, Johnson, K. Koltun-Fromm, N. Koltun-Fromm, McGuire, Zadeh)

RELG H460 Teaching Assistant

(Dubler)

RELG H480 Independent Study [A]

Conducted through individual tutorial as an independent reading and research project. (N. Koltun-Fromm)

Updated August 25, 2008 by Tracy Kellmer