2009-2010 Undergraduate Catalog


Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College.


J. David Dawson, Constance and Robert MacCrate Professor in Social Responsibility
Tracey Hucks, Associate Professor
Terrence L. Johnson, Assistant Professor
Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor and Chair
Anne M. McGuire, Kies Family Associate Professor in the Humanities
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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 required gathering of the Junior majors once each semester. Students should complete a worksheet in advance in consultation with their major advisor and bring copies of the completed worksheet to the meeting.

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. Students seeking religion credit for abroad courses should write a formal petition to the department upon their return and submit all relevant course materials. Petitioned courses should be included within the student's designated area of concentration.

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).

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. (staff) Not offered in 2009-10.

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) Not offered in 2009-10.

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. Typically offered in alternate years. (staff) Not offered in 2009-10.

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) Not offered in 2009-10.

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 2009-10.

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 2009-10.

RELG H137 Black Religion and Liberation Theology

An introduction to the theological & philosophical claims raised in Black Religion & Liberation Thought in 20th C 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) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H155 Themes in the Anthropology of Religion


Intermediate Courses

RELG H200 Religion and Liberalism [A]

An examination of political liberalism in debates on religion, democracy and tradition. Particular attention is given to the relationship between liberal and theological responses to debates on individual rights and the common good. (Johnson)

RELG H201 Introduction to Buddhism


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 2009-10.

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 2009-10.

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) Not offered in 2009-10.

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 2009-10.

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. 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) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H240 History and Principles of Quakerism


RELG H242 Topics in Religion and Intellectual History: The Religious Writings of James Baldwin [A]

Typically offered in alternate years. (Hucks) Not offered in 2009-10.

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 2009-10.

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) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H250 Jewish Images, Imagining Jews

(K. Koltun-Fromm) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H256 Zen Thought, Zen Culture, Zen History

(Glassman) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H260 Getting Medieval: Tolerance, Persecution, and Religious Violence [A]

Explores literary and philosophical exchanges, alongside religious violence and persecution, amongst Jews, Christians, and Muslims in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Prerequisite: None. (Zadeh)

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.(Johnson):

RELG H270 War and Morality [A]

This course studies Christian, Islamic, and Western secular versions of "just war" tradition, and compares them critically with realist and Christian pacifist approaches to warfare, political justice, and the nature of peace. As often as possible, course discussions will revolve around concrete cases that address past, present, and future (?) wars, as well as the continuing challenge of peace. (Werpehowski) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H277 Modern Christian Thought [C]

The impact of modernity on traditional Christian thought in the Nineteenth Century West. Readings may include Hume, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard,and others. (Dawson)

RELG H278 Christian Thought from Modernity to Post- modernity [A,B]

Twentieth-century and Twenty-First Century Christian thought in the West. Readings may include Barth, Bultmann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Rahner, von Balthasar, Segundo, Tracey, Frei, McFague, Irigaray, Cone, Lindbeck, Marion, and others. Offered occasionally. (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) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H286 Religion and American Public Life [A]

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. (Johnson) Not offered in 2009-10.

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) Not offered in 2009-10.

Seminars and Independent Study

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

RELG H301 Seminar A: Religion in Cultural Context: The Parables of Jesus [A]

Typically offered every fall. (staff)

RELG H303 Seminar B: Religion, Literature, and Representation: Blake's Religion in Word and Image [B]

Typically offered every fall. (staff)

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

Typically offered every fall. (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) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H307 Imagining Islam: Icon, Object, and Image

Explores the place of material and visual culture in Islam, examining how Muslims have conceptualized and deployed material and visual forms of religious expressions in a number of historical contexts. Prerequisite: None. (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

(Kaneko) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H330 Seminar in the Writings of Women of African Descent [C]

This seminar will examine the writings of women of African descent from Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. Using primary and secondary texts from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, this course will explore the various religious traditions, denominations, sects, and religious and cultural movements in which women of African descent have historically participated. The course will also analyze the ways in which specific social conditions and cultural practices have historically influenced the lives of these women within their specific geographical contexts. (Hucks) Not offered in 2009-10.

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

(staff) Not offered in 2009-10.

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

Prerequisite: Consent. (McGuire) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H360 Seminar in Modern Christian Thought [B,C]

(Dawson) Not offered in 2009-10.

RELG H370 Topics in Buddhist Studies

Prerequisite: EAST 201 or PHIL 242 or permission. (Glassman)

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: Religion 301, 303, or 305 and the approval of the Department of Religion. (Dawson, Johnson, K. Koltun-Fromm, N. Koltun-Fromm, McGuire, Zadeh)

RELG H460 Teaching Assistant [A]


RELG H480 Independent Study [A]

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