2013-2014 Undergraduate Catalog


Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College


Clemens Cavalliin, STINT Visiting Assistant Professor
Supriya Ghandi, Visiting Assistant Professor
Tracey Hucks, Professor
Terrence Johnson, Associate Professor
Alison Joseph, Visiting Assistant Professor
Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Professor
Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Associate Professor
Chloe Martinez, Visiting Assistant Professor
Anne M. McGuire, Kies Family Associate Professor in the Humanities
Donovan Schaefer, Mellon Post-Doc
Jamel Velji, Visiting Assistant Professor
Travis Zadeh, Associate 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 religion 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. They are encouraged to engage in the breadth of scholarship in the study of religion as well as to develop skills in the critical analysis of the texts, images, beliefs, and performances of various religious traditions, 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).


1.     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 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 concentration program, up to three courses for the major may be drawn from outside the field of religion to count toward the area of concentration, subject to departmental approval.

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

3.     Senior Colloquium: A required gathering of Senior majors in the Fall semester with senior religion majors from Swarthmore College. We invite a recognized scholar in the field to lead an evening seminar in the study of religion.

4.     Senior Seminar and Thesis, Religion 399b.

5.     At least four additional half-year courses drawn from outside the major’s area of concentration.

6.     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.

7.     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.

8.     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.


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).



209 Classical Mythology HU (Cross-listed in Comparative Literature and Classical Studies)         
Typically offered in alternate years.


RELG 101 Introduction to the Study of Religion         
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.

RELG 108 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.

RELG 110 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.

RELG 118 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.

RELG 120 Jewish Thought and Identity         
An introduction to selected thinkers in Jewish history who are both critical and constructive in their interpretations of Jewish texts and traditions. The course examines how readings of the Hebrew Bible generate normative claims about belief, commandment, tradition and identity. Readings may include the Hebrew Bible, Rashi, Maimonides, Spinoza, Heschel, and Plaskow.

RELG 121 Varieties of Judaism in the Ancient World               
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.

RELG 122 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.

RELG 128 Reading Sacred Texts     
Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing. (Satisfies the first year writing requirement.)

RELG 129 The Lotus Sutra: Text, Image, and Practice               
Prerequisite: Open only to first-year students as assigned by the Director of College Writing. (Satisfies the first year writing requirement.)

RELG 130 Material Religion in America       
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.

RELG 132 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.

RELG137 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.

RELG 155 Themes in the Anthropology of Religion   

RELG 169 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.


RELG 200 Religion and Liberalism
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.

RELG 201 Introduction to Buddhism            

RELG 202 The End of the World as We Know it         
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.

RELG 203 The Hebrew Bible and its Interpretations
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

RELG 206 History and Literature of Early Christianity             
The history, literature and theology of Christianity from the end of the New Testament period to the time of Constantine.

RELG 212 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.

RELG 214 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.

RELG 215 The Letters of Paul         
Close reading of the thirteen letters attributed to the apostle Paul and critical examination of the place of Paul in the development of early Christianity.

RELG 216 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.

RELG 218 The Divine Guide: an Introduction to Shiism            
An exploration of 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 exegesis; ritual and performance; gender; intersections between religion and politics.

RELG 221 Women and Gender in Early Christianity  
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.

RELG 222 Gnosticism       
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.

RELG 224 Sociology of Religion     

RELG 231 Religious Themes in African American Literature 
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.

RELG 236 Race, Culture, Representation: Blacks and Jews in America 
This course offers a constructive, interdisciplinary vision of the ways American Blacks and Jews represent, articulate, enact, and perform their religious and cultural identities. Using primary, secondary, visual, and material resources, the course will explore an array of themes that speak to the religious and social inter-sectionality of the Black and Jewish experience in America.

RELG 240 History and Principles of Quakerism        

RELG 242 Topics in Religion and Intellectual History: The Religious Writings of James Baldwin                

RELG 245 Slavery, Catechism, and Plantation Missions in Antebellum America
From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, the Christianization of Africans emerged as an important social, legal, and religious subject of inquiry among various denominations, clergy, missionaries, and plantation owners. This course will examine primary documents, letters, catechisms, treatises, and sermons related to and/or directed toward a population of enslaved African people in early American society.

RELG 247 Death and the Afterlife in East Asia             
Prerequisite: One 100 level course in Religion, History, Anthropology, or East Asian Studies

RELG 248 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.

RELG 250 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.

RELG 251 Comparative Mystical Literature 
Readings in medieval Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystical thought, with a focus on the Zohar, Meister Eckhart, the Beguine mystics Hadewijch of Antwerp and Marguerite Porete, and the Sufi Master Ibn ‘Arabi. The texts are a basis for discussions of comparative mysticism and of the relationship of mysticism to modern critical theories.

RELG 256 Zen Thought, Zen Culture, Zen History      

RELG 260 Getting Medieval: Tolerance, Persecution, and Religious Violence     
Explores literary and philosophical exchanges, alongside religious violence and persecution, amongst Jews, Christians, and Muslims in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

RELG 264 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.

RELG 277 Modern Christian Thought           
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.

RELG 281 Modern Jewish Thought

RELG 284 American Judaism          
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.

RELG 286 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.

RELG 299 Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion   
Description: An introduction to theories of the nature and function of religion from theological, philosophical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological perspectives. Readings may include: Schleiermacher, Marx, Nietzche, Freud, Tylor, Durkheim, Weber, James, Otto, Benjamin, Eliade, Geertz, Foucault, Douglas, Smith, Berger, Haraway.

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

RELG 217 Islamic History beyond Modernity             
This course offers a survey of Islamic civilization, from the aftermath of the Mongol invasions until the emergence of postcolonial states.
Cross-listed in Middle East and Islamic Studies

RELG 225 Foundations of Islamic History   
This course presents a survey of Islamic civilization, from the rise of Islam in Arabia in the seventh century until the aftermath of the Mongol invasions, continuing on until the fourteenth century.

RELG 301 Seminar in Religious Traditions in Cultural Context              

RELG 302 Christians, Muslims, and Jews: Religion and Literature in Medieval Spain       
An exploration of literary and cultural exchanges between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval Spain. Topics include: literary traditions, translation movements, philosophy, martyrdom, pilgrimage, the Reconquista, the Inquisition, orthodoxy/heterodoxy, religious persecution and intolerance.

RELG 303 Seminar in Religion, Literature, and Representation             

RELG 305 Seminar in Religion, Ethics, and Society    

RELG 306 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 from Instructor.

RELG 307 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.

RELG 308 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.

RELG 310 Sex and Gender in Japanese Buddhism      

RELG 330 Seminar in the Writings of Women of African Descent         
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.

RELG 331 Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Black Religion         

RELG 332 Seminar: Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Black Religion        
This course will explore various theoretical approaches pertaining to the academic study of black religion. Major issues and debates addressed within the course include: syncretism, origins and retentions. accommodation vs. resistance, womanist challenges to black theology, and black church vs. extra-church orientations.

RELG 338 Seminar in American Civil Religion           

RELG 343 Seminar in Religions of Antiquity and Biblical Literature    

RELG 349 Seminar in Modern Jewish Thought           
Advanced study of a specific topic in the field. May be repeated for credit with change of content. Prerequisite: Consent from Instructor.

RELG 353 Seminar in Islamic Philosophy and Theology          
An examination of various modalities of hidden knowledge and their social implications. Examples derive mostly from the premodern period. Prerequisite: Consent from Instructor.

RELG 399 Senior Seminar and Thesis           
http://www.haverford.edu/relgion/faculty/jdawson Prerequisite: Open only to Senior Religion Majors.

RELG 460 Teaching Assistant
Prerequisite: Consent from Instructor.

RELG 480 Independent Study
Conducted through individual tutorial as an independent reading and research project.