Archive of Fall 2015

Displaying Courses 1 - 17 of 17
Fall 2015

Main Religious Studies Courses

Religious Studies 90 A Crazy Saints: Spiritual Epiphany and Social Dissidence
  • TuTh 12:30-2:00
  • L. Little
  • B1 Hearst Annex
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77603

This class explores some of history’s most humorous and peculiar religious figures through traditional stories and their own teachings. It highlights the function of humor in religion and how the eccentric behavior of holy men and women has a place in religious discourse. Crazy saints often perform acts of blissful spontaneity as a form of social protest that celebrate the rejection of the fixed views of a “moral majority.” This introduction to the study of religion class examines those points of tension where blessed or enlightened individuals stand at odds with the institutions around them. It will demonstrate an essential point: that dissent and transgression are an essential part of the formation and reformation of religion.

This course will provide students a detailed survey of the various roles and functions of saints in a variety of religious traditions. It will enable students to explore the nature of religious discourse disseminated by saints through the particular idioms that have had the most public appeal, such as folksongs and poetry. These simple works have had the power to galvanize the masses and bring about profound social and political change. Contextualizing these materials will offer students vital insights into how to map the processes of religious change and reformation. In addition, this course will explain the disjuncture between socially mandated behavior and the circumstances in which religion both reinforces and transgresses these morays. It will demonstrate to students how the history of religion is often shaped by the lives of individual saints and charismatics whose insights and agendas are informed by particular social and historical contexts. 


Religious Studies C 109 Celtic Mythology and Oral Tradition
  • TuTh 11:00-12:30
  • A. Rejhon
  • 122 Wheeler
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77621

The course will examine the mythology of the Celts—their gods, goddesses, festivals, and belief systems—as it is reflected in medieval Irish and Welsh texts. Following a short presentation of introductory material regarding the history and civilization of the early Celts, the course will begin with the early Irish tale known as The Second Battle of Maige Tuired, a core mythological tale that best exemplifies the pattern of mythological deities and belief systems that pertain to varying degrees in other Celtic tales. These tales will include in Irish, the Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel, the Tale of Macc Da Thó’s Pig, Bricriu’s Feast, the Wooing of Etaín, the Dream of Oengus, the Wasting Sickness of CúChulaind, the Cattle Raid of Fróech, and the Táin, and in Welsh, the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Culhwch and Olwen, Lludd and Llefelys, the Tale of Gwion Bach and the Tale of Taliesin, and the poems, “What Man the Gatekeeper” and “The Spoils of the Otherworld.” All the readings are in English translation.

Religious Studies C 119 The English Bible as Literature
  • MW 3-4
  • S. Goldsmith
  • 2060 VLSB
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77624

We will read a selection of biblical texts as literature.  That is, we will read these texts in many ways, but not as divine revelation.  We will take up traditional literary questions of form, style, and structure, but we will also learn how to ask historical, political, and theoretical questions of a text that is multi-authored, fissured, and historically layered.  Among other topics, we will pay special attention to how authority is established and contested in biblical texts; how biblical authors negotiate the ancient Hebrew prohibition against representing God in images; and how the gospels are socially and historically poised between the Jesus movement that is their source and the institutionalization of the church that follows.  Assignments are likely to include two take-home midterms and a final.

Religious Studies C 124 The Renaissance and the Reformation
  • TuTh 2:00-3:30
  • T. Dandelet
  • 145 Moffitt
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77639

This class will examine European history from the fourteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century. Political, social and economic developments during this transitional period will be examined together with the rise of Renaissance culture and the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century

Religious Studies C 164 Religion in Medieval India
  • TuTh 11:00-12:30
  • V. Paramasivan
  • 121 Wheeler
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77660

Focusing on the period between 600 and 1600 C.E., this course will examine major developments within popular Hinduism, the growth and spread of Islam (Sufism) and the emergence of Sikhism on the Indian subcontinent. We will pay particular attention to the interactions and exchanges between these traditions. Course material will include extracts from theological and philosophical literature, poetry, autobiographical and travel narratives as well as secondary literature.

Religious Studies C 165 Hindu Mythology
  • MWF 11-12
  • R. Goldman
  • 160 Kroeber
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77663

This course present a survey of the principal and most influential mythological texts and traditions of Hinduism from the period of the Vedas through the great ancient epics, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa and the classical Purāṇas to modern beliefs and practices. Emphasis is placed on the elements of cosmogony and cosmology and the rise and development of the mythology of the Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva and Śākta traditions.

Religious Studies 190 Buddhism in America
  • MWF 3:00-4:00
  • J. Ronis
  • 20 Wheeler
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 77666

This is a class about Buddhism in America, and about Buddhism as an American religion. This class will explore the history of Buddhism in America and critically survey many contemporary Buddhist institutions and their representation in the media. Among the questions we will pursue are: How and why have traditional forms of Buddhism changed over the decades? What are the social and cultural dynamics that animate the many "convert" Buddhist communities in present day America? What accounts for the outsized role of Buddhism in popular culture, especially the mass media? Berkeley makes for an ideal place to hold such a course because of the multiple and varied Buddhist institutions that fall within the city limits. During the semester we will take advantage of local resources to deepen our understanding by hosting visiting speakers and going for field trips.


Buddhist Studies C 120 Buddhism on the Silk Road
  • TuTh 2:00-3:30
  • S. Mehendale
  • 229 Dwinelle
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 13623

This course will discuss the social, economic, and cultural aspects of Buddhism as it moved along the ancient Eurasian trading network referred to as the "Silk Road." Instead of relying on the textual tradition, the course will focus on material culture as it offers evidence concerning the spread of Buddhism. Through an examination of the Buddhist art and archaeological remains of the Silk Road, the course will address specific topics, such as the relationship between Buddhism and commerce; doctrinal divergence; ideological  shifts in the iconography of the Buddha; patronage (royal, religious, and lay); ritual; Buddhism and political power; and art and conversion. The course is also designed as an historical introduction to the Silk Road, understood as an ever-changing series of peoples, places, and traditions, as well as an introduction to the study of those same peopels, places, and traditions in the modern period. IN this way, the class is intended both as a guide to extant textual, archaeological, and art historical evidence from the Silk Road, and as a framework fort hinking about the modern Silk Road regions from teh perspective of a contemporary American classroom. 

Letters & Science 23 The Humanities
  • TuTh 5-6:30
  • Boyarin & Nylan
  • 159 Mulford
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 51944

"The Humanities" were once considered the core of a liberal arts education, but today they often find themselves forced to justify their very existence. Some fifty years ago, Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, described "liberal education" as "certain intellectual luxuries that we could do without for a year or two"; "intellectual curiosity," he said, "is not something taxpayers should be subsidizing." How did this sort of thinking come about, and is it valid? What does it mean for the university and for the kind of education it offers? In response to such challenges, the humanities have increasingly endeavored to make themselves more professional and more "scientific." What has been lost and what has been gained in this process? Can we still think of the humanities as aiming at the self-examination of the human by the human?


Courses From Other Departments

Anthropology 181 Themes in the Anthropology of the Middle East and Islam
  • MW 4:00-5:30
  • Mahmood
  • 141 McCone
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 02714

Description forthcoming

Buddhist Studies C 115 Japanese Buddhism
  • TuTh 12:30-2:00
  • TBA
  • 156 Dwinelle
  • 4
  • Class Number: 07674
Buddhist Studies C 132 Pure Land Buddhism
  • TuTh 3:30-5:00
  • M. Blum
  • 156 Dwinelle
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 07680

This course is designed as an upper division undergraduate class meeting twice a week. It will discuss the historical development of one school of East Asian Buddhism known as Pure Land. The Pure Land school is the largest form of Buddhism practiced today in China and Japan, though its study in the West has only recently been undertaken in earnest. There are literally thousands of books on this topic published in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in the past 100 years, but limited materials are available in English. The curriculum is divided into India, China, and Japan sections, with the second half of the course focusing exclusively on Japan where this form of religious culture blossomed most dramatically, covering the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. The curriculum will begin with a reading of the core scriptures that form the basis of the belief system and then move into areas of cultural expression. The course will follow two basic trajectories over the centuries: doctrine/philosophy and culture/society. The first will require the critical reading of scriptures and their historical interpretations, the second looks at the impact of this doctrinal interpretation in society and the arts. Prerequisites: None

History 185 B History of Christianity from 1250
  • TuTh 3:30-5:00
  • TBA
  • 145 Moffitt
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 39941

Description forthcoming 

History of Art C 121 A Topics in Islamic Art
  • TuTh 12:30-2:00
  • A. Lenssen
  • 103 Moffitt
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 05027

This course introduces students to the art, architecture, and visual and material cultures in Islamic contexts, from the 7th through the 19th centuries. In the first half of the course, we examine the aesthetic manifestations of Islam within the context of the development of its institutions, in particular the ‘formative’ negotiations of the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuk, and Mamluk periods between visual idioms and new spiritual and political programs. In the second, we adopt the frameworks of exchange and translation to study the (re)formation of these practices and precedents in other spaces and times, within changing modes of interpretation, aesthetic response, royal patronage and taste, artisanal production, ceremonial practice, and trade.

Letters & Science 120 C The Bible in Western Culture
  • MWF 12:00-1:00
  • R. Hendel
  • 2040 VLSB
  • 4 Units
  • Class Number: 52161

The ways that people understand the Bible are deeply linked with their ways of understanding and living in the world. We will explore the changes in biblical interpretation over the last two thousand years as a key to the shifting horizons of Western culture, politics, and religion. Topics will range widely, from the birth of the Bible to ancient heresies to modern philosophy, science, and literature. This will be a genealogy of western thought as it wrestles with its canonical text.

Near Eastern Studies 144 Sufism: The Mysticism of Islam
  • T 5:00-8:00
  • H. Bazian
  • 56 Barrows
  • 3 Units
  • Class Number: 61626

This course explores the phenomenon of Sufism in the Islamic tradition. Topics include Sufi foundations, the sources upon which it is based, ritual practices, themes, and doctrines developed during its formative period and its eventual systemization. The course investigates the lives of several key Sufi figures including, As-Sadiq (d.765), Rabia (d. 801), al-Junayd (d. 910), al-Hujwiri (d. 1077), al-Ghazali (d. 1111), Ibn al-Arabi (d. 1240) and Rumi (d. 1273) among others. Also covered are central Sufi concepts as annihilation (fana), love (mahabba), knowledge ('ilm), gnosis (ma'rifa), intellect ('aql), reality (haqiqah), and unity (tawhid).

Near Eastern Studies 170 Islamic History and Historiography (600-1050)
  • W 2:00-5:00
  • 310 Hearst Mining
  • 275 Barrows
  • 3 Units
  • Class Number: 61638

Description forthcoming