Religious Studies

 
COURSE OFFERINGS
 
117f    A Passage to India: India and the Western Imagination     Beginning with Walt Whitman's romantic journeys toward the "soul" of the universe, Western attitudes towards India and India's encounter with Western culture will be studied. Literature and film include Clear Light of Day, Salam Bombay, Siddhartha, The Razor's Edge, Gitanjali, Interpreter of Maladies, Bend It Like Beckham, and Four Quartets. Four credit hours.  L.    SINGH

119j    Sanskrit: The Sacred Language of Krishna and Gandhi    The "divine" (devanagari) writing system of India, with an introduction to Sanskrit grammar and vocabulary. An exploration of some basic concepts of Hinduism and Buddhism with readings from the original texts of the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad-Gita. Three credit hours.    WALKER

143f    Introduction to Scripture: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament     An introduction to the world of the texts Jews call the Tanakh and Christians often call the Old Testament. The focus will be on the original context of the texts as well as how these texts have affected history and contemporary society in the development of laws, customs, literature, film, art, and the theological beliefs of Jews and Christians. Formerly listed as Religious Studies 233. Four credit hours.  L.    MANDOLFO

144s    Introduction to Scripture: Christian Scripture/New Testament    An introduction to the texts deemed sacred by Christians. Texts are read as scripture and as literature in their own right, with a focus on their impact on both believing communities and society as a whole, in their historical and contemporary contexts. A variety of critical methods will be applied to these texts. Formerly listed as Religious Studies 234. Four credit hours.  L.    MANDOLFO

[176]    Religious Thought, Philosophical Thought: Ancient Greece     Examines the "philosophical" work of mythological and "religious" texts such as Hesiod's Theogony and the Orphic Hymns, as well as the "religious" dimension of "philosophical" thought in the works of pre-Socratics (such as Xenophanes, Empedocles, and Parmenides) and Plato. Topics include: how early thinkers struggle with and appropriate traditional modes of thought; the meaning and significance of the distinction between logos and mythos; the role of myth in philosophical writings. Special attention to divine knowledge, divine speech, magic, pollution and purification. Four credit hours.  H.    

181f    Conceptions of Jews and Judaism    A survey of the history of Jews and Judaism from the Biblical era through the Middle Ages. Introduces texts, beliefs, and practices that continue to influence Jewish life and thought today. Also examines medieval Christian and Islamic ideas about Jews and Judaism and their historical impact. Emphasizes the development of text analysis skills. Four credit hours.  H, I.    FREIDENREICH

182s    Jews and Judaism in the Modern World    A survey of the social, cultural, intellectual, and political history of the Jews of Europe, the United States, and Israel/Palestine from the 17th century to the present. Traces the emergence of contemporary Judaism in its various manifestations. In addition to developing basic familiarity with the subject matter, students will learn how to interpret specific ideas, movements, biographies, and works of cultural production within the framework of broader dynamics associated with Jewish life in modern times. Four credit hours.  H, I.    FREIDENREICH

[186]    God After Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Theology    An examination of the startling theological changes Judaism and Christianity underwent in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War II, which challenged both Enlightenment views on the "progress" of humanity as well as Judaism's (and to some extent Christianity's) understanding of their covenant relationship with their God. How could a God that supposedly loved and promised to protect "His" people allow the indiscriminate torture and death of so many Jews, including innocent children? Part of the Integrated Studies Program; requires concurrent registration in History 186. Formerly offered as Religious Studies 398. Four credit hours.  S.    

[187]    Jewish Identity After Auschwitz     Notions of Jewish identity changed, and multiplied, with the emergence of modern patterns of thought and the extension to Jews of political rights during the 19th century. These very thought patterns, however, contributed to Nazi ideology and its denial not only of Jewish rights but even of the right of Jews to live. What happened to modern notions of Jewish identity during and after the Shoah (Holocaust)? Students will develop proficiency in the analysis of texts and ideas while exploring the diversity within modern Jewish thought. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 187, "Identity After Auschwitz." Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in English 187 and German 187. Four credit hours.  H.    

197f    Introduction to the Talmud    The Talmud has been the cornerstone of traditional Jewish higher education for over a millenium. How did the Rabbis who created it think? How has this work shaped Jewish culture? This discussion-based course explores these and other questions through close reading of translated texts related primarily to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Four credit hours.    FREIDENREICH

197Aj    Roman Religion at the Dawn of Christianity    Judaism and Christianity are the only major religious traditions to survive from the once thriving world of ancient Mediterranean religion. As a result, modern popular depictions of Roman religion often have a strongly polemical slant. Roman culture is depicted as decadent; Roman religion is depicted as ritualistic, empty of spiritual meaning, and corrupt. Unraveling the myth to find the rich, vibrant tradition out of which modern Christianity and Judaism emerged. Three credit hours.  H.    ULLUCCI

211f    Religions of India    A study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, and Sikhism with a focus upon their religious texts and the cultural context within which they developed. An examination of the relationship these religious traditions have to one another, their metaphysical understanding of reality, their theories of self, and their views of the social--as expressed in ritual, myth, art, and poetry. Four credit hours.  S.    SINGH

212s    Religions of China, Japan, and Tibet     An examination of Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, and Buddhism--the indigenous religions of China, Japan, and Tibet--tracing the entrance of Buddhism into China, Japan, and Tibet and the resulting transformation of this religion in its interaction with these civilizations. The political ideology of Confucianism, the mystical dimensions of Taoism, the mythological aspects of Shinto, the meditative experiences of Zen (haiku, swordsmanship, the tea ceremony, etc.), and the psychological and artistic practices of Tibet. Four credit hours.  S.    SINGH

216s    Church History and Theology in Medieval Europe    Listed as History 216. Four credit hours.  H.    TAYLOR

217f    Religion in the U.S.A.    A historical approach to religion in the United States from the Colonial period to the present. Traces the evolution of the dominant Christian tradition and focuses upon pivotal moments in the development of American Judaism and selected indigenous traditions. Examines the diversity of contemporary American religion and the relationship between religion and popular culture. Four credit hours.  H.    CAMPBELL

[219]    Texts of Terror: Violence and the "Religions of The Book"     From the practice of human and animal sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible to the "sacrifice" of Jesus in the Christian Scriptures to the horror of 9/11, an examination of the intersection of violence and religion as portrayed primarily in the texts and traditions of the three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Sacred texts, works of literature, and current events that illustrate and explore the theme of sacred violence will be the focus. Formerly offered as Religious Studies 297A. Four credit hours.    

236s    Christianity from the Reformation to the Present     Turning points in the history of Christianity from the Protestant and Catholic reformations of the 16th century to the present. The expansion of Christianity through missionary and colonial enterprises, the ever-increasing diversity within Christianity from the 16th century onward, and Christian responses to the Enlightenment, feminism, institutionalized racism, the Holocaust, totalitarianism, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and a broad spectrum of technological changes from the printing press to modern reproductive technologies. Four credit hours.  H.    CAMPBELL

[256]    The African-American Religious Experience    A sociological analysis and historical overview of the diverse religious organizations, leaders, experiences, and practices of black people in the United States. Emphasis upon the predominant Afro-Christian experience, its relationship with the African background, contemporary African religions, other religions (e.g., Islam), political institutions, social change, urban problems, and the arts. Special attention to the role of black Christian women in church and society. Formerly offered as Religious Studies 356. Four credit hours.  U.    

[257]    Women in American Religion     An examination of women in North American religions from Colonial times to the present, exploring the religious experiences of ordinary women as well as those of famous religious leaders, heretics, and prophets. Close attention paid to the ways in which women have adapted patriarchal religions to their own needs and developed their own spiritualities, as well as to the emergence and development of feminist critiques of organized and civil religion. Four credit hours.  H.    

258s    Religion and Literature in Modern Ireland     Examines the complex interplay between Irish religion and culture from 16th-century Anglo-Ireland through the postcolonial, multicultural, religiously diverse Irish state of the early 21st century: stories, poems, plays, and films. Formerly offered as Religious Studies 298. Four credit hours.  L, I.    CAMPBELL

[259]    Catholics     An examination of the history and culture of the Catholic church during the past century, with special emphasis on the recent past: Vatican II, liberation theology, and Catholic teachings on issues such as sexuality, capital punishment, medical ethics, social justice, and the role of women in the church. Four credit hours.    

[275]    Contemporary Wicca: Formalists, Feminists, and Free Spirits     History, historicity, and practice of contemporary Wicca. One of the fastest-growing religions in North America, Wicca, often erroneously confused with Satanism, is an earth-based religion centered on Goddess (and God) imagery stressing the sacredness of individuals and all life. Readings, videos on thea/ology, rituals, practices, and political activism of Wiccans. Experiential components (discussions with Wiccans, ritual design, participation in an open circle, personal use of divination) and questions: How does feminine divine imagery affect the development, structures, practices? How has feminism shaped Wicca in North America? Why are many Wiccans activists? Why is there public resistance to, discrimination against Wiccans? Three credit hours.    

277j    Religious Responses to Harry Potter    Close readings of Harry Potter novels will uncover the effects of this major social phenomenon upon two religious traditions--Christianity and contemporary Paganism, as well as some of the religions, folklore, and ethics that contributed to the world of Hogwarts. Students will research the principal voices in the discussion, develop an understanding of both Christian and Pagan religious expressions, and write their own evidence-based analysis of the question: What are the religious influences in the Harry Potter novels? Open to first-year students. Three credit hours.    PUKKILA

[282]    The Making of Judaism     Judaism as we know it came into being during the period from about 600 B.C.E. through 600 C.E. Its formation results from a complex interplay of internal innovation, external classification, and responses to dramatic political and cultural forces. An exploration of this crucial period in Jewish history, devoting particular attention to the impact of Hellenism, the rise of Rabbinic Judaism, and the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity. Four credit hours.  H.    

297f    The Apocalyptic Imagination     "The end is near!" is a refrain that has resounded through two millennia. We will examine the origins of apocalyptic thinking in the Bible and in non-canonical literature as well as the ways this ancient Judeo-Christian worldview continues to permeate our society in religious movements and popular culture, especially film and literature. Four credit hours.    MANDOLFO

297Jj    Topics in Maine's Jewish History     Maine is home to a distinctive yet under-researched Jewish community with deep historical roots. Participants in this civic engagement course will advance scholarly and popular understanding of Maine's Jewish community by conducting oral and document-based histories focused on Jewish life in Waterville and the surrounding region. In the process students will learn the skills of ethnographic historianship. This year's topic: Jews in Kennebec County through 1945. Three credit hours.  H, U.    FREIDENREICH

312f    South Asian Women at the Crossroads: Tradition and Modernity     The departure of the British and the partition of the Indian subcontinent created a new world in which indigenous traditions, Western imperialism, and independence deeply affected women and the rise of the women's movement. A study of South Asian women who live in the subcontinent and those who have made their homes abroad, focusing on issues of gender, race, and class. In the writings of South Asian women, literary ideals, religious traditions, and societal issues overlap; caste and hierarchy, colonialism and its aftermath, sexuality, and the search for identity emerge vigorously in their speeches, novels, biographies, and poetry. Four credit hours.  L, I.    SINGH

[315]    North American Women's Spiritual Narratives     An examination of North American women's spiritual narratives (autobiographical and fictional) from the Colonial era to the present. Explores how female authors in different times and from a variety of traditions have inscribed their most profound spiritual experiences (including those of marginalization and diaspora) into personal narratives that often challenge the spiritual and religious teachings dominant in the communities in which they were raised. Prerequisite: One of the following: Religious Studies 216, 217, 236, or 257. Four credit hours.    

317s    Sikhism: Scripture, Sacred Music, and Art     How does the sacred text translate into the daily life, music, literature, and even the physical identity of the Sikhs? How can their text influence Sikh gender politics? With its focus on Scripture, the seminar explores not only the Hindu and Islamic parameters within which Sikhism originated but also its encounter with British colonialism and the influence of mass migration in the modern world. Prerequisite: Religious Studies 117, 211, or 212. Four credit hours.  S, I.    SINGH

322s    Food and Religious Identity    An examination of the ways in which religiously inspired food practices and food restrictions relate to the establishment and preservation of communal identity. Explores sources from diverse religious traditions and time periods with an eye both to commonalities and to elements found only within specific communities. Students will develop proficiency in the contextual analysis of primary sources and the critical evaluation of secondary literature. Four credit hours.  S.    FREIDENREICH

[332]    Contemporary North American Spirituality     In contrast to theology (formal discourse about God and divine-human relations), the field of spirituality focuses upon the specific efforts of individuals to achieve communion (or even union) with God. The variety of ways that ordinary people and famous mystics within the Judeo-Christian tradition have sought to nurture close relations with God. Prerequisite: One of the following: Religious Studies 217, 236, 257, or 259. Four credit hours.    

[333]    Death and Spirituality     An examination of selected examples of the rich and diverse literature about death and spirituality, which includes historical and therapeutic studies, personal narratives, poetry, novels, and plays. Seeks to understand the experience of death and the challenges it poses for the terminally ill and their loved ones, medical practitioners, and caregivers. Pays special attention to the spiritual and religious questions posed by public debates over the Terri Schiavo case and the global AIDS crisis as well as the more private, personal struggles that take place within families, hospitals, and hospices every day. Prerequisite: Religious Studies 217 or 236. Four credit hours.    

334s    Religion and World War II    An examination of religious and spiritual responses to the Second World War (including the Holocaust) and its aftermath, the Cold War, as they are embodied in historical narratives, theologies, personal narratives, fiction, drama, and film. Addresses questions revisited since September 11, 2001, concerning how political crises catalyze spiritual awakenings and, in the process, give birth to new theologies and spiritualities. Prerequisite: One of the following: Religious Studies 217, 236, 257, or 259. Four credit hours.    CAMPBELL

336f    Topics in Catholic Studies: The Catholic Novel     An examination of the Catholic novel as an act (and investigation) of the Catholic imagination, as a variation on the Catholic memoir, as an exploration of the meaning of assimilation for Catholic immigrants, and as a plea for change in church and society. Places special emphasis on the varieties of Catholic religious experience displayed by Catholic novels and the indigenization of Catholicism in the different national settings that have produced Catholic novels, including England, France, Italy, and the United States. Prerequisite: History 216 or Religious Studies 236, 258, or 259. Four credit hours.    CAMPBELL

357s    Jesus Christ Superstar: The Bible in Film     An examination of Hollywood's (and other filmmakers') obsession with retelling the stories of the Bible. Beginning with De Mille's classic The Ten Commandments through Gibson's controversial The Passion of the Christ, including films that range in interpretative expression from literal to metaphorical--the former being an attempt to recreate the story, the latter being an attempt to reinterpret the story. Students also will learn some basic film theory as well as some techniques for interpreting film. Four credit hours.  A.    MANDOLFO

[381]    Women and Gender in Islam    Listed as History 381. Four credit hours.    

[382]    Abraham in the Abrahamic Religions     "Tales of ancestors are signposts for their descendants." For no figure is this Rabbinic aphorism more true than Abraham, revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. A critical examination of the evolution of tales about Abraham within these three traditions from Biblical times to the present. What can we learn from these changing stories about the people who tell them? What does it mean to call a religion Abrahamic? Prerequisite: History 181, 182 or 285 or Religious Studies 143, 144, 181, or 182. Four credit hours.  L.    

[384]    Jewish Responses to Ethical Dilemmas    An exploration of Jewish responses to genuinely difficult ethical choices and the ways in which Jewish authorities justify their normative opinions. Examines classical and contemporary responses to dilemmas in such fields as business and labor ethics, environmental ethics, and biomedical ethics, enriching Jewish sources with literature from other religious traditions and works by secular ethicists. Students will develop skills in the analysis and critique of ethical argumentation and the ability to examine and defend their own values. Four credit hours.    

483f, 484s    Religious Studies Honors Program    Research conducted under the guidance of a faculty member and focused on an approved topic leading to the writing of a thesis. Prerequisite: A 3.65 average in the major at the end of the junior year and permission of the department. Four credit hours.    FACULTY

491f, 492s    Independent Study    Individual projects in areas where the student has demonstrated the interest and competence necessary for independent work. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. One to four credit hours.    FACULTY