Courses Offered | St. Lawrence University Religious Studies

Courses Offered

100. Mystery and Meaning: An Introduction to the Study of Religion.

NO SENIORS This general introduction to both the subject matter and the study of religion calls attention to the fact that, although human beings have been religious in enormously varied ways, the study of religion is a recent development. What is there about the modern West that has led it to study religion on a global scale? Attention is given to the wealth of material that may be regarded as religious: past and present, literate and non-literate, Eastern and Western. Finally, we consider the place of the study of religion in the contemporary liberal arts curriculum, the discipline's relationship to adjacent disciplines and the distinction between the study and practice of religion. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

101. Sacred Cinema.

Films often wrestle with profoundly spiritual issues and questions: Is there a god(s)? What is life all about? Who am I? Is there a way that a person (society) ought to live that is existentially real, true and meaningful? This course explores three types of American popular film dealing with religion: (1) Films that revision traditional religion to make it relevant for a contemporary audience; (2) films that are not explicitly religious (with no obvious symbols, personages, sacred histories in the plot) but nonetheless explore themes and questions that are central to religion; (3) the religious documentary. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

102. Religion and Science.

Religion and science are two different ways of knowing and understanding the world that usually ask very different questions. Sometimes, however, the answer that one or the other discipline gives to its understanding of reality brings the two into conflict with each other. Nevertheless, for most of human history, the two have been able to accommodate each other quite amicably. In this course, we examine the role that each discipline plays in society, and some points where the two have come into conflict (creation, evolution, bioethics, for example). Finally, we ask whether religion and science are reconcilable or are ultimately hostile to each other. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

103. Religion and Ecology.

Religion and science are two different ways of knowing and understanding the world that usually ask very different questions. Sometimes, however, the answer that one or the other discipline gives to its understanding of reality brings the two into conflict with each other. Nevertheless, for most of human history, the two have been able to accommodate each other quite amicably. In this course, we examine the role that each discipline plays in society, and some points where the two have come into conflict (creation, evolution, bioethics, for example). Finally, we ask whether religion and science are reconcilable or are ultimately hostile to each other. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

104. World Religions.

Being a citizen in the 21st century requires that we understand the beliefs and practices of those religious traditions that have passed the test of time and continue to influence the world in which we live.The course will begin with an inquiry into the nature of religion and religious belief, and then survey origins, teachings, practices, and present-day situations of Indigenous Religions, the major Eastern(Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism) and Western religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Attention will also be given to how these varied traditions influence contemporary issues such as gender, sexuality, ethics, science and ecology. Several field trips will be required. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

148. HU SPTP Religious Studies

Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

200. Explaining Religion

NO INCOMING FIRST YEARS This course serves as a general introduction to the study of religion, with an emphasis on introducing its methodological and theoretical tools and their intellectual historical background. This entails exploring a selection of readings that have been and are influential in the study of religion, drawn from diverse academic disciplines. The course considers basic methodological approaches for understanding religion as a human construction, offers a general picture of the field of religious studies as a whole, and provides basic research skills that will develop students' abilities to do independent research. Offered every fall. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

205. Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

This course is designed to enable the student to use the insights of modern biblical scholarship to read the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in an informed manner. The student is introduced to the entire array of methods used for understanding biblical texts, although historical, sociological and literary analyses are emphasized. Attention is also given to the ways modern Judaism and Christianity understand specific biblical passages. Offered every fall. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

206. New Testament.

This course is designed to enable the student to use the insights of modern biblical scholarship to read the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in an informed manner. The student is introduced to the entire array of methods used for understanding biblical texts, although historical, sociological and literary analyses are emphasized. Attention is also given to the ways modern Judaism and Christianity understand specific biblical passages. Offered every fall. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

218. Fantasy Religion

Fulfills ARTS Distribution (2013 curriculum). Animated films or anime in Japan are a fascinating part of pop culture that attracts a huge audience of fans. As part of a global leisure industry, anime can offer an imaginary space not only to entertain, but to explore key questions about spirituality, religion, and the sacred. By viewing films like Anno Hideaki's Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shiro Masume's Ghost in the Shell, and Miyazaki Hayao's My Neighbor Totoro, this class will explore topics as the nature of the gods (kami), Shinto as nature religion, Christianity Japanese style, apocalyptic (end of the world) themes in anime, evil and the demonic, and so on.

221. Religions of South Asia.

This course introduces the history and diversity of some of the major religions of South Asia, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism. It considers religious ideas and practices that both define and dissolve the boundaries between these traditions, including techniques of bodily and spiritual perfection; visual practices; eroticism and asceticism; hierarchies of class, caste and gender; purity and impurity; and violence and nonviolence. Offered every fall. Also offered through Asian Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

REL 222. Buddhist Religious Traditions

An introductory exploration of the various classical and contemporary forms of Buddhism. The initial task is to understand the Buddha in the context of India in the sixth to fifth centuries BCE, then to examine the emergence of a sophisticated philosophical and psychological literature, the meditational techniques of Tantra and Zen, the different forms of monastic life, lay practice and more. The course enables students to follow the historical spread of Buddhism into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Japan and, more recently, the West. Offered every other year. Also offered through Asian Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

222NZEA. Hinduism and Buddhism

Off Campus Program-New Zealand

223. The Religious Life of China.

An introduction to China's unique religious heritage through a selective survey of major thinkers, texts and cultural expressions. The primary emphasis is on the historical development and mutual influence of the "three teachings"- Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism - with special attention given to the relationship between philosophy and popular practice, and to the interaction among political and religious institutions. Topics include gods and the sacred, ritual, ethics, human nature, meditation, mysticism and salvation. Offered every other year. Also offered through Asian Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

224. Islamic Religious Traditions.

An introductory examination of that religious tradition which, originating in seventh-century Arabia under the inspiration of the Prophet Muhammad, has come to include one-fourth of humankind, and predominates throughout the Middle East, North and East Africa, Pakistan, portions of India and Indonesia. The course considers the career of the Prophet and the growth of the central institutions of Islamic civilization and endeavors to identify the varied aspirations and concerns of Muslims in the contemporary world. Also offered through Asian Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

225. Religious Traditions of Judaism.

An introductory examination of the religious traditions of Judaism from the biblical period through the 21st century. Just as Christianity is no longer the religion of the Hebrew Bible, neither is Judaism. Emphasis is placed on the development of Rabbinic (modern) Judaism and its evolution in the modern world. The course also covers recent movements and events such as the emergence of new forms of Judaism, Zionism, the Holocaust and the birth of Israel. Offered every other spring. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

226. The Religious Life of Japan.

A historical and topical introduction to the complex inter-mingling of indigenous and foreign traditions that gave rise to Japan's unique religious heritage combining kami worship, Buddhism and Confucian traditions. Major topics include religion and the arts (haiku poetry, gardening, the tea ceremony, etc.), monasticism and meditation practices, Pure Land and Zen Buddhism, State Shinto, new religious movements, and spirituality in Japanese popular culture. Course materials consist of canonical and secondary texts as well as autobiographical accounts, works of fiction and film. Offered every other year. Also offered through Asian Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 requirement ( 2013 curriculum)

227. Religions: Ancient Greece and Rome.

This course is an exploration of the development and evolution of religion in the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome. We first study the religious systems of each, and then examine how these systems affected each other and how each coped with systems that infiltrated from other regions. Finally, we examine the effect that the religious assumptions of the Greco-Roman world had on Judaism and Christianity (which were but two options among many) and the benefits that all of these systems offered to potential adherents. Offered every other year. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

231. Christian Religious Traditions.

A survey of the development of the Christian tradition or traditions from New Testament times to the present. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the major streams of Protestantism are considered. Special attention is given to a sampling of significant Christian writers, both men and women, of the past and present. Offered annually. Also offered through European Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

238. Global Christianities

This course explores Christianity outside the United States and Europe. Catholic and Protestant Christianities in addition to newer forms of Christianity are included, and case studies are drawn from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Pentecostal Christianity (also called Charismatic Christianity) is a particular focus. The course considers the conflict and interplay of older forms of Christianity, often part of the inheritance of colonialism, with more recent arrivals; probes the relationship between religion and the processes of globalization; and questions whether any of these forms of Christianity can be described as globalized, and, if so, whether global Christianity resists or supports globalization. Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

242. Norse Mythology.

This course is an introduction to the pre-Christian religion of Scandinavia. Beginning with an introduction to pagan sources outside of Scandinavia, the course examines the major sources for Old Norse mythology. We will discuss Christian influence and the ongoing expression of myth in a Christian context. The course ends with some consideration of the continuing reinterpretations and adaptations of Norse mythology in cultural expressions such as Wagner's Ring cycle and Marvel's Thor. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

242DNMK. Nordik Mythology

Off Campus Program-Denmark

245. Medieval Christianity

Approximately half the history of Christianity is medieval Christianity, from the fall of Rome to the Reformation. This course surveys that period of history, with particular attention given to changes in monasticism, heresy, the papacy, and popular Christianity. For popular Christianity, topics will include veneration of saints and their relics, stories of the Grail, and the sacraments. Also included are major shifts in devotion to Christ and Mary, which are important for both church history and the history of popular Christianity. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

266. Middle East 1914-1967

This two-course sequence surveying the history of the Middle East from World War I to the present examines the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism, and the development of modern Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Israel and the Palestine Authority. The first course covers the period up to 1967; the second continues this study for the period after the 1967 War. The first course satisfies the DIV requirement and is also offered as History 260 and through Global Studies and Peace Studies; the second is also offered as History 367. The first semester may be taken without continuing to the second but is a prerequisite for admission to the second semester. Offered every other year. Religion 266 dual-listed as History 260 and 367 as History 367.

267. The Holocaust

This course focuses on the development of the Holocaust from 1933 to 1945, within the contexts of Christian anti-Semitism, Nazi ideas of race and empire, and World War II. We also address the relationship between the Nazi genocide against the Jews and Nazi persecution of other groups such as Slavs, Roma and the disabled. Finally, we consider the Holocaust's implications for Jewish and German identity, Christian and Jewish theology, international law, and understanding genocide broadly. Also offered as History 267 and through European Studies and Peace Studies. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

267DNMK. Holocaust and Genocide

Off Campus Program: Denmark

272. The Crusades

The medieval phrase "taking the cross" described a variety of military actions, often characterized as God's will. They were influenced by and generated new ideological expressions of legitimate religious violence. This course looks at crusades to the area known as the "Holy Land," and the expanded ideology of crusading that underpinned attacks against heretics, Iberian Muslims, Jews, pagans, and others. Issues engaged include: crusaders' motivations; ideas of Christian holy war and just war; Islamicate perceptions of the crusades; pogroms against Jews; the Military Orders such as the Knights Templar; and cultural interaction and non-interaction among western Christians, eastern Christians, and Muslims in the "Latin East." Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

273. Religion and Visual Culture

This course considers the interaction between visuality and religion: the role that seeing might play in religious practice and the role that religion might play in visual practice. It explores not just the ways that images and objects can embody and communicate meaning, but also how they can elicit powerful responses (e.g. fascination, excitement, faith, desire, or fear) in those who view them, and how they help humans to constitute the worlds that they inhabit. The course draws upon case studies from religious traditions including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Vodou, Christianity and Neo-Paganism, with possible forays to Papua New Guinea, the Central Desert of Australia and West Africa. Fulfills ARTS Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

281. American Religious Lives

In this course we will look at the diversity of religions practiced in America to think about what that diversity means for understanding the range of human religious experiences. We will also discuss religious diversity's perennial challenge to Americans' conceptions of equality and inclusiveness, and how recognition of a tradition as a religion is often implicated in one's access to legal protections and civil rights. Of particular interest in this class is the significance of American religions in the construction, maintenance, and frequent re-formation of identities, principally as it pertains to notions of community, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. Important to this course is also the effort to understand our own identity formations in relation to the powerful impact that religions and debates about the role of religion in American life has had on us, even when we were not aware of it, or even if we are not originally from the United States. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum). Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

281.  Games of Thrones: Hindu Epics

For centuries, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana have figured heavily in religious imaginations across South and Southeast Asia. This course explores the telling and retelling of these stories in a variety of different linguistic and religious contexts. We begin by studying the earliest tellings of the epics in Sanskrit, addressing questions about their composition, narrative structure, and themes. We will then explore premodern and early modern vernacular renditions - in Tamil, Avadhi, Thai, and Javanese. The course culminates in modern, and often transnational, re-imaginations. In each case, we will examine the religious, social, and political conditions that prompted the retellings. Special attention will be paid to how these epics are represented in different media, be they visual, performative, architectural, or textual. Fulfills the HU distribution ( 2013 curriculum )

288. Cults and New Religious Movements.

This seminar studies one or more of the gospels using any or all of the techniques of modern biblical scholarship. It examines how the author(s) understood the ministry of Jesus and how they communicated that understanding to readers. The format is a combination of lecture and seminar. Religious Studies 206 or permission of the instructor required.

307. Jesus in the Gospels.

The rise of new religious and spiritual movements (NRMs) in North America since the 1960s is a response to the rapidly changing religious, social and political conditions of the modern world. The objective of this course is to explore the origins, nature, beliefs and practices of NRMs. Who joins these groups and why? Do NRMs "brainwash" their followers? Are NRMs dangerous and violent? How have NRMs been portrayed in the mass media and in particular by the news media? Fulfills SS Distribution (2013 curriculum).

331. Spirtual Journeys.

This course explores the experiences, rituals, stories, beliefs, temples/shrines, images and traveling communities associated with the religious phenomenon of pilgrimage. What kind of travel is pilgrimage? Does it have a particular structure? Are there different kinds of pilgrimages? What kind of religious experience does pilgrimage provide? These and other questions are examined through a close study of selected pilgrimages in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.

333. Goddesses.

This course examines the phenomenon of goddess worship from a cross-cultural perspective, drawing upon materials from ancient and contemporary India and China, pre-Christian Ireland, classical Greece, contemporary Haiti and Brazil and present-day America. It analyzes the ways in which gender is used religiously, and the ways in which religion operates within gendered social relations, in order to consider the question of the relationship between female divinities and the roles and status of human women. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

334. Ways - Gods; Shinto Mod Japan

300 level course-Shinto or the "Way of the Gods" has long been viewed as the "archaic indigenous religion" of Japan. However, "Shinto," as the Japanese sociologist of religion Inoue Nobutaka has recently noted, is "notoriously vague and difficult to define." This course explores how Shinto was "invented" and has evolved throughout modern Japanese history, from local cults worshipping kami to state Shinto and new religious movements in the pre-war period to its modern guise today as religious organizations independent of state control. Shinto remains a powerful force even after the demise of State Shinto after World War 2 and even in secularized Japan of today. Topics include: Shinto mythology, religious ultranationalism, emperor worship and the imperial system (also called State Shinto), Shinto in new religious movements, Shinto militarism and the Kamikaze pilots, the Yasukuni shrine war memorial issue, Japanese contemporary national identity (Nihonjinron), Shinto in popular culture, the role of contemporary shrines and festivals, and kami worship and ecology. Fulfills DIV13 Distribution (2013 curriculum).

335. Religion and Violence.

Fulfills DIV01 Distribution (2001 curriculum).

336. Religion and Theology - Tolkien

In addition to providing his readers with an elaborate history and meta-history of his world, J. R. R. Tolkien has created a hierarchy of being that has some of the attributes of a theology. Furthermore,since the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, begins with two versions of a creation myth containing both cosmogony and "theogony," we are justified in asking whether or not Tolkien'sworld also contains gods, a word that Tolkien never uses in these works. The problem of constructing either category is complicated by the different relationships that different beings have to "higher"beings and to their understanding or even knowledge of the stories about them. On the other hand, ritual is poorly developed and other attributes that we might ascribe to religion are altogether absent. This seminar will attempt to investigate to what extent Tolkien has created a "theology" and whether or not he imbued his world with a "religion. Fulfills HU Distribution (2013 curriculum).

360. REL Majors Seminar.

This is an in-depth examination of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion that will enable students to do sophisticated independent research. Required of all majors in religious studies, ideally in the spring of their junior year.

367. History of Middle East 1967.

This two-course sequence surveying the history of the Middle East from World War I to the present examines the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism, and the development of modern Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Israel and the Palestine Authority. The first course covers the period up to 1967; the second continues this study for the period after the 1967 War. The first course satisfies the DIV requirement and is also offered as History 260 and through Global Studies and Peace Studies; the second is also offered as History 367. The first semester may be taken without continuing to the second but is a prerequisite for admission to the second semester. Offered every other year. Religion 266 dual-listed as History 260 and 367 as History 367.

370. Asian Religions in the Modern.

No description available.

380. Myth & Pop Rel Thought in Indi.

No description available.

3000-3999. Special Topics.

These 200-level courses deal with significant topics in religious studies. Offered occasionally. The content of each course or section will vary and will be announced each semester.

4000-4999. Special Topics Seminars.

These 300-level seminars deal with significant topics in religious studies on an advanced level. Offered occasionally. The content  of each course or section will vary and will be announced  each semester.

450, 451. Directed Studies in Religion.

An individual study program for candidates for honors in religious studies or others showing special interest and aptitude in the study of religion, as approved by the department chair and the instructor under whom the work will be completed. A term paper is required  as the product  of the special study. (A 2.5 average is required.) Also offered as Asian Studies 450 and 451 at the discretion of the instructor.

489,  490.  SYE: Senior-Year  Experience.

An individual study program for candidates for majors in religious studies that fulfills the requirements for their SYE and may be taken  in place of Religious Studies 360 with approval of the department  chair. (A 2.5 average is required.)

An extended  term paper is required  as the product  of the special study.

498,  499.  SYE: Honors.

This is a departmentally approved honors project requiring an extended term paper that is the product  of the special study. A cumulative GPA of 3.5 in the department  is required to do an honors project.