Courses

Anthropology and Sociology of Religion

AASR 54000 Ethnographic Methods
Th, 1:30-4:20PM S403

This is a writing-intensive seminar for doctoral students wishing to explore ethnography as a method and genre of social-cultural analysis. Over the course of the quarter, students will work individually and in groups to develop their ethnographic projects. The final writing assignment is an ethnographic essay or research proposal that will grow out of a range of research and writing assignments.


Note: Doctoral students only.

 

AASR AASR 30501 Magic, Science, and Religion
T/Th 11:00am - 12:20pm S106

The relationship between the categories of “magic,” “science,” and “religion” has been a problem for modern social science since its inception in the nineteenth century. In the first half of this course, we will critically examine some of the classical and contemporary approaches to these concepts. In the second half, we will study three detailed monographs about modern phenomena – science shows, occultism, and UFOs – that call some of the fundamental assumptions behind these categories into question.

Note: This is a mixed undergraduate/graduate course. Graduate enrollments limited to 10 with permission of instructor.

Ident. RLST/KNOW 28900; ANTH 23906

AASR 51000 ASR Proseminar
F, 6:30 - 9:30PM MMC Library
This course is an intensive reading and writing seminar designed to strengthen skills of close interpretation, argument-driven discussion, and research writing. We will engage classic texts in the social sciences of religion and workshop student papers relevant to dissertation development. 
 
This course is open to PhD students in the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion only.
AASR 37570 Bodies, Gifts, Commodities
12:30 - 3:20PM S208

This course presents a survey of anthropological theories of gifts and commodities and how they have been used to explain exchanges involving the human body. We will consider various forms of labor, including sex work and paid surrogacy, exchanges enabled by modern biotechnologies, such as organ and tissue donation, as well as other contexts where the body is objectified and fragmented, such as in the discovery and marketing of genetic materials and processes.

 

Ident. RLST 27570 / GNSE 27570 / ANTH 25208

AASR 38606 The Spirit of the Nation: Comparisons between India and China
T, 11:00a - 1:50p

Instructor: Peter van der Veer (Visiting Professor, SALC)

This course examines the spiritual nature of nationalism. All over the world nationalists of various political persuasions try to formulate the spiritual essence (‘Geist’) of the nation. They built theories of civilizational uniqueness or ‘the genius of the nation’, but use ideas that were originally intended to promote ‘universal spirituality’. This tension between nationalism and universalism will be explored. Spiritual nationalism also has an uneasy relation with existing religious traditions that have their own ideas and practices around spirits. The course will focus on comparisons between India and China, but also engage with other nationalisms and religious traditions, such as Japanese Shintoism. The approach is less from a formal history of the circulation of ideas than from a comparative anthropology.

Examination by final essay. 

 

Ident. SALC 28606 / ANTH 35032

Bible

BIBL 46503 The Controversial Apostle
M/W 1:30 – 2:50pm Beecher 101

Was Paul “the founder of Christianity?” a devout rabbi?  a religious fanatic?  an intellectual?  a foe of “religion”?  a universalist before his time?  a Jewish apostate who vilified his own people?  a prophet to the Gentiles like Jonah?  a misogynist?  an anti-imperial agitator?  a clever religious free-lancer?  a covenantal theologian?  This course will examine scholarly portraits of “the apostle Paul” (as he is known to history) from the 20th and 21st centuries, including also perhaps some forays into the graphic arts and cinema.  Students will learn tools for critically analyzing these portraits, their methodologies, their own poetics, and their implications for larger questions about “Christianity,” “Judaism,” “religion” and “politics,” in past and present.

 

Note: open to undergraduates with permission of instructor.

BIBL 55900 Biblical Historical Texts
T/Th 9:30-10:50am S400

This is a reading course in biblical texts that narrate the past. We will consider the nature of biblical historiography as we read a selection of historical texts from across the biblical canon. All biblical texts will be read in Hebrew.

PQ: One year of Biblical Hebrew.

 

 

BIBL 42230 Gospel According to Luke
W 3:00 - 5:50pm S200
An exegesis course in Greek on this rich and intricate text. Each week we will dedicate the first class to translating, focusing on philology as well as parsing and rehearsing basic Koine grammar and common grammatical paradigms. We will then devote the second class to interpretation, discussing the issues in Luke to which our texts for the week speak. These include both traditional and more contemporary issues in Lukan exegesis, focusing, e.g., on Luke’s composition, redaction of Mark, narrative unity, and attitudes toward history, Christology, and eschatology, as well as Lukan constructions of masculinity, the role Luke gives to women, the problem of wealth and economics, and Luke’s posture toward imperial Rome. For the final project, students may choose one Lukan pericope, for which they will provide an annotated translation and write an interpretive essay. 
 
Prerequisites: Greek skills (Koine); 2 quarters of the Koine sequence in the Divinity School or equivalent.
BIBL 42240 Jesus in History and Memory
F, 9:30am - 12:20pm S200

An inquiry into the historical figure of Jesus. What can we know historically about this person, his place of origin in first-century Galilee, his life and death, his teachings (e.g., on law, love, marriage and divorce, family, eschatology), his self-understanding, healings, exorcisms, hopes, or failures? How can we situate Jesus culturally and religiously vis-à-vis early first-century Mediterranean and Palestinian societies, Second Temple Judaisms, imperial Rome, or Greco-Roman philosophies? We will examine a variety of scholarly approaches, methods, and answers to these questions, which in turn require serious hermeneutical reflection and decision about the nature and limits of historical knowledge and the hairbreadth lines between written and oral sources, the remembrance of things past, and history (to the degree it is accessible) wie es eigentlich gewesen. We will work carefully with the canonical gospels, “Q,” the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and other valuable non-canonical sources. We will also critically examine the works of major scholars in this area, including Rudolf Bultmann, Albert Schweitzer, Norman Perrin, E.P. Sanders, Gerd Theissen, John Dominic Crossan, John P. Meier, Sean Freyne, James D. G. Dunn, and Daniel Boyarin.

 

Note: Introduction to the New Testament or equivalent will be helpful but is not required; Greek reading skills are not necessary, but opportunity will be provided for their rigorous use for credit.

BIBL 40400 Ekphrasis: Art and Description
T/Th 11:00am-1:50pm S200

This course explores the rich tradition of ekphrasis in Greco-Roman and Christian antiquity – as it ranges from vivid description in general to a specific engagement with works of art.  While the prime focus will remain on texts from Greece and Rome (both prose and verse) – in order to establish what might be called the ancestry of a genre in the European tradition --  there will be opportunity in the final paper to range beyond this into questions of religious writing about art, comparative literature, art (history) writing and ekphrasis in other periods or contexts. The course is primarily intended for graduates – and a reading knowledge of Greek and Latin could not be described as a disadvantage!   

The course will be taught over 5 weeks in the Spring Quarter on an intensive  schedule.  It will be examined on the basis of a paper, due on a subject to be agreed and on a date to be agreed at the end of the Spring quarter.

Ident RLVC 40400

BIBL 43804 Deuteronomy 1-4: Composition, Redaction, Textual Transmission
T/Th 3:30-4:50

This course will examine the complex compositional and textual history of Deuteronomy 1-4. We will consider the role these chapters play in the pentateuchal Deuteronomic source, their relationship with corresponding texts in Exodus and Numbers, and the relevance of the ancient witnesses for understanding their composition and redaction. 

BIBL 4xxxx Varieties of the Sublime in Ancient Greek and Roman Thought
W 1:30-4:20pm

Instructor: E. Asmis

When one thinks about the “Sublime”, one ancient text stands out as foundational: Longinus’ On the Sublime. This text had a profound influence on modern aesthetics. It is, however, only part of a rich tradition of ancient ideas about sublimity. This seminar will examine this tradition, which embraces philosophy, religion, and art. The aim of the class is to disentangle various strands of the sublime and examine their interrelationships. Our readings will take us from Plato to the Neoplatonists. They will include: Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus; selections from the Epicurean Philodemus and the Stoics; Apuleius’ Story of Cupid and Psyche and book 11 of his Metamorphoses; and selections from Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Republic. The topics will include: religious initiation, the use of allegory, and theories of visual and literary beauty. 

PQ: Knowledge of Greek and Latin is not required; but special sessions will be arranged for those who wish to read Greek or Latin


 

 

History of Christianity

HCHR 37500 The Spirituality of the Sixteenth Century
T/Th 2:00 - 3:20PM Swift 400

The Spirituality of the Sixteenth century examines both Protestant and Catholic thinkers who wrote treatises that allow us to see how theological doctrines were experienced spirituality.   Three of the main themes are the role of experience, "spiritualism" of various forms, including mysticism and appeals to the inner authority of the Spirit. We will look at writings by Luther, Calvin, the German Theology, Thomas Müntzer, Carlstadt, Franck. the Anabaptists, and Catholic thinkers such as Juan de Valdės, Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila.

Ident. THEO 37500

HCHR 30900 History of Christian Thought V: Modern Religious Thought
W 3:30-6:20pm S208

This course traces the history of modern religious thought from Kant, Schleiermacher, and Hugel through Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Troeltsch, and Barth.

Ident THEO 30700

HCHR 46104 The Cult of Relics in Byzantium and Beyond
T, 5:00 - 7:50PM Cochrane-Woods Art Ctr 152

The cult of relics played a vital role in Byzantine culture and, consequently, left a strong imprint on the artistic production. Not only did the veneration of relics find expression in personal devotion, but the image of the Byzantine court was largely modelled on the claim that the emperors possessed the most precious of all sacred remains, first and foremost those associated with the Passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The outstanding treasure of relics housed in the imperial palace significantly contributed to the understanding in the medieval Christian world of Constantinople as the “New Jerusalem.”
We will begin our investigation in the ancient Near East, where major centers of pilgrimage developed from the fourth century on. These sites considerably fueled the early Byzantine cult of relics and the associated artistic production. The chief focus of the seminar will be on the major urban centers of the Byzantine Empire, especially the capital city of Constantinople. We will closely study different types of reliquaries manufactured in the Byzantine Empire over the centuries and investigate how their design responded to devotional needs, ritual practice and political claims. Historical developments and primary texts (in English translation) will be addressed throughout to better understand the circumstances of the acquisition of relics and the motivations guiding their veneration.

HCHR 44004 The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium
M, 4:30 - 7:20PM Cochrane-Woods Art Ctr 152

In order to appreciate the pivotal religious significance icons had in Byzantium for private devotion, in the liturgy, in civic ritual, and in military campaigns, we will survey the visual evidence along with a vast array of written sources. We will explore the origins of the Christian cult of icons in the Early Byzantine period and its roots in the Greco-Roman world of paganism. Through the close analysis of icons executed over the centuries in different artistic techniques, we will examine matters of iconography, style and aesthetics. We will also have a close look at image theory, as developed by Byzantine theologians and codified in the era of Iconoclasm.

History of Religions

HREL 48910 Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts
T/Th 2-3:20pm S200

Readings in selected Buddhist doctrinal writings in Tibetan.

Ident DVPR 48910

HREL 41100 Readings in the History of Religions: The Chicago School
M 1:30-4:20pm S403

This course will be devoted primarily to the close, critical reading and historical assessment of representative works of the most famous names associated with the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. The course will begin by considering some prior historiography of the “Chicago School” and the work of A. Eustace Haydon, before looking closely at the work of Joachim Wach, Mircea Eliade, Joseph M. Kitagawa, Charles H. Long, Jonathan Z. Smith, Wendy Doniger, and Bruce Lincoln. Students will develop and present a research paper over the course of the term, and are encouraged to consult the archived papers of Wach and Eliade, or other relevant documents in the university library system.

Islamic Studies

ISLM 52100 Sufism in al-Andalus
T, 2:00 - 4:50PM S201

Advanced Arabic reading seminar. Selections from Andalusi and Maghribi writings on Sufi ethics and spiritual anthropology, with a focus on a Sufi ethical text, Ibn al-Mar'a's commentary on Ibn al-'Arif's "Mahasin al-Majalis"

Note: Advanced Arabic. Undergraduates may enroll with consent of the instructor. 

 

ISLM 30300 Introductory Qur'anic Arabic III
M/W/F, 8:30-9:20 am S200

Instructor: Adi Shiran

This course is the third in a 3-quarter sequence "Introduction to Qur'anic Arabic" (IQA), which aims to provide students with foundational philological and reading skills by covering the essentials of Qur'anic/Classical Arabic grammar. This course also features readings of select passages from the Qur'an, Ḥadīth and Tafsīr. The 3 quarters of IQA are sequential, and students are strongly encouraged to join in the first quarter. Exceptions can be made on a case by case basis.

Perquisites

Graduate and undergraduate students from any department are welcome to register. The minimum prerequisite for IQA III is the successful completion of IQA II or equivalent training. The IQA sequence is also open to students who may have had more exposure to Arabic (modern or classical) but wish to acquire a solid foundation in Arabic grammar, and/or students who feel they are not yet ready for third-year Arabic courses.

Ministry and Religious Leadership

CHRM 35300 Arts of Ministry: Community, Leadership, and Change
F 8:30-11:20am S400

This course is the third of a three-quarter sequence introducing students to essential aspects of religious leadership; the sequence is required for second-year M.Div. students and complements their field education experience. In this final quarter of the year-long sequence, students study congregations as "communities-within-communities," examining the public life of congregations and their leaders as responsible agents of change, both within the religious community and in the wider context. Through research projects and case studies, students practice the skills of analysis, decision-making, negotiation and visioning that are essential to organizational vitality and constructive community engagement.

CHRM 500** Arts of Ministry: Advanced Seminar in Pastoral Care
T 3:30-6:20pm S400

Philosophy of Religions

DVPR 48910 Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts
T/Th 2-3:20pm S200

Readings in selected Buddhist doctrinal writings in Tibetan.

Ident HREL 48910

DVPR 30302 Indian Philosophy II
T/Th 9:30-10:50am S200
DVPR 39703 Chinese Contemplative Traditions
Th 3:30-6:20pm S201

In this course we will examine Daoist, Buddhist and Confucian self-cultivation traditions, including readings of "Inner Training" chapter of the Guanzi and related classical Chinese texts, medieval Quanzhen Internal Alchemy texts from Zhang Boduan and others, meditation manuals from the Tiantai and Chan traditions of Chinese Buddhism, and Neo-Confucian discussions of "quiet sitting" and "reverential attention."  All readings in English, with possible supplementary sessions reading the original classical Chinese texts.

DVPR 33600 Historical and Theoretical Limits of the Concept of "Metaphysics"
M, 1:30 - 4:20PM S106

Many contemporary debates, both in continental and in analytical philosophy, deal with the issue of “metaphysics.” Most of the time, arguments are immediately raised in favour or in opposition to it. However, what often remains unclear is what is meant by this term, and which concepts might be entailed by its usage. This class will try to clarify the issue by (a) giving an historical outline of the actual constitution of the system of metaphysics, (b) pointing out the achievements and the limitations of  this system, (c) explaining what it may mean to overtake them.

 

This course is open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

DVPR 53315 Elements for a Theological Concept of Revelation
W, 1:30 - 4:20p S201

Following two previous seminars on the issue of a definition of the meanig(s) of “R/revelation”, this third seminar will focus on a final point: how to overcome the indetermination of this concept (first seminar) and its philosophical construction by the Enlightment and metaphysics (second seminar), i.e. to reconquer a genuinely theological concept of Revelation.  Starting from the notion of Gestalt (or shape of revelation, H.U. von Balthasar), the concept will be described according to the paradox, musterion, parabol, and witness through a reading of some main moments of the Scriptures, to reach a trinitarian approach of the phenomenality of Revelation.

 

Ident. THEO 53315

Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture

RLVC 30612 Early Christian and Late Ancient Jewish Art
M/W 1:30 – 4:20pm CWAC 152

This course will explore the rise of both Christian and Jewish art in the context of the Roman Empire – both in the eastern Mediterranean and in the city of Rome itself – from minority and subaltern contexts to the rise of Christian hegemony. It will examine the formation of characteristic religious iconographies and visual identities in response to those available in the material and visual culture of the Roman world, and will explore the ways these experimental and often surprising visual forms were ultimately transmuted into what are now the recognizable models for these religions. The course is intended for both undergraduates and graduate students, and will be taught over 5 weeks in the Spring Quarter on an intensive  schedule.  It will be examined on the basis of a paper, due on a subject to be agreed and on a date to be agreed at the end of the Spring quarter.

RLVC 40400 Ekphrasis: Art and Description
T/Th 11:00am-1:50pm S200

This course explores the rich tradition of ekphrasis in Greco-Roman and Christian antiquity – as it ranges from vivid description in general to a specific engagement with works of art.  While the prime focus will remain on texts from Greece and Rome (both prose and verse) – in order to establish what might be called the ancestry of a genre in the European tradition --  there will be opportunity in the final paper to range beyond this into questions of religious writing about art, comparative literature, art (history) writing and ekphrasis in other periods or contexts. The course is primarily intended for graduates – and a reading knowledge of Greek and Latin could not be described as a disadvantage!   

The course will be taught over 5 weeks in the Spring Quarter on an intensive  schedule.  It will be examined on the basis of a paper, due on a subject to be agreed and on a date to be agreed at the end of the Spring quarter.

Ident BIBL 40400

RLVC 47200 History of Criticism: Burke to Nietzsche
T/Th 11:00am - 12:20pm S201

The second of a two-course sequence that offers a survey of major historical moments in the theory of interpretation. The course will pursue the thesis that the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries are dominated by three cardinal moments in the sociology of modern knowledge: the emergence of the figure of “the critic”; the articulation of “aesthetics” as an independent mode of thought; and the establishment of historical-critical methodology as prerequisite to understanding, and in turn properly interpreting, the Bible. Prerequisite: completion of the first course in the sequence. Required of Ph.D. students taking the RLVC 1 exam.

RLVC 48500 Narrative: Theory and Texts
T/Th 9:30 - 10:50am S201

This course will begin by reviewing the “turn” to narrative as a common denominator in the study of religion across constructive, historical, and human scientific approaches to the study of religion, and will then study a range of narratives (from such conventional literary examples as drama, novel, and epic to ethnography, graphic novel, sermon, cinema, and series of self-portraits). The goal of the course will be for students to develop a working definition of “narrative,” and a measured sense of the powers and the limits of narrative, both as a form of religious expression and as an analytic category for understanding religion.

RLVC 44004 The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium
M, 4:30 - 7:20PM Cochrane-Woods Art Ctr 152

In order to appreciate the pivotal religious significance icons had in Byzantium for private devotion, in the liturgy, in civic ritual, and in military campaigns, we will survey the visual evidence along with a vast array of written sources. We will explore the origins of the Christian cult of icons in the Early Byzantine period and its roots in the Greco-Roman world of paganism. Through the close analysis of icons executed over the centuries in different artistic techniques, we will examine matters of iconography, style and aesthetics. We will also have a close look at image theory, as developed by Byzantine theologians and codified in the era of Iconoclasm.

RLVC 41604 The Cult of Relics in Byzantium and Beyond
T, 5:00 - 7:50PM Cochrane-Woods Art Ctr 152

Ident. HCHR 41604 / ARTH 41602

The cult of relics played a vital role in Byzantine culture and, consequently, left a strong imprint on the artistic production. Not only did the veneration of relics find expression in personal devotion, but the image of the Byzantine court was largely modelled on the claim that the emperors possessed the most precious of all sacred remains, first and foremost those associated with the Passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The outstanding treasure of relics housed in the imperial palace significantly contributed to the understanding in the medieval Christian world of Constantinople as the “New Jerusalem.”
We will begin our investigation in the ancient Near East, where major centers of pilgrimage developed from the fourth century on. These sites considerably fueled the early Byzantine cult of relics and the associated artistic production. The chief focus of the seminar will be on the major urban centers of the Byzantine Empire, especially the capital city of Constantinople. We will closely study different types of reliquaries manufactured in the Byzantine Empire over the centuries and investigate how their design responded to devotional needs, ritual practice and political claims. Historical developments and primary texts (in English translation) will be addressed throughout to better understand the circumstances of the acquisition of relics and the motivations guiding their veneration.

Religious Ethics

RETH 44902 Political Theology
M/W 2:30 – 4:20pm S400

This course explores the rise of Political Theology from the work of Carl Schmitt and others around World War II through to current philosophical and theological positions seeking a different relation between religion and politics.

Ident THEO 44902

Theology

THEO 42300 Readings in Luther's Theology
T/Th 9:30 - 10:50am S208

This course concentrates on the development of Luther's thought and includes several genres, including disputations, exegetical works, and theological treatises.  By means of these readings we will follow Luther as he delves into the doctrine of human nature, the nature of sin, the theology of the cross, justification by faith and the role of the Spirit in his polemics against the "enthusiasts." We will also be analyzing his underlying concerns and presuppositions about such issues as the nature of reality, the concern with deception and the certainty of salvation. 

Ident. HCHR 42300

THEO 30700 History of Christian Thought V: Modern Religious Thought
W 3:30-6:20pm S208

This course traces the history of modern religious thought from Kant, Schleiermacher, and Hugel through Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Troeltsch, and Barth.

Ident HCHR 30700

THEO 31600 Introduction to Theology
M, 1:30 - 4:20pm S201

This course will consider a handful of theologies from a variety of religious traditions, paying special attention to the would-be practical wisdom exhibited in each.

THEO 44902 Political Theology
M/W 2:30 – 4:20pm S400

This course explores the rise of Political Theology from the work of Carl Schmitt and others around World War II through to current philosophical and theological positions seeking a different relation between religion and politics.

Ident RETH 44902

THEO 40710 Black Theology: Foundational Arguments
W, 1:30 - 4:20p S403

This quarter we look at the origin of contemporary black theology, with its beginnings on July 31, 1966. Black theology, on that date, was created by African American clergy who offered one interpretation of the new black consciousness movement. The latter began June 16, 1966 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Already, we can see that, perhaps, black theology might be the only theological discipline in the U.S.A. that did not originate in the academy. Instead, it was birthed out of people’s everyday lives searching for human dignity and a better community on earth. As the new body of knowledge progressed, thinkers saw the necessity to clarify its conceptual, theoretical, and theological positions. An entire body of literature, over fifty years of writing, has arisen defining the methodological contours of this recent creation. This course explores the responses and critiques internal to black theology. How did this discipline seek to correct itself with debate among the first generation of founders?

THEO 53315 Elements for a Theological Concept of Revelation
W, 1:30 - 4:20p S201

Following two previous seminars on the issue of a definition of the meanig(s) of “R/revelation”, this third seminar will focus on a final point: how to overcome the indetermination of this concept (first seminar) and its philosophical construction by the Enlightment and metaphysics (second seminar), i.e. to reconquer a genuinely theological concept of Revelation.  Starting from the notion of Gestalt (or shape of revelation, H.U. von Balthasar), the concept will be described according to the paradox, musterion, parabol, and witness through a reading of some main moments of the Scriptures, to reach a trinitarian approach of the phenomenality of Revelation.

Ident. DVPR 53315

THEO 52225 Social Entrepreneurship
W, 4:30 - 7:20PM S201

This course is an experiment. We will explore the possibility or reality of the following. Doing good requires capital and capital can do good. This is a major debate. Even before the 2008 financial crisis, most Divinity Schools, seminaries, and theological schools probably held the view that money is the root of all evil. Specifically, at the University of Chicago business school, Milton Friedman, one of its noted Nobel Prize winning thinkers, argued that the purpose of business is to maximize profits for its shareholders. And, for business to engage in the social is tantamount to dabbling in socialism. So, on one side of the campus, we find a legacy of bottom line profit for the wealthy. On the other side of the campus, we find a tradition of transcendent values for the people and notions of the common good. Is it God verses Mammon? The Divinity School verses the Business School? Can profit and purpose and cause and commercialization work together in harmony toward the same transcendent goals?

 

Co-taught with Steve Patterson