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Skidmore College
Religious Studies Department

Spring 2014 Religion Course Offering

Course Number/Title Days/Times Credits Professor
RE 103-001 - Religion & Culture M
11:15 - 12:10

11:10 - 12:30
4 G. Spinner
RE 103-002 - Religion & Culture T/TH -
9:10 - 11:00
4 D. Howlett
RE 215  - Islam T/TH
3:40 - 5:00
3 G. Spinner
RE 225  - Religion and Ecology W/F
10:10 - 11:30
3 M. Stange
RE 230-001  - Mormonisms: Prophets, Polygamy & Proselytizing T/TH
12:40 - 2:00
3 D. Howlett
RE 230-002  - Native American Religion W/F
12:20 - 1:40
3 D. Howlett
RE 230-003  - Global Christianities T/TH
2:20 - 3:30
3 C. Burris
RE 330-001  - Wealth and Poverty T/TH
3:40 - 5:30
4 C. Burris
RE 330-002  - Goddesses and Amazons T/TH
9:10 - 11:00
4 M. Stange
RE 330-003  - Spiritual Autobiography M/W
2:30 - 3:40
3 R. Crisman
RE 375  - Senior Seminar W/F
12:20 - 2:10
4 C. Burris
PH 215  - Buddhist Philosophy M/W
2:30 - 3:50
3 J. Smith

RE 225, Religion and Ecology          

An exploration of the critical connections between religion and the natural environment.  How do religious beliefs, symbol systems, and ritual behaviors shape human perceptions of, and interactions with, the nonhuman environment?  How might the primary models provided by western, eastern and indigenous religions help us to address specific local and global environmental concerns?  Using primary texts drawn from a variety of sacred traditions, and writings from a broad spectrum of historical and contemporary naturalists, poets and theologians, the course will cover such topics as ecotheology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, nature mysticism, new age religious movements, bioregionalism and social ecology.

RE-230C-001 Mormonism                                                                                                       

This course investigates how Mormons have gone from an upstart, persecuted sect to participants in the conservative mainstream of American religion and culture. Topics for discussion include the Mormon creation of new scriptures; the role and evolution of prophets; religious violence; conflict between church and state; the dynamics of religious schism; temple spaces and the politics of secrecy; polygamy and the family; constructions of race, gender, and sexuality; missions and evangelism; modern pilgrimage; and the globalization of an American religion. Along the way, we will encounter the ever-changing public faces of Mormonism(s), from Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney.   

RE-230C-002  Native American Religions                                                                  

This course explores Native American religious experience in diverse contexts, from the American Southwest to the Great Plains and from the far Pacific Northwest to the American Southeast. In the first half of class, we will explore specific religious rituals practiced by groups like the Lakota, the Diné (Navajo), and the Yupik. We will analyze how historical experiences, such as cultural genocide, dispossession of tribal lands, and the wider legacy of colonialism, have affected ritual practices over time. In the second half of class, we will switch to topics, such as Native American struggles for religious freedom, Native American access to sacred spaces, Native Americans and Christianity, and the commodification of Native American spirituality. We will consider both Native and non-Native perspectives on these topics.

RE 230C-003   Global Christianities                                                                     

In this course, we will deconstruct - and with any luck, destroy - the idea that Western or "first world" Christianity is "normal" Christianity and other churches are "ethnic."  There are Christians all over the world today, and while Christians consider their faith to be universal, that universality manifests in an incredible diversity of practices and beliefs.  We will be looking at the Christians of Korea, China, Uganda, South Africa, Mexico, and the Caribbean and considering questions of globalism, "universal" belief, and acculturation.

*Counts towards IA courses contributing to the cultural cluster in IA

RE 330-002: Goddesses and Amazons     

An investigation of culturally encoded ideas about female power—physical, intellectual, spiritual and moral—as they play out in myth and history.  Our exploration will be far-ranging: from ancient Greece to contemporary goddess spirituality, from the warrior priestesses of the Siberian steppes to modern hunter-horsewomen in Kazakhstan, from the Virgin Mary to the seer/soldier Joan of Arc to the poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz to that “positively revolting hag” Mary Daly.  The Western “dark goddess” Artemis will be played off against her Eastern counterpart, Kali.  In every case, our focus will be on the interplay between the patriarchal drive to contain or control these manifestations of female self-assertion, and the liberating potential these mythical and historical figures hold for women, and men too, in contemporary society.

Prerequisites: At least one course in either Religion or Gender Studies, or permission of the instructor.

RE330C—Spiritual Autobiography                             

An exploration of the inner life as personally remembered and recorded by important religious, cultural and political leaders and writers from St. Augustine to the present.  A fascinating genre because of the glimpse it gives into the personalities of important figures, the spiritual autobiography is also a philosophical and theological exercise intent upon articulating the truth about oneself and one’s relation to the world and God.  But the writer must contend with conceptual challenges like time and memory, fact and fantasy, myth and history.  With the help of selected secondary sources, we will be asking such questions as, How trustworthy a narrator is the author?  When is retrospection reconstruction? How does gender and culture affect the definition and practice of autobiography? Are collaborations still autobiography (e.g., Black Elk Speaks)?  Can autobiography successfully be written fictionally (Jane Eyre, Go Tell It on the Mountain)?  Or, conversely, is autobiography a form of fiction?  Are slave narratives (Frederick Douglas) and captivity narratives (Mary Rowlandson) forms of spiritual autobiography?  Is spiritual autobiography just another way of doing theology?

Every student will read Augustine’s Confessions plus one other autobiography selected from the list below or by arrangement with the instructor.  The course will be conducted in seminar style, with one class per week being devoted to a close reading of Augustine and the other class to be used for a comparison of the modern texts with the issues raised by our reading of Augustine.

Two 10-page papers:  one on Augustine’s Confessions and your chosen author, and the other being an oral history of a living person’s spiritual journey.  Midterm exam and Final. 

RE 330D:001  Wealth, Poverty and Belief    

This course combines Poverty Studies and Religious Studies, and has two main parts.  First, we will consider the ways in which various religions depict and respond to the poor.  Then, we will explore the ways in
which those views and actions are involved in cycles of poverty, variously as cause, effect, or cure.  The final project will be a specific, case study of poverty and religion – historical or current, any faith tradition, any geographic location.  Studies of the possibilities for the integration of religious groups and individuals into existing or contemplated charitable, social justice, or development endeavors will be welcomed, as will more traditional historically or religiously focused studies. 

*Counts towards IA courses contributing to the cultural cluster in IA

RE 375  Senior Seminar                                                                                         

In this year's senior seminar in Religion, we will be considering social memory and identity construction.  Religious identity does not simply emerge when a group of believers comes together, but must be constructed, and that construction is accomplished by remembering and retelling the group's history.  Martyrdom, the act of dying for one's beliefs, is understood by many groups to be the defining characteristic of their history; we will be looking at how these groups came to see themselves in this way, and what that sort of self-representation accomplishes for them.