2014-2015

Religious Studies

Religious Studies at Willamette University offers students the opportunity to engage in the critical study of religion as a pervasive aspect of human culture. In Religious Studies courses students learn how to formulate critical questions about religious traditions and phenomena. They acquire a knowledge base adequate to a nuanced and meaningful understanding of a variety of religions, including beliefs, practices, cultural contexts and distinctive histories. Students develop as well the capacity to assess the truth claims and other contributions to human culture made by the leaders, scholars, communities, and texts associated with religion.

Requirements for the Religious Studies Major (8 Credits)

Elective courses (6 credits) from the following areas:

Note:

  • At least 1 elective must be taken from each of the Areas "A," "B," and "C"
  • Up to 2 courses may be counted from Area "D"
  • 3 electives must be at the 300-level

Area A - Sources of the Western Tradition

  • REL 113 (TH) Introduction to Old Testament/Hebrew Bible
  • REL 114 (IT) History and Literature of Early Christianity
  • REL 223 History and Literature of Early Judaism
  • REL 225 (IT) Forgotten Scriptures: Apocryphal Literature and the Origins of Christianity
  • REL 227 (TH; 4th Sem Lang Req) Paganism: The Religions of Greece and Rome
  • REL 322 (TH) In Search of the Historical Jesus
  • REL 323 (IT) The Bible and American Culture
  • REL 335W (IT) Race, Class, and Gender in the Life and Letters of Paul
  • REL 340 (4th Sem Lang Req) Hebrew Torah/Pentateuch
  • REL 390 Independent Study (.5 or 1)

Area B - Development of the Western Tradition

  • REL 214 (TH) Religion in America
  • REL 244 Introduction to Judaism
  • REL 252 Soul Food: Eating and Drinking in Western Religion
  • REL 320 Religion and Science
  • REL 333 Topics in Contemporary American Theology
  • REL 334 (EV) Liberation Theology and Social Change
  • REL 370 (EV) Ethics and Vocation
  • REL 390 Independent Study (.5 or 1)

Area C - Asian and Comparative Studies

  • REL 115 (EV) Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • REL 116 (IT) Introduction to Major Religious Texts
  • REL 135 (IT) Religions of Asia
  • REL 233 (TH) History and Culture Along the Silk Road
  • REL 239 Introduction to Chinese Religions
  • REL 262 Japanese Religions
  • REL 336 Topics of Women in World Religions
  • REL 348 Buddhism
  • REL 352 (IT) Shamanism
  • REL 354 (IT) Topics in Asian Religion
  • REL 356 Taoism
  • REL 390 Independent Study (.5 or 1)

Area D - Courses from Other Departments Counting Toward the Religious Studies Major or Minor

  • ANTH 353 Myth, Ritual and Religion
  • ARTH 351W (IT) Christian Art and Iconography
  • CHNSE 252 (US) Rites of Passage in Chinese Societies
  • HIST 131 (TH) Historical Inquiry: The Crusades (Note: only the topic on the Crusades counts)
  • HIST 259 American Jewish History
  • PHIL 235W Philosophical Ethics
  • PHIL 325 Kierkegaard, Meaning and the Self
  • POLI 314 (EV) Politics and Religion in the United States

Senior Experience (2 Credits):

Note:

At the end of their Junior year, Religious Studies majors will interview with the Religious Studies Faculty to determine the focus for their Senior Experience. The Senior Experience will consist of 2 courses: 1) a Senior Directed Study (REL 490) with an advisor whose expertise most closely matches the interests of the student; 2) a Senior Directed Thesis (REL 496W), normally directed by the same advisor with whom the student has completed his/her Senior Directed Study. In REL 490: Senior Directed Study the student will a) acquire a knowledge base adequate to undertaking a Senior Thesis in an area of interest to him/her, b) survey a variety of methods and theories of religion, and c) develop a theoretical framework and method adequate to pursuing a thesis in his/her area. At the conclusion of the Senior Directed Study the student will complete a thesis proposal. In REL 496W: Senior Directed Thesis the student will write his/her thesis under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Normally the Senior Directed Study and the Senior Directed Thesis will be completed in consecutive semesters. Both of these courses will be offered as multiple sections, each with a different Religious Studies professor enrolling one student. All sections of these courses will include a colloquium meeting bi-weekly for 2 hours with other students engaged in the senior experience and their faculty advisors, where they will present their work to peers and faculty and mark their progress toward the completion of the Senior Experience.

Requirements for the Religious Studies Minor (5 Credits)

  • 5 elective courses
    • 2 electives must be at the 300-level
    • At least 1 elective must be taken from each of the Areas "A," "B," and "C"
    • 1 course may be counted from Area "D"

Indicators of Achievement

Student Learning Outcomes for the Religious Studies Major

  1. Students will be able to speak cogently about religion as a pervasive feature of human culture manifesting itself in a variety of times and places and in multiple forms and traditions (as demonstrated through the successful completion of courses in each of the areas A, B, and C).
  2. Students will be able to formulate critical questions about religious traditions and phenomena (as demonstrated by participation in bi-weekly colloquia associated with the Senior Experience, other opportunities to engage faculty in critical discussion, and the successful completion of REL 490 and 496).
  3. Students will have a knowledge base that includes a detailed understanding of the beliefs, practices, cultural contexts and distinctive histories of several religious traditions (as demonstrated through the successful completion of courses in each of the areas A,B, and C).
  4. Students will develop the capacity to think critically about the truth claims and other contributions to human culture made by the leaders, scholars, communities, and texts associated with religion (as demonstrated by participation in bi-weekly colloquia associated with the Senior experience, other opportunities to engage faculty in critical discussion, and the successful completion of REL 490 and 496).
  5. Students will acquire and hone discipline-based writing skills (as demonstrated through the successful completion of REL 496, one other Writing-centered course in Religious Studies, and the various other writing assignments associated with particular courses, basic to advanced, in Religious Studies).

Faculty

  • Stephen Patterson, Department Chair; George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies
  • Xijuan Zhou, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
  • David McCreery, Professor of Religious Studies
  • Douglas McGaughey, Professor of Religious Studies
  • Dr. Karen L. Wood, University Chaplain

Part-Time and Visiting Faculty


Course Listings

REL 113 (TH) Introduction to Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (1)

An introduction to the history and literature of ancient Israel and to modern methods used in studying the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. The course has three basic aims: to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel on the basis of archaeological and form-critical methods, to survey the spectrum of literary forms in the Old Testament and to identify the major theological themes and symbols used to express Israel's faith.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Thinking Historically
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: McCreery

REL 114 (IT) History and Literature of Early Christianity (1)

An exploration of the rich body of literature and ideas that emerged in the first 100 years of Christian history set in the context of the early Roman Empire. Students will learn to read familiar biblical texts historically and critically, and to see them alongside other early Christian texts not found in the Bible; the Gospel of Thomas, the Didache, the Gospel of Mary, etc. Discussions will include the interpretation of these texts through time and their continuing roles in shaping the current religious discourse in the west.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 115 (EV) Introduction to the Study of Religion (1)

The course seeks to illuminate three central components shaping the human condition: (1) the human paradox of the perceptive and the imperceptible enabling a distinction between matter and spirit; (2) the necessary role of models for establishing a communal reality; and (3) the necessary dependence of the human upon tradition. These components will then serve for investigating at least one unfamiliar religious community to provide a sympathetic understanding of the variety of religious phenomena.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: McGaughey

REL 116 (IT) Introduction to Major Religious Texts (1)

An analysis of several primary religious documents in light of modern theories of interpretation. Texts will be selected in light of a thematic concern from such writings as the Gilgamesh Epic, Job, John, Augustine's Confessions and the Bhagavad-Gita.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Staff

REL 135 (IT) Religions of Asia (1)

A survey of the major religions of India, China and Japan, emphasizing historical development of their various dimensions — theoretical, practical, experiential and sociological. Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Shinto traditions will be explored.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 150 (IT) Introduction to Islam (1)

What is "Islam," and how do we make sense of this faith tradition in the modern day? This course will first focus on the teachings, the beliefs and practices, of this major world religion. We will then cover a historical survey of Islam from the life of Muhammad onwards, looking in particular at the construction of authority within the Islamic tradition By acquiring a thorough grounding in the major religious teachings of the Islamic tradition and a familiarity with its main institutions, we will then be able to meaningfully engage with contemporary articulations of Islam.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Every semester
  • Instructor: Francaviglia

REL 214 (TH) Religion in America (1)

Religion in North America from prehistory to the present, emphasizing the diverse traditions brought to these shores in continuing waves of immigration and the reshaping they received in the New World context. Popular and civil, as well as traditional institutional manifestations and new traditions made in America will be studied — all in creative interplay with other social, cultural and intellectual forces.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Thinking Historically
  • Offering: Fall
  • Instructor: McGaughey, Wallace

REL 223 History and Literature of Early Judaism (1)

An introduction to the religious and social world of Judaism from the time of Herod the Great to the completion of the Mishnah (c. 200 CE). The course will survey the various Jewish movements of the period including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Zealots and the Essenes. The rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai, the writings of Josephus and Philo and the Dead Sea scrolls will also be discussed.

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 225 (IT) Forgotten Scriptures: Apocryphal Literature and the Origins of Christianity (1)

A study of apocryphal literature in early Christianity, including Q, the Gospel of Mary, the Nag Hammadi Library, and other recently discovered texts. Topics will include the story of their discovery, their contents and context in early Christianity, and how they are making a difference in how we understand the origins of Christianity.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate Years
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 227 (TH; 4th Sem Lang Req) Paganism: The Religions of Greece and Rome (1)

The Hellenistic era was a period of extraordinarily rich and diverse religious activity. Greek and Roman religious traditions met and mingled, Judaism was transformed by its encounter with the Hellenistic world, and Christianity was born. This course examines the religious life of the Hellenistic world, including the great temples and their gods, the imperial cult, local and family-oriented practices, magic, philosophy, mystery cults, Gnosticism, and more. Students should have basic familiarity with the history of Greece and Rome, 300 B.C.E. - 300 C.E.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Thinking Historically; Fourth Semester Language Requirement (Greek and Latin)
  • Offering: Alternate Falls
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 233 (TH) Religions along the Silk Road (1)

This course will examine different religions that spread along the Silk Road. Main themes of this course include patterns of religious conversion, cultural interactions among different religious groups and the impacts of cultural encounters on the internal development of several religions. In the end, students will develop a deeper understanding about patterns and impact of encounters of diverse religion by studying the transformation of Buddhism, Islam, Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity. Students will also make connections to cultural interactions among different religious groups in the U.S. today.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Thinking Historically
  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 239 Introduction to Chinese Religions (1)

An introduction to the foundations of Chinese religious thought with an emphasis on Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 244 Introduction to Judaism (1)

A survey of Jewish texts, thought, practices and sancta. Attention will be given to the development of Judaism from the biblical period to the present.

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Ellison

REL 252 Soul Food: Eating and Drinking in Western Religion (1)

An examination of Western religious rituals involving food and drink, both as they have been practiced and rationalized in teaching in various contexts. Reading, discussion and writing will center on such phenomena as ritual sacrifice, Dionysian excess, kashruth and the Passover seder, the Eucharist, religious feasts and fasts, the American temperance movement, health food (both in its 19th-century sectarian manifestation and in its later, more pervasively secular, "New Age" and "simple living" forms) and ethnic "soul food" (church-supper fare and other identity-conferring dietary practices).

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Wallace

REL 256 (IT) Goddesses and Ghosts: Images of Women in Chinese Tradition (1)

This course examines images of women represented in various forms of texts including Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist scriptures, novels, poetry, Chinese art and films. Through close reading of these texts from 600 BCE to modern times, the course seeks to explore women's power, spirituality, and gender roles in different periods of Chinese history. The course will also focus on a comparison between the "woman" as an ideological construct and the actual living experiences of women, and between images constructed by male and female writers.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts; Asia Cluster
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 262 Japanese Religions (1)

A survey of Japanese religious traditions, this course presents a comprehensive overview of the Shinto and folk traditions. The course covers topics such as Japanese Buddhism and Confucian influence in Japan. The course will examine these issues through myths, rituals and religious texts.

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 320 Religion and Science (1)

Relation of religious and scientific perspectives: the historic and philosophical tensions between the Christian tradition and the natural and social sciences and the ways of mutual clarification of these perspectives in the 20th-century.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: McGaughey

REL 322 (TH) In Search of the Historical Jesus (1)

Who was Jesus, historically speaking? The question has occupied scholars for more than two centuries, when it became clear that the gospels do not offer straightforward historical accounts of his life. In this course students will learn how to read the gospels critically, come to see the traditions that stand behind them, understand the dynamics of oral culture and oral tradition, and learn about the methods historians use to sift through the traditions about Jesus to gain a glimpse of the historical reality behind the elaborated story. Students will also learn about the ancient world in which Jesus lived and how ancient people might have viewed him on their own terms.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Thinking Historically
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 323 (IT) The Bible and American Culture (1)

An examination of the unique role the Bible has played in American culture, from the colonial era to the present. Topics include the Bible and literacy in colonial America, the Bible and the formation of the American ethos of conquest and manifest destiny, the Bible as a weapon in the battle over slavery, women's rights, and GLBTI rights, the Bible in American politics, and Biblical themes (especially apocalyptic) in literature and film

  • General Education Requirement Department: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 333 Topics in Contemporary American Theology (1)

An intensive investigation of such issues in American contemporary theology as models and understandings of God, Christology, metaphysics, the nature and function of the Scriptures in Christianity, and feminism.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: McGaughey

REL 334 (EV) Liberation Theology and Social Change (1)

A survey of Third World (particularly Latin American) liberation theology and its potential and actual impact on movements for human freedom in the North American context (e.g., those working on Black, Hispanic and Native American issues, feminism, gay liberation and economic justice).

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Wallace

REL 335W (IT) Race, Class, and Gender in the Life and Letters of Paul (1)

Earliest Christians were baptized with the declaration that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This course explores how this utopian vision and the conflicts it inspired were played out in the earliest Christian communities, especially those reflected in the letters of the Apostle Paul. This is a writing-centered course; students will engage in a number of different writing exercises in it, including a final paper shared with peers.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered; Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Patterson

REL 336 Topics in Women in World Religions (1)

This course will examine women's roles in various, especially Asian, religious traditions focusing on gender roles, family rituals and social identity in religious literature.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 340 (4th Sem Lang Req) Hebrew Torah/Pentateuch (1)

A critical analysis of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis through Deuteronomy. The course will focus on modern literary analysis of the pentateuchal traditions and archaeological discoveries which are helping to clarify the historical and cultural context from which the first five books of the Bible emerged. Topics will include the formation of the canon, biblical saga and history and the origins of Israelite law.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Fourth Semester Language Requirement
  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: McCreery

REL 344 Topics in Contemporary European Theology (1)

An introduction to 20th-century European theology. Particular attentions is given to the definition of key theological issues in their historical context as well as an investigation of the thought of individual thinkers.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: McGaughey

REL 348 Buddhism (1)

This course is an introduction to the basic beliefs of Buddhism in East Asia. It will examine three main Buddhist traditions: Theravadan, Ch'an/Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Primary texts of each tradition, such as Dhammapada, the teachings of Vimalakirti and the platform sutra will be examined. Topics also include Buddhist practices and rituals.

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 352 (IT) Shamanism (1)

The course introduces beliefs and practices of various shamanic traditions in Asia and North America. It will examine the meaning of shamanic myths, symbols and rituals. It will also discuss the relationship between environmental concerns and the increasing interest in shamanism.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts; Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Cluster
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 354 (IT) Topics in Asian Religions (1)

This course studies specific topics in Asia traditions. It investigates either a theme such as ritual, religious literature, good/evil, death and afterlife; or a religious tradition that is normally not offered, such as Hinduism, Islam, Manichaeism or Zoroastrianism

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Interpreting Texts
  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 356 Taoism (1)

An examination of classical Taoist philosophical texts such as Tao Te Ching and Chaung Tzu. The course focuses on the development of Taoist religious beliefs and rituals. The relationship between Tao, Ch'I, Chinese medicine and martial arts will be discussed.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 358 Topics in the Western Religious Tradition (1)

This course provides a rubric for the investigation of major topics and issues related to the sources and formation of the Western religious tradition. The course also may be used for the intensive study of selected religious texts from the ancient Mediterranean world.

  • Offering: Alternate years
  • Instructor: Staff

REL 370 (EV) Ethics and Vocation (1)

Examines the nature and role of internal and external ethical norms for understanding the human condition and obligations. Writings of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Ricoeur, among others will be examined.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Examining Values
  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: McGaughey

REL 390 Independent Study (.5 or 1)

Intensive study of a selected area. Normally for juniors or seniors who are majors in Religious Studies.

  • Prerequisite: Departmental approval
  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

REL 490 Senior Directed Study (1)

A one-on-one directed study in which the student develops expertise in an area of special interest to him/her under the direction of a faculty advisor. Students also gain familiarity with a variety of methods and theories of religion and develop a theory and method appropriate to the field in which she/he will pursue a thesis. At the conclusion of the course, students will propose a thesis topic. This course includes a 2-hour colloquium meeting bi-weekly with other students enrolled in REL 490 and their faculty advisors.

  • Prerequisite: Religious Studies majors only
  • Offering: Fall semester
  • Instructor: Zhou

REL 496W Directed Senior Thesis (1)

Under only rare circumstances, this course enables a student to undertake an independent study leading to a major paper satisfying the Senior Experience Requirement of the major.

  • General Education Requirement Fulfillment: Writing-centered
  • Offering: On demand
  • Instructor: Staff

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