This course introduces students to what is probably the most influential book in the Western world, the Bible. This course will focus on what many regard as the first part of it: the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, surveying the history of the book and of the people of Israel. The course will address the main issues and characters of the HB/OT with a narrative approach, though not omitting other methodological approaches and interpretations. Lessons, which combine close reading and interactive discussions, will examine key historical figures and events of the Hebrew Bible, together with its constitution in Ancient Near Eastern culture and environment, and seeks to lay a foundation for further studies by addressing key questions concerning cultural, institutional, religious and theological ideas and practices.
This course is designed as a historical and cultural survey of the basic teachings and doctrines of the major religious traditions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. The course will examine a significant number of specific themes in all religions studied such as the nature of this world and of the universe; the relationship between the individual and the transcendent; ultimate reality; the meaning and goals of worldly life; the importance of worship and rituals; ethics and human action. Excerpts from important texts of each tradition will be analyzed such as The Torah, The Bible, The Koran, The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, The Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu, Buddhist Sutras, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and The Confucian Canon. During the course, students will also learn the basic principles of meditation.
Examination of the past and present relationships between the three major monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The course will focus on their points of encounter and of difference, on the one hand, and on their influence the world’s culture and society, on the other hand. We will adopt a comparative perspective, with special attention to current issues and debates -- many revolving around these three faiths and in some instances polemical -- about religion, society, politics, and the definition and role of western civilization in today’s largely secularized, global society. In this course, students not only extend their knowledge, they will take an active part in the shaping of a live dialogue between representatives of these three faiths in Italy.
Survey of the history of the Christian faith and church from its origins to the present. Attention is given to the birth and background of Christianity, the figures of Jesus Christ and Christ’s first disciples, Christianity’s early propagation and affirmation, and its successive developments and key historical figures following Late Antiquity. Students learn about core cultural, institutional, and theological ideas and how they relate to ecclesiastical structures and practices. The course may serve as a foundation for further studies.
Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion that today counts more than one and a half billion Muslim devotes worldwide. The aim of the course is to give an overview of Islam, providing students with general but complete knowledge about the history of the Islamic religion and culture, from its birth until the present time. Structured as an interactive dialogue, the course will seek answers to two general questions: What does the average Muslim think and what are her/his religious rituals and laws? The main religious, social and political institutions, as well as Islamic religious practices, will be analyzed with special reference to the present era. Starting from a description of the Qur’an, the holy book for the Muslims, and an analysis of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the course will provide students with essential knowledge and understanding of Islamic faith and practice, from the theological, legal, linguistic, and social perspectives.
Exploration of yoga as a historical religious phenomenon, set of physical practices, and also as an element of modern culture; includes both lecture and practical components. We will analyze yoga’s roots in ancient India and such texts as the Upanishad and Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, as well as its popularity and place in contemporary culture. Students will examine yoga as a spiritual, mental, and physical practice; in other words, as a path to attain spiritual realization and union with the divine, as a quieting and focusing technique, and as a healing and balancing physical exercise. Hence, we will study various breathing (pranayama) and meditation techniques along with ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing system and “science of life.” Included is an overview of such different forms of yoga such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, Yin, as well as Laughter, Restorative, Bikram and yoga therapies for eating and addictive disorders. Finally, students will explore the interactions between practitioners of yoga and social, political, and environmental activism.
This course is an introduction to the legacy of the Holocaust and its implications. The course explores Christian anti- Judaism as one of many factors in the Nazi rise to power and the “Final Solution.” It then proceeds to various accounts of life in the Nazi ghettoes and death camps and deals with Christian and Jewish efforts to remember the Holocaust within particular communities and places. The course will focus on the Holocaust of the Italian Jews. It will begin with an analysis of the emergence of the Fascist movement in Italy, which led to the Racial Laws. It will proceed with the study of specific stories of persecution, deportation, and salvation in the various cities of Italy. We will study in depth the reaction of the Vatican to the Holocaust. In addition, we will analyze the reactions of Italian society to the Holocaust, starting right after the war until today.
Over the centuries the Catholic Church has had a major impact on Italian society, and its beliefs and traditions form a central part of modern Italian culture. This course explores the interaction of religion and society in Italy over a long period, beginning with the birth of Christianity, and moving onto early developments in Roman times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation and Counter Reformation, up to contemporary issues in the present day.
Prerequisites: HIS 130 Western Civilization, or REL 210 World Religions, or equivalent
Jewish Life in Italy from the Renaissance to the Present
REL 262 F; Cr: 3; Credit hrs: 45
This is a general introduction to the rich and varied world of the Jews in relationship to the history of Italy from the first Jewish settlements until today. We shall examine the early history of the Jews of Italy from their arrival as imperial slaves during the ancient Roman Empire. Next we shall discover the fascinating and dynamic relationships of the Jews as bankers, artisans, authors, and physicians. We shall see how the Jews, while separated from the mainstream culture of Christian Italy, gave a remarkable contribution to the ideas of the Renaissance civilization. Finally the course will examine the modern experience, from Napoleon and the Italian Risorgimento, through the catastrophe of the Nazi Holocaust, to the Jewish contribution to contemporary Italy.
Prerequisites: None; HIS 130 Western Civilization or equivalent is recommended
Women have been by turns defined by, harmed by, excluded from, but also enriched by religions. Often they have been and still are barred from equal spiritual footing with men in many religious institutions. But how do sacred texts and rituals define who we are and what roles we have as men and women? What do religious traditions teach communities about gender, bodies, sexuality, and the divine? This course considers the difficult question of gender (im)balances from within 3 major monotheistic Abrahamic religious traditions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Students will examine both the influences that religions have on women - through texts that have been written for, about, and against women -- and also the interrelated influence that women have on religions -- through texts written by women as individual participants in the religious experience or by feminist religious scholars who are challenging gender-exclusive language, roles, and institutions. This course asks questions of current relevance about the changing roles of women inside religious communities, in the public sphere of leadership and authority, in the family, and in everyday life. By examining traditional cultural beliefs and values derived from religions, and by using interfaith and gender perspective lenses, the course aims to offer resources to understand, evaluate, and possibly challenge traditional roles.
This course looks at the supernatural (i.e. spirits, ghosts, afterlife, netherworld etc.) and at the different practices through which humans – in ancient cultures – got in touch with, and represented it. A large part of the course will be dedicated to the various aspects of magic and sorcery, along with shamanism, divination, necromancy (evocation of the dead) and curses (namely binding and love curses). Several classes will also be focused on restless dead and ghosts, a privileged medium through which ancient people were believed to get in touch with the beyond. Documentary material, such as reproductions of ancient magical papyri and cursed tablets will be shown, and comparisons will be drawn – when relevant – with modern cultures and folklore.
Since ancient times, humans have faced fundamental questions regarding their existence, their death and the world in which they lived (i.e., who created the earth, the animals, the universe, or mankind?). In order to find the answers they turned to beliefs in spiritual beings and gods. It is through different forms of connection with these spiritual beings that religious beliefs and practices became the quintessential elements of communities through the creation of myths, the practice of rituals, the construction of graves and temples, as well as ritual objects. To explore these issues, the course on Ancient Religions will be dedicated to the analyses of the different forms of religiosity (i.e., animism, ancestral cults, polytheism, monotheism) among ancient societies in both the Old and the New World. In particular, the students will study the development of ancient religiosity from the earliest form of spirituality based on the cult of the ancestors (typical of prehistoric communities) to polytheism and, finally, the appearance of the earliest example of monotheistic religion in ancient Israel.
Prerequisites: Junior standing; a prior course in religious studies, or equivalent, is recommended