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.
This course examines the interaction between culture and religion in Italy, above all modern Italy. The peninsula has been the almost uninterrupted home of the Catholic church and the Vatican state, a factor of great importance for centuries and still today in the development of Italian culture and society. At the same time Italy is a relatively young nation, democratic, industrialized, and multicultural. In the lively Italian cultural landscape religion can mean oceanic crowds at sanctuaries or a papal appearance, fierce newspaper debates, small parishes, and Muslims or Christians praying in rented spaces. Italy, indeed, epitomizes key issues in religion and culture generally. Students move between themes of diversity in religious belief and practice, coexistence of communities, continuity of tradition and local heritage, the political interface, secularism, religion in the media and popular culture, national identity, and educational, social and health policies and activities. The course exploits the special opportunity to investigate various religious communities in Rome.
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.
“In search of Early Christianity” aims to give students a brief overview of the main theological changes that happened in the first six centuries of the Christian era. This module will offer a sketch of the teachings of the major eastern and western theologians and of various Christian movements (e.g. Gnosticism, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Augustine), exploring also the historical context in which their thinking developed. Students will be introduced to tools and methods of religious studies, learning to critically interact with ancient primary sources (mostly texts and archaeological sources). Through the study of ancient sources and the contemporary scholarly debate around them, students will gain a sense of both the
debates and divisions that occurred among Christians of the first sixth century and of the diversity of modern scholarly approaches and perspectives.
Prerequisites: Junior standing; a prior course in religious studies, or equivalent, is recommended
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