Fall 2022

DESR students are required to take three courses. Two of these comprise the core curriculum, and one is an elective selected from a list of courses offered by the DESR faculty.


STRELIG 200: Methods in the Study of Religion

Methods in the Study of Religion is an introduction to methodological best practices in the Study of Religion from the perspectives of different fields. It is made up of multiple modules that combine the study of primary sources with exemplary methodological approaches. These approaches include but are not limited to: anthropological theories of religion and society, historical genealogies of categories of religion and the secular, theology and Church history, sociological approaches to issues like religious organization and conflict, religion and science, religious literature and Biblical hermeneutics, as well as particular religious histories.

STRELIG 201: Histories of the Study of Religion

Histories of the Study of Religion is an introduction to the history and development of the field of “Religious Studies” as an intellectual space for the study of a sometimes historicized, sometimes naturalized phenomenon called “religion.” Since the narration of any history of the study of religion serves to circumscribe a particular set of phenomena as “religious,” this course does not isolate a canonical history of the field. Instead, it progresses in a roughly diachronic manner, through a number of thematic threads representing the development of different domains of the study of religion.


Additionally, students must complete one elective course from a list of pre-approved graduate courses on religion. In some instances, students may petition for other, relevant courses to be counted towards their elective requirement. If a course is offered for variable units, students must enroll at the maximum possible unit value. Potential elective courses will vary depending on faculty teaching plans in a given semester.

FALL 2022

Core Courses

Decolonizing the Republic of Letters: Literature and Violence from Columbus to Vico (STRELIG 200) 
Diego Pirillo
Tuesdays, 2 pm – 4:59 pm, Dwinelle 6331
Class #: 32512

In dialogue with post-colonial theory, indigenous studies and global history, this seminar interrogates literary and philosophical texts in light of the current debate on the decolonization of knowledge and education. After tracing the Renaissance discourse about conquest and empire triggered by Columbus and the Iberian globalization, we’ll focus on the controversy around slavery and the dispossession of Indigenous people, considering how the Republic of Letters enabled and was at the same time produced by the violence of Euro-American colonialism. Readings will include both early modern authors (such as Columbus, Ariosto, Montaigne, Vico) as well as classics from critical theory (such as Arendt, Fanon, Said, Trouillot, Greenblatt, Subrahmanyam).

Methods in the History of Religion (STRELIG 201) 
Jonathan Sheehan 
Mondays, 2 pm – 3:59 pm, Dwinelle 3205
Class #: 32937

There are many practicing historians of religion, but little consensus on what might be distinctive about the “history of religion” per se. On the face of it, this is unusual. Historians of science, for example, not only have science as their subject, but have also developed methods to their subject, and a canon of key texts, that orient teaching and research in the field in important ways. Religion seems no less a distinctive and unusual object than science, yet its historians seem quite content simply to proceed in their work with methodological abandon, as if writing the history of religion was a self-evident pursuit. Put a different way, historians of early modern Christianity rarely imagine themselves to be part of the same field as historians of medieval Islam, ancient Buddhism, or modern African American Christianity. Why not? And should they? This course proposes a) to examine how this state of affairs came to be, with particular reference to the history of “religion” as an object of scholarly inquiry; and b) to begin to frame in more concrete ways whether and how the history of religion might be understood as a project demanding its own distinctive protocols, with a distinctive pedagogical canon, and a distinctive research agenda.


Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy the DESR elective requirement:

Francophone Literature: The Violence of History in the Colonial and Contemporary Maghreb 
Thoraya S. Tlatli
Tuesdays, 2pm – 4:59 pm, Dwinelle 4226 
Class #: 25465

In this seminar we will explore the relationship among national belonging, religion and sacrifice. In his essay, “Pro Patria Mori,” Ernest Kantorowicz asks a fundamental question about the nature of individuals’ sacrifice for their homeland: Should death for the homeland be understood in a religious perspective, as the gift of the self for the mystical body of the state? Such an interrogation links patriotism to sacrifice. The relationship between sacrifice and the religious realm is extremely significant in our contemporary moment and deserves to be interrogated from new perspectives. This seminar will analyze the transformations that have affected the Muslim world and more specifically the Maghreb and Algeria, in its relation to death, war, violence and sacrifice. What are the various interpretations of this new configuration of religion sacrifice and death? To which extent does it participate in a new religious paradigm? What is the ideological status of the figure of the Martyr? What kind of transformations took place in the concept of nationalism since the years of liberation and nation building, in the Maghreb? Literary readings include texts by Assia Djebar (L’amour, la fantasia, La Femme sans sépulture, Le Blanc de l’Algérie), Kateb Yacine (Nedjma, Le cadavre encerclé) and by Tahar Djaout: (Le dernier été de la raison.) Theoretical essays will help us situate our directing theme. They include excerpts from Freud, Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Talal Asad and Veena Das. The course is taught in French, discussions can be held in English, as most theoretical and literary readings are available in English.

Comparative Studies in Romance Literatures and Cultures: Word, Image, Visuality in Romance Literature and Art 
Henrike Christiane Lange
Wednesdays, 4 pm – 6:59 pm, Dwinelle 6331 
Class #: 32444 

This course engages with large disciplinary and interdisciplinary questions in the Romance languages and literatures, history, and the arts and humanities by investigating relationships between verbal and visual languages in all shapes and forms. Taught with object lessons in the Bancroft and the Berkeley Art Museum, the class will explore topics including, but not limited to, visual narratives; emblemata; iconography and iconology; ekphrasis in prose, lyrical, and dramatic works; visual poetry; metaphors, topoi, and motifs in the shared Romance language tradition; visual and musical elements in drama and opera; in general the multiple relationships between word and image in the tradition of Christian art and writing since Augustine, and their modern reformulations proposed by authors such as Italo Calvino with their involvement in experimental literature, linguistics, and the classical / medieval / early modern traditions of European literatures.

Depending on linguistic and foreign language preparation and preferences of the students, the class can either stay in the ancient, medieval, and early modern / Renaissance worlds, or occasionally include modern (19th-20th to contemporary) examples across the fields and Romance languages, e.g. imagery in poetry by Ungaretti, Apollinaire, and Montale.

This course is designed to connect with other and further studies in adjacent fields – including but not limited to Medieval Studies, Renaissance & Early Modern Studies, critical theory, and interdisciplinary studies. No previous art history preparation required.

Visualization: Medieval and Early Modern / Renaissance Europe
Henrike Christiane Lange
Fridays, 2 pm – 4:59 pm, Doe Library 425 
Class #: 19163

This seminar investigates the many ways in which knowledge, stories, and power structures were visualized in works of art from medieval and early modern / Renaissance Europe – paintings, statuary, relief sculpture, architecture, and graphic arts, all in relation to the influential texts of their times such as philosophical and scientific treatises, biblical sources and religious exegesis, letters, poetry, history, hagiography, travel literature, and autobiographies. The main topics throughout the semester are: Visualizations of Religion, Stories, Relationships, Science, Mythology, Power and Political Iconography, Philosophy, Humans, Animals, Time, and Space. Depending on students’ backgrounds, fields, preparation, and interests, we will read relevant texts usually in English translation (with occasional discussion of Italian, French, and German original texts). Artists in focus include Giotto, Cimabue, Duccio, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti, Fra Angelico, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Donatello, Mantegna, the Bellini, Carpaccio, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Van Eyck, Brueghel, Altdorfer, Dürer; historical authors include Ristoro d’Arezzo, Dante, Cavalcanti, Ghiberti, Alberti, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dürer; secondary literature include core texts by Warburg, Panofsky, Gombrich, Warnke. Taught with object lessons in the Bancroft, in the Berkeley Art Museum, and in San Francisco. Graduate credit is offered with additional work/readings.

Classical Rhetorical Theory and Practice
James I. Porter
Tuesdays, 2 pm – 4:59 pm, Dwinelle 7415
Class #: 25753

An introduction to the questions around which classical rhetorical theory and practice are organized. Through analysis of materials drawn principally from the Ancient Greek and Roman periods, possibly including later revivals of classical rhetoric, the course will examine the formation of rhetoric in the West as an intellectual stance from which to practice a range of related fields, including but not limited to philosophy, history, literature, politics, religion, law, science, and the arts.

Seminar in Buddhism and Buddhist Texts
Mondays, 2 pm – 4:59 pm, Dwinelle 288 
Class #: 31430 

Content varies with student interests. The course will normally focus on classical Buddhist texts that exist in multiple recensions and languages, including Chinese, Sanskrit, and Tibetan.

Readings in Japanese Buddhist Texts
Mark Blum 
Tuesdays, 2 – 4:59 pm, Dwinelle 288 
Class #: 31439 

This seminar serves as an introduction to a broad range of Japanese Buddhist literature belonging to different historical periods and genres, including liturgical texts; monastic records, rules, and ritual manuals; doctrinal treatises; biographies of monks; and histories of Buddhism in Japan. Students are required to do all the readings in the original languages, which are classical Chinese (Kanbun) and classical Japanese. It will also serve as a tools and methods course, covering basic reference works and secondary scholarship in the field of Japanese Buddhism. The content of the course will be adjusted from semester to semester to accommodate the needs and interests of the students.

Readings in Chinese Buddhist Texts
Xingyi Wang
Fridays 3 pm – 5:59 pm, Dwinelle 288 
Class #: 23550 

This seminar is an intensive introduction to various genres of Buddhist literature in classical Chinese, including translations of Sanskrit and Central Asian scriptures, Chinese commentaries, philosophical treatises, hagiographies, and sectarian works. It is intended for graduate students who already have some facility in classical Chinese. It will also serve as a tools and methods course, covering the basic reference works and secondary scholarship in the field of East Asian Buddhism. The content of the course will be adjusted from semester to semester to best accommodate the needs and interests of students.

Early Scandinavian Literature: Eddic Books  
Katherine Sarah Heslop
Wednesday, 3 pm – 5:59 pm, Dwinelle 6415 
Class #: 32425

In this seminar we will read the medieval books known as Edda – the codices of the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, and the two collections of so-called eddic poetry. Although the naming of these manuscripts as Edda is largely a post-medieval phenomenon, and a matter of historical contingency (or even confusion), they nonetheless share many features and illuminate one another in interesting ways. 

The seminar will have three main foci:
-the eddic poetic tradition;
-medieval collections and compilations, especially of poetry;
-theories and methods for the study of these topics.

Seminar participants will present readings weekly, construct a shared annotated bibliography, and make formal, conference-style presentations of their seminar paper topics in the final weeks of class.

By the end of the semester, students should know the eddic books, their similarities and differences; be acquainted with the eddic poetic tradition (content, genres, form, style, meter, etc.); and be able to contextualize these things against the backdrop of broader medieval practices of alliterative poetic composition and manuscript compilation, and of debates in the Old Norse field.

Advanced Late Antique Hebrew Texts 
Daniel Boyarin
Tuesdays, 2 pm – 4:59 pm, 248 Social Sciences Building
Class #: 32396

Historical and literary study of Hebrew and Aramaic Judaic texts (e.g., Talmud and Midrash). 

Colonialism, Racism and Resistance
Ussama Makdisi
Tuesdays, 2 pm – 3:59 pm, Dwinelle 3205
Class #: 32941

This seminar encourages critical reading of the historiography of colonialism, racism, and resistance. It charts how and why Western colonialism has asserted a racial hierarchy and how this hierarchy has been resisted by anti-colonial individuals and movements, from W.E.B. Dubois to Edward Said. The seminar focuses in particular about the challenges and ethics of solidarity of the oppressed in the face of colonial worldmaking and raises the question of how to translate discrepant historical experiences, each of which develops its own political and moral vocabulary, its own imperative of anticolonialism, and its own temporality, into a single frame of analysis.

Jewish Folktales Around the World: Past and Present, Self and Other
JEWISH 120 001
Sarah Frances Levin
Tuesdays/Thursdays, 5 pm – 6:29 pm, Dwinelle 87
Course #: 21653

Folklore helps us make sense of the world we live in at the same time that it entertains us. Curious about dybbuks, golems, genies (jinns)? Want to know the folktales Shakespeare used? Want to learn new Jewish jokes?

In this course, we’ll read a sampling of folktales and jokes from diverse Jewish communities (German, Kurdish, Moroccan, Russian, Yemeni, etc.) while exploring themes such as creativity and artistic expression. We’ll also address gender, group identity and values, stereotypes, and the interactions of Jews and non-Jews. Films, videos, and guest storytellers will complement discussions. Final projects allow students to pursue their interests. Students from all majors and backgrounds are welcome. Conducted in English with readings in English.

Please note: Though the the following are undergraduate courses, extra requirements could be fulfilled for graduate credit.

Gender, Religion, and Law: The Case of Israel
LEGALST 190 004
Masua Sagiv
Mondays, 3 pm – 5:59 pm, Social Sciences Building 185
Course #: 16562

The course will explore the intersection of gender, religion, and law in Israel, as
manifested in social movement activism through law and society. The course
will illustrate and reflect upon different strategies and spheres for promoting
social change, by examining core issues involving gender, religion and law in
Israel: religious marriage and divorce, gender equality in the religious
establishment, spiritual leadership of women, free exercise of religion (at the
Western Wall and Temple Mount), conversion, and segregation in education.
Spheres of activism to be covered include parliament, state courts, alternative
private initiatives and courts, and social media.

Islam in Israel: Religious and Socio-Cultural Identity Dilemmas of the Arab-Muslim Minority in Israel
JEWISH 123 001
Muhammad Al-Atawneh
Tuesdays/Thursdays, 2 pm – 3:29 pm, Dwinelle 247
Course #: 33174

Islam is the religion of the majority of the Arab citizens in Israel. Since the late 1970s, Islam has
become an important factor in the political and socio-cultural identity of the Arab minority in
Israel; thus, the number of Muslims in Israel who define their identity first and foremost in
relation to their religious affiliation has steadily grown. Because Islam is a religious code covering
all aspects of life, devout Muslims in Israel seek religious guidance from Islamic legal doctrines
and other Shari‘a (Islamic law) tenets, not only in spiritual matters but also in matters relating to
temporal, social conduct. These Islamic legal norms are, however, at odds with both Israeli
secular law and the sociocultural norms of the Jewish majority in Israel.

The intent of this course is to explore the local nature of Islam by the discussion of the evolving
religious identity and its impact on the religious and socio-cultural aspects of Muslim life in Israel.
Special emphasis will be placed on the dilemmas and tensions stem from the encounter between
the Muslim religious norms and the Israeli socio-cultural and legal norms in various areas, e.g.,
banking, technology, education, gender issues, Jewish/Muslim relations, etc.