Fall 2021

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.

STRELIG 202: Local Approaches to the Study of Religion

Local Approaches to the Study of Religion is intended to create a space for students to reflect on the issues involved in the application of critical and theoretical approaches. This course asks students to consider the opportunities and benefits of two approaches to the beliefs and practices connected with a particular set of traditions: first, as studied in their historical and cultural specificity, versus second, as described as the instantiation of a universal religious phenomenon such as the “sacred” aspect of human experience. The course is intended for students to reflect on the issues involved in the application of critical and theoretical approaches such as the multidisciplinary ones introduced in Methods of the Study of Religion, and the examples from Religious Studies surveyed in Local Approaches to the Study of Religion. Looking closely at a case study of the application of both of these kinds of approaches to a particular subfield prepares the student for the methodological challenges of applying the term “religion” in their own field.


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 2021

Core Courses

Histories of the Study of Religion (STRELIG 201)
STRELIG 201 001
Histories of the Study of Religion
Mark Csikszentmihalyi
Wednesdays, 2 pm–3:59 pm, Wheeler 122
Class #: 33276

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 circumscribing a particular set of phenomena as “religious,” this course does not isolate a canonical history of the field. Instead, it progresses in roughly diachronic manner, through a number of thematic threads representing the development of different domains of the study of religion.

Local Approaches to the Study of Religion (STRELIG 202)
AHMA 210 001/CLASSIC 239 001/HISTORY 280A 001/HISTORY 285A 001
Voting the Divine: Religious Disputes and Communal Decision Making in the Roman Empire
Susanna Elm, Duncan Macrae
Tuesdays, 9 am–11:59 am, Dwinelle 2303
Class #: 32248 (AHMA), 24859 (CLASSIC), 26665 (HISTORY 280A 001), 26661 (HISTORY 285A 001)

Focusing on a selection of texts and events from the early to the later Roman empire this course will investigate forms of communal decisions on matters “religious.” Taking our cue from contemporary theoretical scholarship on democratic practices, voting, arbitration and so on, we want to investigate the extent to which decisions regarding the divine were in fact communal, how such communal decisions functioned, and what that may tell us about deliberation, competitive argumentation, and modes of acceptance with regard to the divine. It is our aim to see whether communal deliberations, debates and decisions might be a fruitful analytic framework (1.) to think about religion in the Roman empire in ways other than the standard narratives, and (2.) to explore venues for “democratic” behavior in a premodern empire other than the more obvious “political” communities and regimes.

Among the texts we will examine are Republican senatorial debates and decrees (e.g. the resolutions on the rites of Bacchus, the sanctuary at Oropus and Cicero’s house); elections of priests (including Christian clergy) both in Rome and in provincial communities; the processes around imperial decisions on religion such as those by Tiberius regarding the priest of Jupiter (flamen Dialis) and Trajan’s on the Christians; some philosophical dialogues (e.g. excerpts from Cicero’s De natura deorum; Macrobius’ Saturnalia bk 1; Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho); petitions and apologetics (e.g. Josephus’ contra Apionem; Tertullian’s Apology (excerpts)); Theodosius’ edict cunctos populos; and public religious disputations regarding what a “universal” (catholicos) ecclesia should be in the form of an exceptionally well documented legal tribunal (Carthage 411: catholics versus traditionalists). Requirements include in-class presentations and a final paper.

Elective Courses

The following courses satisfy the DESR elective requirement:

ARABIC 220 001
Seminar in Classical Arabic Literature
Margaret Larkin
Mondays, 10:30 am–1:29 pm, Internet/Online
Class #: 26224

A close reading and careful literary analysis of significant authors and specific topics in Classical Arabic prose or poetry or both.
Note: This course is conducted in Arabic, and all primary source readings are in Arabic. Please contact the instructor for required approval if considering this course.

BUDDSTD C223 001/CHINESE C223 001
Readings in Chinese Buddhist Texts
Robert H. Sharf
Wednesdays, 3–5:59 pm, Dwinelle 288
Class #: 24083 (BUDDSTD C223 001), 24084 (CHINESE C223 001)

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.

Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts

Jacob Dalton
Tuesdays, 2–5 pm, Dwinelle 288
Class #: 24815 (BUDDSTD C224 001), 25164 (SASIAN C224 001), 24816 (TIBETAN C224 001)

This seminar provides an introduction to a broad range of Tibetan Buddhist texts, including chronicles and histories, biographical literature, doctrinal treatises, canonical texts, ritual manuals, pilgrimage guides, and liturgical texts. It is intended for graduate students interested in premodern Tibet from any perspective. Students are required to do all of the readings in the original classical Tibetan. It will also serve as a tools and methods for the study of Tibetan Buddhist literature, including standard lexical and bibliographic references, digital resources, and secondary literature in modern languages. The content of the course will vary from semester to semester to account for the needs and interests of particular students.

ENGLISH 218 001
Joanna Picciotto
Wednesdays, 2–4:59 pm, Haviland 214
Class #: 33156

We’ll explore John Milton’s entire career, a lifelong effort to unite intellectual, political, and aesthetic experimentation. We’ll start by reading his great epic poem “Paradise Lost.” Then we’ll go back to the beginning, working through Milton’s college homework, early poems, and some political writings of his maturity. These are crucial texts for understanding the English Revolution, which saw the public trial and execution of the king and a succession of experiments in non-monarchical government, brought to an end by the Restoration of monarchy in 1660. “Paradise Lost” appeared seven years later, as Milton’s public response to the experience of political defeat. After reconsidering the poem in light of this context, we’ll grapple with his final poetic and political statement: a book consisting of his “brief epic” “Paradise Regained” and the tragic dramatic poem “Samson Agonistes.”

HISTART 270 001
Seminar in Baroque Art—Graduate Seminar: Ornament, Alterity and the Long Early Modern
Anneka Lenssen, Todd P. Olson
Wednesdays, 9–11:59 am, Doe Library 308B
Class #: 31254

The Gothic, grotesque, and arabesque. These are categories that seem to undergo “resurgence” at points of crisis or irresolution. They are also early modern discourses inherited by modernism, each marking ways to engage and manage the perceived alterity of ornament (Supplement? Limit case? Indulgence? Divinity?). In numerous and often divergent ways, scholars and artists have defined the Gothic and grotesque in terms of bodily deformity, femininity, perverse hybridity, and lack of regulation and control, and to characterize the foreignness of the arabesque, and vice versa. One thread of the course will interrogate the anxieties (and perhaps latent desires) underlying the formation and recurrence of these categories related to criminality, xenophobia, misogyny, and fear of the irrational and exotic. Another thread will interrogate the capacities of abstract pattern and aniconic practices, including those associated with Islamic dynastic settings, to escape limits of location and value—to be translated across global geo-political expanse (Spanish Empire and modern Colonialism), confessional relationships (majoritarian or minoritarian religious arts), historical spaces (archaism and revival), and modes of production (hand, machine, nature, other). The seminar will draw from other fields (such as anthropology and ethno-mathematics) and encourage research in a broad spectrum of temporal-geographical fields. We are interested in sources and methods for considering the perceived uncontrollable aspect of ornament as something reproduced, disseminated, and projected into futures.

HISTORY 280H 001/HISTORY 285H 001
Advanced Studies: Sources/General Literature of the Several Fields: Africa—Africa from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century
Tabitha M Kanogo
Tuesdays, 2-3:59 pm, Dwinelle 3205
Class #: 26663 (HISTORY 280H 001), 26664 (HISTORY 285H 001)

This seminar investigates major themes and historiographic debates of African history from about 1700 to the end of the twentieth century. It begins with an exploration of the making and transformation of 18th and 19th century communities. Some of the topics in this section include an examination of the nature and tensions of precolonial political, economic, and religious spaces; gender and statehood; trans-regional connections and ideologies; production, slave trade, slavery and Islam in 19th century West Africa. Themes on the colonial encounter and its aftermath will include a re-evaluation of colonial systems of administration; reflections on African intermediaries; colonialism and multiracial subjectivities; idioms of health, disease and colonial medicine; girlhood, womanhood, and notions of respectability; migrant labor and colonial economies; ethnicity, religion and the makings of genocide; nation states, civil wars and democratic shifts. A long paper (25-35 pages) and periodic oral presentations will be required.

HISTORY 280B 001/HISTORY 285B 001/JEWISH 290 001/MUSIC 247 002
Jews and the Archive: Learning Methods, Questioning Sources
Ethan Benjamin Katz, Francesco Spagnolo
Mondays, 2-4:59 pm, Room 117 at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, located at 2121 Allston Way in Berkeley
Class #: 30325 (HISTORY 280B 001), 30326 (HISTORY 285B 001), 19421 (JEWISH), 32422 (MUSIC 247 002)

This course teaches graduate students from History, Music, Anthropology, Museum studies, and a range of other disciplines and area studies how to “read” primary sources of all kinds critically. On the one hand, working with the world-class holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life on the UC-Berkeley campus (where the course will meet), we will undertake a practicum of working “hands-on” with a wide variety of cultural objects: archival materials (personal and institutional records), musical notations and recordings, as well as museum objects ranging from art to material culture across the global Jewish diaspora (embroidered textiles, painted manuscripts, coins, paintings, engravings, and more). At the same time, as we examine objects, we will enter into the thorny matter of how archives and collections are constructed, and examine some of the theoretical literature on this subject that helps us to read sources with a far more critical eye. Students will ultimately write a research paper in their area of particular research interest that shows the ability to utilize multiple types of sources in sophisticated ways. The instructors will encourage the students to utilize the holdings of The Magnes in some stage of their project. While the class focuses on the Jewish experience post-1500, we welcome students working on all times and places, and those with foci or background outside of Jewish history and culture.

ITALIAN 248 001
Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Italian Studies–Aby Warburg in Italy
Henrike Christiane Lange
Thursdays, 2–4:59 pm, Dwinelle 6331
Course #: 24345

Several decades into the recuperation of Aby Warburg’s work, his unfinished “Mnemosyne Atlas” (63 collaged boards combining reproductions of historical sites, objects, and artworks with contemporary ads, maps, stamps, postcards of 1927-1929) is newly accessible. Digital access to the Bilderatlas (https://warburg.sas.ac.uk/library-collections/warburg-institute-archive/online-bilderatlas-mnemosyne) and its recent full publication offer new perspectives on the Mnemosyne project and its view of Italy. This graduate seminar will focus on Warburg as self-identifying Florentine, on his time in Italy, and on Italian components of the Bilderatlas as well as Warburg’s response to Italian Etruscan, ancient, medieval, and early modern / Renaissance rites, rituals, spaces, and images. We will question the implications of Warburg’s practice for the digital age, for contemporary artistic practices, for material archives such as historical slides collections, and for an interdisciplinary approach to history, images, postcolonialism, trauma, disabilities, and autobiography. Topics include: word & image, translation, prints, cosmology, iconology and visual studies, photography, psychoanalysis, post-colonialism, tarot cards, art and anthropology, Hopi, Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, cultural history, migration, and the “pathos formula.”