Religion and Popular Culture
This course explores the variety of imbricated relationships between religion and American popular culture within the United States. While this course is not historical in nature, the material we will engage spans the broader history of the US dating back to the middle of the 19th Century. Instead, this course assumes a Cultural Studies approach within the larger academic study of religion and popular culture. This means that we will be investigating how the meaning of terms like “popular” and “culture” have changed over time in both their content and scholarly usage. The study of religion resembles the study of popular culture in this regard because as scholars of religion we are uniquely equipped to both name and categorize human behavior, or data, as “religion.” As such, this course foregrounds a diverse collection of readings that explores sport, film, celebrity, consumption, and television as themes and subjects. It also emphasizes the “how” of our field, meaning the methods and approaches we use to understand our subjects. How we define our terms is a reflection of how we understand what we do as scholars and academics.
Religion in American history
This course surveys the religious history of the United States and will focus on the complex relationship between religion, society, and American culture. The following questions guide the organization of the course: What is Religion? And what is America? How have the religious ideas and rituals of Americans changed over time, especially in relation to trends in politics, mass media, gender, the economy, and immigration (to name a few)? What themes connect the religious beliefs and practices of various groups throughout U.S. history? Certain beliefs or rituals? How have various religious traditions interacted in an American context? How does the contemporary landscape of American religion compare to past expressions of religion in America? In answering these questions, students will be introduced to the diversity of American religion and its relationship to other aspects of American culture
INtroduction to the study of religion
This course introduces students to the various ways in which scholars have studied religion and its related phenomena. This work includes reviewing specific theorists in addition to the theories that they helped develop and create over time. We often think of religion as a word that describes particular “religions” including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. While this type of understanding is not entirely incorrect, it is not entirely correct either. This course explores why this is the case through specific case studies of religion and the religious in American public life. In addition, this course foregrounds both institutional and popular expressions of religion in order to illustrate how religious practice takes on a variety of forms at varying levels of American society.
“Religions” of the western world
This course introduces students to the various ways in which scholars have studied what is commonly referred to as the world’s religions, or simply World Religions. Compared to other introductory courses in the study of religion, this particular course explores the most common approaches and methods for studying “religion” and “world religion” as academic terms of study in addition to the myths, practices, and beliefs of those who are apart of such religious traditions including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, among others. Instead of approaching these traditions simply as objects of history, this course will examine them as vibrant, living entities that continue to adapt and change according to their respective geographical locations. As such, this course investigates both belief systems and on-the-ground practices in order to provide students with a rich portrayal of World Religions and their various practitioners.
American religious History: 1945 to the Present
This course will introduce freshman and sophomore students to some of the most significant moments in America’s recent religio-political history including the disintegration of mid-century liberal consensus, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, “The Christian Right,” Identity Politics, and the rise of political conservatism. The course will also provide students with the theoretical and historical background necessary to explore subjects of their choosing of both the contemporary moment and the more recent past. As such, we will rely on readers and/or collections for our collective engagement in addition to specialized case studies that take up specific themes or “social issues” that arise throughout the course. The course will utilize a number of multimedia sources in order to accomplish two interrelated goals: to bring the material to life on behalf of both student and faculty, and to illustrate how the very materials we use in the classroom are part of an ongoing history of the present and our best attempts to chronicle its movements, migrations, and manifestations before our eyes.
the christian right: History and invention
“The Christian Right” is a seminar-style, upper-level course for advanced undergraduates committed to engaging both the historiography of “The Christian Right,” and the various social scientific models applied to the history of conservatism in the 20th century writ large. The course investigates two descriptive and analytical questions: what exactly is “the Christian Right,” and what relationship has there been between this description and its representation as “the Christian Right” in both scholarship and public debate? As such, the readings for the course will be composed of specialized monographs, peer-reviewed journal articles, and social-scientific studies of American conservatism broadly considered as well as specific aspects of conservative thought and practice. The readings will also be drawn from a variety of academic disciplines within both the Humanities and Social Sciences including History, Religious Studies, and Sociology.