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Religious studies faculty Jim Thrall leads a discussion on world religions in the Round Room of Ford Center for the Fine Arts. #

Academics > Majors & Minors > Religious Studies

Courses

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James Thrall

Knight Distinguished Associate Professor for the Study of Religion & Culture

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999

309-341-7912

jthrall@​knox.edu

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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Requirements

Requirements for the minor

Five credits in Religious Studies, including the following:

  • RELS 101
  • At least one credit involving advanced work (may be a regularly scheduled 300-level course, a 200-level course adapted to a 300-level independent study through the addition of advanced work, or a fully independent study/project at the 300-level)

Religious Studies Course Descriptions

Religious Studies Catalog Page

Course Descriptions

RELS 101. Introduction to Religious Studies. (1)

This course introduces key terms and concepts common to the study of religion, including myth, symbol, ritual, sacred/holy, belief, morality, scripture, and afterlife, by considering some of the core questions asked in the field of religious studies. Case studies from a variety of religious traditions provide examples of religious thought and practices. HSS; DV; Usually offered fall term every year; J. Thrall;

RELS 103. Classical Mythology. (1)

This course introduces students to the myths of ancient Greece and Rome by reading literary texts and examining visual representations of myths found in architecture, sculpture and painting. Through a variety of approaches, we consider questions such as the following: What can we learn about the Greeks and Romans by studying the stories they tell? What is the relationship between myth and science? Myth and religion? How have ancient myths been appropriated in modern culture, such as in fiction and movies? HUM; Cross Listing: CLAS 103; H. Lehmann;

RELS 113. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (1)

Comparative study of the three major monotheistic traditions in the West: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Selections from the classical texts of each tradition are studied, as well as the ways in which those texts have been interpreted through law, theology and ritual practice. HSS; Cross Listing: HIST 113; DV; Usually offered fall and winter terms every year; J. Thrall; D. Fatkin;

RELS 114. East Asian Philosophy. (1)

This course will introduce the three major philosophical systems of East Asian thought: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism through their canonical texts. This historical approach will be supplemented by contemporary readings in each tradition. When taught as a component of the Japan Term, this course will pay special attention to the development of Japanese Buddhism, specifically Pure Land Buddhism (Amida Buddhism), Esoteric Buddhism (Shingon Buddhism) and Zen Buddhism (Soto and Rinzai). Cross Listing: PHIL 114; W. Young;

RELS 125. The Bible in Literature. (1)

An introduction to the literary aspects of the Bible and its influence on the Western literary and artistic imagination. The course will focus on reading selections from the Bible alongside literary texts on which the Bible has had an impact. Some attention will also be given to cultural, historical, and aesthetic contexts. The course will prepare students for more advanced study in writing, literature, and religious studies. HUM; Cross Listing: ENG 125; W; G. Franco;

RELS 153. The Gospels and Writings of Paul: Scriptural Sources of Christianity. (1)

This course provides a basic introduction to the New Testament through the consideration of the Gospels and writings of Paul, including not only traditional elements of introduction, such as authorship, historical background, structure, content, and use of sources, but also the differing theologies of the various writings. The orientation is historical, linguistic and exegetical. The course focuses on the Gospels and writings of Paul and traces their origin, inter-relationship, theological distinctiveness and value. Some attention is given to the hermeneutic problem (interpretation) and critical analysis. The course commences with an overview of intertestamental history and philosophy. HUM; Staff;

RELS 203. Classical Mythology. (1)

The bewildering variety of the Greek and Roman myths defies explanation by a single theory. This course makes use of a variety of approaches, which should each yield some partial truth. The following questions are considered: What is the relationship between myth and science, religion or history? To what extent are myths the product of the unconscious or of society? How do myths define masculine and feminine gender roles? HUM; Cross Listing: CLAS 203; Staff;

RELS 205. Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism. (1)

This course is an introduction to Buddhism, with specific emphasis on Japanese Buddhism. To these ends, it will canvass the principal tenets of Buddhism, namely, the four noble truths, the eight-fold path, dependent originations, the no-self, karma, etc., in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. It will then consider the development of Japanese Buddhism from the Asuka (552-645 CE) through the Kamakura Periods (1185-1332 CE) by examining the rise of particular sects within Japanese Buddhism (Nara Schools, Tendai, Shingon, Pure Land, and Zen). Cross Listing: ASIA 205;PHIL 205; W. Young;

RELS 220. History of Christianity. (1)

This course narrates the social, institutional, and intellectual history of Christianity, paying particular attention to the experiences of Christians living in specific places and times. Through a study of both individuals and institutions, the course looks at several points of dialogue, and often tension, between Christian communities and broader cultures, between official Christian teachings and popular beliefs, and between Christian traditions and forces of reform. The course also considers the roles Christianity has played in key world events, and builds awareness of Christianity's expanding diversity as a global faith. Cross Listing: HIST 220; Offered occasionally; J. Thrall;

RELS 221. Global Christianity. (1)

This course considers Christianity's roots and development as manifested in the contemporary lived experiences of practitioners in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. The course pays particular attention to the impact of an expanding Christianity on preexisting cultural and religious forms, as well as their influences on Christianity. Inquiry is focused through the lens of local Christian practice: what Christians in specific regions believe and do. Topics include the complex relationship of Christian missions with imperialism, Christianity's role in post-colonial dynamics of power, and Christian engagement with other religions. DV; Offered occasionally; J. Thrall;

RELS 224. American Indian Religious Freedom. (1)

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.." ~The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution The first amendment of the U.S. constitution appears to guarantee that those living within the country's borders would not be forced to adopt any particular religion, nor would the government interfere with their right to practice whatever religion they chose. Yet the experience of American Indian communities since 1787 belies this promise. This class will explore the first amendment, federal Indian policy, and key court cases in the history of American Indian religious freedom, to examine the tension between concepts of race, citizenship, and free worship in the United States. Cross Listing: HIST 224; C. Denial;

RELS 230. Reading Islam: Texts and Images. (1)

This course considers the variety of ways in which Islam has been represented through texts, both written and imagistic, including the Qur'an, hadith, prose fiction, poetry, art, and film. Drawing from historical and contemporary sources available in English, the course pays close attention to the self-presentations of different forms of Muslim identity that reflect Islam's diverse cultural and geographic strains. To help provide that appreciation of Islam's diversity, we will sample in particular creative products from Iran, Egypt and the Gulf States, and South Asia. Offered occasionally; J. Thrall;

RELS 235. Contemporary Buddhism in Southeast Asia. (1)

Southeast Asia is home to the strand of Buddhism known as "Theravada". What is included in this category and how do Southeast Asians who call themselves Buddhist actually practice this religion? How has Theravada Buddhist practice changed in recent years, and what has prompted these changes? After providing some historical background, including attention to the rise of Buddhist modernist movements, this course will examine the contemporary practice of Buddhism in Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, as well as its connections with Buddhist practice in other parts of the world. Prerequisite(s): Sophomore standing; Cross Listing: ANSO 235; N. Eberhardt;

RELS 241. Topics in Religion and Culture. (1)

This course addresses various intersections of the concepts of "religion" and "culture," with particular attention to creative or communicative expressions of culture. Specific topics have included: Religion and Film, Religion and Media, Religion and Literature, Religion and Science Fiction, Religion and Popular Culture, and others. Offered every year, topics vary; J. Thrall;

RELS 248. Teaching Assistant. (1/2 or 1)

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor; May be graded S/U at instructor's discretion; Staff;

RELS 265. Religion and World Politics. (1)

An examination of the impact of religion on contemporary world politics. Topics covered may include: the rise of fundamentalist religious movements, religious challenges to secular states, transnational religious activism around human rights, peace and social justice issues, the "clash of civilizations," and religiously based terrorism. Prerequisite(s): PS 210 or PS 220 or sophomore standing; Cross Listing: PS 265; DV; D. Oldfield;

RELS 270. Life. (1)

This course considers the interrelation between scientific understandings of life and the moral teachings about life of the major monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We study how those traditions define the value of life, asking whether that varies at different points in the life cycle (e.g. conception, end of life), by organism (what is it ok to eat or experiment on?), or situation (abortion, euthanasia, murder, war, capital punishment, suicide). We examine how these values shape religious practice, and how values and practices may have changed as what we know about science has changed. Examples from non-monotheistic traditions will be considered when useful for comparison. O; DV; Usually offered winter term every other year; J. Thorn;

RELS 271. Topics in the History of Religion. (1)

Topics will vary year to year, focusing on a specific area within the history of religion. Topics have included: Geography of the Holy Land, Religions of Greece and Rome, Archaeology & History of the Bible, The Holocaust, and others. HSS; Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing, previous course work in history or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: HIST 271; May be repeated for credit.; Staff;

RELS 283. Philosophy of Religion. (1)

An examination of the rational basis of theistic belief including a study of the teleological, cosmological, moral, and ontological arguments for the existence of God. Special attention is given to the problems of religious knowledge, the differences between evidentialists and reliabiliasts accounts of religious experience, the nature and description of mysticism, religious experience, and religious authority. Prerequisite(s): sophomore standing or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: PHIL 283; B. Polite;

RELS 295. Special Topics. (1/2 or 1)

Course offered occasionally to students in special areas of Religious Studies not covered in the usual curriculum. Staff;

RELS 344. Romantic Literature. (1)

Emphasis on the Romantics as the first generation of writers to face a universe that did not have a built-in meaning. The old Medieval-Renaissance world view, which was still operative in Pope's Essay on Man, no longer served the needs of the Romantic writers, who looked elsewhere for new sources of meaning: to Nature, to the inner self, to romantic love, and to the transcendence (real or imaginary) of art itself. Prerequisite(s): two 200-level courses in literature, film, or theory (ENG 200 and ENG 252 strongly recommended) and ENG 300L, which may be taken concurrently; Cross Listing: ENG 344; W; Offered alternate years; G. Franco; E. Anderson;

RELS 348. Teaching Assistant. (1/2 or 1)

Prerequisite(s): Permission of instructor; May be graded S/U at instructor's discretion; Staff;

RELS 371. Topics in the History of Religion. (1)

See RELS 271. A major component of RELS 371 will be a long research paper based on primary sources. Prerequisite(s): HIST 285 or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: HIST 371; DV; W; Course may be repeated for credit; Staff;

RELS 395. Special Topics. (1/2 or 1)

Courses offered occasionally to students in special areas of Religious Studies not covered in the usual curriculum. Staff;

RELS 399. Seminar in Religious Studies. (1)

Specific seminar offerings vary year to year. Topics have included: "Freud, Jung, and Religion," "Death and Afterlife," and "Spiritual Autobiographies." Prerequisite(s): See specific offerings for prerequisites; W; Offered every year, topics vary; Staff;

RELS 399A. Freud, Jung, and Religion. (1)

This course uses close study of key texts on religion by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as an entry point for considering psychoanalytic explanations of religious experience and identity. Readings include theorists influenced by or responding to Freud and Jung, as well as other contributors to the sometimes troubled, sometimes fruitful, and often perplexing interplay between psychoanalysis and religion. Topics of study include the effects on religious theory of the objects relations school, developmental psychology, humanistic psychology, and existential psychology. Discussion themes include religious conversion, mysticism, asceticism, aestheticism, sexuality, and religious doubt. Prerequisite(s): One course in Religious Studies or Psychology, or permission of the instructor; Cross Listing: PSYC 268; W; J. Thrall;

RELS 399C. Spiritual Autobiography. (1)

This topic of the Seminar in Religious Studies explores the creative processes by which authors attempt to describe the construction, evolution, and/or deconstruction of their religious or spiritual identities. The focus is on written texts, supplemented by film and other artistic representations of spiritual transformation. Readings include historical and contemporary essays, memoirs, and other works drawn from a variety of religious or spiritual expressions. Discussions consider such subjects as the nature and challenges of autobiographical writing, the adequacy of language and image to the task of relating spiritual experience, and the influences of culture and personal history on religious self-identity. Prerequisite(s): Sophomore standing and at least one Religious Studies course (RELS 101 strongly recommended) or permission of the instructor; W; J. Thrall;

RELS 400. Advanced Studies. (1/2 or 1)

See College Honors. Staff;

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