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Course Information

Instructor Info:Ryan Joo
Office Extension x5589
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

This course is designed to introduce an array of different approaches to the study of world religions as well as present a number of subfields within the established academic discipline. We will explore examples of textual, philosophical, historical and anthropological approaches to the academic study of world religions. We will study Daoist and Yogic texts, the Buddhist meditation, Christian and Muslim pilgrimage practices, and modern American religious history.  Some of the discussion topics will include religion and American politics, the church and homosexuality, religion and film, and the dramatic increase of people claiming no institutional religious affiliation. 

Evaluation Criteria:

This course has six requirements. All must be successfully completed in order to receive a final evaluation for this course.


1. Attendance and Participation: I expect students to come to class on time and to attend all scheduled class meetings. Feeling “under the weather” is not a valid reason for missing class, but serious illness is. If you have to miss a class due to serious illness, religious observance, or family emergency, you must make every effort to contact the instructor and inform him of your absence prior to the class. You should also bring a doctor’s note or other official document to your instructor. Otherwise, it will be counted as an absence. Under normal circumstances, students who miss more than two classes will not receive an evaluation. Keep in mind that when you miss a class, it becomes your responsibility to contact your classmate/TA/instructor to find out about the announcements and class discussion that you missed. 


The reading for each week will be approximately 80-150 pages on average with the exception of American Grace. I expect students to complete the reading assignment before coming to each class, and to be ready to take an active role in the discussion. Class participation is an important part of the course requirements.



2. Four Short Papers: The class is divided into six sections. With the exception of the Religion and Film section, you will be asked to write a 2 to 3-page long short paper for each one, due on the last day of that section (Sept 18, Oct 2, Oct 25, Nov 13, Nov. 27). The paper topic will be provided by your instructor in advance, and you will have one week to write it. You can choose to skip one section and turn in only four short papers (instead of five). You should do the readings carefully and show your reader that you have not only understood the material but also deeply reflected on it. Therefore, it should never be a simple summary or paraphrasing of the readings, which will be evaluated negatively. All writings should be free of spelling and grammatical errors, and should be written in a formal writing style. This is a crucial component for the success of our class, and a student, who fails to turn in all four papers by the due date, will not receive an evaluation.  



3. One Research Paper: Students will be asked to write one research paper (approximately 5-6 pages) due on the last day of this class, Dec. 11th. Your research paper topic must be approved by your instructor in advance. Keep in mind that late papers will not be accepted, and plagiarism is strictly prohibited.


Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s ideas or words as your own, without acknowledging the source.  Plagiarism is a serious offense, and can result in No Evaluation for the course or even disciplinary withdrawal from the College. As you write your papers, you must be sure to cite your sources thoroughly and correctly, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing.  Ignorance of plagiarism is not an excuse.  If you are ever uncertain as to whether doing something is technically plagiarism, please ask your instructor and read the Ethics of Scholarship webpage on the Hub. []


You should also consult with writing reference manuals for correct citation and bibliographic formats, including for citing Internet sources. If you think that you will benefit from receiving outside help, please contact one of the three teachers at the Writing Center and make an appointment to see him/her.




4. Portfolio: Students should maintain their own portfolio, keeping all work done for this course. This portfolio should contain 1) your self-evaluation, 2) all of your four short papers, and 3) your final research paper. Please hand in your complete portfolio on the last day of our class (Dec. 11th, 9 AM).  No portfolio or the final paper will be accepted after the due date.



5. Policy on Cell Phone and Laptop Computer Usage: As a courtesy to your instructor and classmates, please turn off your cell phone for the duration of the class. If your phone makes a sound, you have to bring cookies, yogurt and/or fruits for everyone to share in the next class. You also must refrain from using the Internet in class, as it can distract both you and your classmates. If you get caught using the Internet, you will be asked to bring cookies, yogurt and/or fruits for everyone in the next class.


Additional Info:

Text Books

Students are required to purchase seven books for this course. You can purchase them online, or in Amherst Bookstore located in 8 Main St. Amherst downtown.


  • Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of Religion (Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987).
  • Philip Ivanhoe, The Daodejing of Laozi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002)
  • Burton Watson, Zhuangzi (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003)
  • Barbara Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom (New York: Bantam, 1998)
  • Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom (Boston: Shambhala, 2003)
  • Conrad Rudolph, Pilgrimage to the End of the World: the Road to Santiago de Compostela (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004)
  • Robert Putnam and David Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites US (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010)