Skip Course Information

Course Information

Instructor Info:Alan Hodder
Office Extension x5354
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102

This course is designed to introduce students to several religious traditions of the world through a selective study of their chief canonical texts. In part our concern will be with fundamental thematic issues: what do these records seek to reveal about the nature of life and death, sin and suffering, the transcendent and the mundane, morality and liberation? In addition, we will address wider questions of meaning, authority, and context. Why do human communities privilege particular expressions as "sacred" or "classic"? How do these traditions understand the origin, nature, and inspiration of these writings? Were these "texts" meant to be written down and seen, or recited and heard? How are scriptural canons formed and by whom interpreted? To help us grapple with these questions we will examine some traditional and scholarly commentaries, but our principal reading in this course will be drawn from the Veda, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhacarita, Lotus Sutra, Confucian Analects, Chuang Tzu, Torah, New Testament, and Qur'an

Course Objectives:

This course is designed to introduce students to several of the major religious traditions of the world through a comparative study of selections drawn from their chief canonical texts.  The course has three primary objectives: 1) to provide a general acquaintance with each of these six traditions—Judaic, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Chinese—through study of some of the scriptural texts that have shaped these traditions historically; 2) to examine and compare the stories, histories, parables, myths, and revelations from each tradition for what they may say about how each tradition views such questions as the nature of life and death, sin and suffering, divine and the human, morality and salvation; and, 3) to consider and assess the significance of the notion of "scripture" as a cross-cultural category, through investigation of the meaning, authority, function, and interpretive context of these texts in their respective religious traditions. 

Evaluation Criteria:

 (1) Two mid-term papers (3-4 pages each, due in class Feb. 20 and March 27 respectively)

 (2) Participation in one group presentation and one individual presentation

 (3) Final research project (8-10 pages, due in my mailbox at EDH on Monday, May 6)

 (4) Regular attendance and participation in class discussions

Please Note:  Anyone with more than three unexcused absences during the semester will not receive a final evaluation for the course.

Additional Info:

Required Reading:  The following texts are available for purchase at Amherst Books, 8 Main Street, in downtown Amherst.  These texts, as well as all other required reading, are also on reserve at the Hampshire College Library.

Michael D. Coogan, et al., eds. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV (Oxford)

Michael Sells, trans., Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations (White Cloud)

Kenneth Cragg, ed., Readings in the Qur'an (Sussex)

S. Radhakrishnan and C. Moore, eds., A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton)

Edward Conze, ed., Buddhist Scriptures (Penguin)

Burton Watson, trans., The Lotus Sutra (Columbia)

Raymond Dawson, trans., The Analects of Confucius (Oxford)

Burton Watson, trans., Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (Columbia)

Ninian Smart, The World's Religions (Cambridge)