History of Religions: Topic Courses

2024 Summer

RLG411H5S - Advanced Topics in Religion, Media, and Culture: Digital Religion (Instructor: A. Palma)

The course aims to provide advanced undergraduate students with a critical overview of the landscape of scholarship on the intersection of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ in contemporary digital media. Since much of ‘offline media’ (i.e. books, newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television, advertising, etc.) has now been digitally subsumed in ‘online media’ (i.e. via websites, blogs, podcasts, streams, Facebook, Twitter (X), YouTube, assorted smart phone apps, and other software avenues on portable Wi-Fi devices), the course will focus on the ways in which religion and culture correlate in the latter, that is, within on-line media. In addition to defining the terms in question, we will analyze both the theoretical and practical frameworks of the connection, while highlighting some of the major themes (e.g. ritual, identity, community, authority, and authenticity), and relevant case studies, implicitly and explicitly revealed, in the relatively new and dynamic field of ‘digital religion’. Students are invited to consider the role of media in the historical development of broadly conceived notions of religion(s), as well as the challenges posed to modern spirituality in a digital age.

RLG470H5F - Advanced Topics in Buddhism: Buddhist Life Writing: Biography and Autobiography (Instructor: S. Richardson)

This course seeks to understand the structures of Buddhist life stories, and the popularity and importance of these narratives in the context of Buddhism. We will read Buddhist biographies and autobiographies, several from India and Tibet in English translation, and probe the narrative themes of these writings. With an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Buddhist life stories, we will examine both literary and visual representations of life stories to see how both texts and images are essential in activating them.