The Office for Religious Life > Courses


Check out the Bulletin and Time Schedule for the time and location of the courses.

Political Economy 349: The Business World: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry through literature
Spring Quarter
Taught by Scotty McLennan
This course uses novels and plays as a basis for examining the moral and spiritual aspects of business leadership and of the environment in which business is done. On the one hand literature is used as the basis for examining the character of business people, while on the other hand literature provides illumination of the cultural contexts of values and beliefs within which commercial activities take place in a global economy. The course is organized around the interplay of religious traditions and national identities. Classes are taught in a Socratic, discussion-based style, creating as much of a seminar atmosphere as possible. A two-text method is used, encouraging students to examine their own personal stories with as much care as the stories presented in the literature.

This Year's Syllabus and Book List>>

Feminist Studies 139/Jewish Studies 139: Rereading Judaism in Light of Feminism
Spring Quarter
Taught by Patricia Karlin-Neumann
During the past three decades, the feminist movement in North America has generated a wide range of questions in many disciplines about how we study and value women's lives and experience. As both a lived and historical religious tradition and culture, Judaism has been subject to these questions. Jewish feminists have turned a searchlight on traditional rabbinic texts, Jewish law, history and religious life and thought, evaluating the place of women within the tradition.

In our readings, we will examine the feminist critique of Judaism with respect to traditional gender roles, Jewish texts, Jewish law (halacha) and ethics, prayers and rituals as well as conceptions of Jewish communal leadership. We will also explore the ways in which this critique has spawned new understandings and practices in shaping a more just and inclusive Judaism.

This year's Syllabus>>

Sophomore College: The Meaning of Life: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry Through Literature
Sophomore College, Summer
Taught by Scotty McLennan
Short novels and plays will provide the basis for reflection on ethical values and the purpose of life. Some of the works to be studied are F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, and Flannery O'Connor's The Displaced Person. We will read for plot, setting, character, and theme using a two-text method-looking both at the narrative of the literary work and at students' own lives-rather than either deconstructing the literature or relating it to the author's biography and psychology. The kinds of questions we will ask have many answers: Why are we here? How do we find meaningful work? What can death teach us about life? What is the meaning of success? What is the nature of true love? How can one find balance between work and personal life? How free are we to seek our own destiny? What obligations do we have to others? Half of the literature examined will be set in America, and the rest in other countries around the world. Both secular and religious world views from a variety of traditions will be considered. The authors chosen are able to hold people up as jewels to the light, turning them around to show all of their facets, both blemished and pure, while at the same time pointing to any internal glow beneath the surface. Classes will be taught in a Socratic, discussion-based style. Study questions will accompany each reading and provide a foundation for class discussion. Grading will be based 50% on class participation, 25% on one-page reflection papers on reading assignments, and 25% on a 4-page final paper due on September 21st.

Last year's Syllabus>>

"Urban Studies 126/Religious Studies 162: Spirituality and Nonviolent Social Transformation
Winter Quarter
Taught by Scotty McLennan, Patricia Karlin-Neumann, and Joanne Sanders
A life of engagement in social transformation is often built on a foundation of spiritual and religious commitments. Using case studies of several nonviolent social change agents--Rosa Parks in the civil rights movement, Cesar Chavez in the labor movement and William Sloane Coffin in the peace movement, we will examine the theory and principles of nonviolence as well as the religious and spiritual underpinnings of their commitments. The class, offered by the Deans for Religious Life, will address social change, spirituality and religious traditions through films and texts. The class will consider the religious and spiritual underpinnings of nonviolence, the streams that fed major nonviolent activists and the philosophers and theologians who influenced them. Additionally, we will address how social change happens, how to stay buoyant over time while engaged in social transformation, and how some communities and organizations are living out nonviolent social transformation. There will be a service-learning component included, with placements in organizations engaged in social transformation.

Last year's Syllabus>>