GISRAM Spring 2011

Classics 880: Introduction to the Study of Ancient Religions
Instructor: Prof. Sarah Iles Johnston, MW 12:30-2:18 pm

This course will survey major figures in the study of religion during the past century and a half, evaluating the potential contributions of their work for the understanding of ancient Mediterranean religions.  Students will read these scholars' works, as well as articles about them and criticisms of their works.  Figures studied will include E.B. Tylor, E. Durkheim, M. Weber, M. Eliade, A van Gennep, V. Turner and E. Turner, C. Geertz, M. Douglas, W. Burkert, C. Bell and J.Z. Smith

History 792: Cultural Currents in the Late Antique Near East: The Arabs, The Byzantines, and the Sasanians
Instructor: Prof.  P. Pourshariati, W 2:30-6:18 pm

During the past half century a growing trend in Islamic studies has sought to contextualize the rise of Islam in terms of the cultural and historical currents of the Middle East during the late antique period.  The nexus that Mecca and Medina and various other Arab communities in Syria, Yemen, Mesopotamia, and the Persian Gulf established with their brethren as well as other communities within the Byzantine and Sasanian empires of late antiquity have increasing come under scrutiny in this scholarship.  What were the cultural currents of the Mediterranean world of late antiquity?  What were the consequences of monotheism in late antiquity and how can one contextualize the rise of Islam within it?  How did Christian Byzantium view the rise of Islam and what relationship did it have with various Arab communities within and without it?  What were the interrelations between various Christian communities, including the Nestorian, and various Jewish communities, to the Meccan and Medinan society?  How extensive were cultural contacts amongst these?  Was there an “Iranian factor” in Byzantium, and how did the Iranian world and the Sasanian Empire partook in the cultural currents of late antique Middle East?  How extensive were the Sasanians’ relationship with Yemen, Arabia and Byzantium during this period of history?  Besides a Judeo-Christian and Byzantine context, can one envision an Iranian context to the rise of Islam and the cultural and historical currents which informed it?  Tapping on the primary sources for investigating these questions pertaining to early Islamic cultural history, and delving into the contemporary scholarship that has sought to answer these, this course aims at providing a cultural and historical context for the rise of Islam in the late antique Middle East.

NELC 630: Ugaritic
Instructor: Prof. Sam Meier, MW 2:30-4:18 pm

Prereq: Permission of instructor
This course introduces the student to the Late Bronze Age language, literature, and culture of the city-state of Ugarit, a kingdom that flourished in northern Syria ca. 1400 B.C.E. The discovery of Ugarit in 1928 opened the world of the Canaanites (in particular their mythological and religious texts) to biblical scholars, and revolutionized scholarly approaches to the Hebrew Bible. Students in linguistics or ancient history are also welcome, since all readings are in transliteration. The course will provide a foundation for further work and research in the areas of ancient Near Eastern religion, culture, history, linguistics, and biblical studies

NELC 792/Comparative Studies 792: Ancient Jewish Mysticism and Magic
Instructor: Prof. Michael Swartz, W 3:30-6:18 pm

While the ancient rabbis were formulating the classics of law and biblical interpretation that served as the sources for Judaism as we know it, ancient Jews pursued striking visions of God enthroned on a huge chariot; attempted to conjure angels to reveal secrets of wisdom and cosmology; and used unauthorized ritual practices to obtain a material benefit for an individual.  These texts and practices raise questions about the nature of ancient Judaism as well as the relationship between Judaism and other religions of the Greco-Roman world.  This course will be a seminar on the sources and concepts behind ancient Jewish mysticism and magic, their cultural context, phenomenology, literary characteristics, and the importance of these phenomena for the history of religions in the ancient Mediterranean.  The course will draw on several disciplines, such as religious and cultural studies, history, and literary studies. 


Also of Interest:

History of Art 663: Early Islamic Art
Instructor: Prof. Howard Crane, MoWe 3:30PM - 5:18PM

Introduction to the history of Islamic art and architecture from its formation through the classical age (i.e. from the 7th through the 13th centuries).