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Professor: Catherine Prueitt

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Office: Cosby 433
Phone: 404-270-5199
Cell (for urgent contact only): 678-358-1186
cprueitt@spelman.edu

Introduction to Sacred Texts

Overall Goals and Structure of the Class:
This course is an introduction to three world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, and
Islam—through a selection of texts that each tradition considers to be sacred. Three major
questions will guide our studies: What makes a text sacred? How do we know what
sacred texts mean? What do sacred texts do? We will explore sacred texts in translation
and investigate their origins, their transmission, and the ways in which they shape the
lives of individuals and communities. We will study ways the texts were interpreted in
the past as well as how they are used and understood today.

Grading structure:
1) Blog and Class Engagement: 30% (15% for doing it and 15% for quality).
Each week’s engagement is worth 3% of your final class grade. Your blog post serves as
the justification for our 4th credit hour. We will have a total of 10 blog posts. The 15% for
quality is measured by the extent to which your discussions on and off-line thoughtfully
engage with the readings. In order to get full credit, you must specifically cite some
portion of the readings in your blog post. The other 15% comes just for attending class
and putting up something related to our weekly topic. You can post under a pseudonym if
want; just make sure I know who you are so I can give you credit.

One post can simply say "I'm sorry I got overwhelmed this week and cannot post" and
still earn full credit. You can respond to other students' posts, but please do this on your
own post and not as a comment on someone else’s post. You can ask questions or say that
you don't understand some part of the reading. If you ask me a direct question in a post, I
will respond to it on the forum. Just post something. Posts are due by midnight on
Wednesday so that I have time to read them and prepare for our discussion on Thursday.
Late posts get half credit if they're done within 2 weeks of when they were due.

2) Unit Papers: 3 papers at 15% each = 45%.
900-1500 words (approximately 3-5 pages). I’ll provide a topic at least one week before
the paper is due.

3) Final Take Home Exam: 25%.
I’ll give you the exam on the last day of class and it’ll be due on our exam day. It will
comprehensively address the overall themes and topics we’ve studied. It will consist of 3
short essay questions (about 2-3 pages each).

The Honor Code is in effect at all times in this class, including for blog posts.

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or anything else you fancy. Just talk to me and try not to worry.” 13-38. All readings are due the day they are listed. Selections from the Ṛg Veda and Upaniṣads Blog entry #1 due Wednesday. Jonardon. Short in-class film clip: John Kerry on religion and the State Department. and “Chapter Six: No Self. Texts: Many of our readings will be selections from longer works. Approaching the Qur’an.” 133-162 Week Two: 2 .Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday from noon to 1pm or by appointment Late Policy: If you do not ask me for an extension. The Concealed Art of the Soul: Theories of Self and Practices of Truth in Indian Ethics and Epistemology. Ganeri. 37- 51. 2007. please send me a ridiculous excuse. trans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Course Schedule January 16th: Go over the syllabus and talk about our guiding questions.” Firefly Unit I: What Makes a Text Sacred? Week One: January 21st: Introduction to the Vedas Reading assignment: Patton. 2013. an account of how mutant dinosaurs devoured your computer.” 59-84. The Concealed Art of the Soul. It can be short and you can ask for the extension on midnight the day the essay is due if you need to.” from The Hindu World. River and Book talk about the Bible. “Veda and Upaniṣad. Required: Sells. “Janestown. Michael. “Hidden in the Cave: the Upaniṣadic Self. I will deduct 1% from your final grade on an essay for each day it is late. I will post these readings on Moodle. If you would like an extension. listen to recitations if we have time. “Chapter 3: Four Truths. we will discuss them in class. This is a hard and fast policy. The Foundations of Buddhism. Ashland. January 22nd January 23rd: Introduction to the Pali Nikāyas Reading Assignment: Gethin. Oregon: White Cloud Press. Second Edition. Ganeri. It can be a story about how an alien in a blue telephone booth whisked you away to the far corners of the universe.

" 145- 157 February 6th: Discussion about ends (values and apocalypses) Reading assignment: Selections from the Rg Veda and Upaniṣads. "The Epoch. February 7th by 11:59pm via Moodle*** Unit II: How Do We Know What a Sacred Text Means? Week Four: February 11th: Lecture on Hermeneutics Reading assignment: Sælid Gilhus. Sells. selected Suras: "The Night-Traveling Star. Sells.” 1-40. Blog entry #2 due Wednesday. 72-73. "The Morning Hours. Al-Qadr. "The Dawn." 74-76. "The Most High. “Introduction and Glossary of Key Terms. The Sayings of the Buddha. Selected Suras: "The Opening" and "The Star." p. "The Fig. Approaching the Qur’an. Barthes.” 39-60 and “Words that Burn.January 28th: Introduction to the Qur’an Reading Assignment: Sells.” 116-128." 94-95. “The Story of Koṭikarṇa” Divine Stories. review." 112-113 ***Unit I paper due Friday. 92-93. “Dangerous Truths. “Hermeneutics. “Nirvana as concept. 39-70 Short in-class film clip: The Blanket Scene from I Heart Huckabees ***Unit I paper topic handed out in class*** Week Three: February 4th: Discussion about origins (authorship and cosmogony) Reading assignment: Selections from Rg Veda and Upaniṣads. "Sincerity/Unity." 116- 117.” Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion. Gethin.” 97-123 3 . Approaching the Qur'an." 90-91. 82-83. Nirvana. Collins.” 29-60." 136-137." and "The Splitting." p. Approaching the Qur'an. "Destiny." 68-71." p." "The Cheats. The Concealed Art of the Soul." 48- 63. “The Death of the Author” Blog entry #3 due Wednesday." 78-81. "The Calamity. "The Quaking. "The Ground. and a cool story Reading Assignment: Rotman." 108-109. January 29th January 30th: Questions. selected Suras: "The Overturning. 275-284. 42-47." "The Tearing. "The Laying Open. February 12th February 13th: What does philosophy do? Reading assignment: Ganeri." p. "The Darkening. "The Compassionate. “The Origin of Things." 100-103.

161. “Introduction. “Introduction. “Sāṃkhya and Yoga. Blog entry #4 due Wednesday.” Indian Philosophy and the Consequences of Knowledge. ***Unit II paper topic handed out in class*** Week Six: February 25th: Commentaries and Interpretive Traditions: Islamic traditions Reading Assignment: Saeed.216 February 27th: What makes a tradition? How are there so many interpretations? Reading Assignment: Ram-Prasad. 1-50.” 63-115. Blog entry #6 due Wednesday.” “Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika.” “Selected Exegetical Principles and Ideas.” “The Mīmāṃsā Vision. “Multiplist Metaphysics and Ethics.” and “Advaita Vedanta” up to p.” 1- 13. 101-132. Mahāyāna Buddhism. 143.” 1-44. “Ibn ‘Arabi’s Polished Mirror” and “Ibn ‘Arabi’s Garden among the Flames: The Heart Receptive of Every Form. February 28th by 11:59pm via Moodle*** Unit III: What Do Sacred Texts Do? Week Seven: March 4th: Lecture on philosophy as practice Reading assignment: Sells. Ram-Prasad. March 5th March 6th: The Experience of Texts: Islamic Traditions Reading Assignment: Sells. “Knowledge and Action: On How to Attain the Highest Good.” Indian Philosophy and the Consequences of Knowledge.” Introduction to the Qur’an. “Ethico-legal Teachings.Week Five: February 18th: Commentaries and Interpretive Traditions: Hindu Traditions Reading Assignment: Bartley. ***Unit II paper due Friday.” and “Approaches to Qur’anic Exegesis. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy.” “Vedānta. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. 4 . February 19th February 20th: Commentaries and Interpretive Traditions: Buddhist traditions Reading Assignment: Williams. Mystical Languages of Unsaying. 82-143.

“Introduction” and "Part III: An Arabic Reciting: Qur'an as Spoken Book. Blog entry #7 due Wednesday.” from The Hindu World. The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Approaching the Qur’an. “Introduction. and Other Mythologies: Connotative Semiotics in Mahāyoga Tantra Ritual and Scripture." 1-8 and 79-115. Selections from the Rāmāyana In-Class Film: Sita Sings the Blues Week Nine: March 25th: Classical Indian Aesthetic Theory and Sita Sings the Blues Reading assignment: Gnoli. March 26th March 27th: Narrative: Hindu Epics (lecture focused on the Bhagavad Gita) Reading Assignment: Selections from the Mahābhārata ***Hand out Unit III paper topic in class*** Week Ten: April 1st: Ritual: Buddhist Mahāmudrā and tantra Reading Assignment: Wedemeyer.” 383-417. “Beef.” 145-182 and corresponding sections from the CD. In-class film: Koran by Heart 5 . Selections from Namgyal. 75-96. Dog. Clarifying the Natural State April 3rd: Recitation: The Qur’an Reading Assignment: Sells.” XIV-LII Blog entry #8 due Wednesday. Graham. “Hearing the Qur’an: The Call to Prayer and Six Suras.SPRING BREAK MARCH 10TH-14TH Week Eight: March 18th: The Experience of Texts: Buddhist Traditions Reading Assignment: Selections from the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra (focus on the highlighted parts in your PDF). Beyond the Written Word. March 19th March 20th: The Experience of Texts: Hindu Traditions Reading Assignment: Goldman and Goldman. “Rāmāyaṇa.

Narula. Blog entry #9 due Wednesday. “Contemporary Political Hinduism. Part II Reading assignment: Tariq Ramadan.” 183-215 ***Hand out final exam in class*** 6 .***Unit III paper due Friday. April 4th by 11:59pm via Moodle*** Unit IV: Sacred Texts in the Contemporary World Week Eleven: April 8th: Discussion of Koran by Heart. Islamism. April 16th April 17th: something about Buddhist extremism/Buddhist tolerance. Islam and the Arab Awakening. 96-140. Week Thirteen: April 22nd: Hindutva and Contemporary Indian Politics Reading assignment: Ram-Prasad. Secularization.” Hinduism and Law. April 24th: selections from Gurus in America Week Fourteen: April 29th: Concluding Reflections Reading assignment: Ganeri. “Who is a Hindu?.” from Hindutva: The Essence of Hinduism. “Self as Performance. 102-116. April 9th April 10th: Islam and the Arab Spring. 526-550. Savarkar.” 67-95. Islam and the Arab Awakening. Concealed Art of the Soul." p. “Law and Hindu Nationalist Movements.” The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. 234-251. "Chapter 3: Islam. Week Twelve: April 15th: DROP THIS CLASS Blog entry #10 due Wednesday. Islamism Part I Reading Assignment: Tariq Ramadan. "Chapter 4: The Islamic Reference.

May 1st: Questions about the Final Exam and Review ***Final Exam Due via Moodle on Our Exam Date*** 7 .