Religious Studies


RELG 2000: Religious Diversity in the Religious Imagination or Fiction Amidst Many Faiths [3]

Petra Turner, Instructor

Religious Pluralism, the fact that we live in a world that contains many forms of vibrant religious practices and faiths, is an ever-present reality, one that brings with it its own series of responses and practices. This mix of response, relationality and continuing commitment has provided fiction writers with a rich mix of psychological, social, and religious elements, and these writers have entered into this milieu, attempting to explore if not answer the questions we all have, even if we sometimes hesitate to ask them.   In that spirit, this course will introduce the students to the ways in which the human imagination uses fiction to explore the relationship between religious commitment amidst the ever present plurality of faiths   We will begin with Flannery O'Connor's 'Revelation', which opens out the course with an examination of the judgment  we place on others. This short story will be followed by Silence  by Shusako Endo, which depicts a hostile relation between faiths, before moving on to E.L. Doctorow's City of God,  which explores one Episcopal priest's journey  into a particular synthesis ofreligious belief. In this same key, we will then tum to The Life of Pi, who Iike the protagonist in City of God, practices faith as a synthesis of many faiths, but whose relationship to these faiths presents an alternative avenue of synthesis. Finally, we will tum to An Ocean Full of Angels, whose protagonist,  'Isa ben Adam, has chosen one faith, and yet lives that faith in full dialogue with other faiths.


Gretchen Wallace, Visiting Lecturer


In January 2014, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Contemplative Sciences Center at UVA will partner with Global Grassroots to launch a unique program in Conscious Social Change at the intersection of personal leadership, global citizenship, social entrepreneurship, community engagement, and contemplation. The Conscious Social Change course, which would be offered at UVA as a two week JTerm course, is an experiential education program designed and taught by Gretchen Wallace, president of Global Grassroots, in coordination with UVa professors David Germano (Contemplative Sciences Center, Tibet Center) and Christine Mahoney (Batten). The course provides future leaders with the skills to invest in their own self understanding and initiate social change or engage in community service mindfully, sustainably and with impact at home or abroad. The program incorporates four components: conscious leadership practices, social entrepreneurship tools, conscious social change methodologies, and contemplative ideas and practices. After completing this program, students should be equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to:

  • Deepen cultral awareness and global citizenship skills and work collaboratively under a conscious social change and participatory paradigm in a foreign or domestic context to support communities in advancing self-sufficiency and wellness.
  • Employ social entrepreneurship frameworks to diagnose the root causes of an issue and to design a solution that will create conscious, sustainable, and systemic change
  • Pursue personal growth practices that foster responsible, ethical, and compassionate leadership

RELH 3559: Yoga and Religious Experience [3]

John Nemec, Assistant Professor

The purpose of this course is to question the nature of religious experience, and in particular to interrogate the role of yogic practices (in their kinesthetic, psychological, reflective, and cultural dimensions) in defining, and cultivating, such experiences.  We will read two key primary texts in translation, classical Indian works from the original Sanskrit that define yoga, the practices it prescribes, and the states of consciousness it proposes to cultivate.  We will also read scholarly accounts of religious experience to help us to interpret these works.  Juxtaposing these works—key “confessional,” primary sources, on the one hand, and key “objective,” secondary scholarly works, on the other—we will be able to pose a fundamental set of questions: what is yoga, according to those who first developed it, and what kind of experiences did it claim (and seek) to cultivate?  How has yoga been practiced in history?  How can we understand the nature of the experience that yogic practices are said to cultivate?  How do they compare to other forms of religious (and mystical) experience?  And, simply, what is religious experience?