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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Religious Studies (RL ST)

RL ST 137 (GH;US;IL) (WMNST 137, J ST 137) Women and Religion (3) Jewish and Christian religious views on womanhood; thought and lives of important religious women; and feminist understandings of these.

RL ST (J ST/WMNST) 137 Women and Religion (3)
(GH;US;IL)


Women and Religion examines the historical and contemporary role of women in society and in religion, how those roles are shaped by religious doctrines around leadership, ritual, language, and the valuation of women’s experience and history, and the diversity of women’s voices speaking to these issues.

An historical inquiry begins with a review of early goddess-based religion and an examination of gender roles promoted in selected creation narratives, including those from Genesis. Additional biblical and non-canonical texts are studied for their various characterizations of woman, the influence of marital status, and her place in the public and private spheres. Historical debates about women consider what roles women played in leadership structures, in religious ceremonies and in the creation of a theological tradition as well as the places women created for themselves outside “official” institutional churches or the formalities of worship.

We study prominent women in biblical history, the early church, the medieval past, and in modern American history. What are their stories and what noteworthy contributions did they make in the history of religion? What do we know of their lives and thought?

Furthermore, the course addresses contemporary issues of importance to women and how those issues are resolved from the multiple perspectives within Judaism and Christianity. Such issues may include dating, marriage, family and divorce; spousal and gender relations; reproductive rights; homosexuality; sexual violence toward women; work outside the home; and religious leadership and inclusion.

Finally, the course examines women’s diverse understandings of the ways of being religious. Women are not a homogeneous group and are responding in a multitude of ways to the decisions they face about staying within or working outside established institutions. We consider their choices, from redefining and recreating new traditions and rituals, both within and outside formal worship settings, to returning to goddess worship and other innovations inspired by the most recent feminist movement.

All topics are discussed in light of the different beliefs and understandings across the movements within Judaism as well as within Roman Catholicism and the many Protestant denominations. In addition, the diversity of scholarly interpretation is emphasized, including that offered by feminist theologians and the breadth of women’s experience arising from factors of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class and educational background.


General Education: GH
Diversity: US;IL
Bachelor of Arts: Humanities
Effective: Fall 2012
Prerequisite: third-semester standing

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.

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