HRS 210 Course Banner

Time & Place:

Spring 2011
W 6-8:50
Mendocino 2032


Joël Dubois (view home page)
Mendocino 2016, 916-5332,
Office Hours: T 10-11:15, W 4:45-5:15, Th 2-3:15 & by appointment

Course Overview & Schedule

DESCRIPTION: Exploration of the relationships and roles of women and men in the context of religious life. May focus extensively on one or more particular religious traditions cross-culturally, or draw on a wider spectrum of examples. Special attention paid to the complementary nature of men's and women's roles in many religious traditions; and also the way that male perspectives have dominated many areas of formal religious discourse, noting the dissenting voices of women often hidden in more informal types of expression. Cross Listed: LIBA 210; only one may be counted for credit.

THIS SEMESTER the course draws most extensively on examples from the Christian and Hindu traditions, but examines also important Buddhist and Islamic examples. We will review theories of gender but then primarily exploring pre-modern accounts of religious life as well as contemporary ethnography. The three questions that frame the course are:

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: during the first few weeks of the semester we worked as a group to develop the learning objectives for this course, as posted here. While assuming the schedule of readings and assignments described in the schedule of readings below, our conversation about objectives took into account the unique hopes and needs of students in the class. Within the framework of the liberal education goals (LEAP) set by the American Association of Colleges and Schools, the students in this semester's class hope to attain, increase or deepen one or more of the following:

  1. Knowledge of Human Cultures

    "...understanding of course materials (& issues?) through an interdisciplinary lens (i.e., viewing the past in relation to the present, or via distinct disciplines)."
    "...understanding of how the social and historical context of religious ideas impact one another."
    "...understanding of how biases and presuppositions in ancient cultures, often said to have divine origin, still affect gender inequality today."

    --> see "Essential Elements of Religious Life" (on-line essay) for an overview of the Professor's approach.

  2. Intellectual and Practical Skills

    "...[the ability to] anticipate how we'll feel at the end of the semester and think of that as we progress."
    "...[the ability to] have a intelligent and thoughtful discussion/conversation, allowing it to guide the class."
    "...[the ability to] develop an interest in topics that were once seen as boring."
    "...[the ability to] set aside pre-conceived ideological positions which inhibit freedom of thought/fear of offending others."

    --> the Professor's suggestions:

    "...the ability to summarize sources accurately & succinctly, as distinct from evaluating them."
    "...the ability to perceive the wider relevance of sources to the issues raised by the course, as distinct from evaluating them."

  3. Personal and Social Responsibility

    "...[opportunities & ability to] lead by example [, having gathered good and bad examples,] in family, community & at work."
    "...[opportunities & ability to] use knowledge to teach others to use a more effective way of communication."
    "...[opportunities & ability to] to challenge ourselves to take the next step & enhance ourselves, how we learn & experience the world."

  4. Integrative and Applied Learning

    "...actual experience of participating in a worship service different than our own."
    "...integrative learning beyond the classroom, looking beyond being able to parrot back what we learn."
    "...real world experience to enhance scholarly education."
    "...[opportunities to] bring in personal experiences and current events and apply to what we are discussing & learning."

SOURCES: Each student is responsible for obtaining the sources below at the Hornet Bookstore.

Rita Gross, Feminism and Religion: an Introduction
Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her
Stephanie Jamison, Sacrificed Wife, Sacrificer's Wife

Each student will also be assigned to read one of the following three pairs of books; these assignments will be made during the second week of class.

Peter Brown, Body & Society
Thomas Coburn, Encountering the Goddess

Carolyn Walker Bynum, Holy Feast & Holy Fast
William Sax, Mountain Goddess

Loring Danforth, Firewalking & Religions Healing
Lindsey Harlan, The Goddess's Henchmen

Finally, you will need to obtain a number of reserve readings from the library's Reserve Collection (accessible at the main circulation desk); these are listed in the schedule below.

Additional resources (especially those who wish to supplement the limited materials encompassed by the course's brief survey):

      Bowker, ed., Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions [Oxford Univ. Press, 2000: ISBN # 0-19-280094-9]
      Encyclopedia Britannica (On-line entries re: Religion)

ATTENDANCE: Like most seminars, this course relies heavily on interactive learning, and such learning cannot take place without your being physically and mentally present in the classroom.  Therefore the most fundamental requirement of this course is coming to class consistently, making certain to bring with you the assigned reading materials. In addition, while in the classroom, please avoid sights, sounds, and smells that are distracting to the instructor (food, cell phones, entering and exiting during the class meeting, side-talking, etc.), and to a significant number of students as well.

NOTE: in order to receive updates regarding class sessions throughout the term, as well as to submit analytical papers (see below) you are required to maintain an active email address for the duration of the course. Please send me an email to confirm this within the first week of the term; to facilitate my handling of student correspondence, please include the abbreviation "[GRCP]" in the subject heading of all emails.


  1. weekly reading notes (10 x 1 point = 10 points)
  2. two (2) reading analyses (5-7 pages, 2 x 20 points)
  3. one (1) synopsis of an assigned class meeting (2 pages, 10 points)
  4. one (1) final paper (10-14 pages, 40 points)
    [scale: 94-100 points=A, 90-93=A-, 87-89=B+, 84-87=B, 80-83=B-, etc.]

If you have a documented disability and verification from the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities (Lassen Hall 1008, x6955), and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me within the first two weeks of the term. Also, you are responsible for reading my comments regarding the importance of academic honesty in FAQ, #5-7, and for requesting clarification if there is anything you do not understand.

SCHEDULE: Readings below should be completed by the date of the class meeting under which they are listed. All numbers in the schedule are page numbers unless otherwise noted. The schedule for submission of reading analyses & the synopsis of an assigned class meeting will be worked out during the second week of class; both types of assignments will be distributed to and read by all students in the class.

ON-LINE READINGS: To access the on-line version of the reserve readings, click any of the "reserve" links, find the title of the reading on the library reserves page, and find the "ELECRONIC COPY AVAILABLE" link in the appropriate column. To download student papers simply click on the appropriate link for a given week.

Unit 1: Introduction to Gender, Feminism, & the Study of Religion (weeks #1-4)

January 26: introductions & review of syllabus

Recommended: "Essential Elements of Religious Life" (on-line essay)

February 2: Feminism & Religion; Biology & Psychology of Gender

Gross, chapter 1
Rubin, "The Child Within" (on-line reserve) & "Approach-Avoidance Dance" (on-line reserve)
Armstrong & Feldman, "On the Power" & "The Nature of Power" (on-line reserve)
Dalmiya & Alcoff, "Are 'Old Wives' Tales' Justified?" (on-line reserve)

"Sex: Unknown" (LMC: Video 6072)
--> also available on YouTube
"The Codes of Gender" (LMC: DVD 1146)
"You Don't Know Dick" (LMC: Video 4632)

February 9: Issues in the Psychology & Sociology of Gender

Gerson, "What do Women Want from Men?" (on-line reserve)
Fine, "One of the Boys" (on-line reserve)
Alter, introductions from Good Husband, Great Marriage (on-line reserve)
--> also available as a limited preview via Google Books
Leondar-Wright, "Are There Class Cultures?" (on-line reserve)
--> also available as Class Matters, p.16-23 via Google Books

"Michale Kimmel on Gender" (LMC: DVD1002)
"Not a Love Story" (LMC: Video 4872
"The Price of Pleasure" (LMC: DVD 1189)

February 16: Feminist Approaches to Religious Studies

Laura's synopsis of previous (2) classes
Gross, chapters 2 & 3

Unit 2 : Semitic Religious Traditions (weeks #5-9)

February 23: Jewish Women & the Men of the Jesus Movement

Gross, chapter 5 (p.149-87 only)
Lindsey's synopsis of previous class
Schussler-Fiorenza, xiii-xxiv; 3-36, 99-236

March 2: Women & Men in the early church

Schussler-Fiorenza, 41-92, 243-351

March 9: Gender in early Christianity & the rise of Islam

Ariana's synopsis of previous (2) classes
excerpt from Brown, Body & Society (on-line reserve)
--> see also limited preview on Google Books
Laura & Ella's
analyses of Brown (EMAILED to class)

March 16: Women & Men in Medieval Christian Europe

excerpt from Bynum, Holy Feast & Holy Fast
limited preview on Google Books

Lindsey & Ariana's
analyses of Bynum (EMAILED to class)
Ahmed, "Women and the Rise of Islam" (on-line reserve)

March 23: Spring Break

March 30: Gender, Politics & Healing in Modern Greek Orthodoxy & Islam

excerpt from Danforth, Firewalking & Religious Healing (on-line reserve)
Paul & Nicole's
analyses of Danforth (EMAILED to class)
Hassan, "Muslim Women & Post-Patriarchal Islam" (on-line reserve)
Gross, chapter 4 (p.105-32 only)

Unit 3: South Asian Religious Traditions (weeks #10-14)

April 6: Women & Men in Vedic Ritual

Gross, chapter 5 (p.187-97)
synopsis of previous (3) classes
Jamison, parts I & II; part III (29-65, 88-98, 114-49)

[NOTE: p. 65-74, 99-110 is optional reading; please be warned that this section contains
sexually explicit language & descriptions of sexual acts that may be highly offensive to some.]

April 13: Women & Men in Hindu Epic Literature

Jamison, parts IV, V & VI ("Conclusion")

April 20: Hindu Goddesses & Buddhist Saints in the Early Medieval Period

excerpt from Coburn, Encountering the Goddess (on-line reserve)
analyses of Coburn (EMAILED to class)
Walters, "Gotami's Story" (on-line reserve)

April 27: Goddesses, Ritual & Gender in Contemporary North India

excerpt from Sax, Mountain Goddess (on-line reserve)
Lindsey & Ariana's
analyses of Sax (EMAILED to class)
Klein, "The Great Bliss Queen" (reserve)

May 4: Gender & Hero Worship in Contemporary North India

excerpt from Harlan, The Goddess's Henchmen (on-line reserve)
Paul & Nicole's
analyses of Harlan (EMAILED to class)
Gross, chapter 4 (p.133-48)

**Brainstorming Report for Final Paper
DUE by Saturday, May 7 (via email)**

Concluding Reflections (week #15)

May 11: Course Recap & Plans for the Final Paper

Group synopsis of previous classes
Gross, chapter 6
Examine possible books for future course (on GoogleBooks):
--> Evangelical identity and gendered family life
--> Remaking the godly marriage: gender negotiation in evangelical families
--> Evangelical Christian women: war stories in the gender battles

Final Paper due Wednesday, May 18th by noon @ MND 2011

* If unable to submit your paper in person to Mendocino 2016, you may email it by the deadline as long as you turn in an identical hard copy within the next 24 hours. A drop box is available outside of MDN 2011 if you come when the office is closed.

DISCLAIMER:  I reserve the right to make alterations in the syllabus to clear up an error or in some way further one or more objectives of the course. I will always provide at least three day’s notice, both in class and by sending out an email about the change.

Final Papers

sac state seal


•"Philosophy & Feminism " (PHIL 131)

•"Sociology of Gender" (SOC 126, 226)

• "Sociology of Religion " (SOC 171)