course requirements

Come & and join me for an exploration of three of the major religious traditions of
the west
: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While we will look at some ways in which they expressed their religious experiences—key texts, music, films, central holidays—we will pay special attention to the American presence of these traditions. What does it mean to be an American Muslim (atheist/Jew/Christian) today? In the eyes of the individual adherent? And in the eyes of society at large?

With that goal in mind, we will begin each segment of our class with an exploration of the contemporary  identities of each tradition, and we will close with a turn to their specific southern
manifestations. Students will have the opportunity to visit a synagogue, a mosque,
and an Orthodox Church.

There will be regular and unannounced reading quizzes, ten 1-page papers, a midterm
and a final project. In addition, you will be asked to follow current religious events and, periodically, to bring in newspaper articles or blogs for discussion. The final project leads you to your home town and challenges you to survey the religious traditions in the city you grew up in. This can be done in form of an essay, a website, or a power point presentation.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to

  • Synthesize the basic tenets, practices, and ideas of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • Analyze the impact of contemporary cultural and political ideas on these traditions.
  • Talk with competence about the status and relationship of various religious traditions in their home town.
  • Analyze primary texts in terms of their specific religious and historical messages.
  • Communicate effectively in written work and oral presentations.

Course Texts.The reader is available at the Universal Copy Shop on Main Street. You will need access to a Bible. If you do not have one or are thinking of upgrading, I recommend the New Oxford Annotated Bible (available at the USC Bookstores).

Grade Breakdown. Homework (200 points); Reading quizzes (200 points);Midterm (200 points); Presentation (100 points);Final project (300 points)

Grading Scale.1000-900 = A; 860-899 = B+; 800-859 = B; 760-799 = C+; 700-759 = C;660-699 =D+; 600-659 = D; < 599 = F

There will be unannounced weekly reading quizzes to help you (and me) assess your progress in class.These will be very brief and include the following: identification of key terms, concepts, ideas, identification and commentary (ca. 3 sentences) explaining selected passages, etc. Anything covered in the readings or discussed in class is eligible for the test.

Students will also take an in-class midterm. Our TA, Megan Gold, will hold a review session before the midterm.

Homework. Blackboard provides you with review exercises, at the end of which you will be given details for your assignment (s. syllabus).

Attendance Policy. Following USC policies, the Creating Academic Responsibility Initiative (CAR) will be contacted after 2 absences. Note that missing classes will severely diminish your learning opportunities, as you will notice in quizzes and midterms.

Classroom Rules. Be in class on time, with your cell phone turned off, be prepared to discuss your ideas! Be respectful of other participants in class, which means, among other things, engaging with other people’s ideas in a respectful, constructive manner, not chatting during class, not getting up and moving around, not leaving the classroom for any reason, etc. TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING POTENTIALLY DISRUPTIVE BEFORE CLASS!! 50 points will be deducted from the final grade for every cell phone use (texting, checking for messages).

If you require special accommodations due to learning difficulties, medical needs,
religious practices, etc., or any other issues that should be taken into consideration, I must be notified by the second week of class.

Late Assignments. Homework WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED LATE – NO EXCEPTIONS! If you miss class, or are having problems accessing Blackboard, you should bring in a paper copy, to be handed in before class.


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