2010 – 2011 Academic Year
Museum Related Courses
LREL 2030 Religion in South Asia
This course offers students an introduction to the rich genealogy of South Asian religion and philosophy. Students will read selections from seminal texts associated with Buddhism and Hinduism, and to a lesser extent, Islam and Sikhism. Special attention will be given to those writings concerned with perennial questions such as: what really exists, how do we know what we know, and how should we live our lives?
LREL 2805 Buddhist and Christian Icons: Tangible Visions of the Divine
Throughout the ages art has inspired religious engagement. The icon, in particular, has served as a tool for spiritual exploration. In this course students study the history, aesthetics and ritual function of icons in Tibetan Buddhist, Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Christian traditions. Building on an exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art and other resources in New York, the class incorporates both academic and creative work, inside and outside the classroom.
LREL 2871 Himalayan Buddhist Visual Culture
Exploring the imagery presented by and representative of the Himalayan world, this course investigates meaning as invested in Buddhist images and the ways in which these images are seen. Thinking through the role of visual forms in the broad Himalayan cultural setting of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Northern India, we seek to contextualize Buddhist imagery in its relationship to text, sacred space and time, pilgrimage, deity, and ritual life in order to reveal the power and language of imagery within this visual culture. Special attention will be given to contemplative and mystical processes of “seeing” and the imaginative and iconographic symbolism revealed by the Himalayan Buddhist visionary traditions. Classes will address historical and philosophical understandings of art and the purpose of Buddhist imagery, cross-cultural interpretations of reading visual representation, how religious imagery has shaped popular Western conceptions of the Himalaya, and contemporary transformations of this visual culture. This course includes multiple class sessions on the gallery floors at the Rubin Museum of Art.
NTBN 1003 Tibetan Language and Culture
This course explores the thought and culture of Tibetan language. We will study the structure of Tibetan grammar and syntax in order to become familiar with the fundamental forms of conversational and literary expression. Particular attention will be given to reading classical literary Tibetan as a key to the vast treasury of Tibetan Buddhist written culture. Contextualizing the Tibetan language, readings will be drawn from a variety of genres including poetry, biography, and contemplative literature and in-class discussions will concentrate on developing pronunciation skills, understanding important technical Tibetan Buddhist terminology, and employing methods of translation.
LARS 2870 Himalayan Art and Culture: Newars in Nepal and Tibet
This course introduces students to aspects of the rich artistic and cultural heritages of Nepal and Tibet. The Newars are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley and an ethno-linguistic community known for their skill and mastery in numerous artistic media. This course focuses on the role that these Newar artists played in shaping the artistic and cultural identity of their homeland, for millenia an important crossroads and epicenter of culture, religion, artistic production, and trade. This course also emphasizes the legendary artistic legacy and influence that itinerant Newar artists brought with them to Tibet and the crucial role these Newar artists had in shaping the visual and artistic presence in Central Tibet.
By examining the artistic influence the Newar artists had throughout the Himalayas, students discover the development of the Newar style over the centuries and the full scale of the artistic impact they had on their neighbors. Various art-making processes and art materials are discussed and, while the focus of this course is the visual forms and aesthetics of the Newar artists, the course also provides students with a profound understanding of, and appreciation for, the iconography, symbolism, content, and meaning found within the images as they relate to various aspects of Hindu and Buddhist religious philosophies. Through observation, visual analysis, research, and critical thinking, students learn to distinguish works of art based on their aesthetic style, art historical time period, and religious context. This course includes several field trips to the Rubin Museum of (Himalayan) Art.
LEDU 3570 Learning in Museums
This course examines how people learn in museums, and how museum educators use different strategies for interpretation and teaching on gallery floors and in classrooms. Students visit some of the many museums of New York City to examine the role of education in relation to their mission. Topics include: informal learning environments, understanding the museum experience, the role of education in museums, multiple strategies for interpretation and teaching with collections, connecting galleries to the classroom, and researching evidence of museum learning. The Rubin Museum of Art, a museum dedicated to the art and culture of the Himalayas, serves as a laboratory for observation, lesson planning, teaching, and evaluation in museums.
LREL 2806 Buddhism in NY
“What did the Buddha teach?” “How are the Buddha’s teachings alive today?” Seeking to address such questions, this course explores the variety of living Buddhist traditions and their representative worlds in the city of New York. Traversing the vast terrain of the various Buddhist traditions and their transplants here in New York City, we give attention to identifying and discussing the multiple forms of Buddhism or the “Buddhisms,” as they have adapted to multiple cultural contexts, both ancient and modern. In doing so, we will study the philosophy and practice of early Indian Buddhism, the Theravada tradition of Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma), the Zen and Pureland traditions of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan), and the Tantric tradition of the Himalaya and Central Asia (Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan). We will discuss how Buddhist doctrines, rituals, myths, texts, artistic and visual media work to shape and be shaped by the cultures that Buddhism encounters, and how contemporary Buddhism in America is taking shape. Course materials will emphasize readings in both classical Buddhist texts in translation and select writings by modern Buddhist authors, videos, and artwork.
LREL 3048 Tibetan Buddhist Tantra
Exploring the development and assimilation of Buddhism in Tibet, this course gives attention to the ritual, visual, literary, and meditative aspects of tantra. We will examine central themes related to tantric Buddhist thought and practice including the nature of consciousness, sex and erotic imagery, death and the afterlife, guru and deity yoga, demons and emotions, emptiness and ecstasy. Particular attention will be given to Tibetan Buddhist understandings of tantra as texts and tantra as technologies for interior transformation. Course materials will draw from tantric art, meditation manuals, poetry, history, and popular mythology. This course is in conjunction with the Rubin Museum of Art and will include 5 class sessions on the gallery floors.
LREL 2807 Sufism and Its Dissidents
Mark Larrimore and Khioumars Ghereghlou
This course explores the history of Sufism and anti-Sufist polemics in the central lands of the Islamic world. Focusing on the decisive period from 1600 to 1750, the course explores the rise of Islamic revivalist movements in the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Persia, and Mughal India and the responses of Turkish, Persian, and Indian Sufis to these revivalist assaults. A critical understanding of trends and events in this confessional conflict offers insight into Sufisms present as well as past. Khioumars Ghereghlou, a distinguished historian of Sufism in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, will participate in this course.
LREL 3058 Exploring Religious Ethics
This course is an exploration of religion’s challenge to ethics, concentrating on Buddhist and Christian traditions. Most ethical ideals have religious roots, but it is a modern myth to suppose that the all religions endorse the same ideals. Both the content and the status of ethics differ within and among religious traditions. The study of the moral significance of cosmogonic myths, divine commands, precepts, virtues, monasticism, natural law, and the lives of saints and bodhisattvas helps students frame more nuanced approaches to ethical issues and conflicts.
LWEL 2130 Buddhist Meditation
This course examines the origins, history, philosophy, and benefits of Buddhist meditation. Students learn the fundamentals of developing a meditation practice with the goal of learning how to apply these principles to their everyday life.