Syllabus

Syllabus

RLST 100 Course Policies

What this course is: This course is an introduction to the academic study of religion, exploring cross-culturally some of the fundamental ways in which people experience and understand religion. Together we will address the following questions: What is religion? How is it understood and practiced in different parts of the world? What constitutes religious knowledge, and how is such knowledge acquired?

What this course is not: This course is not a survey of world religions, although you will gain some insights into some of the ways that different religious traditions are understood and practiced around the world. This course will be fun, but it is not going to be easy! This is a 100-level course, which means that there are no prerequisites. I am assuming that no one here has any prior experience with religious studies, but this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easier than an upper-level course. All students are expected to prepare adequately for each class meeting, and to think hard about the material that we’re reading and discussing.

Course Goals (i.e., what I hope you remember 5 years from now):

  • You will learn that religion is everywhere. It’s embedded into cultures, laws, practices, and policies. It’s also connected to every other subject that you will study at Lawrence. (I promise.)
  • You will also learn that “religion” has broad meanings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that religion can be defined however you want it to be defined.
  • This course will also prepare students for upper-level work in religious studies courses, and it will help students learn how to develop and present coherent arguments through writing and speech.

Required Readings:

  • All readings will be linked from within this site. To view PDFs, you’ll need a secret password from Prof. Kassor. (Because copyright laws are a thing.)
  • You are required to bring the assigned reading with you to every class meeting. It doesn’t matter to me whether you print out your readings or save them electronically, as long as you bring them to class.

About your professor Her name is Connie Kassor. You can call her “Professor Kassor.” If you want to get on Prof. Kassor’s good side, you can do the following:

  • Come to class on time, prepared to discuss the day’s assigned reading.
  • Contribute to class discussion, even if you aren’t 100% sure about what you’re saying. This is how learning happens.
  • Begin emails with “Dear Professor Kassor.” Don’t begin them with “Hey,” “Hi,” or with no salutation at all. This may seem arbitrary to you, but this is something that professors regularly gripe about.
  • Go to her office hours, even if you don’t have anything specific in mind to talk about. She is required to have office hours, and she gets lonely when nobody shows up.
  • Still reading? Good. This is your first assignment, and you will get credit for it. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t make it this far into the syllabus. In order to indicate that you’ve read the syllabus fully, I’d like for you to share a link to one of your favorite books on our course website. This can be something you’ve read recently, or a favorite book from childhood. It can be something you’ve read for a class, or on your own. Post your link in the comments section at the bottom of the Important Dates & Deadlines page on our course website. (Note that you will need to sign up with Disqus in order to post a comment there.)

Technology Policy: This course relies on technology. With this in mind, laptops and tablets – but please no phones – are welcome in class. The only caveat is that you use them only for class-related activities. In other words, you are welcome to use these devices to refer to class readings, type notes, or share relevant questions or comments on the readings on this course website. You should not, however, use these tools to read your email, check Facebook, watch cat videos, etc. Any misuse of technology by one student may result in the banning of electronics in class for all students, which would be pretty sad for everybody. So try to be cool about this, ok?

Sometimes when you’re working with computers, things can go wrong. Computers crash, files become corrupt, and servers go down. These are normal aspects of working with technology, and will not be acceptable excuses for late work or missed assignments. Please be sure to regularly back up your work and complete your assignments well enough in advance that you can avoid these problems.

Course Requirements

  • Attendance
    • Coming to class on time and prepared to discuss the day’s material is required. I understand that things may come up that might prohibit you from attending an occasional class, such as games, performances, illness, etc. However, our class is a community, and the community suffers if its members don’t contribute. With that in mind, missing more than three class meetings (excused or otherwise) will result in a deduction of your final letter grade for the course. Each class meeting missed beyond the first three will reduce your final grade. (E.g., If you’re earning an A- and you miss four classes, your final grade will be a B+; if you miss five classes, your final grade will be a B, and so on.) Because I value everyone’s participation and contributions to class, there are absolutely no exceptions to this policy.
  • Engagement (20%)
    • At least one hour before each class meeting that we have new reading, each student will be expected to post a total of three comments, questions, or interesting quotes based on the day’s reading. We have 20 days of new readings over the course of the term, so each day will be an opportunity to earn 1% toward your final grade. Additionally, you may earn some extra credit (up to an additional 1% per week) by constructively engaging with your classmates in the comments. “Constructive engagement” means replying to a question or contributing to a discussion in some way. Simply writing, “That’s a good question!” does not constitute constructive engagement.
  • Art Museum Project (20%)
    • In the first few weeks of the term, we will spend some time investigating religious art. More information about this project will be provided in class, but a basic breakdown of the assignment involves the following activities:
      • Selection and short write-up of three images (5%), due via email by the start of class on Friday of Week 2 (September 21). Students will write 1-2 paragraphs on each image that they have selected, and email them to Prof. Kassor.
      • 5-minute presentation on one image with a partner (15%), due Friday of Week 4 (October 5). Students will be assigned an image and a partner, and will expand their original paragraphs into a longer presentation.
  • In-class Midterm Exam (20%)
    • An in-class exam covering the material from the first half of the term, Wednesday of week 6 (October 17)
  • Group Presentation (20%)
    • During Week 9 (November 7), students will give group presentations based on the topics that we have covered so far. I know that everyone is busy and it’s sometimes difficult to meet outside of class, so there will be some time in class during week 8 to work with your groups.
  • Final take-home exam (20%)
    • The exam will be distributed at the end of the last class meeting (November 14), and is due via email no later than November 20 at noon.

Policy on late assignments: No late assignments will be accepted in this course. This course relies on all participants completing assignments on time. Your comments on the readings will help to facilitate discussion in class, and will not be of any use if they are submitted after the deadline. Similarly, because class time is dedicated to presentations and the midterm exam, no extensions are possible. And because final exam schedules are set by the University, these must be completed by the deadline as well. If you have extenuating circumstances or a documented accommodation through Disability Services, please discuss this with me, and we can work together to create a reasonable plan for you.

A note on staying healthy: Your physical and mental health are important. Contrary to how it can feel sometimes, your well being is far more important than a high GPA. Please do what you can to stay healthy this term! This involves eating real food and getting enough sleep, so that you have the energy to meet academic and extracurricular expectations.

If you have established eligibility for academic accommodations, or if there are any circumstances that may affect your performance in this class, please contact me as soon as possible so that we can work together to make any necessary modifications to assignments, deadlines, or requirements.

Communication

  • Online: On days when class is in session, Prof. Kassor will reply to emails within 24 hours. On weekends and days when class is not in session (e.g. Midterm Reading Period), she will respond to emails within 48 hours.
  • IRL: You can also find her in her office (Main Hall 411) during office hours, and at various other points throughout the day. Feel free to drop by any time, for any reason, even if you don’t have a specific question or concern. (If I’m in my office, my door is open. If I’m busy and can’t be interrupted, I just stay at home and don’t work in my office!) Lawrence is a unique place where professors genuinely want to get to know students outside of class, so take advantage of this! For more information on the importance of office hours, please watch this very important and informative short video..