Teaching

Course Offerings of Professor Judith W. Kay

REL 130:  Lies, Secrets, & and Power
This seminar focuses on the twin human impulses to conceal and reveal. It explores the ethical considerations necessary to protect such values as privacy, autonomy, equality, and public safety and to minimize the potential violence of lies and secrets. Through the use of ethical analysis and case studies found in biography, memoir, and newspapers, the seminar explores truth telling and secrecy in such areas as child development, intimate relationships, medicine, higher education, social sciences, the military, and government. Throughout, the seminar examines power inequalities and how these affect assessments of the defensibility of lies and secrets.

 

REL 265:  Thinking Ethically
This course provides students with tools of ethical analysis so that they can think critically about pressing contemporary moral issues, such as friendship and justice. To narrow the scope, the course focuses on ethical methods from Christianity and western philosophy. Students examine from a multicultural perspective the long-standing philosophical treatment of friendship as a virtue and the Christian challenge to that idea. Are friendships suspect because they are based on preference rather than universal love?  Students then explore what being an ally entails and how allies are different from friends. The course then turns to healthcare justice in a global context. Using Haiti as a case study, students examine four different models of justice and their implications for healthcare policy.  Finally, students address the moral significance of the past for what they ought to do today. Other nations have taken on the tasks of reparative and restorative justice in response to mass murder and tyranny. What might reparative justice mean for U.S. citizens given their history of genocide and slavery? Should those who bear no direct liability for past wrong be the ones to make things right?  Is justice possible? Satisfies the Humanistic Approaches core requirement. Cross-listed with African-American Studies 265. Offered frequently.

 

REL 311:  Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King: Prophets of Non-Violent Social Change in the 20th Century  
This course examines the religious and ethical justifications for non-violence as a tool of resistance and social change in the twentieth century through the study of the lives and writings of Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Students study these activists within their historical context by reading their autobiographies and examining the religious foundations­ Christian and Hindu­ of their teachings. A Buddhist approach to nonviolent social change, in the work of Thich Nhat Hanh, is also examined. The course assesses the prospects for nonviolent change in the twenty-first century. Offered infrequently.

 

REL 315:  Modern Jewish Thinkers
This course acquaints students with major Jewish thinkers in the modern and contemporary periods. The course begins by asking what makes a thinker Jewish? What makes a Jewish thinker modern? After a brief overview of pre-modern thinkers, students begin their exploration with a study of Baruch Spinoza?s rationalist challenge to Judaism that results in the quintessential modern question, who is a Jew? Students then turn to Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, emancipation, nationalism, and new forms of antisemitism. These responses include a variety of Zionists, socialist Jews, extentialists such as Martin Buber, and mystics and social activists such as Abraham Joshua Heschel. The course then studies post-Holocaust Jewish ethicists, Jewish feminists, contending views on Jewish liberation, and concludes with Jewish reflections on the concerns and experiences of American Jews.

 

Connections 318:  Crime and Punishment
The U.S. criminal justice system has embraced retribution at the expense of other models of justice. Because retributive punishment hurts and sometimes kills, it is wrong, or it needs justifying. What purposes does punishment serve? Are there alternatives to it? This course explores justice as revenge, retribution, reform, and restoration from the disciplinary perspectives of sociology, psychology, critical theory, religion, and philosophy. The course also explores the effects of crime on victims, while also seeking to understand violent offenders' moral blameworthiness. Particular attention is given to Christian, Jewish, and philosophical arguments for and against the death penalty. Satisfies the Connections core requirement.

 

REL 361  Heroes of Integrity  
In this course, selected religious heroes and heroines of the twentieth century are studied, and students identify factors that resulted in their integrity and courage, primarily through a study of religious autobiographies. Figures from a variety of religious traditions and continents have been selected who responded to the key challenges of their time, such as the Great Depression, the Holocaust, the struggle for civil rights, ending apartheid, or national liberation. The course attends to the possibilities of moral agency and the role of religion in character formation. Offered occasionally.

 

REL 365: Antisemitism and the Holocaust
The Holocaust raises profound and intractable questions for theologians and ethicists, historians and psychologists, and for perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and rescuers. The purpose of this course is to explore questions of moral responsibility and moral character, and the nature of choice under conditions of genocide. The course begins by studying the history of antisemitism and its changing dynamics over time, examines anti-Judaism in the early church, and the role of German Protestant and Catholic theologians during the war. The course concludes by examining Jewish and Christian theology in the shadow of the Holocaust and probes its moral and religious implications for subsequent generations.  Prerequisite: request application from instructor and complete prior to registration. Offered frequently.

 

REL 455:  Disgust, Lust, Shame, and Blame: A Religious-Ethical Study of Emotion  
This advanced seminar investigates the role of emotion in morality and religion. Students begin with a study of the neuroscience of emotion and proceed to examine the moral stance toward emotions urged by thinkers such as the Stoics, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, or David Hume. A Buddhist approach to anger is contrasted to western thinkers. Are emotions essential to the good life or to religious expression? Are negative emotions to be extinguished, regulated, or discharged? Students examine how these positions inform contemporary ethical debates, such as neo-stoic efforts to surmount fear in the debate about voluntary euthanasia, neo-Thomism in the pursuit of rational sex, and neo-Humean defenses of hostility and blame. Two inquires are sustained throughout the seminar: the role of emotions in religious experience and the relation of physical release of emotion to well-being. These themes raise questions such as should religious ritual aim at emotional catharsis? The seminar concludes by exploring how emotions are manipulated by unjust societies. Students examine how shame, blame, greed, disgust and lust are used to sustain exploitative institutions and become linked to oppression of the Other.  Prerequisite: two courses in Religion or permission of instructor.  Offered every three years.