Your Grades



REL 415 Syllabus
T-TH 9:45-11:00 AM
Smith 107
Dr. Otto

Purpose of the Course

In this course, students will examine two interrelated issues, namely, the influences that religions have on women and the influences that women have on religions. These influences, from prehistoric to postmodern times, are evident in texts that have been written for, about and against women, as well as texts written by women. Equally important in evaluating such bilateral influences are women's accomplishments in the world. Women have been helped and harmed by religions. As a result, their responses to religion have ranged from complete submission to complete rejection.

Required Texts

Falk, Nancy Auer and Rita M. Gross (2001). Unspoken Worlds: Women's Religious Lives, Third Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Press.

Haddad, Y.Y. et al. (2006). Muslim Women in America: The Challenge of Islamic Identity Today. New York: Oxford Press.

Khandelawal, Meena (2004). Women in Ochre Robes: Gendering Hindu Renunciation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Plaskow, Judith (1991). Standing at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. NY: HarperCollins.

Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation and Transformation, Emilie M. Townes, ed. (1997). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press.

(Addition readings from journal articles will appear in the syllabus.)


  1. There will be a Midterm Examination on Tuesday, March 3, and a Final Examination (TBA). Each exam will consist of three sections: Fill-in-the-Blank, Identification of Term/Concept and Short Answer Essay Questions. Each worth 200 points.
  2. There will be a 12-15 page research paper required for this course. It should focus on a specific aspect of women in a particular religious context, ancient or modern. The research and writing should reflect keen scholarship, suitable as a writing submission to a graduate program. This assignment will be staged, with topics to be chosen no later than January 29. Worth 400 points.
  3. Students will be required to provide an oral presentation of the paper near the end of the course. While in the field of Religious Studies we tend to read our papers verbatim, it is important to memorize most of the text so you can establish proper eye contact with your audience. More information on this assignment during the course. Worth 100 points
  4. "I AM" assignment. This will be a 20 minute oral presentation in which you identify yourself as a particular female religious leader. You will tell your "story" in its historical and religious context and explain the significance that your religion holds for your life. I will provide you a handout of possible persons and work with you to find a woman of interest for you. Worth 200 points

Evaluation Points
Paper Topic Chosen (Jan. 29)- 10 points
Bibliography Due (Feb. 24) - 90 points
Rough Draft Due (Mar. 19) - 200 points
Final Draft Due (Apr. 16) - 100 points
Midterm Exam (March 3) - 200 points
Oral Presentation of Term Paper (Starts on April 16)- 100 points
"I AM" presentation (March 5 and 10)- 200 points
Final Exam (TBA) - 200 points

Total points possible: 1100 points

990-1100 A
880-989 B
770-879 C
660-769 D
less than 660 F


Class Policies

First, I am not your parent, your brother or your best friend; I am a colleague in both teaching and learning. We need each other for this classroom tribe to function.

Second, when you are not here, you will be missed [especially given the size of our class]. Our community will be diminished. Sure, most of us will miss a class [but remember to submit or work before the missed class session]. But what happens when somebody misses more than three class periods this semester?

As Convener of this Tribe, I will assume that you have found a new community that requires your presence. So, due to my desire to live a life of total compassion, I will deduct one letter grade from your final course grade for each additional class period missed, thus encouraging you to be wherever it is you need to be other than our class. Do not assume I will drop you from this course; such a decision rests with you and your academic adviser.

I do not issue "make-up" exams. If you miss an exam, you will receive a "Zero". Only exceptions to this policy:

1. Death of an immediate (e.g.; parent or sibling) family member. I will require a copy of the obituary.

2. Personal illness requiring hospitalization. I will require proof of hospitalization and a note from your physician.

Within this course you are encouraged strongly to utilize "inclusive language". What does this term mean? When we speak of humanity, avoid using the gender specific term "man" as a synonym. When you speak of a particular god or goddess, use their proper name. Find ways in which to demonstrate respect and dignity for all persons, both believers and seekers.

I do not accept late work for credit. If you anticipate being absent for any reason, submit work prior to our class session.

Other Policies

The syllabus can change at my discretion. Videos, readings and/or guest speakers may also be added. Changes will be made to the online syllabus.

Extra credit does not exist in the course. Make use of the credit available.

"Trying hard" is usually necessary, but not sufficient, to create good work. In short, I do not base a grade on "effort" but on the finished product.

This course will be discussion-based. I will assume that you will come to class each day, prepared to discuss the readings and implications that arise from them. While at pointS I may offer a mini-lecture for the sake of clarity (we will be dealing with numerous religious traditions) I expect everybody to talk during class. If you did not complete the readings for a class period, you will not be ready for the discussion and will be marked as absent.

As a student at Centenary College you agree to adhere to the Centenary Honor Code. I will carefully explain the nature of plagiarism the first day of class and, for each assignment, explain what is and is not permissible in terms of collaboration. If you have any questions, please ask rather than risk a problem. Also, I would advise you to retain all note cards, drafts, final papers etc. for each assignment in your writing record in case asked to prove your case. As explained in the Student Handbook, every assignment you submit must have the following statement written in your own handwriting accompanied by your signature: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this paper (or examination), nor have I seen anyone else do so." If you have received unauthorized aid or witnessed an honor code violation, you must follow the statement with: "...except as I shall report immediately to the Honor Court." Please understand that I cannot grade any assignment lacking this honor code statement.

While there is an increasing number of web pages devoted to women and religion, the information is often not reliable or better than what is available in the library book and journal collections. Therefore, you are not to use or cite any source from the Internet unless you have consulted with the professor AND RECEIVED PERMISSION IN ADVANCE. IF ANY OF YOUR PROJECTS FOR THIS CLASS MAKE UNAUTHORIZED USE OF THE INTERNET, YOU WILL FAIL THE ASSIGNMENT. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. NO EXCUSES ENTERTAINED.
Notable exceptions: Online databases and any online reading indicated in the syllabus.

Each student is expected to proofread and edit their work carefully prior to submission. I will deduct points for grammatical errors and violations of the principles expressed on the Writer's Cheat Sheet. Special attention should be given to eradicating "is", "are", "was", "were", "has", "had" and "been" from your formal writing. Edit your work using the Paramedic Method.

It is the policy of Centenary College to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal law, state law and the College's commitment to equal educational opportunities. Any student with a disability who needs accommodation (for example, in seating placement or in arrangements for examinations, should inform me at the beginning of the course. Students with disabilities should contact Disability Services (a division of Counseling Services), located on the ground floor of Rotary Hall (869-5466/5424).

Please turn off all cell phones/smart phones upon entering class. If your phone rings once in the semester, you will simply be reminded of our policy. If it rings a second time, you will be asked not to bring it back to this space. You may not leave class to answer a call; doing so will count as one of your allotted absences. Absolutely no texting during class. If I see you sending a text, I will 1) ask you to put your cell phone away and 2) dock your class participation grade by 50%.

Laptops, IPads and other tablet devices may be used in class for the explicit purpose of taking notes. If you are caught surfing the Internet without permission (or playing games) you will not be allowed to bring the device to class for the remainder of the course. These rules will be enforced strictly. You may audio-record any class session with the permission of the professor.

Please submit all written work via email to me ( as an attached Word document formatted in the following manner: Times NewRoman 12 point font, 1 inch margins, justification to the left, double-spaced, numbers appear on the top right of each paper with no page number appearing on the first page. Be sure to type the Honor Code and your name underneath the statement.

I am usually in my office by 8:15 AM Monday through Friday and leave at 4:15 each afternoon. You may schedule an appointment with me at any time via email ( or phone (869-5051). I will always be glad to assist any student in fulfilling their obligations to this course. My door is always open.


January 8 Introduction to Course
January 13 Extraordinary Women
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 1-4
January 15 Women Called by Spirits
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 5-6
January 20 Rituals for Wives and Mothers (I)
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 7-9
January 22 Rituals for Wives and Mothers (II)|
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 10-12
January 27 Women in Male-Dominated Systems (I)
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 13-15
January 29 Women in Male-Dominated Systems (II)
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 16-18
Paper Topic Due
February 3 Success Stories
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 19-22
February 5 Women's Power
Read Falk and Gross, Articles 23-25
February 10 Women and Judaism (I)
Read Plaskow, Introduction and Chapters One and Two
February 12 Women and Judaism (II)
Read Plaskow, Chapters Three and Four
February 24 Women and Judaism (III)
Read Plaskow, Chapters Five and Six
February 26 Women and Judaism (IV)
Using the JSTOR Database, locate and read "Lived Regulations, Systemic Attributions: Menstrual Separation and Ritual Immersion in the Experience of Orthodox Jewish Women" by Tova Hartman and Naomi Marmon
March 5 "I AM" Presentations
March 10 "I AM" Presentations
March 12 Female Hindu World Renouncers (I)
Read Khandelwal, Chapter One and Two
March 17 Female Hindu World Renoucers (II)
Read Khandelwal, Chapters Three and Four
March 19 Female Hindu World Renouncers (III)
Read Khandelwal, Chapters Five and Six
March 24 Muslim Women in America (I)
Read Haddad, Chapters One and Two
March 26 Muslim Women in America (II)
Read Haddad, Chapters Three and Four
April 7 Muslim Women in America (III)
Read Haddad, Chapters Five and Six
April 9 Muslim Women in America (IV)
Read Haddad, Chapters Seven and Eight
April 14 Using the JSTOR Database, locate and read "Feminist Theory and the 'Invasion of the Heart' in North America" by Pauline Turner Strong.