Course Description

In this class, we will be examining the religious lives of women in the ancient Mediterranean world (roughly 400 B.C.E. to 400 C.E.). Our main areas of focus will be the three religious spheres of: traditional Greek and Roman religion (i.e., “paganism”); Judaism; and Christianity. We will be using a variety of different types of sources (literature, inscriptions, documents, images) in order to ask the following questions:

  • Was women’s religion distinct from men’s religion in the ancient world? (If so, how?)

  • What can we know about women in antiquity, and how can we know it?

  • Did Christianity provide new ways for women to be religious, and achieve religious authority, or did Christianity foreclose the possibilities of religious being for women? (Or neither?)

This class presumes no prior knowledge of ancient history, women’s and gender studies, or religious studies: consider this course a kind of introduction to all three. (The advanced level of the course indicates the expectations with regard to reading and written assignments.)

The goals of this class are:

1. To understand the historical role of gender and sex in ancient religious cultures, especially in relation to other categories of identity (class, ethnicity, race, nationality);

2. To analyze representations of women in multiple media and contexts and consider the limits of representation as historical sources;

3. To explore modern echoes of ancient ideas about women in religion in texts and images.




Course Materials

The following books have been ordered for this class and should be available from the bookstore ( links are provided below):


1. Ross Kraemer. Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World (Oxford University Press, 2004) [WRGRW]

This book contains dozens of primary sources (i.e., sources from antiquity) in translation and will provide our main source of discussion. Be sure to read the introductions to all of the texts.


2. Ross Kraemer. Her Share of the Blessings: Women’s Religion Among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World (Oxford University Press, 1992). [HSB]

This book provides Kraemer’s discussion of women and ancient religion, and will provide some basic background and analysis for you to consider. Often we will supplement Kraemer’s analysis with chapters or articles from other scholars (see below).


3. Euripides. Bacchae. (Focus Publishing, 1998). A famous play! We will be reading this play together and you will be writing your first paper about it.


The following book has not been ordered from the bookstore, but is available through the Claremont Libraries Website as an e-book; we will be reading several chapters from this book, so you may want to bookmark it:

4. Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose D’Angelo. Women & Christian Origins. (Oxford University Press, 1999). [WCO]


In addition to these books, several photocopied readings (chapters of books and articles) have been placed on Sakai; you can access these readings by logging in to Sakai, or through direct links on the course syllabus page. These reading are marked in the syllabus with an asterisk (*). Further required readings (often primary sources) are also found online, with direct links from the course website.



Course Requirements

Final grades will be based on the following:

1. Participation (15%). This class will be conducted as a seminar (with some occasional lecturing by the professor to fill in historical gaps). Attendance and participation are required; more than four absences may result in a lowering of your participation grade. All readings should be done before coming to class, and you should arrive with any questions, comments, or ideas about the readings.


2. Image/Word Posting (10%). Every class period (almost), beginning on September 19, you will have the opportunity to post an image or piece of text that you have found on the Internet related to a given term or name (these are listed on the syllabus, below the day’s readings). You should post these in the Discussion Forum for this course’s Sakai site, and the postings should be up by 9am on the day of class. Be reading to discuss the image or text you have chosen, how you found it, why you posted it. Of the seventeen terms listed in the syllabus, you must choose at least ten on which to post an image or text.


3. Analysis Papers (15% each, 30% total). You will complete two, original analysis papers (around 1500 words each), exploring the intersection of gender and religion in two literary accounts: the classic Greek play Bacchae and the recent motion picture Agora. Full details and suggestions for these papers can be found on the course website. Papers are due at the beginning of class on their due dates; late papers will not be accepted except under extraordinary circumstances. If you have a conflict that will not allow you to be present to turn in your paper, please consult with the professor.


4. Midterm examination (20%). You will have an in-class midterm examination asking you to identify and discuss the significance of several of the primary sources passage from the first half of the semester. Blue books will be required. If you have a scheduling conflict, please consult with the professor to make alternative arrangements.


5. Final Examination or Final Paper (25%). Choice 1) You may complete a take-home examination distributed during the last week of class and due on the day of the final exam (December 21, 2012) at 2pm to Vita Nova 110; the exam will ask you to: analyze primary source passage from throughout the semester; analyze a text you have not seen before from Greco-Roman antiquity; answer several essay questions on topics we have dealt with throughout the semester. Choice 2) You may complete an original research paper (around 10 pages long) on any topic related to women and religion in Greco-Roman antiquity. If you choose this option, you must choose your topic and meet with the professor no later than November 1, 2012. The final paper will also be due on the day of the final exam (December 21, 2012) at 2pm to Vita Nova 110.



Important Dates

Mark your calendars!

September 17: Last day to add

October 8: First paper due

October 25: Last day to drop

November 5: Midterm

December 10: Second paper due

December 21: Final exam or Final paper due (by 2pm) to Vita Nova 110



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