Syllabus

Course description:

This course is a survey of the religious and philosophical elements that constitute the broad system  of beliefs known as Hinduism.

This 200-level course has no prerequisites, and it is not assumed that anyone in the class has any prior experience with religious studies or Hinduism. That being said, this course will not be easy. We are going to be examining Hinduism from alternative perspectives and engaging deeply with primary texts, which means that most of the material that we cover will be new for everyone, regardless of their previous experience with religious studies or knowledge of Hindu traditions.

Expect to read. A lot. 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 will remember 5 years from now):

  • You will learn that “Hinduism” is a term used to refer to complex, diverse, and occasionally conflicting sets of beliefs, practices, and traditions.
  • You will learn to engage meaningfully with dense and difficult primary texts.
  • You will also work to refine the ways in which you present arguments through writing and speech, and you’ll collaborate as a class to create a cool interactive timeline at the end of the term.

Required readings:

About your professor:

Her full name is Constance Kassor. You can call her “Professor Kassor” or you can call her “Connie.”

If you want to get on Connie’s good side, you can do the following:

  • Call her by one of the names mentioned above.
  • 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” or “Dear Connie.” If we already know each other, something like “Hi Connie” acceptable, too. Just don’t begin them with “Hey–”, “Hi!!!!!”, or with no salutation at all. (Protip: This is something that most professors notice and regularly gripe about. It may seem arbitrary to you, but beginning an email with a formal salutation signals respect.)
  • 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. Here’s your first assignment. I’m serious – you will get credit for this! (To figure out how much credit this assignment is worth, just notice that the percentages in the course requirements section don’t quite add up to 100%.) Perform a Google Image search for Lata Mangeshkar, the 88-year-old Bollywood singer, and email me your favorite image from the results. Bonus points if you can tell me how many songs she has recorded in her career.

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. So try to be cool about this, ok?

Sometimes when you’re working with computers, things can go wrong. Computers crash, servers go down, or the internet mysteriously stops working. 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:

First blog comment (2%), due before the start of our second class (Thurs. March 29)

Post a comment on our course blog sharing link to one unique article that describes or presents a reaction, critique, or defense of Doniger’s The Hindus. Please note that duplicate articles are not allowed (i.e., if there are 20 students in the class, there should be links to 20 different articles). Be prepared to explain your chosen article in class.

Blog post and discussion leading on one chapter from The Hindus (25%), due date TBD

In the first week of the term, each student will sign up to write one 750-1000 word synopsis of a single chapter from our textbook and post it to our course blog. Blog posts are due Sunday at 5pm before the class meeting in which we will be discussing the chapter. Each blog post must contain the following:

  • A summary of Doniger’s main points (no more than 1/3 of the entire post);
  • An analysis of the chapter (Do you agree with what the author is saying? Is there anything that you find troubling or confusing? Does this chapter connect to anything else that you have studied in this class or in other classes?);
  • At least one relevant image;
  • 2-3 questions for further discussion in class. (Click here for some ideas to help you generate good discussion questions.)

Additionally, you will be responsible for helping to lead our class discussion on the day for which you have written your blog post.

Seven blog comments (3% each, 21% total), due Monday nights

Every Monday (excluding the week in which you write your own blog post), you should read at least one of the week’s blog posts and write a comment that addresses one or more of the posted discussion questions, or raises questions of your own based on the reading. Comments can be short, but they should be substantial, and contribute to the discussion in some way. Simply writing, “Great ideas!” does not constitute a substantial comment.

Blog comments will be graded on the following scale:

0 = did not write anything, 1 = wrote something minimal, 2 = wrote something that showed some thought, 3 = wrote something that contributed to the discussion in a meaningful way

Two 4-5 page papers (20% each), due April 18, May 13, or June 6 at 5pm

More information about papers will be provided in the second week of the term, but here are the basic guidelines:

  • You will select your own due date for each paper;
  • One paper will examine a section of a primary text in detail;
  • Another paper will elaborate on some aspect of The Hindus in conversation with a relevant primary text.

Contribution to Class Timeline (10%), due before the start of our last class (Thursday, May 31)

As a class, we will create an interactive online timeline based on Doniger’s text using a program called TimelineJS. Each student will be responsible for creating one point on the timeline and linking it to their previously written blog post. Students will present their contributions to the timeline on the last day of class.

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 two 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 two will reduce your final grade by 1/3. (E.g., If you’re earning an A- and you miss three classes, your final grade will be a B+; if you miss four 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.

 

Policy on late assignments:

Lawrentians are busy, and it’s spring term. With that in mind, I am happy to grant a 48-hour extension on written assignments,* provided that you email me at least 24 hours in advance of the original deadline. No reason or excuse is necessary; all that you need to do is email me to indicate that you need more time.

Late assignments without advance notice will receive a full letter grade deduction for every 24-hour period that they are late. (E.g., an A- paper submitted between 1 minute and 24 hours late will be reduced to a B-.)

*This policy does not apply to your blog post or to your contribution to the timeline, because the rest of the class will be depending on you completing these assignments on time.

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, I will reply to emails within 24 hours. On weekends and days when class is not in session (e.g. Midterm Reading Period), I will respond to emails within 48 hours.

IRL: You can also find me in my office (Main Hall 411) during office hours, and at 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, then 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.

See this perspective on office hours from a University of Toronto student, or check out this article for some suggestions about the sorts of things to discuss in a professor’s office.

 

 

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