Skip to main content
New Course Offering!
Helderman course flyer

New Course Offering!

RLST 4371: Through the Eyes of the Other - A History of Muslim-Christian Relations

Taught By: Richard McGregor & Paul Lim

Meeting Pattern: Tuesdays, 1:10 - 3:50 - Divinity School G-28

Encountering the religious, racial, cultural, or political Other has often lead to a process of self-discovery. However, there are strong impulses to resist such encounter, and instead to marginalize, and even demonize those in whom we recognize little more than basic humanity.

This is the first Vanderbilt course that looks at the complicated co-existence, acrimony, war-making, and peace-seeking between Christians and Muslims.

The course charts the relationship between Muslim and Christian communities since the inception of Islam, and offers a series of snapshots and narratives that are designed to help with a more contextualized understanding of the complex web of relationships between these two world religions and cultures. Throughout the course we will see how Muslims saw Christians, and how that vision - often distorted, sometimes correct - perpetuated certain views about Christianity in the Muslim world. The same was the case among Christians, who often willfully exaggerated the potential danger of Islam as a totalizing discourse and world dominating-system of politics.

Dr. Paul Lim (Divinity School) and Dr. Richard McGregor (A&S, Religious Studies) will bring their respective expertise and research excellence as historians of early modern Christianity and medieval Islam to bear in this Seminar. Lim and McGregor are hopeful that this course will encourage the students to look beyond the immediate horizons of their religiosity and cultural-political backgrounds to grow in appreciation of the two major religious traditions' efforts toward enhanced mutual understanding and even embrace.



Overview of Programs

Religious Studies. The academic study of religion on the campus of Vanderbilt University starts with the Department of Religious Studies. Our first and primary mission is to educate undergraduates in the nature, history, and function of different religious traditions, individually and comparatively. Care is taken to situate these religions in their cultural and social contexts, while examining the critical roles they play in shaping individual and group perspectives on the conduct of human affairs. The department offers a major in Religious Studies, a minor in Religious Studies, and an Honors track. At present, areas of concentration include (alphabetically) African-American Religious Traditions, Buddhism and Asian Religious Traditions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Wherever possible, the appropriate languages are strongly encouraged, complicating the student’s understanding in ways impossible by any other method. The general approach to the study is initially descriptive, but multidisciplinary, while providing the student with a variety of analytical tools, theoretical perspectives, and practical methods for interpretation. The comparative component ensures that students recognize the commonalities of various religious traditions, thereby developing a sense of the abstract idea of generic ‘religion’ while maintaining a strong sense of the historical differences among traditions. Successful students should expect to emerge from the program with a set of analytical skills and disciplined perspectives on this all-important feature of human experience that will prepare them to thrive in an increasingly pluralistic, global community.

Islamic Studies and Arabic . The Department of Religious Studies works closely with the interdisciplinary faculty and curriculum constituting the minors in Islamic Studies and Arabic. Core courses for Islamic Studies are provided through Religious Studies, and all Arabic language and literature offerings originate in the Department of Religious Studies.

Jewish Studies. The department contributes both faculty and courses to the university’s widely recognized Jewish Studies program.

Asian Studies. With the development of Asian Studies as a separate program on the Vanderbilt campus, shared faculty are formally sanctioned to participate in the programming of Asian Studies with an increasing number of courses cross-listed.

Graduate Department of Religion. Religious Studies provides faculty and course support to the Graduate Department of Religion, primarily in the two area groups of ‘Historical Studies’ and ‘Critical Studies in Asian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions.’ The expertise in history, theories, and methods provided by Religious Studies faculty ensure the integrity of the PhD program in the Graduate Department of Religion.

For more information on these various courses of study, please follow the links in the menu.