Welcome to Fall, 2017

September 12, 4:30 p.m.: Harshbarger Lecturer in Religious Studies : Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College: “Orientalism in a different key” Foster Auditorium

October: TBA

November 8, 3 p.m.: Daniel Falk: “Definitional borders of prayer”

Spring 2017 Events

The co-convenors of the Society for the Study of Religion, Daniel Falk and Jonathan Brockopp, are holding a series of conversations to gather ideas about the study of religion in the Academy as a whole, and to begin imaging what a robust program at Penn State might look like. We hope you will consider attending.

Friday, March 17 3:30-4:30 p.m. 121 Borland round table discussion with Penn State colleagues

Tuesday, April 4 10-11 a.m., 121 Borland with Jon Butler (Yale)

For more information, see details on our “events” page.

Fall 2016 seminars are set

We are pleased to announce our fall line-up of faculty seminars as we begin our first year as an officially sponsored Institute for the Arts and Humanities Interdisciplinary Colloquium.


Wednesday, September 28, from 12:30 to 1:30 in Weaver 102

Erica Brindley, Professor of Asian Studies and History and Director of Graduate Studies, Asian Studies

“An Ancient Chinese Genesis Story From A Recently Uncovered Manuscript”



Wednesday,  October 19, from 3:30-4:30 in Burrowes 463

Marica S. Tacconi, Professor of Musicology and Associate Director, School of Music
“‘Entering’ the Sacred Page: The Medici and the Service Books of the Florentine Cathedral.”



Wednesday,  November 9, from 3:30-4:30 in Burrowes 463

Charlotte Eubanks, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Japanese & Asian Studies and Director of Graduate Studies, Comparative Literature

“Playing Dice for Paradise: The Print Culture of Buddhist Board Games.”

Christian Brady, on Ruth and Boaz in the Targum

Christian Brady, Dean of Schreyer Honors College; Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and Jewish Studies, will present a paper entitled

“The Transformation of Ruth and Boaz in Targum Ruth”

on Tuesday, Dec 9, at 3:45 pm in 130 Moore

Coffee and cookies will be served!

Targum is a unique genre, offering a verbatim Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew biblical text, while weaving into it additional details and context that transforms the text often in significant ways. This paper will consider how the Targum of Ruth transformed the figures of Ruth and Boaz into paragons of rabbinic excellence.



Michael Legaspi: The Problem with Knowledge


Michael Legaspi, Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and Jewish Studies, will be presenting a paper entitled

“The Problem with Knowledge: Perspectives from Classical and Biblical Traditions”

on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 3:30 pm in 102 Weaver. Coffee and cookies will be served!

Modern attitudes toward knowledge have been shaped in crucial ways by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. We tend to view knowledge as indispensable, the pursuit of knowledge as something natural and noble. Yet many foundational texts in Western culture present knowledge as a dangerous and problematic attainment. They prompt us to consider its limits and ambiguities and to ask whether certain forms of knowledge may actually be obstacles to human flourishing, hindrances in the pursuit of another ancient ideal: wisdom.



Charles Prebish discusses Buddhism in North America

–“The Swans came to Penn State too,” a talk by Charles S. Prebish, will be presented on Wednesday, February 4, noon to 1 p.m., in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, Penn State University Park.


Following the change in immigration law by Canada and the United States in the mid-twentieth century, Buddhism exploded on the North American continent. Buddhism is now found everywhere: from the cover of “Time” magazine to the Simpson’s TV show; from Leonard Cohen practicing as a Zen priest to the Dalai Lama visiting the White House.

Some estimates place the number of Buddhists on the continent as high as six million. This presentation traces the development of the study of North American Buddhism as it became a legitimate sub-discipline in the larger discipline of Buddhist Studies. It looks at the early pioneering works of the past half-century, examining the Buddhist communities in North America, the theories that have developed to understand their growth and development, the scholarly and popular studies that have appeared in the literature, the scholars and scholar-practitioners who have offered seminal studies, Buddhist teachers—Asian and Western—who have appeared on the scene, and the new emphases that have recently appeared that may shape Buddhism’s development in North America in our new century. In broad perspective, this presentation will provide a new insight into the current shape of the North American Buddhist landscape.

Prebish is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Penn State, where he served on the faculty from 1971 until 2006. He is also Charles Redd Chair in Religious Studies Emeritus at Utah State University, where he served from January 2007 until December 2010.