Overview of the Major in Religious Studies
Rather than organizing the degree around traditions and “theory,” the Religious Studies major is organized around the modes of inquiry used by scholars of religion: Cultural Analysis, Historical Analysis and Textual Analysis. This organization is intended to help students see commonalities across their coursework. Despite significant differences in subject matter, in both a course on "the monstrous" in the Bible and a course on Jesus films, students are learning to read texts carefully. Similarly, whether it is a course on Religious Art and Architecture in India or a course on Religion in America, students are learning to think carefully about historical and cultural context. Although the Department’s faculty specializes in a wide range of disparate subject matter, we share a much narrower set of approaches for analyzing our respective areas of expertise. By focusing the major on these commonalities, students and faculty will better be able to talk across our different interests.
In addition, the Religious Studies major gives students great flexibility in terms of how they meet the requirements of the degree. This will allow students to complete the major more quickly and more easily.
The major in Religious Studies consists of 30 course credit hours, with at least 15 hours at the 3000-level or above. Students must take RELS 2600: Introduction to the Study of Religion as the foundational couse in theories of religion. Students must take two (2) historical analysis, two (2) textual analysis, and two (2) cultural analysis classes. Along with these students must take two elective classes in the Department of Religious Studies. The final required course is RELS 4600: Senior Seminar which works as a capstone course to round out the major.
The major in religious studies requires 30 semester hours in religious studies courses, with 15 semester hours (5 courses) being taken at the 3000-level or above, as follows:
Two courses to orient the student to the academic study of religion:
RELS 2600 Orientation to the Study of Religion (3 hours). Students are encouraged to take this course as early as possible in their program.
RELS 4600 Senior Seminar (3 hours). Students typically take this course during their final year.
TEXTUAL ANALYSIS (6 hours)
Two courses designated as textual analysis** (as signaled in the department's semester course listings). These courses focus on reading texts closely and carefully; examine methods and histories of textual interpretation; and consider how religious groups and cultures have composed, transmitted and been shaped by texts.
HISTORICAL ANALYSIS (6 hours)
Two course designated as historical analysis** (as signaled in the department's semester course listings). These courses focus on a particular historical period or figure; consider a movement, idea or instititution across several historical periods; and examine questions of historiography more generally.
CULTURAL ANALYSIS (6 hours)
Two course designated as cultural analysis
** (as signaled in the department's semester course listings). These courses focus on how religious discourses, practices and identities interact with, influence and are influenced by the larger culture of which they are a part.
ELECTIVES (6 hours)
Students should choose two electives in consultation with their academic advisor.
**Depending on how respective sections are taught, a course could fulfill the requirement for historical, textual, or cultural analysis. Students must consult the course descriptions circulated each semester to determine which designations have been assigned to a particular course.
Note: Liberal Studies courses do not count toward the Religious Studies major or minor (including Liberal Studies courses taught be Religious Studies faculty).
Questions can be directed to J. Daniel White, Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Bronze Statue of Kali