Religious Studies

We recommend that students considering a major in Religious Studies take a 100-level “Studying Religion” course and at least two 200-level courses by the end of the their second year.

Religious Studies helps students develop tools to understand the complex ways that people across history and around the world oppose oppression, justify violence, understand their bodies, and give meaning to their lives. Our curriculum is among the most international on campus and many majors study abroad, bringing their experiences to capstone seminars and mentored research projects.

For students who want an introduction to the field or who are considering a major in Religious Studies, we recommend taking one our 100-level “Studying Religion” courses. (For 2014-15 this also includes REL 195.01, “Introduction to East Asian Religions.’) All Religious Studies majors are required to take one of these courses and should do so as early as possible. Many non-majors take one or more of these 100-level courses. The courses are united by a common set of learning goals that include learning about specific religious traditions in context, understanding “insider vs. outsider” perspectives on religious phenomena, and being able to apply analytical concepts central to the field.

In the fall of 2014-15, we will offer two introductory courses. REL 103, “Studying Religion: The Middle East,” begins by exploring the intertwined development of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam through topics such as myths of origin, the Crusades, and medieval interactions in the Mediterranean region. It then turns to religion in the modern Middle East, focusing on issues like European colonialism, Christian missionary movements in the Middle East, and the development of the nation-state in the region. REL 195.01 “Introduction to East Asian Religions,” explores the dynamic cultural landscape of East Asia, providing an overview of religion as it has been constructed in the states that are today known as China, Japan and Korea. Moving beyond the paradigms defined as the singular traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, Shintoism and Buddhism, the course delves into shamanistic and folk traditions, as well as practices that cut are across traditions, in order to provide students with tools to resist simplistic understandings of religious identity.

In the spring of 2014-15, in addition to another section of “Introduction to East Asian Religions,” the Department will offer REL 101, “Studying Religion: Judaism and Christianity.” This course examines the diverse ways that Jews and Christians have sought to shape themselves as individuals and as members of communities dedicated to God.  Reading primary and secondary sources, students will explore the practices, texts, and ideas that constitute these religious traditions, consider how Jews and Christians ground their religious lives in revelation, reason, ritual, and imagination, and engage contemporary scholarship on these traditions.

Completing a 100-level course will enable first-year students to waive the second-year standing prerequisite for most 200-level courses. Many non-majors, even students who have not taken one of the 100-level courses, take one or more 200-level courses in the department.  REL 311 is a course focused on theory and method in Religious Studies and is required of all majors, preferably in the fall of their third year. Our advanced seminars (REL 351 and above) normally require 311 as a prerequisite. 

The following is a possible four-year plan to complete a major in Religious Studies:

FIRST YEAR FALL   FIRST YEAR SPRING
REL 101,102,103,104 or 195   REL 2XX
SECOND YEAR FALL   SECOND YEAR SPRING
REL 2XX   REL 2XX
THIRD YEAR FALL   THIRD YEAR SPRING
REL 311   Off-Campus Study
FOURTH YEAR FALL   FOURTH YEAR SPRING
REL 2XX or 394   REL 326, 351, 352, or 394