We understand the study of religion as a crucial element in the larger study of culture and history. We consider the study of religion to be inherently trans-disciplinary and a necessary component for intercultural literacy and, as such, essential to the liberal arts curriculum. Our goals include helping students to recognize and examine the important role of religion in history and the contemporary world; to explore the wide variety of religious thought and practice, past and present; to develop methods for the academic study of particular religions and religion in comparative perspective; and to develop the necessary skills to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the nature and role of religion.
Since the phenomena that we collectively call "religion" are so varied, it is appropriate that they be studied from a variety of theoretical perspectives and with a variety of methods. The diversity of areas of specialization and approaches to the study of religion among our faculty members ensures the representation of many viewpoints. Our courses investigate the place of religion in various cultures in light of social, political, economic, philosophical, psychological, and artistic questions. We encourage religious studies majors to take relevant courses in other departments. The Department of Religious Studies maintains close relationships with interdisciplinary programs such as Asian studies, American studies, African Diaspora studies, international studies, and women's and gender studies. Our courses require no commitment to a particular faith. However, students of any background, secular or religious, can benefit from the personal questions of meaning and purpose that arise in every area of the subject.
The curriculum mirrors the diversity of the faculty. We offer courses in Judaism, Christianity, religions of the Americas, Islam, Buddhism, South Asian religions, and East Asian religions. Religious studies majors are required to take courses in at least four of these areas. In our courses we emphasize work with primary sources, both textual and nontextual. To this end, students are encouraged to study relevant languages, and to spend at least part of their junior year abroad in an area of the world relevant to their particular interests.
Our introductory courses (RLST 101, 102, and 103) are designed especially for students new to the study of religion, although they are not prerequisites to other courses. RLST 101 is a regular lecture/discussion class; RLST 102 covers the same material in the format of a seminar limited to first-year students; RLST 103, also a first-year seminar, covers equivalent material with a focus on women and religion. Students who enroll in any one of these, and wish to fulfill their humanities requirement with religious studies courses, may do so by taking any other course in the department. For this purpose we especially recommend our foundation courses (200-level), which can also serve as first courses in religious studies.
A few upper-level courses do have specific prerequisites, and a few with no specific course prerequisites do require sophomore or junior standing. They are so noted below. The 200-, 300-, and 400-level courses do not need to be taken in sequence.
Requirements for the Major
Students majoring in religious studies are required to take RLST 101, 102, or 103; RLST 390 (Approaches to the Study of Religion); RLST 490 (Senior Seminar); and 3.5 other units. These units must include foundation courses (200 level) in traditions or areas representing at least four of the five fields of study (see lists below). In one of the traditions/areas, at least one more advanced course must also be taken. (Note: there are seven traditions/areas grouped in five fields of study. The advanced course must be in the same tradition or area, not just the same field.)
It is highly recommended that majors take all four of their required foundation courses, if possible, before their senior year. Students who are considering spending any portion of the junior year abroad should take RLST 390 (Approaches) in the sophomore year; otherwise the junior year is recommended.
A. Fields of Study (covering seven traditions/areas)
3. Religions of the Americas
4. Islam, South Asian religions
5. Buddhism, East Asian religions
B. Foundation Courses (by tradition/area)
RLST 210 The Judaic Tradition
RLST 211 Modern Judaism
RLST 212 The Jews in Literature
RLST 220 Faith of Christians
RLST 225 New Testament
RLST 230 Religion and Society in America (U.S.)
RLST 232 Afro-Caribbean Spirituality
RLST 332 African American Religions
RLST 240 Classical Islam
RLST 250 South Asian Religions
RLST 260 Buddhist Thought and Practice
RLST 270 Chinese Religions
RLST 275 Japanese Religions
The Senior Exercise in religious studies consists of (1) the Senior Seminar, RLST 490; (2) a comprehensive examination consisting of short-answer, objective questions on the seven traditions/areas; (3) a ten- to twelve-page essay on an assigned topic or, if approved by the department faculty, a longer comparative research paper (sixteen to twenty pages); and (4) satisfactory participation in a Senior Conference (a presentation and discussion of senior papers before students and RLST faculty).
Students with an overall grade point average of 3.33 or better and 3.5 or better in religious studies courses are eligible to submit a proposal for an honors project. Honors candidates select a field of concentration entailing 1 to 1.5 units of advanced research and writing under the supervision of one or more faculty members.
Requirements for the Minor
The religious studies minor is designed to expose students in a systematic way to the study of religion, while simultaneously giving them some degree of more advanced knowledge in at least one religious tradition. A total of 3 units are required for the minor in religious studies. The following are the minimum requirements: