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Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Fall 2008

R S 383 • Thry & Meth in Study of Relign

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44760 T
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
BUR 436A

Course Description

This seminar introduces graduate students to the field by considering the history of theories and methods in the study of religion. We concentrate on three fundamental questions: 1) How have scholars defined "religion"?; 2) How have they studied it?; and 3) How have they narrated the field's history? Focusing on the period between the 1870s and the 1970s, especially the decades before and after the turn of the twentieth century, we read classic texts and consider multiple approachesanthropological, psychological, historical, phenomenological, geographical, and sociological. We also identify some lineages in the study of religion that have been obscured in most of the histories. Considering more recent trajectories and issues in the study of religion since the 1970s, we end by looking at a few works on gender studies, cognitive science, pragmatism, poststructuralism, and postcolonial theory. Along the way we will read a wide range of interpreters, including works by David Hume, Herbert of Cherbury, Hannah Adams, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, F. Max Müller, Morris Jastrow, E. B. Tylor, James Frazer, William James, Sigmund Freud, Emil Durkheim, Max Weber, Rudolph Otto, G. Van der Leeuw, Mircea Eliade, Jonathan Z. Smith, Victor Turner, Clifford Geertz, Talal Asad, Timothy Fitzgerald, Russell McCutcheon, Ursula King, Karen McCarthy Brown, Harvey Whitehouse, Edward Said, and Richard King.

Grading Policy

Assessment will be based on the following:
1) ANALYSIS PAPERS (15% each): Three critical analysis papers (two to three pages each) that consider one of the assigned texts. One of these three papers must describe and assess one of the narrative histories of the field.
2) CLASS ORIENTATION (10%): One 12-15 minute class presentation that introduces the other members of the seminar to the assigned readings for the day.
3) FIELD OR SUBFIELD PAPER (10%): One two to three-page analysis of how one of the assigned texts, or in some cases it could be a recommended text, has been used or criticized in your own area of specialization.
4) OVERVIEW (30%): One overview or analysis of the history of the study of religion (from three to five pages, or its equivalent). This can take any form that seems most helpful to you and suits your learning style. It could be an historical narrative, thematic analysis, diagram, chart, table, video, web page, data base, chronology, or it could combine multiple forms of visual and verbal representation.
5) PARTICIPATION (5%): Regular attendance and informed participation in the seminar.


Eric J. Sharpe, Comparative Religion: A History (Chicago: Open Court, 1986); David Hume, The Natural History of Religion (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1956); William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Penguin, 1982); Peter Gay, ed., The Freud Reader (New York: Norton, 1989); W. S. F. Pickering, ed., Durkheim on Religion AAR Texts and Translations Series (Atlanta: Scholars Press; New York, 1994: distributed by Oxford University Press); Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: Beacon, 1964; 1993). Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harvest, 1959); Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969); Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola, updated edition (Berkeley: University of California, 2001); Harvey Whitehouse, Modes of Religiosity: A Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission (Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2004); Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India, and 'The Mystic East' (London: Routledge, 1999); Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).


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