Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
rs masthead
Martha G. Newman, Chair BUR 529, Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-7737

Religion in Europe and the Middle East

Please note: this concentration will not be accepting students for the academic year 2012-2013.

General Information
Major Fields
Preparation for Admission
Program Requirements
Qualifying Exams

General Information

Graduates from this area of concentration will develop expertise in the history of the religious traditions of Europe and the Middle East, the interactions between these religious traditions, and the historical and cultural contexts within which these religions are embedded. The concentration emphasizes religious traditions of the pre-modern period; students interested in modern issues are encouraged to look at the Transregional concentration as well. Students will focus their scholarship on one of three areas: Jewish Studies, Classical Islam, or the History of Christianity, but will also develop a minor field in at least one of these other areas. They will have the skills in languages and the research techniques necessary for their scholarship. Graduates will be able to relate their own area of interest to the study of religion in general, and will be trained to apply the methods and theories of Religious Studies. They will be well-prepared for academic positions in Religious Studies departments defined either by the history of a religious tradition, by a geographical region, or by a thematic topic.

Major Fields

  • Jewish Studies
  • Classical Islam
  • History of Christianity

Preparation for Admission 

Applicants should have a B.A. or M.A. degree in Religious Studies, Jewish Studies, or Islamic Studies or in a related field from the Humanities or Liberal Arts. Previous coursework in the history of Europe and the Middle East, in the history of western religious traditions, and in textual analysis will provide a solid foundation for graduate study. Students progressing to doctoral work will need significant mastery of their primary research language; we thus recommend that applicants have studied this language before entering the program.

Program Requirements 

In addition to the general program requirements, students in the Religion in Europe and the Middle East concentration will complete the following courses:

Two of the three following courses: 

R S 388E. Core Readings on Religion in Europe.
This course discusses key scholarly works on and major approaches to religion in Europe. 

R S 388I. Core Readings in Islamic Studies.
This course discusses key scholarly works on and major approaches to the study of Islam and Muslim societies.

R S 388J. Core Readings in Jewish Studies.
This course discusses key scholarly works on and major approaches to Jewish Studies. Prerequisite: Graduate standing and consent of instructor.

Two research seminars on different topics, offered under the following number:

R S 389R. Research Seminar on Religion in Europe and the Middle East.
These seminar courses focus on selected works or problems in the study of religions of the Europe and the Middle East and emphasize the analysis of primary texts. 

Students will take additional courses, chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor, in preparation for the qualifying exams listed below.

Qualifying Examinations 

Ph.D. candidates in Religious Studies are required to pass a set of qualifying examinations. The exams will be in four fields and will consist of written essays for each field and an oral defense of the essays. Students will consult closely with area faculty in developing areas of specialization and fulfilling comprehensive examination requirements. The four fields for the Religion in Europe and Middle East concentration are: 

  1. Major Field: selected from the Major Fields listed above
  2. Supporting Field: either a second major field from within the concentration, or a major field from within another area of concentration (i.e., Religions of Late Antiquity from the Ancient Mediterranean concentration), or a chronological field distinct from one's dissertation area.
  3. Thematic Field: chosen in consultation with faculty advisor; exploration of a selected topic across religious traditions and areas of concentration in the study of religion.
  4. Dissertation Field: typically the special area(s) of research within the Major Field related to the development of a dissertation topic


Students in the Religions of Europe and the Middle East concentration must have or acquire competence in the following languages:

Primary languages (advanced competence – third-year and above – required upon entering the Ph.D. level):
Either Latin, Arabic or Hebrew (although for some topics, more than one of these languages may be appropriate). Other primary languages may be required for certain areas of specialization.

Secondary/scholarly languages:
Reading competence in two European languages most needed to read secondary work in the field. This usually will be French and German, although other relevant languages may be substituted.

Faculty advisors will consult with entering students about language preparation and placement.

Area Faculty

Alison K. Frazier, Associate Professor (Religious Studies & History)
Ph.D., Columbia University
Interests: Premodern saints' lives / biblical exegesis / manuscript and print culture / Machiavelli and torture / Consolatoria

Martha Newman, Associate Professor (Religious Studies & History)
Ph.D., Stanford University
Interests: Medieval Christian monasticism / monastic miracle collections/ monastic attitudes toward women and the poor

Glenn Peers, Professor (Art History)
Ph.D., University of Toronto
Interests: Early medieval and Byzantine art

Affiliated Faculty

Hina Azam, Assistant Professor (Middle Eastern Studies)
Ph.D., Duke University
Interests: Islamic law and jurisprudence / women and Islam 

Miriam Bodian, Professor (History)
Ph.D., Hebrew University
Interests:Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions / post-Expulsion Sephardic Jewry / Jews and the Reformation

Denise Spellberg, Associate Professor (History)
Ph.D., Columbia University
Interests: Medieval Islamic history, religion, and gender / Islamic historiography / Islam in Europe and America

bottom border