REL 301 Theories & Methods Spring 2015
Required of all religion majors, this course is an introduction to the academic study of Religion. Our study will involve critical examination of various methods, disciplines, and theories employed in the academic study of religion, focusing particularly on those approaches that locate religion in its social, cultural, and political contexts. The course has four parts. PART I introduces the academic study and its historical emergence and evolution in recent decades. In PART II we will survey various methodological approaches to the study of religion. PART III will examine interpretation of religion and various theories of religion that have been put forward by academic scholars and intellectuals. This section will also include discussion of some of the key themes and critical terms and categories that inform scholarly analysis of religion. PART IV, the last section of the course, will then examine major debates within the field, its criticism, and the future of the academic study of religion. Though the course is primarily content-driven and involves “deep” reading of assigned texts, an adequate comprehension of the content is not possible without serious efforts in honing certain intellectual skills which are listed below. (Please see the section Objectives of the Course). The goal of each class meeting is better understanding of the assigned text(s). Careful reading of the assigned material and quality class conversations are therefore the two most crucial strands of this course.