RELS 3001 – Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
RELS 3001 – Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
Fall 2008, W 3:30-6:00 p.m. – Folwell 108
Instructor: Jeanne Kilde
Office Phone: 612-625-6393
Office: 150C Nicholson
Office Hours: M/Th 3:00 – 4:00
Email: email@example.com Th/Th 10:00 – 11:30
Course Description: While even a quick glance at any newspaper these days impresses upon us the importance of religion, just how we are to understand and/or learn about religion, given the vast array of ideas, practices, institutions, and communities that lay claim to the category, is anything but straightforward. Scholars from many disciplines study religion, adding another layer of diversity—not to say confusion—to the question of how one might go about learning about religion.
This course attempts to sort through the many theories about religion and methods for studying it that have developed over the past century. We will first examine several theories of religion (what “religion” is and entails and how it works) from such writers as Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Jonathan Z. Smith, Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, and others. Then, we will examine a number of different approaches to or methods for studying it, examining some recent monographs using specific methods to explore topics such as Catholic devotional practices (ethnographic), the Gnostic gospels (historical-textual), American spirituality (sociological), and Hindu nationalism (historical, literary deconstruction).
Several articles on WebVista
Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11. U of Chicago, 2003.
Daniel Pals, Eight Theories of Religion, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven: Spirituality in American since 1950. Online here.
James Laine, Shivaji. Oxford University Press, 2003.
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage, 1979.
Robert Orsi, Thank You, St. Jude, Yale University Press, 1998.
Mircea Eliade, The Sacred & the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Harcourt, Brace , 1987.
Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford, 2008.
Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy, 2nd ed.Oxford, 1958.
Donald Capps, ed. Freud and Freudians on Religion. Yale, 2001.
Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy. Anchor, 1969.
Attendance, class participation, class writing. (20 points) 20%
Students are expected to attend all classes, prepared to discuss the assigned reading. Display of knowledge of the assigned material and intellectual engagement with it and across readings is expected during class discussions. Students will also write one-minute, end of class session reflections on some class sessions, which will also figure into this grade.
Session leadership with a partner. (15 points) 15%
Students working in pairs will be assigned as discussion leaders for specific sessions. Discussion leaders are expected to raise questions about the readings for the day and lead the first hour of the class session. They may, at their discretion, assemble background material, develop handouts, develop exercises, and so forth to stimulate active class engagement. The instructor is happy to advise session leaders on possible approaches.
Reading question/response papers (3 papers @ 10 points each) 30%
Each question/response paper – you will write three during the semester – should begin by presenting three questions that the readings for the selected day raise and then move on to analyzing one of those questions in depth. Your analysis should consist of a gloss of the author’s response to the question followed by your assessment of that response. You may agree or disagree with, or take a negotiated approach, to the author’s perspective, but in any case you must present rational, well-supported arguments for your position.
Each paper should be approximately 3 pages in length.
Students may revise one paper for a new grade (the new grade will stand even if it is lower than the original grade).
Theory/Method/Situation Analysis paper. (Draft @ 10 points, Final Paper @ 25 points) 35%
In this 8-10 page paper, your goal is to apply a particular theory of religion, a related method for the study of religion to a specific contemporary or historical situation. Both the selected theory and method should be explained and the appropriate sources cited. The specific instance you will be analyzing should be set up and then the theory and method used to shed light on various aspects of the instance.
(Website) indicates article is available on the WebVista course site.
Sept. 3 Course Introduction
Sept. 10 Theory: 18th and 19th centuries. Christian models.
Read Pals, Introduction and chapter 1. Read: H. S. Reimarus, The Principal Truths of Natural
Religion Defended and Illustrated (1766).
Read Thomas Payne, The Age or Reason, Part I. http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/reason/index.htm
Read Schleiermacher, TBA
Bring in an article about religion from some news source.
Thursday, Sept. 11. Religious Studies Orientation and Reception. A get-together for all
religious studies majors/minors and others who are interested in the major. 5:00-6:30,
Sept. 17 Method: Caroline Walker Bynum and the study of material culture
Read Bynum, “The Presence of Objects” (website)
Read Vanessa Ochs, “What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish/” at http://www.materialreligion.org/journal/jewish.html
Read David Morgan, “Visual Religion” (website)
Read Gregory Schopen, “Relic” (website)
Thursday, Sept. 18. Pizza lunch (provided) with Professor Bynum. Noon. 125 Nolte Center. Lecture: “Visual Matter: The Materiality of Late Medieval Devotional Images,” 4:00, 125 Nolte Center.
Sept. 24 Theory: 19th century, cont. Challenges to Christian models.
Read: Darwin, TBA; Pals on Freud; Pals on Marx
Read: Excerpts from Freud and Marx (TBA)
Suggested Reading: Donald Capps, ed. Freud and Freudians on Religion
Oct. 1 Theory 19th and 20th centuries. The Growth of Social Science Models.
Read: Pals on Durkheim; Pals on Weber
Read: Weber, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”
Suggested Reading, Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Suggested Reading: Berger, The Sacred Canopy
1st Question/Response Paper Due by 9:00 p.m.
Oct. 8 Theory: Ritual
Read: Pals on Eliade
Read: Eliade, “Introduction” and “Sacred Space and Making the World Sacred” (website)
Read: Jonthan Z. Smith, “In Search of Place,” (website)
Read: Catherine Bell, “Performance” (website)
Suggested Reading: Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane
Oct. 15 Theory: Anthropological Methods
Read: Pals on Evans-Pritchard; Pals on Geertz
Read: Talal Asad, “Athropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz” (website)
Oct. 22 Theory: Interrogating “Religion”
Read: Masuzawa, (website)
Read: Jonathan Z. Smith, “Religion, Religions, Religion” (website)
Read: Robert Sharf, “Belief” (website)
Suggested reading: Otto, The Idea of the Holy
Oct. 29 Method: Ethnographic research
Read: Robert Orsi, Thank You, St. Jude
2nd Question/Response paper due by 9:00 p.m.
Nov. 5 Method: Historical analysis
Read: James Laine, Shivaji
Professor Laine will join us in class today.
Nov. 12 Method: Historical-Textual analysis
Read: Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels
Nov. 19 Method: Sociological analysis
Read: Robert Wuthnow, After Heaven (available online through Library catalogue)
Draft of Final Paper Due, 9:00 p.m. This draft should site and summarize each of the three elements of the paper: theory, method, sample situation. You may change any one of these as you revise.
Nov. 26 No Class – Pick up your paper draft in 150C Nicholson. Continue working on it.
Dec. 3 Theory and Method: Contemporary Ramifications
Read: Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors
3rd Question/Reponse paper due by 9:00 p.m.
Dec. 10 Theory and Method: Ramifications of Contemporary Religious Diversity
Read: William Cantwell Smith (TBA)
Read: Talal Asad, “Reading a Modern Classic: W.C. Smith’s “The Meaning and End of Religion” (website)
Read: Diana Eck, TBA (website)
Thursday, Dec. 11. Revision of Question/Response paper due (optional) by noon.
Thursday, Dec. 18. Final paper due 3:30 p.m.
Policies and Procedures
Attendance in class is required. Students should come to class having read the material assigned for the day. Participation in class discussion is expected. One unexcused absence is allowed, no questions asked. Further absences must be explained/excused or they will result in the loss of participation points.
Papers may be submitted by email (as Word attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org), in person, or through WebVista. Paper due dates and times are listed below in the calendar; any changes will be announced in class and sent by email to all students in the class.
Late papers will not be accepted.
A/A-: Represents achievement that is outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements.
B+/B/B-: Represents achievement that is significantly above the level necessary to meet course requirements.
C+/C/C-: Represents achievement that meets the course requirements in every respect.
D+/D/D-: Represents achievement that is worthy of credit even though it fails to meet fully the course requirements.
F: Represents failure that is not worthy of credit even if some requirements were met.
S-N: Students taking the course on an S/N basis must to at least C- quality work to receive an S.
Incompletes (I) will not be given in this course unless there is an extraordinary situation, such as hospitalization, that prohibits the student from completing the work of the course on time. Students who are awarded an Incomplete will be required to sign an agreement indicating how the incomplete will be made up. An Incomplete will automatically become an F or an N (depending on the student’s original registration), if the required work is not submitted within one year of final examinations of the term in which the Incomplete was given.
Office hours are for your benefit. You may drop by during office hours with or without an appointment. I am also available by appointment if you are unable to visit during office hours. Do not wait until the last minute to contact me (e.g. the day before a paper is due). If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask them. Students are responsible for all information disseminated in class and all course requirements, including deadlines and examinations.
If you have a disability that requires special accommodations or other classroom modifications, please notify both Disability Services and me as soon as possible. To notify Disability Services, call 612-626-1333 (on campus, X6-1333), email email@example.com, or access their website at http://ds.umn.edu/index.html.
Academic integrity is essential to a positive teaching and learning environment. All students enrolled in University courses are expected to complete coursework responsibilities with fairness and honest. Failure to do so by seeking unfair advantage over others or misrepresenting someone else’s work as you own can result in disciplinary action. The Student Conduct Code defines scholastic dishonesty as follows:
Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on a test, plagiarism, and collusion. Cases of dishonesty may be handled as a scholastic matter or as a student conduct code matter at the discretion of the instructor. Instructors choosing to treat the case as a scholastic matter have the authority to decide how the incident will affect the student's course grade. Instructors choosing to treat the case as a disciplinary matter will refer the case to UMC's Student Conduct Code coordinator. A more complete policy statement on scholastic dishonesty is included at the UMC Policies Website.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism will not be allowed. The following information appears on the Center for Writing’s Website http://writing.umn.edu/tww/plagiarism/definitions.html.
The MLA Handbook defines plagiarism as the use of another person's ideas or expressions in your writing without giving proper credit to the source. The word comes from the Latin word plagiarius (“kidnapper”), and Alexander Lindey defines it as “the false assumption of authorship: the wrongful act of taking the product of another person's mind, and presenting it as one's own” (Plagiarism and Originality [New York: Harper, 1952] 2). “In short, to plagiarize is to give the impression that you have written or thought something that you have in fact borrowed from someone else.” This can include paraphrasing, copying someone else's writing word for word, or using ideas that aren't your own without proper citation. Plagiarism is often unintentional, and bad research habits can form early in elementary school. Unfortunately, these bad habits can continue throughout high school and college and may result in severe consequences, from failure in a course to expulsion. To avoid these consequences, always cite your sources if you are unsure if you are plagiarizing (Gibaldi, Joseph, and Walter S. Achtert. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 3rd ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1988. 21-25.)