Core Courses

Introduction to the Study of Religion

Instructor: varies

Credits: 3

The course provides an introduction to the academic study of religion focusing on the history of the discipline. The course provides an overview of the classical approaches in the study of religion such as the sociology, the anthropology, the psychology of religion, the phenomenology of religion, etc. that are foundational for the history of the field. The goal of this course is to enable the students to build a “critical toolbox” of analytical skills that they can further apply to their own empirical cases of interest or textual study. Some of the most important topics discussed during the course are: Defining Religion; Theology and Religion; The Comparative Study of Religions; Insider-Outsider Perspective; The Victorian Anthropologists; The History of Religion School (Chicago School); The Phenomenology of Religion; Animism and Magic; Psychology of Religion (Jung, Freud); Sociology of Religion (Durkheim, Weber); Religious Experience (James, Otto); Anthropology of Religion (Lévi-Stauss, Spiro, Tambiach); Post- structural, Post-colonial and Post-feminist approaches to religion (Foucault, Derrida, Spivak).

Introduction to Buddhism

Instructor: Team taught

Credits: 3

This course introduces students to Buddhist traditions. Beginning with the life story of the Buddha, students learn about Buddhism in ancient India, the key texts, doctrines and practices. Following that, Buddhism’s journey out of India is charted. Buddhism’s arrival in Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia East Asia and Central Asia is explored through a variety of sources; archaeological, epigraphic, textual, ethnographic. At the conclusion of the course, students will have gained a good grounding in key doctrines and practices, have an overview of the history of Buddhism as it developed over the centuries, and have begun to have some awareness of Buddhist textual traditions. This initial exposure to textual traditions is developed more fully in the second semester core course on Understanding Buddhist Texts.

Reading Buddhist Texts

Instructor: Team taught

Credits: 3

There are many different types of Buddhist texts. The focus in this course will be on students learning about the range of Buddhist texts there are; the genres, categories and classifications, and learning how to read the different types of texts. How does a Mahāyāna text differ from a Theravāda one? What meaning might a poem have for the tradition that differs to the importance given to narrative stories of the formation of the vinaya? How are the commentaries to be interpreted? What use do they have for modern interpreters and commentators?

Research Methods for the Study of Religion

Instructor: Patricia Sauthoff

Credits: 3

The aim of this course is to produce an original work of scholarship that can serve as the basis for a later MA thesis. First, we will examine various research methodologies to introduce students to some of the types of primary source material available to them. Second, students will learn the various steps involved in producing scholarly academic work.


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