Department of Religion
- Judith Weisenfeld
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Seth A. Perry
Director of Graduate Studies
- Moulie Vidas
- Leora F. Batnitzky
- Wallace D. Best
- Andrew Chignell
- Jonathan C. Gold
- Eric S. Gregory
- Martha Himmelfarb
- AnneMarie Luijendijk
- Elaine H. Pagels
- Stephen F. Teiser
- Judith Weisenfeld
- Muhammad Q. Zaman
- Shaun E. Marmon
- Seth A. Perry
- Moulie Vidas
- Gabriel M. Citron
- Bryan D. Lowe
- Tehseen Thaver
- Jonathan Henry
Information and Departmental Plan of Study
Any course offered by the department.
A sophomore may apply for early concentration through consultation with the director of undergraduate studies.
Program of Study
For the Classes of 2023 and beyond, the requirements are as follows (Class of 2022 and prior should consult the appropriate archived version of the Undergraduate Announcement):
Concentrators are required to complete at least nine departmental courses by the end of their senior year. Courses taken prior to declaring a religion major count toward this total.
Normally, each term juniors and seniors will take two courses offered by the department.
During the fall of their junior year, majors will enroll in REL 399, the Junior Colloquium. REL 399 is a for-credit course which counts toward a student’s nine religion courses for the major and their total number of courses for graduation.
Undergraduate courses in the Department of Religion are classified in two ways: 1) Traditions and 2) Themes. Concentrators must take at least three courses in either a particular tradition in a traditions stream or a particular theme in a thematic stream.
Students will choose one of the two streams in the spring of their sophomore year when they declare their concentration in religion. (This choice may be revised in conversation with the director of undergraduate studies through the end of junior year.
1) TRADITIONS: this stream encompasses different religious traditions, approaches, geographical areas, and time periods. They are:
- Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions: 230, 251, 252, 350, 352, 353, and occasional courses
- Religion in America: 258, 319, 357, 358, 360, 367, and occasional courses
- Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion: 242, 261, 311, 312, 317, 346, 347, 363, 364, and occasional courses
- Islam: 235, 236, 240, 328, 334, 335, 336, 338, and occasional courses
- Religions of Asia: 225, 226, 228, 229, 322, 326, and occasional courses
Students master the relevant historical, philosophical, and cultural contents and contexts of their chosen tradition(s). How are normative claims made and contested in religious traditions? What are the theological, ritual, and philosophical concepts and categories central to these traditions? How does a religious or philosophical tradition change over time and in new locales? How do individuals negotiate their belief commitments in religiously diverse contexts? Does religion represent a distinct sphere of life separable from other domains of culture and social activities? What are the assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of the historical study of religion? These are some of the questions that inform this stream.
The stream assigned to each course taught by department faculty is identified in its listing on the department's website.
2) THEMES: Students have the option of concentrating their course work in a thematic area that crosses traditions, time periods, and geographies. Each student will establish their thematic designation in conversation with the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) when they enter the department in the spring of their sophomore year.
Details of suggested themes appear on the department web site. In consultation with the DUS, students may designate a theme not included in the suggested list around which to concentrate their coursework. The DUS will suggest courses and grant final approval to students’ thematic plans.
Students will take five additional departmental courses. At least one of these courses must be a course designated “Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion.” At least one such course will be offered every academic year. Please note: Critical Approaches courses do not double-count for tradition and thematic distributions.
Critical Approaches designations appear in the list of undergraduate courses posted on the department's web site in advance of each term.
Up to two elective courses may be approved cognate courses taught by faculty outside of the Department of Religion that supplement coursework in the department. The director of undergraduate studies must approve cognate courses. Please note that other than these two electives, all courses toward the concentration must be taught by department faculty.
- Not all courses satisfy stream requirements. A course may be counted toward one stream requirement only. In any year it is offered, 373 Studies in religion will be assigned to the appropriate stream.
Religion concentrators are required to take religion courses for a letter grade. However, once senior religion majors have satisfied all departmental and area requirements, they are allowed to P/D/F departmental courses with permission from the director of undergraduate studies. Majors must obtain the written approval of the director of undergraduate studies prior to choosing this grading option.
The expectation is that concentrators in religion develop a course of study in which they gain mastery over a set of coherent questions, either within or across areas, traditions, and themes. Students are encouraged to pursue their thesis work within the area of their concentrated coursework
In conjunction with REL 399, the Junior Colloquium, during the fall term juniors will produce a five to seven-page JP proposal. During the spring term, juniors will continue this independent research and write a 30-40 page junior paper under supervision of a faculty adviser. The director of undergraduate studies, in consultation with the director of the colloquium, will assign advisers. At the end of junior year, students will review their work in the department and discuss with a faculty committee their plans for senior independent work.
Every senior will prepare a 70-90 page thesis under the supervision of a faculty adviser.
Senior Departmental Examination
At the end of the senior year, students will take an oral examination concerning their senior independent work, focus of study, and work in the department generally.
The Department of Religion welcomes study abroad for departmental majors in their junior year. Those juniors who have compelling reasons to study abroad in their fall semester should meet with the director of undergraduate studies about their plans, including plans for satisfying REL 399 and their preparation of their junior paper proposal. Juniors who study abroad in the spring term will write the required spring junior paper under the supervision of a religion department faculty member. Students are expected to have junior year independent work completed before the start of the senior year. Students must consult with the director of undergraduate studies before leaving for their study abroad program.
Preparation for Graduate Study
Those students considering graduate work in religion are strongly advised to develop a reading knowledge of languages most appropriate to their focus of study, for example, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, and French.
Religion and Special Programs. Students who wish to combine the study of religion with work in programs should consult the director of undergraduate studies. In recent years, religion majors have received certificates in African American studies, African studies, American studies, dance, East Asian studies, European cultural studies, Hellenic studies, Judaic studies, Near Eastern studies, theater, visual arts, and gender and sexuality studies.