Major, Concentration, and Interdisciplinary Studies

Major Requirements: We want students to have been exposed to a wide range of religious traditions and ways of engaging religious studies and gained sufficient knowledge of at least one historical tradition and feel established in their study of religion.

Students planning to major in Religion should consult with their advisor in the spring of their sophomore year.  Religion 300 is taken during the winter term of the junior year, Religion 399 during the winter term of the senior year, and Religion 400 in the spring term of the senior year. Since Religion 110 is a prerequisite for Religion 300, those planning to major in Religion must take Religion 110 before the winter of their junior year.

Student Departmental Advisors (SDAs) can be very helpful in guiding newer students in the Department in the planning of their programs. They may offer insights about the benefits (and costs) of off-campus study related to the major, recommend courses that suit a student’s interests, and offer advice about the sequencing of courses. Lindsey Myrick (myrickl@carleton.edu) and Izzy Zeitz-Moskin (zeitzmiz@carleton.edu) are the current SDAs.

The Department recommends that most students without prior background in the academic study of religion begin with a 100-level course, perhaps a first-year seminar or “Understanding Religion” (Religion 110). Many other courses at the introductory level focus on a single religious tradition or on the religious traditions of a specific region. Many intermediate level (200-level) courses also may provide a suitable entrée to the study of religion. Most of these courses treat a specific religious text, a particular period in the history of a religious tradition, or a theme/topic that cuts across many traditions. Most of these courses have no prerequisites, though beginning students should be aware that many of the students in 200-level courses will have had some prior work in the Department. Seminars (300-level) provide a still more focused learning experience and always presuppose some prior background in the subject. Taken mostly by juniors and seniors, seminars typically require a significant piece of research (15-20 page paper) and often an oral presentation.

Students may request that faculty teach a “reading course” or “independent study” course. Forms for this purpose may be obtained from the Registrar’s office. The precise requirements for such courses, as well as the number of credits earned, must be negotiated with the individual faculty member. Students should also be aware that such teaching arrangements are over and above a faculty member’s regular teaching load.

Many courses in the Department are offered only every second or third year due to faculty interest, sabbatical leaves and other constraints. Students with special interests in a particular course should consult with the faculty member who teaches that course to find out when it will next be offered. This sort of pre-planning is especially helpful for students who intend to spend some time on an off-campus studies program.

In general, students majoring in Religion are encouraged to plan ahead and to consult with faculty about their programs of study. The Department encourages all Religion majors to strive for coherence and integration in their major by selecting some courses that cluster around a particular tradition, topic or theme. At the same time, students are encouraged to explore traditions that may be quite remote from their primary areas of interest. In this way, it is hoped that all majors will acquire both some acquaintance with religions and religious studies in general as well as a deeper understanding of some area of special interest.

1) Total Credits

            69 Credits in the Department (of which no more than 12 from outside the department – (either non dept. OCS or outside department)

2)  Required Courses

     a)  RELG 110: Understanding Religion, taken by end of Fall, Junior Year

     b)  RELG 300:  Theories and Methods in Religious Studies (offered Winter Term)

     c)  RELG 399  Senior Research Seminar (Offered Winter Term)

     d)  RELG 400: 3 credits for comps ordinarily in Spring Term

     e)  12 Credits of 300 level Seminars other than 300/399

3)  Breadth

     a)  TWO 100 level survey courses numbered between 120-170

4) Depth

Our curricular depth requirement is in two parts, demonstrating curricular concentration in at least one particular religious tradition and in at least one theme/problem/complex.  Instructors will tag their courses in terms of correspondences – often multiple correspondences for any one course -- to either/both traditions and themes.  Students will be able to double-dip to meet the dual depth requirement; that is, if a course, say in the Buddhist tradition also corresponds to their thematic concentration, that course can fulfill one of the requirements under both headings. 

     a) Traditions: 12 or more credits corresponding to one of the following traditions:

        ·   Buddhist Traditions

        ·   Christian Traditions

        ·   Hindu Traditions

        ·   Islamic Traditions

        ·   Jewish Traditions

        ·   Traditions in the Americas

   b) Themes: 18 or more credits corresponding to one of the following themes:

        ·   Religious Thought and Philosophy

The relationship between, on the one hand, the scriptures/classics and ritual, legal, and ethical practices of any given inherited tradition and, on the other hand, that of philosophical inquiry, including scientific inquiry, is consistently as significant as it is problematic to those traditions. These courses draw on the rigors of philosophical method to understand religious thought and narrative in relation to other intellectual traditions, like that of modern science.

        ·   Ethics, Law, and Politics

Religious traditions, communities and institutions, particularly in the context of religiously diverse, globalizing, and putatively secular societies, are no less key political and legal sources for public discourses about the good and the lawful.  These courses explore the social, intellectual, and cultural junctures of religion, politics, and law, drawing on narrative and philosophical traditions.

        ·   Lived Religion and Culture

Religion, especially “official” or “orthodox” religion, is often in generative tension with, on the one hand, its lived, embodied practice in everyday life, and on the other, with the cultural formations through which it finds expression and practice.  These courses explore such questions, often through an ethnographic and anthropological lens, but also through cultural criticism.

        ·   Religion and Social Power: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Colonialism

Religions can be among the more socially conservative elements of culture and history, helping reproduce social distinctions of all kinds by grounding them, and the institutions that sustain those distinctions, in the “really real”; they can also authorize and embolden challenges to those social distinctions.  These courses focus on the relationships between religion and inequalities of social power along various lines, such as gender, class, ethnicity, and colonial status.

2014 - 2015 RELIGION COURSES - traditions and themes listed

2014 Integrative Essay Topics

Concentration and Interdisciplinary Studies:
The study of religion is, by definition, an interdisciplinary enterprise and a majority of courses offered by the department connect to the work of other College departments or contribute to various concentrations and programs. Faculty members’ own research stems from a variety of methodological viewpoints such as anthropology, history, philosophy, and theology. Our scholarly work also contributes to interdisciplinary programs that concentrate on regions of the world or on topics such as the study of women and gender, medieval and renaissance studies, etc. The multifaceted nature of our work is reflected strongly in our teaching as well and many courses in the department, particularly those at the introductory level, include materials from various disciplinary perspectives.

The department encourages students to develop a broad view of religion by seeking connections between different methodologies used in studying religious phenomena both within the department and across the college. Moreover, students can develop depth in particular areas by combining the major in religion with work done in the College’s interdepartmental programs and concentrations.

We ask students to think carefully and deliberately about their interests while choosing their course of study at all stages of their career at Carleton. A double major with religion may sometimes be acceptable, though this is discouraged across the college because fulfilling requirements in two departments is onerous and leaves very little room for a broad liberal arts education. We recommend concentrations, although these should also be undertaken with attention to the coherence of a student’s overall educational aims at the College. We discourage concentrations done merely for the sake of acquiring credentials on transcripts. Students should work with their advisers to select concentrations and to utilize them in an optimal way. In many cases, the religion major and a concentration may work very well with opportunities for off-campus study.

The following interdisciplinary venues currently available at Carleton are particularly suitable for students of religion: