The Major 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. Taylor Barnhill ( and Sara White ( are the SDAs for 2017-2018.

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.


FOR CLASS OF 2018 and beyond

Requirements for a Major

Sixty-nine credits earned through courses in the department, and in "Religion Pertinent" courses offered by other departments, and in select courses from off-campus study programs.

Required courses:

  • RELG 110 Understanding Religion, taken by end of fall of the junior year
  • RELG 300 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion, winter term of the junior year
  • RELG 399 Senior Research Seminar, winter term of the the senior year
  • RELG 400 Integrative Exercise 3 credits, spring term of the senior year
  • 12 credits of 300 level Seminars other than 300/399

Breadth requirement:

Two 100-level survey courses numbered between 120 - 170

Depth requirement:

A minimum of two courses (12 credits) that are focused on the same tradition or region of the world

Other notes:

Religion 100s (A & I Seminars) count as electives in the religion major, but do not fulfill the two 1xx courses

No cap on number of Religion Pertinent courses from other departments that can count toward the religion major

Courses taken for the depth and breadth requirements can be double-dipped and used for another requirement in the major as well

2018-2019 Religion courses

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: