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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Christian L. Novetzke
CHID 380
Seattle Campus

Theories In the Study of Religion

Provides a variety of approaches to the study of religion centered on examining the relationship between religion and modernity in the tradition of post-enlightenment, Euro-American scholarship. Examines theories of religion across disciplines: history, anthropology, sociology, Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, political theology, and Freudian psycho-analytical theory. Offered: jointly with JSIS C 380.

Class description

This course provides students with a variety of approaches to the study of religion centered on examining the relationship between religion and modernity in the tradition of post-enlightenment, Euro-American scholarship. The central thesis of this course is that what we understand to be “religion” today was fashioned out of Western modernity, similar to other “modern” ideas such as science, democracy, the modern state, humanism, and capitalism. Religion is not a relic from a pre-modern period or the purview of non-modern, non-Westernized, “irrational” societies, but rather is the creation of the modern world itself. We will examine this thesis in relation to several disciplines: history, anthropology, sociology, Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, political theology, and Freudian psycho-analytical theory. As a survey course, we will tread lightly through these areas with the goal to provide opportunities for future study and ideas for critically thinking about the history and role of religion in modern public and political culture. For students interested in pursuing this thesis in the rest of the world outside European and North American societies, I offer a seminar called “Religion and Modernity in the Rest of the World”.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

This is a lecture course in which I strongly encourage discussion, interaction, and conversation. Occasionally the class will divide into smaller groups for various projects, but in general class will consist of interactive lecture. We will watch two films and a few short videos in the course. The use of this media is meant to get us to engage with the themes of the course, and return those themes and theories to creative interpretations of the media. Please note that my lectures do not summarize the readings. If you do not do the readings you will have a hard time following the lectures.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Christian L. Novetzke
Date: 02/27/2011