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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Christian L. Novetzke
RELIG 380
Seattle Campus

The Nature of Religion and Its Study

Study of religion as a general human phenomenon. Manner in which different methods of inquiry (phenomenology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, archaeology, philosophy, theology) illuminate different aspects of religion and help to shape our conceptions of its nature. Recommended: RELIG 201 or RELIG 202. Offered: jointly with CHID 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 four broad disciplines: anthropology, sociology, history, and politics. As a survey course, we will tread lightly through these areas with the goal in mind to provide students with opportunities for future study and ideas for critically thinking about the history and role of religion in public culture today. 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

Answer the question, in multiple ways, "What is religion?" Be able to use ideas about what constitutes "religion" in order to understand how religion is used in public discourse

Understand the relationship between religion and modernity

Summarize the history of "theories" about religion proffered in the Euro-American academy

Learn to theorize critical positions about questions related to the study of religion

Take into future courses or other experiences a set of tools for understanding not just religion, but culture more broadly.

General method of instruction

Class meets twice a week for roughly two hours. We will usually divide the time this way each meeting: Lecture for the first 50 minutes; 5 minute break; 45 minutes of something else. The "something else" will likely be one of these: 1) large group discussion; 2) small group discussions; 3) film or other media screening; 4)in class exam.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Tentative: Assignments: Your grade for this course will be distributed evenly among three components:

. Participation-Class participation is measured by active participation in the form of questions and comments during lecture; lively engagement with classmates in small and large group discussion; and generally positive investment in the learning environment of the class. We are a large class and participating in such an environment can be difficult. It is my job to help create possibilities for participation, but it is your job to interact with my, your classmates, and the subject intelligently and enthusiastically. . Weekly Media Assessment-Once per week, by Monday, 10pm, you will post online a short assessment of some media you have observed (read, heard,watched, viewed, etc.) that is relevant to the subject of this course. This may be a news item, a film, a radio show, a book or article, a work of art-any media is valid. These are not formal papers, but postings should be clear, well considered, and should reference the materials and ideas of the course. The assessments should be no less than 250 words and no more than 500 words. Please do not quote extensively. . Two In-Class Written Exams-You will complete two in-class written exams. These exams are to be (legibly) hand-written without the use of notes, books, or computers. The nature of the questions will allow many possible answers. A high grade will be determined by the quality of your thought in the essay, the organization of your response, and your ability to reference the ideas of the course.


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.
Last Update by Loryn Hazan Paxton
Date: 02/11/2010