Contacts | Program of Study | Program Requirements | Grading | Honors | Summary of Requirements | Minor Program in Religious Studies | Courses

Department Website: https://divinity.uchicago.edu/undergraduate-program-religious-studies-0

Program of Study

The program in Religious Studies introduces students to the academic study of religion. Students in Religious Studies learn how to think, talk, and write about religion in a way that is well-informed, rigorously critical, and responsibly engaged. The study of religion investigates the way human societies construct practices, seek meanings, and pose questions about their world. These investigations may be constructive, cultural, and/or historical. Since it touches all facets of human experience, the study of religion is a crucial conversation partner with other fields of study and draws on the entire range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines. Students in the program are able to explore numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, and are exposed to the sources, problems, methods, and methodologies of our diverse areas of study, including Biblical and Historical Studies; Ethics, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religions; as well as History of Religions, Anthropology, Sociology, and Religion and Literature. The interests of our students may be descriptive, explanatory, and/or normative.

Program Requirements

A major in Religious Studies consists of twelve courses, including one introductory course and a two-quarter senior seminar. It is preferable that students consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies and declare their major in Religious Studies before the end of their second year. Students and the Director of Undergraduate Studies will work together to create a program of study. The goal is to develop depth in one area so that a satisfactory BA paper will be written in the fourth year. Students are encouraged to explore more than one religious tradition in their courses. Students who wish to receive credit in the major for non-departmental courses must submit a petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Such requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. NOTE: The Office of the Dean of Students in the College must also approve the transfer of all courses taken at institutions other than those in which students are enrolled as part of a study abroad program that is sponsored by the University of Chicago. For more information, visit Examination Credit and Transfer Credit. Students with permission to enroll in graduate Divinity courses may count these toward the major.

Introductory Course

Students in Religious Studies are required to take RLST 10100 Introduction to Religious Studies. It need not precede other course work in the major, but students are advised to have completed it by the end of their second year. It will typically be offered every year during Autumn Quarter. This course will introduce students to some of the central themes in Religious Studies; its particular focus will vary according to the interests of the individual instructor.

Course Distribution

Religion is expressed in many forms throughout the world's cultures, and the academic study of religion therefore requires multiple perspectives on its subject. Students of religion should have some knowledge of the historical development of specific religious traditions, understand and critically engage the ethical and intellectual teachings of various religions, and begin to make some comparative appraisals of the roles that religions play in different cultures and historical periods. To introduce students to these multiple perspectives on religion and to provide a sense of the field as a whole, students are required to take at least one course in each of the following areas. To identify the areas, refer to the RLST number range (see below).

A. Historical Studies in Religious Traditions: courses that explore the development of particular religious traditions, including their social practices, rituals, scriptures, and beliefs in historical context (RLST 11000 through 15000, 20000 through 22900).

B. Constructive Studies in Religion: courses that investigate constructive or normative questions about the nature and conduct of human life that are raised by religious traditions, including work in philosophy of religion, ethics, and theology (RLST 23000 through 25900).

C. Cultural Studies in Religion: courses that introduce issues in the social and cultural contingencies of religious thought and practice by emphasizing sociological, anthropological, and literary-critical perspectives on religion, and by raising comparative questions about differing religious and cultural traditions (RLST 26000 through 28900).

Senior Seminar and BA Paper

The two-quarter senior sequence (RLST 29800 BA Paper Seminar and RLST 29900 BA Paper) will assist students with the preparation of the required BA paper. During May of their third year, students will work with the preceptor to choose a faculty adviser and a topic for research, and to plan a course of study for the following year. These must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Students will take part in the BA Paper Seminar convened by a preceptor during Autumn and Winter Quarters. This seminar will allow students to prepare their bibliographies, hone their writing, and present their research. Students will register for RLST 29800 BA Paper Seminar in the Autumn Quarter and for RLST 29900 BA Paper in the Winter Quarter. The BA paper will be due the second week of Spring Quarter. The length is typically between thirty and forty pages, with the upward limit being firm.

This program may accept a BA paper or project used to satisfy the same requirement in another major if certain conditions are met and with the consent of the other program. Approval from both departments is required. Students should consult with the departments by the earliest BA proposal deadline (or by the end of their third year, if neither program publishes a deadline). A consent form, to be signed by both departments, is available from the College adviser. It must be completed and returned to the College adviser by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student's year of graduation.

Grading

Religious Studies majors must receive quality grades in all courses in the major. With consent of instructor, nonmajors may take Religious Studies courses for P/F grading. Faculty will determine the criteria that constitute a Pass.

Honors

Honors are awarded by the Divinity School's Committee on Undergraduate Studies. Students who write senior papers deemed exceptional by their faculty advisers will be eligible for consideration for graduation with honors. To be considered for honors, students must also have a 3.5 GPA or higher in the major and a 3.25 GPA or higher overall.

Summary of Requirements

RLST 10100Introduction to Religious Studies100
One course in historical studies in religious traditions100
One course in constructive studies in religion100
One course in cultural studies in religion100
Six additional courses in Religious Studies600
RLST 29800BA Paper Seminar100
RLST 29900BA Paper100
Total Units1200

Minor Program in Religious Studies

The minor in Religious Studies requires a total of seven courses. RLST 10100 Introduction to Religious Studies is required of all minors. The remaining six courses should be chosen to reflect a broad understanding of the academic study of religion. Of these six, students must take at least one course in each of our three areas of study [Historical Studies (A), Constructive Studies (B), and Cultural Studies (C)]. Courses in the minor may not be double-counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors, and may not be counted toward general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

The student must complete a substantial (at least 10–15 pages) paper or project. This work should engage critically with primary source materials and exemplify methodological sophistication in the study of religion, and should earn a grade no lower than B-. It is expected that this paper will normally be written as part of the student's course work for the minor.  The Director of Undergraduate Studies will approve the paper for fulfillment of this requirement.

Students who elect the minor program in Religious Studies must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year to declare their intention to complete the minor. Consent to complete a minor forms are available from the student’s College adviser or online at https://college.uchicago.edu/sites/college.uchicago.edu/files/attachments/consent_minor_program.pdf.

Sample Program

The following group of courses would satisfy a minor in Religious Studies:

RLST 10100Introduction to Religious Studies100
RLST 11004Introduction to the Hebrew Bible100
RLST 21801Religion and Society in the Middle Ages100
RLST 23603Cosmos and Conscience: Looking for Ourselves Elsewhere100
RLST 23620The Problem of Evil100
RLST 28502Interpretations of Myth100
RLST 28900Magic, Science, and Religion100
Total Units700

Religious Studies Courses

CRES 24601. Martin and Malcolm: Life and Belief. 100 Units.

This course examines the religious, social, cultural, political, and personal factors behind the two most prominent public leaders and public intellectuals emerging from the African American community in the 1950s and 1960s: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. We review their autobiographies, domestic trends within the United States, and larger international forces operating during their times. Their life stories provide the contexts for the sharp differences and surprising commonalities in their political thought and religious beliefs. The operative question is: What can Malcolm and Martin tell us about America during one of the most dynamic periods in the nation's personality metamorphosis? We use documentary videos of each man's speeches and of the social contexts in which they lived. (B)

Instructor(s): D. Hopkins     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s):

JWSC 20120. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 100 Units.

The course will survey the contents of all twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, and introduce critical questions regarding its central and marginal figures, events, and ideas, its literary qualities and anomalies, the history of its composition and transmission, its relation to other artifacts from the biblical period, its place in the history and society of ancient Israel, and its relation to the larger culture of the ancient Near East.

Instructor(s): S. Chavel
Note(s): This course may be used to fulfill the College’s general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): BIBL 31000,NEHC 20504,NEHC 30504

NEHC 20504. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 100 Units.

The course will survey the contents of all twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, and introduce critical questions regarding its central and marginal figures, events, and ideas, its literary qualities and anomalies, the history of its composition and transmission, its relation to other artifacts from the biblical period, its place in the history and society of ancient Israel, and its relation to the larger culture of the ancient Near East.

Instructor(s): S. Chavel
Note(s): This course may be used to fulfill the College’s general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): BIBL 31000,JWSC 20120,NEHC 30504

RLST 10100. Introduction to Religious Studies. 100 Units.

What are we talking about when we talk about religion? There are a multitude of answers to that question, and this course provides students with an entry way into a longstanding conversation—involving insiders, outsiders, and those in between—around the meanings of a word that indexes ideas of god and the gods, of origins and ends, and of the proper places of humans (and everything else, including animals) above, in, and below the globe. Talk about religion today is, in fact, cheap: this course will aim to promote a grammatical currency (morphology, vocabulary, syntax) to enhance the value of such talk.

Instructor(s): R. Rosengarten     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Required of students who are majoring in Religious Studies.

RLST 11004. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 100 Units.

The course will survey the contents of all twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, and introduce critical questions regarding its central and marginal figures, events, and ideas, its literary qualities and anomalies, the history of its composition and transmission, its relation to other artifacts from the biblical period, its place in the history and society of ancient Israel, and its relation to the larger culture of the ancient Near East.

Instructor(s): S. Chavel
Note(s): This course may be used to fulfill the College’s general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): BIBL 31000,JWSC 20120,NEHC 20504,NEHC 30504

RLST 20401-20402-20403. Islamic Thought and Literature I-II-III.

This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required.

RLST 20401. Islamic Thought and Literature I. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 950, concentrating on the career of the Prophet Muhammad; Qur'an and Hadith; the Caliphate; the development of Islamic legal, theological, philosophical, and mystical discourses; sectarian movements; and Arabic literature.

Instructor(s): T. Qutbuddin     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30601,SOSC 22000,NEHC 20601

RLST 20402. Islamic Thought and Literature II. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 950 to 1700. We survey such works as literature, theology, philosophy, sufism, politics, and history that were written in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. We also consider the art, architecture, and music of the Islamicate traditions. Through primary texts, secondary sources, and lectures, we trace the cultural, social, religious, political, and institutional evolution through the period of the Fatimids, the Crusades, the Mongol invasions, and the "gunpowder empires" (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals).

Instructor(s): F. Lewis     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30602,SOSC 22100,NEHC 20602

RLST 20403. Islamic Thought and Literature III. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 1700 to the present, exploring works of Arab intellectuals who interpreted various aspects of Islamic philosophy, political theory, and law in the modern age. We look at diverse interpretations concerning the role of religion in a modern society, at secularized and historicized approaches to religion, and at the critique of both religious establishments and nation-states as articulated by Arab intellectuals. Generally, we discuss secondary literature first and the primary sources later.

Instructor(s): A. El Shamsy     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): This course does not apply to the medieval studies major or minor.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30603,SOSC 22200,NEHC 20603

RLST 20501. Islamic History and Society I: The Rise of Islam and the Caliphate. 100 Units.

This course covers the period from ca. 600 to 1100, including the rise and spread of Islam, the Islamic empire under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and the emergence of regional Islamic states from Afghanistan and eastern Iran to North Africa and Spain.

Instructor(s): F. Donner     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general eduation requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): NEHC 30501,HIST 25704,HIST 35704,ISLM 30500,NEHC 20501

RLST 20701. The Autobiography of Teresa of Avila. 100 Units.

In this course we will do a close reading of the autobiography of Teresa of Avila in which we will pay attention to her attitudes towards prayer and religious practice, mystical experience, community organization, sin and redemption, and gender. Our reading will be supplemented by other texts written by Teresa as well as secondary works that will help us interpret her in her historical context.

Instructor(s): L. Pick     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 23112,HIST 19801,GNDR 20701

RLST 21400. Latin American Religions, New and Old. 100 Units.

This course will consider select pre-twentieth-century issues, such as the transformations of Christianity in colonial society and the Catholic Church as a state institution. It will emphasize twentieth-century developments: religious rebellions; conversion to evangelical Protestant churches; Afro-diasporan religions; reformist and revolutionary Catholicism; new and New-Age religions.

Instructor(s): D. Borges     Terms Offered: Spring

RLST 21610. Carolingian Renaissance. 100 Units.

The Carolingian Renaissance flowered thanks to the leadership of a new royal (AD 751) and then (from Christmas 800) imperial dynasty. Expansive political and cultural initiatives reshaped Europe into a distinct space, not least, though paradoxically, through its fragmentation after AD 843. We shall study the actors and trends at play, the important role of Classical models and Latin book culture, and consider the relevant sources in all their physical, textual, and imaginative variety.

Instructor(s): M. Allen     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CLCV 22115,CLAS 32115,HIST 22115,HIST 32115

RLST 22111. Mary and Mariology. 100 Units.

More than a saint but less than God, no figure of Christian devotion other than Jesus Christ has inspired as much piety or excited as much controversy as the Virgin Mother of God. In this course, we will study the development of the Virgin Mary's image and cult from her descriptions in the Gospels through the modern papal definitions of Marian dogma so as to come to some understanding how and why this woman "about whom the Gospels say so little" has become a figure of such popular and theological significance. We will consider both the medieval flowering of her cult and its dismantling, transformation, transmission, and reinvention in the centuries since.

Instructor(s): R. Fulton Brown     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 22111,HIST 32111,HCHR 32111

RLST 22501. Foundations of Chinese Buddhism. 100 Units.

An introduction to the Buddhism of premodern China, examined through lenses of philosophy, texts, and art. We will examine important sources for the major currents of Chinese Buddhist thought and practice stretching from the earliest days of the religion in China through around the 13th century (with some attention to modern connections), giving special consideration to major textual and artistic monuments, such as translated scriptures, Chan literature, and the cave-shrines of Dunhuang.

Instructor(s): P. Copp     Terms Offered: Autumn 2015
Equivalent Course(s): EALC 25811

RLST 23403. What Is Enlightenment? 100 Units.

What is enlightenment? How does one become enlightened, and who is enlightened? In Euro-American civilization, the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment championed the powers of human reason against religion and superstition to achieve scientific progress. Buddhism in the nineteenth century was represented by the heirs of Enlightenment as a religion for the Enlightenment to the point of not being a religion at all. Both traditions offer pathways to freedom (or liberation?) that draw on our rational capabilities, and both sponsor the production of knowledge that re-visions our place in the world. But they seem to be opposed: how could reason reject “religious” beliefs but also take part in “religious” traditions that aim to bring certain kinds of persons into being? We compare the mental models, discourses, methods of analysis, world-images, and practices of these traditions of enlightenment to assess the kinds of disciplines that their theoreticians and practitioners acquire and use.

Instructor(s): M. Browning, Staff     Terms Offered: Not offered 2015-2016
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing

RLST 23603. Cosmos and Conscience: Looking for Ourselves Elsewhere. 100 Units.

Science and religion are two ways, among many others, that people can seek to know about reality: how do we construct ordered pictures of the whole—cosmos or civilization—and how do we relate to them in terms of action? How do we know what we do not know, and what does that kind of “knowledge” mean for the orientation and direction of human existence? How would cultural biases be affected by knowing that there are others “out there” in the universe, should we discover them? From various perspectives, this course addresses these questions of the origins, structures, and ends of reality as we look for ourselves—seek understanding of the human condition—in the cosmos but also in complex religious and cultural traditions. Whereas in our popular culture, science is often identified with the realm of knowledge and religion is simply “belief” or “practice,” the course also seeks to trace the rational limits of science and the rational force of religion with respect to the ethical problem of the right and good conduct of human life.

Instructor(s): W. Schweiker, D. York     Terms Offered: Not offered 2014-2015
Prerequisite(s): Third- or fourth-year standing

RLST 23804. Consciousness and Critique: The Autobiographies of Dorothy Day and Malcolm X. 100 Units.

A close reading of Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness (1952) and of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964) will allow the exploration of the relation between self-creation or re-invention, on the one hand, and social critique and change, on the other. Day was a social radical who, motivated by the cause of the poor, became the founder of the Catholic Worker movement; Malcolm X was a revolutionary who became an iconic figure in the global Black freedom struggle. The reconstruction of memory, the relation of narration and consciousness, the appropriation of cultural and religious narratives, the diagnosis of personal fault and social ill, and the arc of conversion are among themes to be considered; reference will also be made to Augustine's classic autobiography, Confessions (397).

Instructor(s): K. Culp     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 23804,GNSE 23814,FNDL 23806

RLST 23900. Buddhist Thought in India and Tibet. 100 Units.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to something of the range of Buddhist philosophical thought and doctrine that developed in first-millennium India—developments that were decisive for the philosophical curricula of still vibrant Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, which may also be considered. The aim will be not only to appreciate the history of these developments, but also (and especially) to engage them philosophically, taking them seriously in the same way that (e.g.) Aristotle and Kant are still taken seriously in philosophy departments.

Instructor(s): D. Arnold
Equivalent Course(s): SALC 23903

RLST 24601. Martin and Malcolm: Life and Belief. 100 Units.

This course examines the religious, social, cultural, political, and personal factors behind the two most prominent public leaders and public intellectuals emerging from the African American community in the 1950s and 1960s: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. We review their autobiographies, domestic trends within the United States, and larger international forces operating during their times. Their life stories provide the contexts for the sharp differences and surprising commonalities in their political thought and religious beliefs. The operative question is: What can Malcolm and Martin tell us about America during one of the most dynamic periods in the nation's personality metamorphosis? We use documentary videos of each man's speeches and of the social contexts in which they lived. (B)

Instructor(s): D. Hopkins     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 24601

RLST 26801. Many Ramayanas. 100 Units.

This course is a close reading of the great Hindu Epic, the story of Rama's recovery of his wife, Sita, from the demon Ravana on the island of Lanka, with special attention to the changes in the telling of the story throughout Indian history. Readings are in Paula Richman, Many Ramayanas and Questioning Ramayanas; the Ramayanas of Valmiki (in translation by Goldman, Sattar, Shastri, and R. K. Narayan), Kampan, and Tulsi; the Yogavasistha-Maharamayana; and contemporary comic books and films.

Instructor(s): W. Doniger     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): HREL 42501,FNDL 22901,SALC 42501,SCTH 40701

RLST 27604. Religion and Gender. 100 Units.

In what ways are notions of ideas about religion and the sacred gendered and what are the consequences of this for how we live our lives? This course will be an introduction to the study of the relationships between religion and gender and the way these relationships play out in specific historical situations. Attention will also be paid to the relationships between religions and sexualities. Examples will be drawn from medieval to modern periods, and our attention will primarily be on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Instructor(s): L. Pick     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): GNDR 27604

RLST 28210. Introduction to Religion and Literature. 100 Units.

Instructor(s): R. Rosengarten, S. Hammerschlag     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): RLIT 30000,ENGL 30100

RLST 28310. Byzantium: Art, Religion, Culture I. 100 Units.

Part one of a two-quarter introductory seminar exploring works of art and architecture as primary sources for Byzantine civilization. Through the close investigation of artifacts of different media and techniques, students will gain insight into the artistic production of the Byzantine Empire from its foundation in the 4th century A.D. to the Ottoman conquest in 1453. We will employ different methodological approaches and resources that are relevant for the fruitful investigation of artifacts in their respective cultural setting. In order to fully assess the pivotal importance of the visual arts in Byzantine culture, we will address a wide array of topics, including art and ritual, patronage, the interrelation of art and text, classical heritage, art and theology, Iconoclasm, etc.

Instructor(s): K. Krause     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HCHR 32302,RLIT 32302

RLST 28311. Byzantium: Art, Religion, Culture II. 100 Units.

Part two of a two-quarter introductory seminar exploring works of art and architecture as primary sources for Byzantine civilization. Through the close investigation of artifacts of different media and techniques, students will gain insight into the artistic production of the Byzantine Empire from its foundation in the 4th century A.D. to the Ottoman conquest in 1453. We will employ different methodological approaches and resources that are relevant for the fruitful investigation of artifacts in their respective cultural setting. In order to fully assess the pivotal importance of the visual arts in Byzantine culture, we will address a wide array of topics, including art and ritual, patronage, the interrelation of art and text, classical heritage, art and theology, Iconoclasm, etc.

Instructor(s): K. Krause     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): RLST 28310
Equivalent Course(s): HCHR 32303,RLIT 32303

RLST 28502. Interpretations of Myth. 100 Units.

Mythic narratives figure prominently in virtually all religions and depending on one's definition, in much historical, political, and cultural discourse as well. Given the ubiquity of myths, the fascination they exercise, and the privileged position they often enjoy, mythic discourse has received much critical attention, and a wide range of theories have been advanced, treating myths as true stories, false stories, sacred stories, disease of language, means of revelation, the origin of philosophy and poetry alike, second order semiosis, and ideology in narrative form. This course will survey some of the most influential theories and test them against a wide range of myths drawn from various cultures, religions, and historic eras.

Instructor(s): B. Lincoln     Terms Offered: Spring

RLST 29700. Reading and Research Course. 100 Units.

Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring
Prerequisite(s): Consent of faculty supervisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note(s): Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form.

RLST 29800. BA Paper Seminar. 100 Units.

This class meets weekly to provide guidance for planning, researching, and writing the BA paper.

Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Consent of faculty supervisor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Note(s): RLST 29800 and 29900 form a two-quarter sequence that is required of fourth-year students who are majoring in Religious Studies. Students will register via pink slip.

RLST 29900. BA Paper. 100 Units.

This class meets weekly to assist students in the preparation of drafts of their BA paper, which are formally presented and critiqued.

Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): RLST 29800 and 29900 form a two-quarter sequence that is required of fourth-year students who are majoring in Religious Studies. Students will register via pink slip.

SALC 23903. Buddhist Thought in India and Tibet. 100 Units.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to something of the range of Buddhist philosophical thought and doctrine that developed in first-millennium India—developments that were decisive for the philosophical curricula of still vibrant Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, which may also be considered. The aim will be not only to appreciate the history of these developments, but also (and especially) to engage them philosophically, taking them seriously in the same way that (e.g.) Aristotle and Kant are still taken seriously in philosophy departments.

Instructor(s): D. Arnold
Equivalent Course(s):


Contacts

Undergraduate Primary Contact

Director of Undergraduate Studies
Lucy Pick
S 306B
773.702.8278
Email

Listhost

https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/info/religiousstudies