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The Department of Religious Studies offers graduate work in seven areas of study, distributed among three fields

In order that all graduate students have the opportunity to develop both depth and breadth in their courses of study, candidates for M.A. and PhD degrees are normally required to choose one major area of study and one minor area of study from the list of seven areas.

Asian Field

Buddhism

Research is sponsored in this area primarily in Buddhist literature in Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan; Modern and Contemporary Buddhism in Japan; Medieval Chinese Buddhism; Buddhist thought; doctrine and practice in East Asian Buddhism. Course work and comprehensive examinations include (in addition to the listed areas of research) Indian monasticism, Buddhist apocrypha, and Buddhist understandings of death and dying. Students taking comprehensive examinations in this area should also have a broad knowledge of the history of Buddhist Studies in Europe, North America and Asia. A variety of approaches and methodologies are encouraged (textual, literary, social historical, art historical, sociological, anthropological).

 

East Asian Religions

Research is sponsored in this area in a wide range of topics, including Taoist canonical literature; the construction of Shinto; Chinese science, alchemy and medicine; the New Religions of Japan;  the relationship of Buddhism with indigenous East Asian traditions (Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto); religion and modernity in East Asia; popular religion in East Asia as seen in literary works, etc. Course work and comprehensive examinations include many of these same topics. In addition, students taking major comprehensive examinations should have a good general knowledge of East Asian history and culture, including knowledge of secular literature. A variety of approaches and methodologies is encouraged (textual, literary, social historical, art historical, sociological, anthropological). 

Faculty members working in the area:

Biblical Field

Early Judaism

Research is sponsored in this area primarily in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writings of the "Apocrypha" and "Pseudepigrapha," early Rabbinic and Greco-Roman period Jewish sources and ancient Jewish biblical interpretation. Course work and comprehensive examinations include (in addition to the listed areas of research) Hebrew Bible, and the historical, geographic and social milieu of Second Temple Judaism, and Early Rabbinic Judaism. A variety of approaches and methodologies for the study of Early Judaism are introduced (textual, literary, social historical, feminist, philosophical/ theological, etc.).  

Early Christianity

Research is sponsored in this area primarily in the writings included in the New Testament, particularly the Synoptic gospels and the Johannine and Pauline literature, and in the early Greek Church Fathers. Course work and comprehensive examinations include the history of Christian beginnings (from Jesus to Constantine), the Jewish and Greco-Roman environment, and a diversity of approaches and methodologies currently used in the study of Early Christianity.   

Faculty working in the area:

Western Field

Religion and Politics

This area studies accounts of the interrelations between religion, ethics, and politics from ancient Greece to the modern West. Areas of concentration include the following: (l) the history of political philosophy; (2) analysis of literary expressions of an understanding of religion, ethics, and politics; (3) study of critical social and ethical theories with reference to the underlying theological and philosophical anthropologies. Students are expected to develop competence in the ancient Greek, medieval, early modern, and modern periods through suitable course work and, in the case of doctoral students, preparation for comprehensive examinations.

Religion and the Social Sciences

Research in Religion and the Social Sciences is primarily concerned with the anthropology and sociology of religion. Students are expected to acquire a thorough knowledge of the historical development of these fields, as well as of contemporary theoretical approaches. In addition to the courses offered by the area, it is recommended that students take one or more courses outside Religious Studies, in Anthropology or Sociology. Students majoring in the area have worked in three primary fields: North American religion, including fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and new or occult religious movements; native religion and its interface with Christianity in African and North American contexts; and religion in twentieth century social thought, including Bertrand Russell studies. Area faculty have also contributed significantly to dissertations with social scientific emphases in other areas of the department.

Western Religious Thought

This area covers philosophy of religion, theology, and ethics in the classical and modern periods. Areas of specialization include patristic thought, the interrelations between philosophy and religion, hermeneutical theory, secular challenges to religious thought, modern theology and ethics. Course work and comprehensive examinations include both historical-systematic studies of perennial theological and philosophical themes and specialized contemporary topics.

Faculty working in the area: