Major Requirements

For requirements for the Class of 2022 and earlier, please see Major Requirements Archive.

Concentration Requirements
Prerequisite: Any course offered by the department.

Requirement 1

Concentrators are required to complete at least nine departmental courses by the end of the senior year. Courses taken prior to declaring a Religion concentration count toward this total.

Undergraduate courses in the Department of Religion are classified in two ways: 1) Areas of Study and 2) Themes. Concentrators must take at least three courses in either a particular Area of Study stream or a particular theme in a Thematic stream.

Students will choose one of the two streams in conversation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies during their Junior Fall.

1) Area of Study: this stream encompasses different religious traditions, approaches, geographical areas, and time periods. They are:

  • Ancient Judaism, Christianity, and Greek and Roman Religions
  • Islam
  • Religion in the Americas
  • Religions of Asia
  • Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Students master the relevant historical, philosophical, and cultural contents and contexts of their chosen Area of Study. How are normative claims made and contested in religious traditions? What are the theological, ritual, and philosophical concepts and categories central to these traditions? How does a religious or philosophical tradition change over time and in new locales? How do individuals negotiate their belief commitments in religiously diverse contexts? Does religion represent a distinct sphere of life separable from other domains of culture and social activities? What are the assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of the historical study of religion? These are some of the questions that inform this stream.

The stream assigned to each course taught by Department faculty is identified in its listing on the Department Courses Page.

2) Themes: Students have the option of concentrating their course work in a thematic area that crosses traditions, approaches, time periods, and geographies. Each student will establish their thematic designation in conversation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) during their Junior Fall.

  • Religion and Political Life
    Students in this thematic examine the relationship between religion and politics in multiple domains of life. Questions range from the notion of a just society to legal debates over religious freedom. How do human values relate to power? How do religious traditions characterize justice, community, and a good society? What role does religion play in political life and organizations? How can we think about changing configurations of religion, politics, the state, the secular, and the private sphere?
  • Religion, Text, and Media
    How does one define a “religious text?” How can one analyze and interpret religion through art, literature, music, and poetry? How are canons of knowledge and authority in religious traditions established? Who is included and excluded? How do sources outside of the elite canon of religious literature such as material culture, artifacts, and print/electronic media redefine or undermine dominant conceptions of traditional canons? These are the sort of questions explored in this thematic.
  • Religion and Social Identities
    How do different religious and philosophical traditions understand and contest questions of gender and sexuality? How do race and religion intersect in different contexts in the Global North and South? How do mainstream as well as marginalized groups and identities find expression and political agency in and through religious discourse? In what ways is the academic study of religion itself implicated in histories of colonialism, racism, and empire? These are among the questions that guide this thematic.

Students may also name and design their own theme and identify courses they consider pertinent. The DUS will suggest courses and, in conversation with the faculty, grant final approval to students’ course plans.

Requirement 2

During their Junior Fall, majors will enroll in REL 399, the Junior Colloquium. REL 399 is a for-credit course which counts toward a student’s nine religion courses for the major and their total number of courses for graduation.

Requirement 3

At least one course taught by Department faculty and designated “Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion.” At least one such course will be offered every academic year. Please note: Critical Approaches courses do not double-count for Requirement 1. Critical Approaches designations appear in the list of undergraduate courses posted on the department website in advance of each term on the Department Courses Page.

Requirement 4

Four Elective Courses. Up to two of these courses may be approved cognate courses taught by faculty outside of the Department of Religion that supplement coursework in the department. The Director of Undergraduate Studies must approve cognate courses. Please note that other than these two electives, all courses toward the concentration must be taught by department faculty.

Religion majors are required to take Religion courses for a letter grade. However, once senior religion majors have satisfied all departmental and area requirements, they are allowed to P/D/F departmental courses with permission from the departmental representative. Majors must obtain the written approval of the department representative prior to choosing this grading option.

Independent Work

Majors in the Department Religion complete a Spring Junior Paper and year-long senior thesis. Juniors are required to take REL 399: The Junior Colloquium during Junior Fall; this for-credit course helps facilitate the development of a Spring JP project. Seniors meet individually with the Director of Undergraduate Studies during the first week of Fall term to discuss plans for the thesis. Both the JP and the thesis are written with the guidance of faculty advisers, assigned by the Department with student input.

The processes, goals, and expectations of Independent Work in the Department of Religion are detailed in the Religion Independent Work Guidelines.