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Texts & Contexts Concentration

The Department of Religion offers the graduate concentration in Texts & Contexts to explore literary and performative expressions of religion, including scriptures, through the lenses of history, philosophy, literary theory, and rhetoric.

The Texts & Contexts curriculum consists of four repeatable courses. Department faculty members teach material from their own specialties to address the course themes. Students may repeat a given course up to three times so long as it is offered with a different subtitle reflecting different material.

REL 610 Textual Practices in the Study of Religion

A theoretical and practical exploration of different textual practices and ways of approaching and interpreting them, focusing on an extended consideration of a single religious text or a single genre of religious texts.

Topics may include Reading Practices (Robert), Writing Religions and Cultures (Gold), Allegory and Parody (Frieden), Travel, Translation, and Pilgrimage (Frieden), and courses on specific authors: Augustine (Burrus), Kierkegaard (Robinson) or specific texts: Qur’an (Kassam), Torah/Pentateuch (Watts), Lotus Sutra (Fisher).

REL 620 Textual Scripts in the Study of Religion

Theories and descriptions of how texts shape people’s words, actions and experiences, both religious and secular, and how people use and perform texts for spiritual and social effects on religious objects, cultures, traditions and themselves.

Topics may include Iconic Books and Performative Texts (Watts), Confessions and Confession (Burrus), or Performance Theory (Robert).

REL 630 Textual Bodies in the Study of Religion

An exploration of the intersections of texts and bodies within religious cultures—texts as bodies (from literary corpus to material object), bodies as texts (inscribed and read), and above all bodies in texts.

Topics may include Martyrs and Saints (Burrus), Religious Corporealities (Robert), or Pollution and Purity in Leviticus (Watts).

REL 640 Textual Archives in the Study of Religion

Historical research into religions, including archival research, and also theories and examples of how archives, scriptures, oral traditions and academic histories function as repositories of collective memory and religious identity.  

Topics may include Religion in the Archive (Robinson), Memory, Culture, Religion (Gold), or The Functions of Scriptures (Watts).

Core Faculty for the Texts & Contexts concentration

  • Virginia Burrus
  • Ken Frieden
  • Marcia Robinson
  • William Robert
  • James W. Watts

Associated Religion Faculty for the Texts & Contexts concentration

  • Ann Grodzins Gold
  • Tazim R. Kassam