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Department of the Study of Religions

Advanced Theory in the Study of Religions

Course Code:
158000135
Unit value:
1
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year

Though conceived as 1 unit, the course can be divided into 3 major components:

  1. Examining the place of the Study of Religion in post-modern thought and its transition from modernity to post-modernity with particular reference to critical theory and the works of Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida, Vattimo, Agamben.
  2. Introducing hermeneutics as a response to the ‘postmodern condition’ and the basis for a relevant theoretical approach to the Study of Religion. For those interested in interpreting data, texts and phenomena relating to religion, hermeneutics might provide the tools to concentrate on this task by examining the contributions of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger, Bultmann, Ricouer, Gadamer and Habermas.
  3. In line with critical hermeneutics and the ‘dialogical disposition of language’, the final part of the course covers a reflection on ‘Otherness’ and the Self-Other encounter as exemplified in the works of Levinas, Bakhtin, Gramsci and de Certeau.

Despite the overwhelming presence of western theorists, the course aims at fostering a positive dialogue with the diversity of other philosophies and religious experiences.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

On successful completion of the course, a student will:

  • Have acquired a sound knowledge of theoretical issues facing religion in postmodern thought.
  • Have acquired an understanding of philosophical hermeneutics.
  • Be able to critically apply hermeneutics to the interpretation of data, texts and phenomena relating to religion.
  • Have acquired an understanding of ‘theories of dialogue’ as possible analytical tools in the study of religions.
  • Be able to produce two substantial research essays, one of which should stress the relevance of the aforementioned theories with reference to a particular religious tradition.

Method of assessment

Coursework: one 1 000 words essay (15%), one 5 000 words  essay (60%),one 2 000 words analytical report (25%).

Suggested reading

  • Flood, Gavin (1999) Beyond Phenomenology: Rethinking the Study of Religion,
  • King, R (1999) Orientalism and Religion. Postcolonial Theory, India and the ‘Mystic East’, New York: Routledge.
  • Nietzsche, F (1996) On the Genealogy of Morals,
  • Taylor, M C (1998) Critical Terms for Religious Studies.
  • Vattimo, G (2002) Nietzsche: An Introduction.