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Department of the Study of Religions


A list of events taking place within the Department of the Study of Religions and its associated Centres can be found below.  All are free and open to the public unless otherwise stated.

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  • Jordan Lectures 2014 – A New Approach to Mythology: Historical Comparative Mythology
  • Michael Witzel (Harvard University)
  • In this presentation I offer a general introduction to my book "The origins of the world's mythologies"  (OUP 2012). I will discuss and problematize the new method employed: a combination of a comparative and an historical approach that leads to recurrent reconstructions of increasingly earlier mythologies. As such, the proposed approach is parallel to those in linguistics, stemmatics, paleontology and genetics.

  • Jordan Lectures 2014 – Oldest Japan and Oldest India: Two Unlikely Candidates for Comparison?
  • Michael Witzel (Harvard University)
  • Building on the preceding talk, in this presentation I seek to compare two mythologies that are distant in time and space, the oldest Indian one (Veda, c. 1000 BCE) and the oldest Japanese one (Kojiki 712 CE, Nihon Shoki 720 CE). Reasons for their surprising resemblances are given, based on a close comparison of two key myths, that of the hidden sun  (Iwato, Vala) and of the slaying of the Dragon. An ancient common source will be proposed.

  • Jordan Lectures 2014 – Mythology or Folklore: The Curious Case of Alan Dundes and His Students
  • Michael Witzel (Harvard University)
  • Contrary to claims made earlier in the 20th century by diffusionists and those who uphold Jungian archetypes, the well known folklorist A. Dundes has decreed that no such “universals” exist. However in search for a “grand theory” of folklore he employs another 20th century universalist, S. Freud. His former students closely follow Dundes.

  • Jordan Lectures 2014 – A Glimpse of the Future: Exploring, Comparing and Saving Some Neglected Mythologies
  • Michael Witzel (Harvard University)
  • At the present stage of myth studies, there is an urgent need to compare some neglected mythologies that can tell us more about early stages of mythology as practiced by those who moved into Europe around 40 thousand years ago.  Further, we need to study the early substrates in populations or those "empty spaces" that have been overlaid by the Christian and Muslim religions. Finally, there is the urgent need to record and "save" some endangered mythologies.

  • Postgraduate Open Evening
  • Representatives from departments across the School will be available to answer your questions about postgraduate studies at SOAS.