6: College of Arts and Sciences

General Information | Academic Information | Departments and Programs | Faculty

Afro-American and African Studies | Anthropology | Archaeology | Art | Asian and Middle Eastern
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Department of Religious Studies

Course Descriptions | Faculty

Overview   The Department of Religious Studies is a multidisciplinary department that attempts to define and interpret dimensions of human culture and experience commonly regarded as “religious.” Courses in the department stress skills such as critical thinking, clear writing, and persuasive use of evidence to support one’s views; these skills are central to the analysis and interpretation of the social and intellectual systems which constitute the data of religious studies.

The department offers a wide range of courses covering different approaches to the study of religion, and provides students with the opportunity to examine the major religious traditions of human history (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism), as well as other traditions that have flourished independently of Asian and European influences. With one of the largest faculties of religious studies in the United States, the department is able to offer courses not only in traditional areas such as the history of Christianity and introductions to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but also in Buddhist meditation, Hindu mythology, Islamic mysticism, Jewish social ethics, as well as courses that are multidisciplinary in their emphasis such as theology, ethics and medicine, religion and science, and religion and modern fiction.

Faculty   The twenty-member department is nationally recognized for its outstanding teaching and research. Several of the faculty are scholars of international repute, having recently been awarded fellowships for study and research in England, India, Israel, Jordan and Nigeria. Several have been recipients of University-wide teaching awards. All of the faculty teach undergraduate courses and are firmly committed to undergraduate education, holding office hours during the week in order to talk with students about ideas, paper topics, or future course work.

Students   There are more than 100 students majoring in religious studies. A number of these are double majors. To complete a major in religious studies, students must take at least three courses in one world religion and at least two courses in another. The required majors seminar, taken in the third or fourth year, is designed to provide an overview of the different methodologies employed in the study of religion, and places a special emphasis on the development of the humanistic and social-scientific skills necessary for the interpretation of religious phenomena. Most students begin their study of religion in an introductory level course, which is generally large (between 100 and 250 students) and covers a broad topic (e.g., “introduction to Easternreligions,” “archaic cult and myth”). All large survey courses are supplemented by discussion sections of fewer than twenty students per section, which are led by advanced graduate students. Many of the faculty teaching the survey courses also lead one or two of these discussion sections themselves. Advanced courses generally have enrollments between twenty-five and fifty students and seminar enrollments are limited to twenty students. These courses focus on a more specialized topic (e.g., “medieval Christianity,” “religion and the literature of American immigrants,” “Islamic fundamentalism”). Independent study options are also available in which a student works closely with a faculty advisor.

Requirements for Major In order to complete a major in religious studies, each student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Complete a minimum of ten courses (30 credits) within the Department of Religious Studies.
  2. Take at least three courses (9 credits) in one world religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. At least one of these courses (3 credits) must be at the 300-level or above. RELG 101 and RELG 104 fulfill this requirement.
  3. Take at least two courses (6 credits) in another world religion. RELG 101 or RELG 104 (not both) fulfill this requirement.
    1. If the principal concentration (9 credits) is in Christianity or Judaism, then these 6 credits must be in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or African religions.
    2. If the principal concentration (9 credits) is in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, then these 6 credits must be in Christianity of Judaism.
  4. Take at least three courses (9 credits) at the 300 level or above. Courses taken to fulfill requirements 2 and 3 may be included.
  5. Take RELG 400 (Majors Seminar).
  6. A minimum GPA of 2.0 must be maintained in all courses taken in religious studies.

Students interested in declaring a major may obtain the major declaration form in the religious studies office, B010 Cocke Hall. Prospective majors must consult with a member of the undergraduate committee in order to plan their courses and to choose an advisor. Office hours of undergraduate committee advisors are posted on the door of the departmental office.

Requirements for Minor   The minor program in religious studies requires the completion of a minimum of 15 credits in religious studies. Six credits must be taken in the same religious tradition or cultural area and at least three credits must be taken at the 300 level or above. A student interested in the minor program must obtain the approval of a departmental faculty member.

Distinguished Majors Program   The Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) in Religious Studies affords qualified students the opportunity to do advanced research, and to receive, at graduation, the honor of high distinction or highest distinction.

Entry into the program:

  1. Students qualify for the program if they have achieved an average of 3.40 in all course work prior to application for the program.
  2. Students who declare religious studies majors in the spring of their second year will be eligible for entry into the program in the fall of their third year. Applicants cannot be considered earlier than the spring of their second year, but under special circumstances may declare as late as the spring of their third year.
  3. Application should be made to the director of the religious studies distinguished majors program or to the chair of the religious studies committee on undergraduate studies.
  4. Admission into the program will be considered by the department’s Committee on Undergraduate Studies.

Requirements for completion of the program:

  1. Completion of normal major requirements of 30 credits.
  2. At least six of these must be at the 500 level, to be completed by the end of the third year;
  3. At least three more credits must consist of directed reading with a faculty member in a specific field of study.
  4. A thesis, worth three credits, must be written within the directed field of general reading.
  5. Normally, the three credits of directed reading and the three credits of thesis may both be taken under RELS 496Y over two semesters. The director of the thesis is the instructor of RELS 496Y.
  6. The thesis should be thirty to fifty pages in length. The thesis will be read both by the director and at least one other reader from the department or University faculty.

Additional Information   For more information, contact the Undergraduate Advisor, Department of Religious Studies, Cocke Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-3741.

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