Religion

Students may complete a major in Religion at Haverford College

Faculty

  • Molly Farnath, Assistant Professor
  • Supriya Ghandi, Visiting Assistant Professor
  • Tracey Hucks, Professor (on leave 2015–16)
  • Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Professor
  • Naomi Koltun-Fromm, Chair and Associate Professor
  • Anne M. McGuire, Kies Family Associate Professor in the Humanities
  • Terrance Wiley, Assistant Professor
  • Travis Zadeh, Associate Professor

A central mission of the Religion Department is to enable students to become critically-informed, independent, and creative interpreters of some of the religious movements, sacred texts, ideas, and practices that have decisively shaped human experience. In their coursework, students develop skills in the critical analysis of the sacred texts, images, beliefs, and performances of various religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The Department’s programs are designed to help students understand how religions develop and change and how religious texts, symbols, and rituals help constitute communities and cultures. Thus, the major in Religion seeks to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Haverford Religion major is unique in that it provides students with a comprehensive curriculum that includes carefully designed areas of concentrations, specialized coursework, supervised research, a lengthy written research product, and a departmental oral conversation with the entire department as the minimum requirements for fulfilling the major. Through coursework, senior thesis research, and the Tri-College Senior Colloquium with Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr Colleges, the Department seeks to fulfill the following learning goals:

  • Expose students to the central ideas, debates, scholars, methods, historiography, and approaches to the academic study of religion.
  • Analyze key terms and categories in the study of religion, and utilize the diverse vocabularies deployed among a range of scholars in religion and related fields.
  • Develop critical thinking, analytical writing, and sustained engagement in theory and method, together with the critical competence to engage sacred texts, images, ideas and practices.
  • Cultivate the learning environment as an integrative and collaborative process.
  • Expand intellectual opportunities for students to broaden and critically assess their worldviews.
  • Encourage students to supplement their work in religion with elective languages (Arabic, Chinese, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Latin, Sanskrit, Yoruba).
  • Foster interdisciplinary methods and perspectives in the study of religion, while continuing to model this through the curriculum.
  • Prepare students for professional careers, for graduate studies in religion or related fields, and for leadership roles as reflective, critically-aware human beings.

Like other liberal arts majors, the religion major is meant to prepare students for a broad array of vocational possibilities. Religion majors typically find careers in law, public service (including both religious and secular organizations), medicine, business, ministry, and education. Religion majors have also pursued advanced graduate degrees in anthropology, history, political science, biology, Near Eastern studies, and religious studies.

Major Requirements

The major in Religion is designed to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills and expertise in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Major consists of 11 courses with the following requirements:

  • Five courses within an area of concentration: Each major is expected to fashion a coherent major program focused around work in one of three designated areas of concentration:
  • Religious Traditions in Cultural Context. The study of religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop. Critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins, and ideas.
  • Religion, Literature, and Representation. The study of religion in relation to literary expressions and other forms of representation, such as performance, music, film, and the plastic arts.
  • Religion, Ethics, and Society. The exploration of larger social issues such as race, gender, and identity as they relate to religion and religious traditions. Examines how moral principles, cultural values, and ethical conduct help to shape human societies.

The five courses within the area of concentration must include at least one department seminar at the 300 level. Where appropriate and relevant to the major’s program, up to two courses for the major may be drawn from outside the field of religion, subject to departmental approval.

  • Religion 299, Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion.
  • Religion 398a and 399b, a two-semester senior seminar and thesis program.
  • Three additional half-year courses drawn from outside the major’s area of concentration.
  • Junior Colloquium: An informal required gathering of the Junior majors once each semester. Students should complete a worksheet in advance in consultation with their major advisor and bring copies of the completed worksheet to the meeting.
  • At least six of each major’s 11 courses must be taken in the Haverford Religion department.
  • In some rare cases, students may petition the department for exceptions to the major requirements. Such petitions must be presented to the department for approval in advance.
  • Final evaluation of the major program will consist of written work, including a thesis, and an oral examination completed in the context of the Senior Seminar, Religion 398a and 399b.

Advising for the major takes place in individual meetings between majors and faculty advisors and in a departmental colloquium held once each semester. At this colloquium, majors will present their proposed programs of study with particular attention to their work in the area of concentration. All majors should fill out and bring the Religion Major Worksheet to the colloquium.

Minor Requirements

The minor in Religion, like the major, is designed to help students develop a coherent set of academic skills and expertise in the study of religion, while at the same time encouraging interdisciplinary work in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Minor consists of 6 courses with the following requirements:

  • Five courses within an area of concentration, with at least one at the 300 level:
  • Religious Traditions in Cultural Context. The study of religious traditions and the textual, historical, sociological and cultural contexts in which they develop. Critical analysis of formative texts and issues that advance our notions of religious identities, origins, and ideas.
  • Religion, Literature, and Representation. The study of religion in relation to literary expressions and other forms of representation, such as performance, music, film, and the plastic arts.
  • Religion, Ethics, and Society. The exploration of larger social issues such as race, gender, and identity as they relate to religion and religious traditions. Examines how moral principles, cultural values, and ethical conduct help to shape human societies.
  • Religion 299, Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion.
  • Junior Colloquium: An informal required gathering of the Junior majors once each semester. Students should complete a worksheet in advance in consultation with their major advisor and bring copies of the completed worksheet to the meeting.

All 6 of courses must be taken in the Haverford religion department. In some rare cases, students may petition the department for exceptions to the minor requirements. Such petitions must be presented to the department for approval in advance.

Requirements for Honors

The department awards honors and high honors in religion on the basis of the quality of work in the major and on the completed thesis.

Study Abroad

Students planning to study abroad must construct their programs in advance with the department. Students seeking religion credit for abroad courses must write a formal petition to the department upon their return and submit all relevant course materials. We advise students to petition courses that are within the designated area of concentration.

COURSES

RELG H107A Vocabularies of Islam

Provides students with an introduction to the foundational concepts of Islam, its religious institutions, and the diverse ways in which Muslims understand and practice their religion. We explore the vocabularies surrounding core issues of scripture, prophethood, law, ritual, theology, mysticism, literature, and art from the early period to the present.
Zadeh,Travis

RELG H110A Sacred Texts and Religious Traditions

An introduction to Religion through the close reading of selected sacred texts of various religious traditions in their historical, literary, philosophical, and religious contexts.
McGuire,Anne Marie

RELG H222A Gnosticism

The phenomenon of Gnosticism examined through close reading of primary sources, including the recently discovered texts of Nag Hammadi. Topics include the relation of Gnosticism to Greek, Jewish, and Christian thought; the variety of Gnostic schools and sects; gender imagery, mythology and other issues in the interpretation of Gnostic texts.
McGuire,Anne Marie

RELG H258A Gender and Power in Modern Jewish and Christian Thought

An exploration of gender in Judaism and Christianity through a study of feminist and queer thinkers who critique and contribute to these traditions. Topics include sex/gender difference, the gender of God, and the nature of divine authority.
Pre-requisite(s): Familiarity with philosophical and/or theoretical inquiry is recommended
Farneth,Molly

RELG H299A Theoretical Perspectives in the Study of Religion

Description: An introduction to theories of the nature and function of religion from theological, philosophical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological perspectives. Readings may include: Schleiermacher, Marx, Nietzche, Freud, Tylor, Durkheim, Weber, James, Otto, Benjamin, Eliade, Geertz, Foucault, Douglas, Smith, Berger, Haraway.
Farneth,Molly

RELG H308A Mystical Literatures of Islam

Overview of the literary expressions of Islamic mysticism through the study of poetry, philosophy, hagiographies, and anecdotes. Topics include: unio mystica; symbol and structure; love and the erotic; body / gender; language and experience.
Zadeh,Travis

RELG H361A Hindus and Muslims in South Asia

Examines engagements between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia from medieval to modern times, through an exploration of historical and literary texts, film and art, and theoretical writings on religious identities. Introduces historical case studies of Hindu-Muslim relations, the formation of religious identities, and the ways in which these identities have been constructed and contested in modern discourses on religion and politics.
Gandhi,Supriya

RELG H398A Senior Thesis Seminar Part 1

A practical methodology course which prepares senior Religion majors to write their senior theses.
Pre-requisite(s): Open to Senior Religion majors only
Koltun-Fromm,Naomi

CSTS B214 Remembering the Saints: Reading Pilgrimage & Tourism

This course is divided into two parts. In the first half of the semester, it will trace the rise and function of the holy women and men of late antiquity (300–600 CE), with an emphasis on the literary portrayal of their lives, a genre called hagiography (sacred biography). Methods for reading and interpreting this large body of literature will play a key role in this part of the course. In the second half of the semester, the focus will shift from saint to devotee. Saints were like magnets that set the people of late antiquity into motion. By reading pilgrim travelogues and catalogues of miraculous healings, studying the archeological and artistic evidence for pilgrimage, we will explore the profound social and cultural impact the cult of the saints had on the peoples of this period. In addition to gaining a familiarity with the history of early Christian saints and the cults that arose around them, students will also investigate the many issues at stake in the study of late antique Christianity. This includes but is not limited to: the conflict between history and literature in hagiography, gender and sanctity in late antiquity, self-harm as religious practice in early Christianity, and the intersection of medicine, magic, and miracle.
Approach: Inquiry into the Past (IP)
Major Writing Requirement: Writing Attentive
Units: 1.0
(Spring 2017)