Courses & Curriculum
Requirements for the Major
The department's strengths in comparative study, textual and social analysis, philosophy, theory, and cultural history allow students to balance close study in one area with a broad investigation of the field we name "religion." Working closely with an advisor in the department, majors construct a cluster of five courses that relate to one another in a coherent fashion (#1, below) and support the senior thesis. To complement this depth, they select three courses that lend breadth to their studies in religion (#2). Students considering Religion as a major should contact the chair or a member of the department in their sophomore year to begin planning their programs.
The Religion major requires twelve courses, as follows:
1) Major cluster: five courses, including one seminar. As many as two of these courses may come from other departments, and individually supervised research (UN3901-2: Guided Readings) may also be included. This cluster of courses may be organized around a particular tradition or geographic area: Hinduism, Islam, Religion in America, etc. Alternatively, students may design clusters that focus on a set of related subjects and concerns, such as: Religion in New York; Religion in theory and practice; Religion and culture; Religious texts and histories; Religion and migration; Religion, women, gender; and Religion, race, nation, ethnicity.Yet these are only exemplary. Students are urged to design their own clusters, supplementing departmental listings with religion-related courses. Courses taken outside of the religion department must be approved by the student's advisor or department chair.
2) Breadth: three Religion courses - either lecture or seminar - that lend geographical, historical, and/or disciplinary range to a student's program.
3) One semester of the course entitled “Religion Lab” (Religion GU4905), which focuses on methods, strategies, and materials utilized in the field of religious studies. Through guided exercises and selected exemplary readings, students learn research skills for locating and identifying primary and secondary sources. They are also exposed to important scholarly frameworks necessary for properly analyzing these sources. Majors are encouraged to take this course by their junior year as it serves to prepare them for their senior thesis.
4) One semester of the course entitled “Theory” (UN3798, UN3799), engaging major theoretical issues in the field.
5) The two-semester Senior Research Seminar (BC 3997-8), which must be taken in sequence, beginning in autumn and continuing through the spring, and which structures the experience of preparing a senior thesis. Students work together in this seminar to develop, critique, and accomplish their research projects, submitting a formal proposal and partial draft in the fall, and completing the research and writing in the spring.
Language Courses: Students may fulfill up to two of their required twelve courses through language study pending department approval. If a language is considered vital or important to a student’s major concentration, she may petition for credit with 1 year (two semesters) of courses counting as one course towards the religion major.
5 courses – Concentration
3 courses – Breadth
1 course –Religion Lab
1 course –Theory
2 courses – Senior Seminar
The department encourages study abroad, particularly in summers or in one semester of the junior year, and is eager to help facilitate internships and funded research. These possibilities often contribute very meaningfully to the senior essay project. The department accepts transfer credits for the Religion major upon review of the transferred courses. A Religion major who transfers from another program must complete all required Barnard Religion courses (Lab, Theory, and the Senior Seminar) and at least three additional courses in the Barnard or Columbia Religion department.
Requirements for the Minor
A Religion minor comprises five Religion courses at any level, one of which must be Religion UN3799, “Theory.” In addition, students are encouraged to include among the remaining four courses at least one seminar. Students may include one Religion course from another academic institution, either domestic transfer credits or study abroad credits, if it is pre-approved by the department chair to count towards the minor. Students intending to minor in Religion should contact the department chair.
Combined majors are offered with the programs in Human Rights and in Jewish Studies.