Religious Studies | Interpretations of Religion
R665 | 5907 | N. Levene


Religion—as a concept, an object of study, a field—is a contested and complex term, with
many competing referents and associations. In this seminar, we will read selected
interpretations of religion in the modern West which have supplied the field of religion with
some of its sustaining questions and problems. Religious studies has no single canon of its
own. But it is possible nevertheless to identify texts in modernity that enunciate classic
problems in the study of religion, whether the texts are considered instances of religion or
theoretical accounts thereof. Anxieties about this distinction are of fairly recent
provenance, and are endemic to the contemporary theoretical scene. We will have the
opportunity to grapple with the nature and history of the distinction as we investigate
religion and its study, pursuing conceptual parameters, presuppositions, and horizons
wherever they arise, for example in notions of the modern, the Western, the divine, the
human, the methodological, the theoretical, the canonical, the truthful, the historical, and
the social.