Religious studies is an academic discipline that looks at religious phenomena worldwide from a variety of angles in order to understand the many roles that religion plays in human life. To this end, students of religion learn to use a variety of theoretical analyses and methods. These include historical methods to understand how religions develop in time; critical literary methods to understand religious ideas; aesthetic methods to understand religious art and material culture; social-scientific methods to understand the relationship between religion, society and culture. Religious studies can also engage a variety of professional disciplines in analysis of how religion functions in economic, educational or political contexts, healthcare and scientific research, to name some examples.
Some ways of studying religion emphasize understanding religions on their own terms, other ways use comparative methods to discern differences and similarities between religions. Students of religion also study ways that people use religious resources to make meaning outside the boundaries of religious institutions and identities. Above all, the field of religious studies requires a willingness to explore different ways of interpreting human life and diligent effort to develop understanding of how religious ideas, symbols, rituals and spaces serve as resources for people in a variety of contexts as they make sense of and live out their lives in the world. Thus, religious studies provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally and personally in a complex, multi-dimensional world.
Because religious studies is an interdisciplinary program drawing upon many departments, some courses may have prerequisites in their home departments that must be fulfilled even though the prerequisites themselves have no bearing on progress within the religious studies major. Students are responsible for ensuring that they have met all the prerequisites to enter a course before they enroll in it. The current list of courses can be found in the Religious Studies course list page in the Guide.
Students who wish to declare their intention to major or earn a certificate in religious studies must meet with the undergraduate advisor during regular office hours or by making an appointment. Students are encouraged to do this early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning, or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
Dr. Corrie Norman is the undergraduate advisor and Honors in the Major advisor. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University General Education Requirements
All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.
|General Education|| |
* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.
College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.
Bachelor of Arts degree requirements
|Mathematics||Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.|
|Foreign Language|| |
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||108 credits|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||60 intermediate or advanced credits|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one (1) major|
|Total Credits||120 credits|
|UW-Madison Experience||30 credits in residence, overall |
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
|Minimum GPAs||2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison |
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison
Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.
Requirements for the Major
To earn a major in religious studies, students must complete at least 30 credits as follows:
|Gateway Courses, select one of the following:||3|
|Religion in Global Perspective|
|Exploring Religion in Sickness and Health|
|Exploring Religion and Sexuality|
|RELIG ST 600|
& RELIG ST 601
| Religion in Critical Perspective|
and Senior Capstone Research and Colloquium
Select additional credits in RELIG ST to bring credits in the major to 30. At least 9 credits must be at the 300-level or higher. See Additional Courses Course List below.
ADDITIONAL COURSES Course List
|RELIG ST/E ASIAN/HISTORY/LCA 308||Introduction to Buddhism||3-4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/MEDIEVAL 309||The Crusades: Christianity and Islam||3-4|
|RELIG ST 311||Sects and Cults||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/MEDIEVAL 312||The Medieval Church||3-4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/MEDIEVAL 318||Medieval Social and Intellectual History, 1200-1450||3-4|
|RELIG ST/SLAVIC 325||Eastern Christianity/Russian Orthodoxy in a Global Context||3|
|RELIG ST 327||Christianity and the Almighty Dollar||3|
|RELIG ST/JEWISH/LITTRANS 328||Classical Rabbinic Literature in Translation||3-4|
|RELIG ST/HIST SCI/MED HIST 331||Science, Medicine and Religion||3-4|
|RELIG ST/CLASSICS/HEBR-BIB/JEWISH/LITTRANS 332||Prophets of the Bible||4|
|RELIG ST 333||Early Christian Literature: Matthew-Revelation||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY 334||The Reformation||3-4|
|RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH 335||King David in History and Tradition||3|
|RELIG ST/FOLKLORE/LITTRANS/MEDIEVAL 342||In Translation: Mythology of Scandinavia||3-4|
|RELIG ST/ANTHRO 343||Anthropology of Religion||3-4|
|RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH 346||Jewish Literature of the Greco-Roman Period||3|
|RELIG ST/E ASIAN 350||Introduction to Taoism||3-4|
|RELIG ST/FOLKLORE 352||Shamanism||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 355||Hinduism||4|
|RELIG ST/ENVIR ST/HIST SCI/LCA 356||Islam, Science & Technology, and the Environment||3-4|
|RELIG ST/LCA 357||Literatures of Muslim Societies||3|
|RELIG ST/FOLKLORE 359||Myth||3|
|RELIG ST/ENGL/HISTORY 360||The Anglo-Saxons||3|
|RELIG ST 361||Early Christian Literature: Pauline Christianity||3|
|RELIG ST/E ASIAN 363||Introduction to Confucianism||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 367||Jainism: Religion of Non-Violence||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/JEWISH/MEDIEVAL 368||The Bible in the Middle Ages||3|
|RELIG ST/AFRICAN/LCA 370||Islam: Religion and Culture||3-4|
|RELIG ST/ANTHRO/JEWISH 372||Jews of Central and Eastern Europe||3-4|
|RELIG ST/ART HIST 373||Great Cities of Islam||3|
|RELIG ST/COM ARTS 374||The Rhetoric of Religion||3|
|RELIG ST/JEWISH 377||Jewish Cultural History (in English)||4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY 379||Islam in Iran||3|
|RELIG ST 400||Topics in Religious Studies - Humanities||3-4|
|RELIG ST 401||Topics in Religious Studies - Social Studies||3-4|
|RELIG ST/LCA 402||Thought of Gandhi||3|
|RELIG ST 403||Topics in Religious Studies-US Ethnic Studies||3-5|
|RELIG ST/LCA 421||A Survey of Tibetan Buddhism||3|
|RELIG ST/POLI SCI 433||Religion and Politics||3-4|
|RELIG ST/ENGL 434||Milton||3|
|RELIG ST/JEWISH/PHILOS 435||Jewish Philosophy from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY 437||Western Christianity from Augustine to Darwin||4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/LCA 438||Buddhism and Society in Southeast Asian History||3-4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY 439||Islamic History From the Origin of Islam to the Ottoman Empire||3-4|
|RELIG ST/MEDIEVAL 440||Francis of Assisi: Literature and the Arts||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 444||Introduction to Sufism (Islamic Mysticism)||3|
|RELIG ST/JEWISH 448||Classical Rabbinic Texts||3|
|RELIG ST/E ASIAN/LCA 466||Buddhist Thought||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY 470||Religious Thought in Modern Europe||3-4|
|RELIG ST 472||Christian Literature: The Gospels||3|
|RELIG ST/ART HIST 478||Art and Religious Practice in Medieval Japan||3|
|RELIG ST 500||Advanced Topics in Religious Studies||2-4|
|RELIG ST/PHILOS 501||Philosophy of Religion||3-4|
|RELIG ST/PHILOS 502||Special Topics in Philosophy of Religion||3|
|RELIG ST/CURRIC/ED POL 516||Religion and Public Education||3|
|RELIG ST/CLASSICS/HISTORY 517||Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean||3|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/JEWISH 529||Intellectual and Religious History of European Jewry, 1648-1939||4|
|RELIG ST/HISTORY/LCA 547||Religion, Colonialism & Modernity in Southeast Asia||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA/SOC 614||Social Structures of Muslim Societies||3|
|RELIG ST/POLI SCI 618||Political Islam||3-4|
|RELIG ST/LCA 620||Proseminar: Studies in Religions of Asia||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 623||Yoga: Methods and Goals||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 624||Meditation in Indian Buddhism and Hinduism||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 626||Gods and Goddesses of South Asia||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA/LEGAL ST 628||Hindu Law||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA/SOC 634||Social Structure of India||3|
|RELIG ST/LCA 650||Proseminar in Buddhist Thought||2-3|
|RELIG ST/ANTHRO 666||The Anthropology of Shamanism and Occult Experience||3|
Residence and quality of work
2.000 GPA in all RELIG ST and major courses
2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits for the major, taken in residence1
15 credits in RELIG ST or the major, taken on campus
Courses counting as upper level in the major include: RELIG ST/HISTORY 208, RELIG ST/HISTORY 209, RELIG ST/HISTORY 212, RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH/LITTRANS 227, RELIG ST/ILS 234, RELIG ST/E ASIAN/LCA 235, RELIG ST/CLASSICS/JEWISH/LITTRANS 237, RELIG ST/LITTRANS/MEDIEVAL 253, RELIG ST/LITTRANS 257, RELIG ST/PHILOS 261, RELIG ST/ENVIR ST 270 and all courses numbered RELIG ST 300–699, except RELIG ST/CLASSICS/HEBR-BIB/JEWISH/LITTRANS 332.
Honors in the Major
Students may declare Honors in the Religious Studies Major in consultation with the Religious Studies undergraduate advisor.
Honors in the Religious Studies Major Requirements
To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Religious Studies students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:
- Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
- Earn a 3.500 GPA for all RELIG ST courses and courses that count for the major
- Complete 19 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better, to include:
- RELIG ST 600 Religion in Critical Perspective
- RELIG ST 601 Senior Capstone Research and Colloquium
- 6 credits of intermediate- or advanced-level RELIG ST courses or courses that count for the major
- A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in RELIG ST 681 Senior Honors Thesis and RELIG ST 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits.
University Degree Requirements
|Total Degree||To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.|
|Residency||Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.|
|Quality of Work||Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.|
The Religious Studies curriculum is designed so that, by the time of graduation, students will have developed the following attributes:
- Proficiency in close reading, interpretation, and written and oral analysis.
- Proficiency in accessing, appraising, and utilizing a variety of resources and methods for research across disciplinary lines.
- Proficiency in categorizing, analyzing and comparing diverse systems of value and belief in a variety of contexts.
- Global and local religious literacy; identifying, evaluating, and interpreting the interrelationships and impact of religious worldviews and communities in Wisconsin, the United States and globally.
- Ability to conduct and present sustained research on primary sources using methodologies/analysis of religious studies culminating in the senior capstone project.
Dr. Corrie Norman is the undergraduate advisor and Honors in the Major advisor. Contact her by email at email@example.com to meet with her. Students are encouraged to meet with Dr. Norman early in their academic careers in order to plan for successful completion and take advantage of opportunities such as Honors, special research, internship, service learning or study abroad opportunities in associate with the major or certificate.
Religious studies engages a variety of professional disciplines and provides important preparation for thinking, communicating and functioning professionally in a complex, multi-dimensional world.
Religious studies sponsors workshops and other career exploration vehicles, often in collaboration with Career Services, to aid students in articulating the value of religious studies for their career preparation. Student-developed capstone projects in religious studies often make specific connections to experiential learning and career preparation in a range of fields. Talk with Dr. Norman about possibilities for combining internships and other forms of pre-professional training with the major and certificate.
Professors: Bell, Bowie, Brenner, Bühnemann, Chamberlain, Cohen, Dale, DuBois, Dunne, Gade, Hansen, Hardin, Hildner, Howard, Hsia, Koshar, Langer, Livorni, Louden, Nadler, Ohnuki-Tierney, Phillips, Schamiloglu, Schenck, Schweber, Stanford Friedman, Thompson, Wandel, Wink, Wolf, Zaeske
Associate Professors: Beneker, Hutton, Livanos, Meulenbeld, Rosenblum, Shelef, Shoemaker, Thal, Todorovic
Assistant Professors: Al-Mohammad, Chamedes, Hollander, Mandell, Pruitt
Visiting Assistant Professors: Cerulli, Ridgely
Distinguished Faculty Associate: Brown
Faculty Associates: Mellor, Norman
Associate Faculty Associates: Rosenhagen, Whelan
Faculty Diversity Liaison: Program Director Rosenblum