HIST 5308

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Historical Studies of Religion

Spring 2006

Dr. Mark Stoll
Holden Hall 135
742-1004 ext. 250   mark.stoll@ttu.edu   http://www2.tltc.ttu.edu/stoll
Office hours: Monday 12:00–1:00, Wednesday 10:00–11:00, and by appt.

Course Description

This course introduces students to the classic and important works in the study of religion, with an eye towards their application to the research, interpretation, and writing of religious history. We will meet for weekly discussions, focusing on historical interpretations, themes, and conceptualizations, with special attention to sources, argumentation, and methods employed in research and exposition. By the end of the semester students will have a solid grounding not only in the classic works of the field but also an appreciation of many ways to understand religion and how it functions in society.

Readings and Coursework

I have carefully selected readings to cover major themes in religious studies and religious historiography, to expose you to representative works of important scholars, and in sum to constitute a very good starter or reference library for your bookshelf. Everyone will read all assigned works with care and critical attention, coming to class ready to engage in active discussion. In addition, you will be asked to write a short (2-4 pp.) paper on nine of the fourteen core monographs. In reading, seek out the book key thesis (and summarize it in a few sentences). Also, you should be alert to its structure and rhetoric, note the claims made for advances over previous studies (relationship to the "literature"), and sketch out the conceptual or theoretical apparatus employed (identify "keywords" and the ways they are employed). Finally, you should assess the work's evidentiary base, the scope and scale of the study within the context of the issues and events it addresses, and its relationship with other aspects of religious history. Analysis of the book in this way prepares you for critical discussion and clear writing. Ideally you should each come to class with several questions written out for us to address as a group; I will have a sizable list of such questions as well, so we should have ample resources to work from.

Class Organization

The structure of the course centers on a core book each week, fourteen monographs in all. Each week we will spend the first two-thirds of our time (roughly 6:00-7:40) critically assessing the core study. Following a 15-minute break, one student will present a summary and critique of a second, supplementary work that relates to the main book (20-25 minutes). Then we will close with comparative comments and thoughts on research initiatives this discussion has opened up.

We start on January 12 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on January 19th we will begin with the first book. The number of presentations will depend on the number of students signed up for the course: if fewer than 7, each will do two; if more, each will do one. The total number of presentations then will vary. You will sign up for a second book on the first day of class.


All class members may take five "vacation days" from writing during the term. Simply hand in a sheet of paper with your name and "vacation day" typed on it, instead of the paper. You may well wish to correlate your days off with your presentation dates. I will distribute suggested paper topics, but you may write on a topic of your own devising if you wish. Should you create your own paper topic, it must not be in the form of a basic summation of the text, but instead should be either critical or comparative. (You may assume that I have read the book and do not need it summarized.)

Unless some disaster intervenes, I will return all papers at the next class session, with comments and grades. If the initial version of your paper is in need of substantial work to meet graduate level standards, I will return it to you with an "R" designation (for rewrite), then will grade the revised version when it is re-submitted the following week.


Grades for this course will be based 60% on your writing, 10% on your presentation, and 30% on the quality of your contributions to class discussion. For double presenters, the proportions will be 50, 20, and 30. Thus participation in discussions is critical.

Course Schedule

Jan 12 Introduction
Jan 19 Karl Marx
Marx on Religion
Jan 26 William James
The Varieties of Religious Experience
Second book: Judd Burton presents Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club
Feb 2

Wayne Proudfoot
William James and a Science of Religions: Reexperiencing the Varieties of Religious Experience
Second book: Ben Pfeiffer presents Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (selections):
Vol. 1:
Chapter XVII: "On the Principal Causes That Tend to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States"
Vol. 2:
Chapter V: "How Religion in the United States Avails itself of Democratic Tendencies"
Chapter VI: "The Progress of Roman Catholicism in the United States"
Chapter VII: "What Causes Democratic Nations to Incline Towards Pantheism"
Chapter IX: "That the Americans Apply the Principle of Self-Interest Rightly Understood to Religious Matters"
Tocqueville can be found online here: Democracy in America

Feb 9

Sigmund Freud
Totem and Taboo; The Future of an Illusion; Moses and Monotheism

Feb 16 Erik Erikson
Young Man Luther
Second book: Stephen Eldridge presents Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith
Feb 23

Emile Durkheim
Elementary Forms Of The Religious Life, Karen E. Fields, tr.:
Introduction; Book I, ch. 1 & 4; Book II, Ch. 1, 3, & 7; Book III, ch. 1 & 4; Conclusion

Second books: Michelle Hill presents Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, ch. 9-11; vol. 2, ch. 13 (vol. 2, ch. 9 and 10 optional); Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, ch. 1, 3, 4, 5 (skim ch. 2)

Mar 2 Clifford Geertz
The Interpretation of Cultures, ch. 1, 4, 5, 6, 13, 15
Second book: Steven Rybicki presents Jeremy R. Carrette, Foucault and Religion: Spiritual Corporality and Political Spirituality
Mar 9 Elizabeth A. Castelli and Rosamond C. Rodman, eds.
Women, Gender, Religion: A Reader, ch. 1 (skim second half), 2-9, 11, 15, 17-19
Second book: Michelle Hill presents Robert A. Orsi, Thank You, St. Jude
Mar 16 Spring Break
Mar 23 Max Weber
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Stephen Kahlberg, tr.
Second book: Steven Rybicki presents James Joll, Gramsci, and readings from Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (browse and sample especially from "State and Civil Society" and "The Study of Philosophy")
Useful links: Gramsci Links Archive; An Antonio Gramsci Reader; portions of Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci also online
Mar 28 William H. Swatos, Jr., and Lutz Kaelber, The Protestant Ethic Turns 100: Essays on the Centenary of the Weber Thesis
Apr 4 Max Weber
Sociology of Religion
Second book: Judd Burton presents Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait
Apr 13

H. Richard Niebuhr
The Social Sources Of Denominationalism
Second book: Stephen Eldridge presents Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy

Apr 20 Wade Clark Roof
Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion

Second book: Ben Pfeiffer presents Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism
Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology, ch. 1, 2 (skim), 27; On Human Nature, ch. 1, 7, 8, 9; Concilience, ch. 1, 11, 12
Apr 27 Robert Bellah, et al.
Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life
Second book: Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

Americans With Disabilities Act: Any student who, because of a disabling condition, may require some special arrangements in order to meet course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make necessary accommodations. Students should present appropriate verification for Disabled Students Services, Dean of Students Office.

Student Absence for Observation of Religious Holy Days: A student who is absent from classes for the observation of a religious holy day shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence if, not later than the fifteenth day after the first day of the semester, the student had notified the instructor of each scheduled class that the student would be absent for a religious holy day.

The professor reserves the right to change this syllabus at his discretion. Changes will be announced in class and posted at the Web address listed above.

Last updated: Thursday, April 13, 2006 08:04 PM