Department of Religion
Leora F. Batnitzky
Director of Graduate Studies
Wallace D. Best
Leora F. Batnitzky
Wallace D. Best, also African American Studies
Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also African American Studies
Eric S. Gregory
Elaine H. Pagels
Albert J. Raboteau
Jacqueline I. Stone
Jeffrey L. Stout
Stephen F. TeiserJudith L. Weisenfeld
Muhammad Q. Zaman, also Near Eastern Studies
Shaun E. Marmon
Jonathan C. Gold
Naphtali S. Meshel, also Judaic Studies
Kathryn A. Gin
David W. Miller
Cornel R. West
Princeton University was a pioneer in developing the study of religion outside the context of theological seminaries and without formal ties to particular religious traditions. In 1946, Princeton founded the Department of Religion in the division of the humanities, and nine years later began a graduate program in religion.
Graduate students in the department are expected to work full time toward their degrees, normally in residence, and to complete the program within five years. All students work toward the Ph.D., and there is no separate master's program. An M.A. degree is awarded after students pass the general examination, normally completed by the middle of the third year of graduate work.
In any academic year, approximately 35 candidates will be at different stages in the program. Five to eight students enter each year, admitted from a very large number of qualified applicants.
Requirements for Admission
Entering students are expected to have had preparation equivalent to that offered through the undergraduate program of study in the religion department at Princeton. While an individual might (in rare cases) enroll as a qualifying student before being admitted to the full status of a graduate student (which usually delays the general examination for one year), preference is given to those applicants who will not require a qualifying year of study.
The Department of Religion offers broad coverage of materials and issues traditionally treated under such rubrics as history of religion, philosophy of religion, church history, Judaic studies, Buddhist studies, Western religious thought, and religious ethics. It also devotes much attention to subjects that do not fall neatly into any of the standard categories. It offers extensive resources, for example, in the comparative study of popular religions, and most members of the faculty are engaged in serious reflection on methodological and conceptual issues that are not unique to a special field. While the department encourages its graduate students to work out innovative programs of study and to make use of the full range of available resources, it also requires each student to demonstrate mastery of one of the fields of concentration:
(1) East Asian religions (religious traditions of China and Japan)
(2) religions of late antiquity (Christianity, Judaism, and other religious traditions of the Greco-Roman world)
(3) religion in America (religious thought, institutions, and movements in the Americas, including African American religions)
(4) religion and philosophy (religious uses of philosophical ideas, philosophical criticisms of religion, philosophical issues in the study of religion)
(5) religion, ethics, and politics (relations among religious, ethical, and political dimensions of culture)
(6) Islam: religion and society (Islamic religious traditions, past and present, within their social and cultural contexts in the Middle East and/or modern Europe and the Americas)
When applying to the program, candidates should indicate which field they intend to pursue.
Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in religion are expected to have a reading knowledge of two modern foreign languages, usually French and German, occasionally with the substitution of Spanish. Students concentrating in East Asian religions substitute Chinese or Japanese for either French or German. This requirement may be fulfilled by completing summer language courses offered by the University, or by passing tests given by the language departments. All entering students are strongly urged to achieve competence in at least one of these languages prior to entering the program. First-year students who are seeking admission for the second year of study must have completed the requirement in one foreign language.
Beyond the basic requirements, students are expected to demonstrate competence in whatever additional languages they need to pursue advanced work in their own areas of specialization. For example, students who concentrate on Islam must have a reading knowledge of Arabic along with one modern European language, while students in religions of Late Antiquity must demonstrate knowledge of two ancient languages in addition to the two modern languages.
Students must show evidence of competence in the two required modern languages before being admitted to a fifth term. In addition, students need to demonstrate knowledge of other languages that are necessary for advanced work in their area of specialization.
Program of Study
Graduate study is intended to prepare a degree candidate for teaching in departments of religion or related programs and provide the training necessary for scholarly research in a specialized field. Students normally take four different types of courses in preparing for the general examination: (1) two departmental seminars, REL 501 and 502 (offered in alternate years); (2) appropriate specialized seminars, numbered REL 503 through 511; (3) reading courses (700 level) within a student’s special field; and (4) other courses offered by the University, including undergraduate courses in religion and courses in other departments (such as anthropology, classics, East Asian studies, English, history, Near Eastern studies, philosophy, and sociology). Students are also encouraged to take courses at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania through the various reciprocal and cooperative arrangements of the Graduate School.
Increasingly, candidates for the degree work closely with interdepartmental programs, such as those in East Asian studies, Hellenic studies, Late Antiquity, Near Eastern studies, and political philosophy, as well as recently established interdisciplinary centers such as those directed to the study of religion or those dedicated to human values.
Each student's knowledge and competence in the special field is tested in the general examination, normally completed by the middle of the third year of graduate work. By the end of the first year, a student and his or her adviser agree on the proposed parts of the general examination. The examination typically consists of four parts and may entail preparing scholarly essays (as if for publication) as well as sitting for traditional written examinations.
Students qualify for the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree by successfully completing required course work, the language requirement, and normally two of the four parts of the general examination.
Dissertation and Final Public Oral Examination
Normally, within six months after successfully completing the general examination, the candidate, in consultation with appropriate faculty in relevant fields, prepares a dissertation proposal to be presented for approval in an open meeting. The candidate is expected to show knowledge of the background of the dissertation topic as well as an acquaintance with the relevant bibliographical materials. At the presentation, the assembled faculty decides whether the project is feasible or in need of substantial revision, and then offers appropriate advice. The completed dissertation should not exceed 300 double-spaced pages in length, exclusive of bibliography. After the dissertation has been recommended for acceptance, the candidate must pass a final public oral examination.
Normally, all graduate students serve at some point in their careers as assistants in instruction. An assistant leads preceptorials in undergraduate courses and is responsible for grading students as well. This opportunity depends, at any given time, upon undergraduate instructional needs, but the department views such experience as integral to the professional education it offers. It also encourages graduate students to give lectures in appropriate undergraduate courses taught by members of the faculty.
REL 501 Religion and the Tradition of Social Theory
Eddie S. Glaude
A critical introduction to developments in social theory that have influenced the academic study of religion, including the classic contributions of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber as well as more recent debates in anthropology and cultural history. Required of, and designed for, first- and second-year graduate students in religion; others must receive the instructor's permission to enroll. The course is offered in alternate years.
REL 502 Philosophy and the Study of Religion
Leora F. Batnitzky
A critical introduction to developments in philosophy that have influenced the academic study of religion, including naturalism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, literary theory, genealogy, pragmatism, and feminist theory. Required of, and designed for, first- and second-year graduate students in religion; others must receive the instructor's permission to enroll. Offered in alternate years.
REL 503 Studies in East Asian Religions
Stephen F. Teiser
Themes, figures, and movements in Chinese and Japanese religions are examined.
REL 504 Studies in Greco-Roman Religions
Peter Schäfer, Martha Himmelfarb
Themes, figures, and movements in the religions of antiquity are examined.
REL 505 Studies in the Religions of the Americas
Judith L. Weisenfeld
Themes, figures, and movements in American religions are examined.
REL 506 Studies in Theology
Leora F. Batnitzky, Eric S. Gregory
Themes, figures, and movements in theology are examined.
REL 507/AAS 507 Studies in Religion and Philosophy
Jeffrey L. Stout, Eddie S. Glaude
Modern philosophy and the study of religion.
REL 508 Studies in Religion and Morality
Jeffrey L. Stout, Cornel R. West
The relation between religion and morality, the historical, philosophical, and theological issues, are examined.
REL 509/NES 550 Studies in the History of Islam
Shaun E. Marmon
Themes in Islamic religion are examined.
REL 510/JDS 510 Special Topics in the Study of Religion
No Description Available
REL 511 Special Topics in the Study of Religion
Jonathan C. Gold
Topics of special interest are normally offered each term, 510 for Fall Term, 511 for Spring Term.
REL 512 Special Topics in the Study of Religion
Topics of special interest in the study of religion.
REL 515/AAS 510 Race, Religion, and the Harlem Renaissance
Wallace D. Best
The Harlem Renaissance (HR) of the 1920s is most often depicted as "the flowering of African American arts and literature." It can also be characterized as a period when diverse forms of African American religious expressions, ideologies, and institutions emerged. This course will explore the literature of the Harlem Renaissance, particularly the writings of Langston Hughes, to understand the pivotal intersection of race and religion during this time of black "cultural production."
REL 521 Religion and Culture Workshop
John G. Gager
A seminar devoted to the critical discussion of research in progress, methods, and recently published work in the ethnographic and historical study of religion and culture. Includes research utilizing textual analysis, historical analysis, material culture, and quantitative as well as qualitative methods.
REL 525 Religions of Late Antiquity Workshop
A weekly workshop providing students in the Religions of Late Antiquity with the opportunity to present their current research for discussion.
REL 531 Readings in Chinese Religions: Dunhuang Manuscripts
Stephen F. Teiser
An introduction to the study of Chinese manuscripts from the medieval period unearthed in western China early in this century. Selected texts in classical Chinese drawn from religious texts (Buddhist sutras and ritual texts), literature, and documents related to social history, are read. Course introduces research tools and methods in Dunhuang studies plus some secondary studies. Reading knowledge of classical Chinese is required. Students from all departments welcome.
REL 532 Studies in Chinese Religions: Popular Religion
Survey of selected recent scholarship in the field. Readings in English, Chinese, Japanese, and European languages.
REL 533 Readings in Japanese Religions: Buddhism in Medieval Japan
Close reading of selected primary sources in classical Japanese and kanbun (Sino-Japanese). Consideration of grammar, vocabulary, genre, literary and philosophical issues, research methods.
REL 534 Studies in Japanese Religions
Jacqueline I. Stone
An intensive introduction to Japanese Religions past and present and an examination of key issues in recent scholarship. Designed for students planning to take general exams, teach, or simply acquire a background in this field. Topics may include interactions of Buddhism with local religious culture; the emergence of Shinto; lay and monastic Buddhism; new religious movements; millenarianism; death ritual; and religion-state relations. Readings are primarily in English, supplemented by Japanese for those with sufficient language skills. To some extent, topics may be chosen to accommodate participants' research interests.
REL 581/NES 551 Middle Eastern Religion-State Relations in Comparative Perspective
Course examines different models of religion-state constellations in the Middle East of the 20th century; offers an overview over the main models of constitutional religion-state relations (established religion, cooperation , separation of religion and state, regulations of the majority religion, regulation of the minority religions), explores the implications of these models for the stability of political power and examines the use of religious rhetoric, symbolisms and the reference to religious norms by state and non-state actors.
REL 586/NES 586 Religious Authority in Modern Islam
Muhammad Q. Zaman
How far reaching is the ¿fragmentation¿ of religious authority in modern Islam? How have traditional religious scholars sought to rearticulate their authority in conditions of radical change? On what basis do ¿new religious intellectuals¿ make their claims to authority? How has the state shaped structures of religious authority? What is peculiar to modern Islam so far as conceptions of and contestations over religious authority are concerned? These are among the questions this seminar seeks to examine.