Religious Studies


The modern field of religious studies is an important part of a liberal arts education, allowing for the study of religious thought, ritual, culture, history, and texts, often in a comparative context. The goal of the Program in Religious Studies is to expose students to different scholarly and pedagogical approaches to a variety of religious manifestations. The program emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach and its course offerings are designed to encourage students to deepen their understanding of religion and its manifestations through the perspectives of different disciplines and departments. Students survey the variety of approaches to religious studies (REL 107a) and complete courses in at least two different religious traditions. The program fosters interaction between its faculty and students by requiring the completion of either an independent study or a senior essay course. The University, with its commitment to moral and social responsibility, and the wide range of ethnic and religious traditions represented in the student body, provides a unique context for the study of religions in a climate of curiosity and sympathetic understanding.

How to become a program member
Students may enter the program at any time in their undergraduate careers, but an early start maximizes a student's range of choice because a number of the courses are only offered every other year. Ideally students should take the core course (REL 107a) early in their career. Students should consult with their advisor and the head of the program to map out their particular program.

Requirements for the program
A. Core Course: REL 107a (Approaches to Religious Studies). Ideally the core course should be taken early in the student's career at Brandeis, but not necessarily as the first course in the program.

B. Students must complete at least two courses covering at least two different religious traditions from the traditions courses listed below.

C. Students must complete at least one course from the list of electives listed below.

D. Completion of one semester of independent study (98a or b), or completion of a senior essay (97a or b) under the direction of one or more faculty members affiliated with the program. A senior thesis in the student's department of concentration, with an emphasis on some aspect of religious studies and read by at least two faculty members in the program, may be substituted for the Senior Essay. Students will normally complete this requirement in the year in which they complete the program, however exceptions may be granted by the program director in consultation with the student's program advisor.

E. A passing letter grade must be obtained in each course taken for program credit. (Pass/Fail courses are not allowed.) Students must achieve a grade point average of at least 2.00 in program courses.

Edward Kaplan, Chair

(Romance and Comparative Literature)

Tzvi Abusch

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Bernadette Brooten

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Arthur Green

(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Marcus Hellyer


Charles McClendon

(Fine Arts)

Richard Parmentier


Jerry Samet


Susan Staves

(English and American Literature)

The following faculty members are affiliated with the program:

Marc Brettler (NEJS)

Joan Bryant (AAAS)

John Burt (ENG)

Stephen Dowden (GERSL)

Eli Hirsch (PHIL)

Patricia Johnston (CLAS)

Jane Kamensky (HIST)

William Kapelle (HIST)

Reuven Kimelman (NEJS)

Sarah Lamb (ANTH)

Richard Lansing (COML)

Avigdor Levy (NEJS)

Leonard Muellner (CLAS)

Yitzhak Nakash (NEJS)

Jonathan Sarna (NEJS)

John Schrecker (HIST)

Govind Sreenivasan (HIST)

David Wright (NEJS)

Luis Yglesias (COML)

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