Theory and Method in Religion (RS 144), Spring 2001

Telford Work

Porter Center 15:


Course Syllabus


This course analyzes prominent anthropological, sociological, psychological, theological, and phenomenological interpretations in the study of religion, including the thought of Max Mueller, E.B. Tyler, Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, Sigmund Freud, William James, Carl Jung, Paul Tillich, Ernst Troeltsch, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, Jonathan Z. Smith, and others.

In addition, this course will analyze the category of religion and the tradition of its scientific study through the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Alasdair MacIntyre, and George Lindbeck.


Eric Sharpe, Comparative Religion: A History, Open Court, 1994.

Daniel L. Pals, Seven Theories of Religion, Oxford, 1996.

Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame, 1988.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Routledge, 2000.

George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, Westminster, 1984.


1. For each discussion, a written response to the previous reading assignment. Responses should be two pages, single-spaced, and will facilitate our discussions.

2. E-mail discussion as necessary.

3. A research paper on a previously agreed-upon topic in theory and method in religion. The essay should be about 15 pages, double-spaced.


Assignments will be weighted this way in your total grade:

You will want to be aware of the contents of my handout on writing suggestions, late-paper policies, and ultimata regarding plagiarism.


Date Topic Reading (Required / Recommended) Comments

Pals, preface and introduction.
Lindbeck, foreword and chapters 1-2.
Sharpe, preface and chapter 1.

  Anthropology Pals, chapters 1 and 3.
Sharpe, chapters 2-4.
MacIntyre, chapters 17-19.
  Psychology Pals, chapter 2.
Sharpe, chapters 5 and 9.
  Sociology Pals, chapters 4 and 6.
Sharpe, chapters 6 and 8.

Pals, chapter 5.
Sharpe, chapter 10 (review relevant parts of chapter 9).

Let's discuss paragraphs 65-67; 79, 89-109.
  Interreligious Dialogue Pals, chapter 7.
Sharpe, chapter 11.
Lindbeck, chapters 3-4 and 6.
  Conclusions? Pals, chapter 8.
Sharpe, chapter 12.
MacIntyre, chapter 20.