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Unit information: Comparative Religions: Themes and Methods in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Comparative Religions: Themes and Methods
Unit code THRSM0119
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. D'Costa
Open unit status Not open

Successful completion of level 3, Study Year Abroad unit.



School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Students will be introduced to a subject in at least two religions and be taught by specialists in that area. Subjects could include mysticism, asceticism, doctrines of 'God'/'divine reality', and specific ethical issues. After the theme(s) have been covered, the unit will then embark on comparative analysis and methodological reflection on such analysis using the thematic materials in the first part of the course.

The unit aims:

1/ to develop knowledge at M level in a thematic area in two or more religions

2/ to develop critical methodological comparative skills

3/ to allow students to engage in comparative practices in relation to religions they have already studied.

4/ to develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials.

5/ to develop written skills through the course assessment.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should be able to demonstrate:

(1) clear and sophisticated understanding of the theme(s) considered in the unit in two or more religions.

(2) sophisticated knowledge and skills to access critically a wide range of arguments advanced by historians, theologians, Indologists, and philosophers regarding the practice of comparing religions.

(3) high level skills through group discussion and examination, in presenting, analysing and evaluating complex ideas and arguments.

(4) high level skills in evaluating, analysing, synthesising and (where apt) critiquing key primary and secondary texts.

5) the ability to apply analytical strategies to new evidence with flexibility and creativity

(6) the capacity for independent research

Teaching details

3 hours of seminars per week.

Assessment Details

Formative: Students meet tutor with essay plans for up to three questions (one A4 page each) with feedback and discussion on these plans.

Summative: 1 x 3 hour exam at the end of the teaching block assessing both detailed grasp of particular themes and comparative methods. [ILO’s 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6]

Reading and References

Eric J. Sharpe, Comparative religion: A History, London : Duckworth, 2nd ed. 1986

Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Sheed and Ward, 1958

Francis Xavier Clooney, Comparative Theology. Deep Learning across Religious Borders, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010

René Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, London: Continuum, 2003