Skip to main content

Unit information: Comparative Religions: Themes and Methods in 2020/21

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 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Gethin
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


After an introductory session outlining the aims of the unit, each fortnight students will attend (1) the Departmental research seminar and (2) a related seminar to discuss the themes and issues raised in the seminar and associated reading. In this way students will be introduced to a range of themes and issues in the context of study and research related to a variety of religious traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhist and Hinduism. Students will learn directly from researchers who use a range of methods and approaches which may include philology, theology, philosophy, history of religion and anthropology. The associated seminars will then guide students in developing their understanding and appreciation of how common themes and methods can inform the study of different religious traditions, ancient and modern. Students will then write up and submit a final essay related to the themes and methods of at least two research seminars. Students will have to opportunity to practice their oral presentation skills in individual or group presentation.

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, issues and methods 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

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

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

(2) apply sophisticated understanding to access critically a wide range of arguments and approaches to religion advanced by historians, theologians, Indologists, and philosophers.

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

(4) evaluate, analyse and synthesise and (where apt) critique key primary and secondary texts.

5) apply analytical strategies to new evidence and demonstrate the capacity for independent research.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of class discussion and investigative activities. Students will be expected to attend fortnightly seminars and regular seminars, engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis.

Assessment Details

1 x 1,000-word word essay plan (20%). [ILOs 1, 2, 3]

1 x 4,000 word essay (80%) assessing both detailed grasp of particular themes and methods [ILOs 4, 5]

Reading and References

Ursula King, Turning Points in Religious Studies, London: Bloomesbury 1990.

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

John Hinnells (ed), The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion (2'nd' edition), Abingdon: Routledge 2010.

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