Master of Arts Program in Religious Studies
This multidisciplinary program seeks to prepare students with both knowledge of a religious world and the tools to study that world, including language training where appropriate. The program for each candidate for the Master of Arts degree in religious studies consists of 32 points of course work (eight courses) in addition to either a thesis project or an exam.
All students are required to take RELST-GA 1001, Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (4 points). The other seven courses (28 points) are elective on religious life and practice that combine a disciplinary and a cultural focus. Courses often speak to both areas of study (e.g., History of 19th-Century American Christianity uses a historical approach to cover religious life in the United States). Therefore, a student’s course trajectory will be worked out with close faculty advice. By graduation, students should have a grasp of the tools of at least one disciplinary focus and a working knowledge of at least one cultural area.
Disciplinary Focus: During the first semester of study, students are introduced to a number of theoretical approaches to religion and the history of the ongoing public and academic conversations about religion. Urged to employ a multidisciplinary approach in the program, students benefit from choosing for themselves the disciplinary approach they find most useful for thinking about religion. Disciplinary foci include history; anthropology and sociology; performance studies and cultural studies; literary, hermeneutic, and philosophical approaches; gender and sexuality studies; and journalism.
Cultural Focus: Instead of focusing on one specific religious tradition, students are encouraged to structure their study around a chosen cultural and geographic area. This allows them to employ the diverse resources of New York University and compels them to engage with religion in its concrete social, economic, political, and historical contexts. When it is grounded in empirical study within a specific context, “religion” serves as a complex heuristic tool in the analysis of other social processes and rhetorical formations in which it is embedded. Cultural foci include ancient Mediterranean; East Asia; Latin America; modern Europe; modern and medieval Middle East; Western Middle Ages; and religious life in the United States.
Thesis: In fulfillment of the degree, students may elect to complete a thesis paper as their capstone project. Typically before their final semester, students will secure a “thesis adviser” from among either the Religious Studies faculty or faculty from another department at NYU. Together with this adviser, the student will produce a thesis paper to be reviewed by two faculty members, one of whom must be in the Religious Studies program. Although the thesis paper is not graded, students may elect to enroll in a Thesis Research course (with departmental permission) for a grade and for a maximum of 4 credits as they work toward completion of the paper.
Comprehensive Exam: As an alternative to the thesis, students may instead choose to take a written comprehensive exam as their capstone project. This requires securing an “examination adviser” with whom the student will design a set of questions around their particular field of study. The exam will be administered in the student’s final semester, and will receive either a grade of “P” (pass) or “F” (fail). Students will not receive credits for completion of the exam; they must have completed, or be in the process of completing, the required 32 credits at the time of examination.
Journalism Concentration: As religion appears with growing force in the political, economic, social, and cultural life of a globalizing world, its representation in various media, electronic and print, likewise grows in importance. The Program in Religious Studies has joined forces with the Department of Journalism to provide a concentration within the graduate program that provides education and training for students seeking careers as professional newspaper, magazine, or broadcast journalists with an expertise on religion. This concentration draws on courses offered by both the Program in Religious Studies and the Department of Journalism. The requirements include a final project in long-form journalism, an article aimed at a sophisticated general readership in expository, explanatory, or investigative form on a subject related to religious life. Admission to this area of study shall be made at the discretion of the admissions committee. The requirements for the concentration in journalism include 36 points of course work (nine courses), distributed as follows:
Required courses in religious studies (16 points total):
- Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion, RELST-GA 1001 (4 points).
- Religion as Media, RELST-GA 3397 (4 points).
- Two elective courses focusing on the study of religion (8 points).
Required courses in journalism (20 points total):
- Writing, Research, and Reporting Workshop I and II, JOUR-GA 1021, 1022 (8 points).
- Press Ethics, JOUR-GA 11, or Law and Mass Communication, JOUR-GA 12 or Journalism Reading/Writing Seminar (4 points)
- Two elective courses, one of which should specialize in writing about religion (8 points).