The graduate program in Religious Studies features the following components:
1) Area of Concentration
Students develop a specialization in a geographically- and historically-defined concentration (or an explicitly transregional concentration across two of these areas). Students will understand the development of and interactions between religions in a specific cultural context. Students will take a set of required courses established by each of these specializations in order to develop the research and interpretative skills necessary for original research and to learn the contextual knowledge necessary for understanding religion within a particular geographical and chronological framework. In addition, students choose a more narrowly-defined Major Field from within their Area of Concentration.
Students will take a set of required courses established by each of these concentrations and fields in order to develop the research and interpretative skills necessary for original research and to learn the contextual knowledge necessary for understanding religion within a particular geographical and chronological framework.
The four areas of concentration are: Religions in History, Religion in Society, Religion in the Americas, and Ancient Mediterrannean Religions.
For details on these areas and their requirements, see the Areas of Concentration page.
2) Thematic Field
Students will define a thematic field that requires engagement with theoretical works and case studies on a topic that crosses geographical and temporal boundaries. Students will do this both through organized courses and through independent reading; Ph.D. students will be examined on this field. This requirement asks students to become theoretically agile about a specific topic, to explore this topic across religious traditions, and to engage scholars from different subfields in a common area of conversation.
Examples of such themes, which reflect current interests of the Department and College faculty, include:
- The Body (e.g., Gender, Sexuality, Health/Purity, Food, Asceticism)
- Ritual and Performance
- Space and Place (e.g., Diasporas, Material Culture, Death/Burial)
- Visual Culture
- Text, Translation, and Transmission
3) Core Curriculum
All students are required to enroll in a set of courses that integrate their concentration areas into the broader conception of Religious Studies. These courses will introduce students to theories and methods in the study of religion, explore pedagogical issues, and prepare students for their professional obligations. These core courses are:
R S 383M Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
This course introduces graduate students to the history of the discipline, discusses classical interpretative works in the field, and examines current theoretical and methodological developments.
R S 384D Doctoral Seminar in Religious Studies
This advanced seminar will introduce the students to the profession. It will assist them in framing a dissertation proposal, encourage them to place their own scholarship within a broader disciplinary context by considering contemporary theories in the study of religion, and it will help them understand pedagogical issues in teaching religious studies to undergraduates. The course will also address other issues related to the profession, including publication and seeking funding.
In addition, each graduate student will participate in the Religious Studies Colloquium every semester that they are in residence at the University. This on-going colloquium of graduate students and faculty meets twice monthly to discuss works-in-process, read published works of common interest, and interact with visitors from other institutions. Its purpose is to develop the students' disciplinary identity by enabling them to work both within and across the subfields of Religious Studies. Participation in the Religious Studies Colloquium is a requirement for all students, whether working toward an M.A. degree or a Ph.D.
4) Program Design
The graduate program in Religious Studies is designed as a full-time course of doctoral study for students seeking a Ph.D. The program includes an M.A., but not as a stand-alone or terminal degree. Rather, the M.A. functions as an integrated component of the doctoral curriculum. It is understood as the first step in the process of working toward the Ph.D.
All incoming students are required to complete the two-year M.A. Students whose highest earned degree is a bachelor's degree enter the program with master's standing and complete the M.A. via a combination of coursework and a written master's thesis or report in the second year before proceeding to doctoral standing. Students whose highest earned degree is a master's degree automatically attain doctoral standing upon matriculation in the program. Those students whose prior master's degree included a written thesis or report have the option (pending approval) to complete the M.A. through coursework only, without writing a thesis or report. This coursework in lieu of a thesis or report counts directly toward doctoral degree requirements, even though earned before completion of the M.A.
All students take qualifying exams in the third year. Upon successful completion of the exams, the formation of a dissertation committee, and submission of a dissertation proposal, students enter into candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
The M.A. in Religious Studies requires 30 semester hours; either 27 hours of coursework and a 3-hour report; 24 hours of coursework and a 6-hour thesis; or 30 hours of coursework with no thesis or report. Students who wish to pursue the no-thesis, no-report degree option must be approved in advance by the Department of Religious Studies. Prior graduate coursework will be taken into consideration. At least 18 hours must be graduate courses in Religious Studies. No more than 6 hours of upper-division undergraduate credit may count toward the degree. All students must take R S 383M Theory and Method in the Study of Religion as well as participate in the Religious Studies Colloquium, which meets regularly throughout the semester. In addition, students will take the core classes required for their area of specialization and thematic field.
Each student's progress is reviewed during his or her fourth semester of study by the Graduate Studies Committee. This committee will make one of three recommendations: 1) proceed to doctoral degree requirements upon satisfactory completion of master's degree requirements; 2) be reviewed again before proceeding to doctoral degree requirements; 3) leave the program after receiving an M.A.
Note: The M.A. program in Religious Studies is understood as a step in preparing students for the Ph.D. Students will NOT be admitted for the M.A. alone.
A minimum of 60 hours is required for the Ph.D., including dissertation research and writing. Courses taken at UT-Austin for the M.A. degree, but not the M.A. report or thesis, may count toward the hours required for the Ph.D. Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.A. from another institution can petition to have a maximum of six hours transferred toward the Ph.D. requirements.
All Ph.D. students must complete R S 384D Doctoral Seminar in Religious Studies and are required to participate in the Religious Studies Colloquium every semester they are in residence at UT-Austin. In addition, students will take the core classes required for their area of specialization, thematic field, and exam preparation.
All Ph.D. students must demonstrate reading competency in the languages required by their area of concentration.
All Ph.D. candidates are required to pass a set of qualifying examinations as determined by their area of concentration. The exams will be in four fields and will consist of written essays for each field and an oral defense of the essays.
As the culmination of the Ph.D. program, each Ph.D. student will write and defend a doctoral dissertation in the student's area of concentration. The dissertation is designed to be an original and substantial contribution to scholarship, the result of independent research in the field.