World Religions, World Literatures

This multidisciplinary and interdepartmental concentration offers postgraduate study in world literatures, applying literary theory to religious studies and applying the study of religion to literature. It is jointly administered through English and Religious Studies.

Students are invited to study any of the religions and literatures covered by courses in the program. They are also asked to undertake more comprehensive work within a language-specific area of literature or in two language-specific literatures from single historical period and region. If they lack advanced preparation in a requisite language, then students may choose to pursue their language-specific area in translation. They are also asked to undertake more comprehensive work within a single religious tradition. Course offerings are currently in the language areas of English, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Spanish, French, and German; but prospective students may inquire into studies in any other language area taught by UVA faculty.

Program offerings are currently in the religious traditions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. Prospective students may inquire into the possibility of studies in an additional religious tradition or denomination. In addition to exploring both a broad range of courses and these more specialized areas of competence, WRWL students also share in an introductory course and a monthly proseminar discussion provided exclusively for participants in this program. Students are instructed by members of the UVA faculty in Religious Studies and in English, MESALC, Spanish, French, and German.

There is a BA/MA track for fourth year undergraduate students at UVA who would like to finish the MA in World Religions, World Literatures within one year after graduating. For more information, please contact the WRWL co-directors Peter Ochs (Religious Studies) and Elizabeth Fowler (English).

 Program requirements:

  • 30 credit hours (8 graded courses and a final exam/comp).
  • Two foundational courses (6 credits)
    1. A WRWL proseminar: one credit per term for 3 terms.
    2. An introduction to WRWL, team taught by specialists in literature and religion.
  • Distribution of remaining credits:
    1. Tradition: at least two courses (6 credits) devoted to studies within a single
    religious tradition.
    2. Literary continuity: at least two courses (6 credits) devoted to literature from
    o a single language-community and period, or
    o a single language-community and contiguous periods, or
    o the same period and two language-communities whose literatures strongly cross-fertilize each other during that period.
    3. Scripture: at least one course (3 credits) primarily dedicated to the reading of scriptural texts.
  • Language study 
    On approval, students may choose to specialize in non-English languages and literatures (for example, in Qur’anic and modern Arabic and/or Farsi or Urdu commentaries; or in Old English literature, or medieval French literature, and so on). There are not foreign language exams or course requirements. However, upon matriculation, students must demonstrate preparation for graduate-level study in their language of choice.

Brief sample of course topics appropriate to the MA:
Ancient Fiction: Christian Literature; Book of Genesis; Islam in Africa; Spiritual Writing; Pilgrimage; Poetry and Theology; Germans and Jews; Rabbinic Literature; Muhammad and the Qur'an; Hinduism through its Narratives; Medieval European Literature in Translation; Lyric Poetry; Old English; Chaucer; Renaissance Poetry; Arabic of the Quran and Hadith; Language and Culture in the Middle East; The Bhagavadgita; Sanskrit Religious Texts; Drama, Integrity, and Performance; Introduction to Literary Theory [English; or German, etc.]; Virgil; Greek Tragedy.