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Modern and Contemporary Religious Thought

Looking beyond the division of thought into “secular” and “religious” spheres, the graduate program in Modern and Contemporary Religious Thought offers students the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary study of religious thought from a range of intellectual and religious traditions and geographical regions, from the fifteenth century to the present. Projects of an interdisciplinary nature, which range across religious studies theory, philosophy of religion, theology (of various kinds), ethics, critical theory, politics, sociology, psychology, literary theory, and other modes of thought can be pursued within this program.

Requirements and Examination Structure for the PhD

Students in the MCRT area are not required to take specific courses, beyond RELG 7360 (“Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion”). In accordance with departmental and GSAS standards, PhD students are required to attain 45 graded credit hours of graduate coursework—although that number reduces to 30 graded credit hours if advanced standing is approved. But all courses should be chosen in close consultation with one’s advisor(s). It is important to have a coherent pathway from the start to the finish of graduate-level coursework.

All students must prove competency in two modern research languages other than English.

Students in the MCRT area must pass five written comprehensive examinations, each supervised by a professor in Religious Studies. Depending on their course of study, a student may petition to engage faculty in other departments, such as Philosophy, Politics, History, or elsewhere in the humanities or social sciences; that petition should be directed toward the Director of Graduate Studies. Comprehensive examinations serve to credential students in particular subfields, to prepare students to teach, and to prepare students to conduct dissertation research. They must therefore be chosen and shaped in careful consultation with advisors.

All five exams must be completed by the end of the 5th semester of enrollment for students with advanced standing, and by the end of the 6th semester for those without advanced standing, as is typical across the Department. Students may take one or more of their exams while still in coursework, although many students typically write the bulk of the exams in the six months after the completion of coursework. The scope and topics of the exams should be worked out between the student and their main advisor(s), while the precise reading list for each exam is determined by the supervising professor in consultation with the student.