Coming Attractions: REL 490 Capstone Senior Seminar

REL 490 is the Department’s senior seminar, that’s offered each Spring. Required of all majors, its topic regularly changes as does the professor who offers it. The goal of the course is to offer some sort of test case or example that can provide an opportunity for students with wide interests to mull over the skills that were gained throughout the degree.

This Spring it’s Prof. McCutcheon who is teaching the course and the topic is the work of Jonathan Z. Smith.

But is it…?

For much like Smith’s own work, things often address something other than what they at first seem to be about.

So we’ll be reading essays of his from two collections: Relating Religion and Chris Lehrich’s edited collection of Smith’s essays on pedagogy, On Teaching Religion. But we’ll be using them as ways into discussing far broader issues of relevance to all scholars, let alone scholars of religion — such as definition, description, comparison, interpretation, and explanation. And we’ll also watch a video-taped lecture or two of Smith’s as well as read transcripts of a variety of his interviews, from a forthcoming volume co-edited by McCutcheon and his good friend Willi Braun (to be published in 2018 by Oxford University Press).

The premise of the course is that there’s likely no more skilled scholars out there, or even in recent memory, when it comes not just to handling a topic in the study of religion but, more importantly for our purposes, doing so while paying explicit attention to how that work proceeds. So tackling some of his essays, with an eye toward how we use those same tools, provides a pretty good basis for a course such as REL 490.

If you’re a graduating senior majoring in REL, or soon to graduate and anticipate not being able to enroll in this required course next Spring, then contact the main office to obtain a permit to register.