Summer Plans: Prof. McCutcheon

We asked the faculty what they were up to this summer; after all, just because the Spring semester is done doesn’t mean they’re all off gardening. And so this is what we learned…

Apart from writing the annual report and getting the Department ready for the new semester in the Fall, Professor McCutcheon has a few projects bubbling away, such as the second edition to his intro book, Studying Religion, which he plans to tackle and complete this summer. He’s also working on narrowing down the contents to an anthology that Walter de Gruyter, in Berlin, has contracted, as a follow-up to Jacques Waardenburg’s once well-known volume, Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion (a 1973 collection that was recently reissued, in a new edition, with a preface from McCutcheon). Picking up in the 1960s, about where Waardenburg’s volume ends, he plans to represent the trends and scholars of importance to the field’s last fifty years, adding a substantive introduction to the book (though maybe not quite the 80 pages of the earlier volume’s introductory chapter). He’s also finalizing the manuscripts for a few things that will be published this summer, such as a co-edited collection of interviews with the late Jonathan Z. Smith (in fact, his friend and co-editor, Willi Braun, is now giving the index one last proofing) and a couple new sets of his own essays (the first with Equinox and the other with de Gruyter). So if he can check all that off his list by August he’ll be a happy camper.

Constructing Judaism and Claiming Christianity: Modern Jewish Philosophy in an Age of Theory

Creator: Doré, Gustave, 1832-1883., French.; Date: 1856.; Material: wood engraving on wove paper; Measurements: sheet: 55 x 38.9 cm. ; image: 39 x 30.2 cm.; Repository: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Dept. of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.; Williamstown, Mass.; 1977.55B.; http://www.clarkart.edu

Creator: Doré, Gustave, 1832-1883., French.; Date: 1856.; Material: wood engraving on wove paper; Measurements: sheet: 55 x 38.9 cm. ; image: 39 x 30.2 cm.; Repository: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Dept. of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.; Williamstown, Mass.; 1977.55B.; http://www.clarkart.edu

Robert Erlewine is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University where he teaches courses related to philosophy of religion and Judaism. He is the author of two monographs, Monotheism and Tolerance: Recovering a Religion of Reason (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010) and Judaism and the West: From Hermann Cohen to Joseph Soloveitchik (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016).

In recent years, in the academic study of religion there have been rather public disputes about the nature of religious studies. Russell McCutcheon and William Arnal note an important sea-change that seems to have taken place in the field over the last few decades, that there has been a “widespread turn from practicing [religious studies] as if it was a branch of the history of ideas toward studying what is now known as ‘religion on the ground’ or ‘material religion.’” This shift “estranges former close relationships with our cousins in philosophy and, instead, forges affinities with our new friends, the social anthropologists and culture studies.” What does this change in religious studies mean for more philosophically oriented sub-disciplines — other than shrinking job prospects for young scholars? Can recent developments in theories and methods enable a rethinking of subfields in religious studies that remain close to philosophy departments?

Rethinkings that can generate energy and foster vitality? Continue reading

Report from the Public Universities Chairs Workshop

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Dr. Kevin Schilbrack (pictured above, right) is a professor of Religious Studies and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Appalachian State University. He was recently at the University of Alabama for the inaugural workshop for public university Religious Studies department chairs and offers the following report.

Like many other department chairs, I suspect, I became chair after years of teaching, writing, and generally being collegial – but I received little or no training on how to be a chair.   And the work as chair of a department of Religious Studies in a public university comes with its own particular set of issues.  What does the study of religions include when it is in a state-supported setting?  Where can we profitably collaborate with other disciplines?  And perhaps, above all, how can we recruit new students to the academic study of religions? To create a forum where department chairs could meet and work on questions like these, we came together for what we hope is the first annual workshop for chairs of departments of Religious Studies. Continue reading

#LoungeTweets with Dr. McCutcheon on Wednesday

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Our next #LoungeTweets event is coming up, and this time Dr. Russell McCutcheon has answered the call of duty! He’ll be hanging out in the REL lounge on Wednesday, April 22nd from 2:30-3:30 to respond to your questions, give us a play-by-play of lounge activities, and more. Follow him at @McCutcheonSays.


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Keep up with the live tweets by searching #LoungeTweets.


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Voting is over: McCutcheon Says It’s @McCutcheonSays

(The official soundtrack to this post.)

Thanks to everyone who voted. After all the votes were counted and the local board of elections argued over hanging chads, we have dubbed a winner. You can now find Dr. Russell Mccutcheon on Twitter at @McCutcheonSays.  So know your role and tweet at him.

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Grad Tales Part IV

gradtales4On March 31, 2014, the Department hosted its fourth (and final for 2013-14) “There and Back Again: A Grad’s Tale” event. For this event, Prof. Russell McCutcheon talked with REL grad John Lyles about what he’s been up to since he left Manly Hall in 2010 after earning his B.A. in Religious Studies, with a minor in Biology. Continue reading

Backstory: Prof. Russell McCutcheon

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Backstory” is a series that asks the REL Faculty to tell us a little bit about themselves, to explore how they became interested in the academic study of religion and their own specialty, elaborating on their current work both within and outside the University.

Where are you from?

I was born in Port Colborne, Ontario, in Canada, not far from Buffalo, NY, actually, in a region that is called southern Ontario. It’s both an industrial and a farming region—lots of grapes for wines being grown along the shore of Lake Ontario, about 45 minutes north of where I was from, which was on the north shore of Lake Erie—I could see Pennsylvania on the other side. And lots of heavy industry, like car manufacturing and steel mills, though not as much as when I was a kid. Now, tourism is probably as big as the manufacturing industry once was. There was a canal cutting through my town, which lakers took so they didn’t have to go over Niagara Falls when going to and from the ocean—good thinking. Continue reading

Biblical Literates

The following post by Russell McCutcheon, reflecting on the role of scholars in Religious Studies, is reposted from the Culture on the Edge blog. That was the headline of a Huffington Post article yesterday, referring to an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register, co-authored by three Iowa scholars of religion, all with specialties in biblical studies. The newspaper article they wrote opened by stating:

Continue reading