Celebrate Good Times

Yes, this semester we’re celebrating our Department’s 50th anniversary.

If you’re interested in some of the historical background, then see this post from this past August.

The short story is that UA’s Department of Religious Studies dates to 1932, as best we can tell, but only in 1966-7 did the university — just like public universities all across the US — make the changes necessary for students to study religion in a manner that satisfied the requirements of the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Practically speaking, that meant moving away from having a variety of campus chaplains offering theologically-oriented courses to hiring Ph.D.s trained in what was quickly emerging as the academic study of religion (usually called Religious Studies in North America). Continue reading

Attention Budding Religious Studies Scholars

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    Fragonard, A Young Scholar (Wallace Collection)

“Thoughts are the precious seeds of which our universities should be the botanical gardens.  Beware when God lets loose a thinker on the world—either Carlyle or Emerson said that—for all things then have to rearrange themselves.  But the thinkers in their youth are almost always very lonely creatures.  ‘Alone the great sun rises and alone spring the great streams.’  The university most worthy of rational admiration is that one in which your lonely thinker can feel himself least lonely, most positively furthered, and most richly fed.”

–William James, “The True Harvard” (1903)

Before loosing you on an unsuspecting world, the Religious Studies Department wishes to cultivate your thoughts in the manner James extolls.  With hopes of furthering your ideas most positively, richly feeding your research, and providing stimulating intellectual companionship, we invite you to participate in the Department’s 4th Annual Religious Studies Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Please consider reworking a paper you have written for a course and presenting it before assembled friends, family, and faculty (on Wednesday morning March 29).  You will work under the supervision of your professor and receive additional comment from Prof. Bagger.  When you present your research alongside your peers, the audience will have the opportunity to ask you questions about your ideas.  In the past students have found the entire process tremendously rewarding, and the event has become a highlight of the Department’s academic year.  Speak to your professor should you wish to participate.

The University provides a similar opportunity on March 30.  The Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Conference brings together students from throughout the University to showcase their research.  To participate in the URCA, students must submit an abstract of their research online during the first seventeen days of February.  To assist you in that process, the University will schedule abstract-writing workshops in advance of the February deadline.

If honing your ideas and scholarly skills (as well as representing the Department of Religious Studies before the University community) does not provide sufficient incentive—as James would well recognize it might not: “Experience has proved that great as the love of truth may be among men, it can be made still greater by adventitious rewards” (“The PhD Octopus,” 1903)—the University has seen fit to supply cash prizes.  For more information, see Prof. Bagger or visit URCA.UA.EDU.  You may, of course, participate in both the Department Symposium and the University Conference.

Classroom to Conference: REL Majors Presenting Their Research

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REL is very happy to announce that two of our students have been accepted to present their research at the Southeastern regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion in March.

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Jared Powell will be presenting a paper titled “And the Beat Goes On: Imaginings and Retellings of Han Shan by Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac.” The conference paper began as a project in Dr. Ramey‘s REL 419: Tales From Asia course. In the paper, he analyzes the ways in which Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac–two Beat Generation writers–translate and retell the poetry and life of Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Han Shan. He argues that in their works, Snyder and Kerouac create an imagining of Han Shan as an ascetic Buddhist ideal that champions typical Beat emphases of playfulness, spirituality, and counterculturalism

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Sarah Griswold’s conference paper is also Asia related. Titled, “There is a Well at Cawnpore: The Politics of Commemoration in Colonial India,” her paper analyzes a memorial at a well in the Indian town of Cawnpore. The well stood as a memorial of the Siege of Cawnpore during the 1857 revolt under British colonial rule. The conference paper began as a project in Dr. Altman‘s special topics REL 483: Religion in Colonial India course (that will soon be a regular course offering in the department).

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You can find the full conference program here. You might even notice a few other REL names on the schedule.

Do you have a paper from a course that you’re proud of? Are you interested in sharing your work beyond just your professor? REL offers many opportunities to share your undergraduate research, such as this blog, the REL Honors Research Symposium, the UA Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference, and the regional AAR meeting. Talk to your professor about how you can present the great research you are doing in your courses!

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A Great Start to a New Annual Event

photo 2-1Yesterday evening the Department hosted its first annual REL Honors Research Symposium that showcased our undergraduates’ own independent research. Our panelists Andie Alexander (a grad of REL), Jordan Atkinson, Seth Cox, Wesley Davidson, and Katelyn Smith presented their research—most of which was produced as a final paper for different courses in the department—on varying topics ranging from history and narrative, to religious/social identification, redefinition, and inter-generational differences. Continue reading

A Big Thumb’s Up

How confident are we that the students and grad presenting today at our inaugural undergraduate research symposium will all do a great job?thumbsupThat’s how confident.

See you at 3:30 at the University Club (upstairs).
And dress up a bit. Chuck Norris would.