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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: Literature and Religion: Exploring the Connections (BIST11028)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, students will be introduced to the wide and diverse field of religion and literature. The history, critical assumptions and shared/contested understandings of the subject will be considered through a variety of texts, including a range of literary case studies.
Course description Academic Description:
The field of religion and literature is wide and diverse. This course aims to introduce students to the history of the subject and then to explore some of its major areas of debate. These include the relationship between biblical studies and literary studies, theological readings of literary texts and explorations of themes such as faith, ethics and spirituality through the medium of literature from a variety of religious traditions. Themes will vary each year according to the research specialization of the staff teaching the course. The course does not assume each student has a knowledge of both literature and religion, but seeks to draw on the interests of those in the class to engage in inter-disciplinary debate.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
Below is a sample syllabus. The texts studied and weekly breakdown may change from year to year.

Week 1: Introducing the field and defining the boundaries

Ways of Reading
Week 2: Sacred Texts and Literary Theory
Week 3: Re-Telling Religious Narratives in Literature
Week 4: Reading Literature Spiritually

Week 5: Myth and Ritual in Literature
Week 6: Ethics, Religion and Literature
Week 7: Religious Texts and the Experience of Violence
Week 8: Memory, Religion and Literature
Week 9: Literature from the Buddhist Tradition
Week 10: Literature from the Islamic Tradition

Week 11: Drawing conclusions and taking the next steps

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course will be delivered in the form of weekly seminar sessions. Students will be expected to complete the readings set each week and to come prepared to discuss the issues raised by their readings. Some weeks there will be a literary case study such as a novel, play or poem to read and to focus discussion around. Students will be expected to give a presentation on the weekly topic at least once in the course, and to offer questions for further discussion. Students will be assessed on this presentation, on the compilation of an annotated bibliography and on an essay based on one of the issues raised by the course. Through these assessments, and through class participation, students will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  27
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 33, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 161 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 10% - Presentation: Each student will give an in-class presentation of about 10 minutes and then facilitate class discussion.

20% - Annotated Bibliography: Each student will complete an annotated bibliography of up 1000 words based on religious readings of one of the course's authors, themes, or ways of reading. This will relate to the topic of the final essay.

70% - Final Essay: Each student will submit an essay of up to 3,000 words on a topic related to the course.
Feedback Students will be offered the opportunity to discuss an essay plan for formative feedback by the end of week 8. They will also receive formative feedback on their seminar presentation and their annotated bibliography.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Acquire a critical understanding of the history of the field of literature and religion.
  2. Demonstrate advanced analytical skills in reading literary texts for their religious and/or theological significance.
  3. Evaluate and assess the significance of literary criticism in relation to one or more religious traditions and their sacred texts.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to make meaningful connections across and within academic disciplines.
  5. Communicate complex literary and religious issues in a way which enables debate and advances shared understanding.
Reading List
An online Resource List is available here:

Further Reading:
Wayne C. Booth, The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1988).

Robert Detweiller and David Jasper (eds) Religion and Literature: A Reader (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2000).

Susan M. Felch, 'Ethics', in Susan M. Felch (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 2016), pp. 71-85.

Paul Griffiths, Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (Oxford: OUP, 1999).

Thomas F. Haddox, Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2013).

Peter S. Hawkins, 'The Bible as Literature and Sacred Texts', in A. Hass, D. Jasper and E. Jay (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Literature and Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 198-212.

Amy Hungerford, Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

David Jasper, 'The Study of Literature and Theology', in A. Hass, D. Jasper and E. Jay (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Literature and Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 15-30.

David Jasper, The Study of Literature and Religion: An Introduction (2nd ed), (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992).

Joshua King, 'The Inward Turn: The Role of Matthew Arnold', in Mark Knight (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Religion and Literature (London: Routledge, 2016) pp. 15-26.

Mark Knight, An Introduction to Religion and Literature (London: Continuum, 2009).

Mark Knight (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Religion and Literature (London: Routledge, 2016).

Dawn Llewellyn, Reading, Feminism and Spirituality: Troubling the Waves (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Stephen D. Moore, 'Biblical Narrative Analysis from the New Criticism to the New Narratology', in Danna Nolan Fewell (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Narrative, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 27-45.

Andrew Tate, 'The Challenges of Re-writing Sacred Texts: The Case of Twenty-First Century Gospel Narrative', in Mark Knight (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Religion and Literature (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 332-342.

Rowan Williams, 'Theological Readings', in Susan M. Felch (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 2016), pp. 21-34).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Curiosity for learning and openness to different perspectives
- Willingness to engage across disciplinary boundaries and to approach texts in new ways
- Finely-tuned skills of close reading and critical analysis
- Ability to communicate effectively with others, both orally and in writing
KeywordsReligion,Literature,Theology,Bible,literary criticism,biblical studies
Course organiserProf Alison Jack
Tel: (0131 6)50 8944
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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