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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: New Age Spirituality in Contemporary Culture (REST11010)

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
SummaryThis course explores the field known in Europe and North America as 'new age' or 'holistic' spirituality. It aims to describe, contextualize and explain key features of new age spirituality with reference to their content and structure and to their distribution in the population at large. By the end of the course students should be able to describe the history and ethnography of 'new age' practices, outline their key ideas and beliefs, and form a critical assessment of their impact, both on public understanding and within the academic study of religion.
Course description Academic Description:
This course investigates the modern field of popular beliefs and practices known as 'new age' or 'holistic' spirituality. We examine case studies of practices, beliefs and biographies, drawing on explanatory insights from social and cultural theorists. The course aims to describe, contextualize and explain key features of new age spirituality with reference to their content and structure and to their distribution in the population at large.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
We examine a variety of case studies - ethnographies, biographies, books, film - in cultural context. We begin with the problem of demarcating a fluid field of beliefs and practices that crosses traditional boundaries of 'religious' and 'secular'. We examine definitions of 'new age' and discuss the implications of its inclusion in the comparative study of religion/s. We explore the role of authorities and traditions in the development of a culture of seekership and we consider evidence for an emerging new age cosmology. Finally we trace the permeation of new age beliefs and practices into everyday life settings. An important 'whole course' learning outcome is the capacity to make an informed and mature judgment on the salience of new age spirituality, both in the study of 'religion/s', and as a social and cultural phenomenon in its own right.

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course requires students to attend joint lectures with Honours undergraduates, facilitating rich interactions between advanced undergraduate and 'new' postgraduate sensibilities. This interaction nurtures reflexive insight on the part of MSc students, boosted by their own dedicated level 11 seminars. Individual consultation with the course manager in relation to the field report and the extended essay consolidates a holistic Masters' level learning experience.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis is a graduate-level course. Please confirm subject prerequisites with the Course Manager.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Show detailed critical knowledge of a diffuse field of popular beliefs, practices and values
  2. Examine the categories 'new age' and 'religion' in mutual interaction
  3. Identify and explain key characteristics and institutions in new age spirituality
  4. Practice simple multi-causal analysis (historical, social, cultural) of new age and form a critical assessment of its overall cultural significance
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Steven Sutcliffe
Tel: (0131 6)50 8947
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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