2018

Our MA in Religion is a new programme providing core training in metholodogies of the study of religion while encouraging wider interdisciplinary work.

2018

Overview

The programme is primarily for students who wish to pursue further postgraduate research or research in other contexts. It offers an overview of key theoretical debates in the study of religion, as well as methodological issues and approaches for conducting fieldwork.

Following an autumn term at our Canterbury campus, you spend the spring term studying at Kent's Paris School of Arts and Culture, where you gain a specific insight into the influence of religion in a European context. Your knowledge is enhanced and shaped through the independence that is gained by living abroad for a period of time.

About the Department of Religious Studies

Collectively, the staff at Kent cover all the current methodologies and theoretical approaches (from empirical research to psychology of religion, and to continental philosophy and history of ideas). As well as offering expertise in all the major world religions, we are widely recognised for leading work at the fringes of the category of religion, as well as for work on the invention of the category of ‘religion’. Among the many options of Religion and covered in the department are: religion and media, religion and politics, religion and comparative literatures, and religion and society. See the staff research tab for further details.

The Department supports cross-disciplinary work and students are encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of postgraduate classes and seminars that are available within the School of European Culture and Languages (SECL) and across the University as a whole.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, theology and religious studies was ranked 3rd for research impact in the UK. We were also ranked 7th for research quality and in the top 20 for research intensity and research output.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.

Course structure

You complete two core modules (one in the Autumn; one in the Spring), both attracting 30 credits. You can also select two 30-credit option modules that will help you to further develop your specific interests.

Compulsory modules:

  • Religion and Modern European Thought
  • The Study of Religion

You are also able to select optional modules that will help you to develop your specific interests. As demand for doctoral research funding becomes increasingly competitive, you also receive guidance on seeking funding and writing research proposals, as well as the opportunity to refine ideas for a research project through the taught modules and dissertation.

It is possible to enrol for 12-month, part-time study for a PCert in Religion, taking the two compulsory modules.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

In recent decades European intellectual culture has seen a turn towards the post-secular, the post-critical, the “return” of religion, or, as Claude Lefort described it “the permanency of the theologico-political”. Such gestures invite a rethinking of the political, social, and intellectual role of “religion” in the recent history of European thought. Such reworking intimately affects the understanding of Europe within a scene of global political and economic development, European traditions of philosophy, concepts of political autonomy; its critical theories of culture and economy, links between the idea of Europe and democratic political foundations; and the nature of artistic, social, and psychological exploration. This course creates capacities to interact with and to intervene in these important and on-going cultural discussions by developing new maps of “religion” as a central preoccupation in the formation of European intellectual identity, with a strong focus on Paris and the history of religion in “French theory” (e.g the works of Badiou, Benslama, Derrida and Foucault).

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30

The category of religion is hardwired into histories of Enlightenment, modernity, and post-modernity to the point that it is now difficult to discuss any of these periods without negotiating religion as a problem of central importance. This course develops a multidisciplinary mapping of religion as an object of academic research in order to better understand the polemics, politics, assumptions and everyday practices which continue to determine the status of religion. Working with various subfields within the study of religion, this comparative and collaborative course develops new maps of mutual influence, borrowing, translation and struggle between subfields, all of which produced the dominant images of religion within university and popular cultural contexts alike.

Indicative topics include: how and why did the study of religion emerge as a ‘human science’ opposed to earlier research on theology? What cultural and political projects shaped the category of “world religion”? How did scholars of biblical and European traditions react to nineteenth-century developments in the study of Buddhist and Hindu traditions? What were the political tendencies behind modern European and North American denigrations of ritualized practice in favour of religion as the study of “belief”? What were universities roles in establishing the limits and value of the concept of the “secular”, and why are so many academic discussions of religion currently so keen to dislodge the same concept?

Students will learn to engage in sophisticated ways with classic primary texts by those who lastingly shaped the modern invention of the academic study of religion, figures like G. W. F. Hegel, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Max Müller, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Mauss.

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30

There is an increasing recognition within the study of religion that understanding social and cultural forms of religion necessarily involves paying attention to the media through which people engage with religion or perform their religious lives. Growing out of early work on religion and film, and new forms of religious media (e.g. televangelism), academic work in this field have broadened out from studying the representation of religion in media texts to thinking more broadly about the significance of media in relation to religion. This has opened up discussions about the ways in which religion is always mediated as well as the implications of different media forms for this process. Whilst still maintaining an interest in the context of media 'texts', this work is therefore opening up questions about the role of practice, aesthetics and the senses in media use as well as broadening what we might think of as 'media' in religious contexts.

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30

This module explores the idea of the city, and the major concepts related to urban life. It analyses and determines the conditions of their emergence within a broader cultural context. It traces how these concepts have changed through time, with the aim of enhancing our present understanding of cities and their regeneration. It follows the development of city planning and the establishment of planned, ideal cities as a political goal up to the foundation of new towns. In its dealing with historically modern cities, the module centres on case studies of cities representative of urbanism from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries, drawing lessons from the methods and types of documentation used in its development. The course also introduces the manner in which architecture has generated a number of spontaneous and critical responses to the demands of the city in the past four decades. The arguments are drawn from sources in architectural and urban theory, philosophy, art history, anthropology, literary sources and social sciences.

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30

In this module you will learn further techniques of writing fiction, including how to plot a full-length novel, work on deep characterisation and the construction of an intellectual framework within your fiction. You may be continuing to work on a project begun in Fiction 1, or starting something new. Rather than expecting you to try new techniques, voices and styles, your tutor will work with you to identify your strongest mode of writing and will encourage you to develop this.

Your tutor will supply you with a reading list before the start of the module.

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30

The main focus of Poetry 2 is to further develop and refine your writing with the eventual aim of producing a successful dissertation portfolio of fully realised, finished poems. Poetry 2 differs from Poetry 1 in that you are encouraged to develop a sequence or series of wholly new poems.

In this module you will develop your practice of writing poetry through both the study of a range of contemporary examples and constructive feedback on your own work. Each week, you will be exposed to a wide range of exemplary, contemporary sequences. The approach to the exemplary texts will be technical rather than historical; at every point priority is given to your own particular development as poets.

The reading list does not represent a curriculum as such, but indicates the range of works and traditions we will draw upon to stimulate new thought about your own work. Decisions about reading will be taken in response to individual interests. Likewise, you will be directed toward work which will be of particular benefit to you.

The main focus of Poetry 2 is to further develop and refine your writing with the eventual aim of producing a successful dissertation portfolio of fully realised, finished poems. Poetry 2 differs from Poetry 1 in that you are encouraged to develop a sequence or series of wholly new poems.

In this module you will develop your practice of writing poetry through both the study of a range of contemporary examples and constructive feedback on your own work. Each week, you will be exposed to a wide range of exemplary, contemporary sequences. The approach to the exemplary texts will be technical rather than historical; at every point priority is given to your own particular development as poets.

The reading list does not represent a curriculum as such, but indicates the range of works and traditions we will draw upon to stimulate new thought about your own work. Decisions about reading will be taken in response to individual interests. Likewise, you will be directed toward work which will be of particular benefit to you.

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30

‘Paris: The Residency’ contributes to the poetry and prose strands of the MA in Creative Writing and the Literature strand of the Paris Programmes. The objective of ‘Paris: The Residency’ is to give students as close an experience as possible of what it might be like to be a writer in residence or retreat, and to produce work inspired by a specific location for a specific period of time. The emphasis will be on producing a body of creative work for the main assessment. This module aims to enable students to develop their practice of writing through both the study of a range of contemporary examples and practices, and constructive feedback on their own work. Throughout their stay, students will be exposed to a wide range of instances of exemplary, contemporary work relating to Paris, or which was written by writers whilst staying, or living in Paris (as suggested by the indicative reading list). They will be encouraged to read as independent writers, to apply appropriate writing techniques to their own practice and to experiment with voice, form and content. The approach to the exemplary texts will be technical as well as historical. At every point in the module, priority will be given to students’ own development as writers. It is an assumption of the module that students will already have a basic competence in the writing of poetry or prose, including a grasp of essential craft and techniques. The purpose of this module will be to stimulate students towards further development of, and to hone their already emerging voices and styles through engaging with various literary texts, raising an awareness of place as the starting point for new writing, and how their work can develop with large chunks of time for independent study, reflection and exploration of a city like Paris.

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'Modernism and Paris' provides students with an opportunity to study a selection of texts from the UK, USA and mainland Europe, all readily available in English and specifically relevant to both Paris and modernism. The texts are all either inspired by, set in, or refer significantly to Paris and most were written in the city. They seek new and experimental literary expressions for the experience of modern city life and demonstrate a range of literary forms, including the novel, poetry, manifestos, essays and biography. In exploring the cultural contexts as well as avant-garde politics and aesthetics of modernism, the module presents texts by major authors of different nationalities, chronologically ordered, allowing students to appreciate the beginnings and development of modernism from the late 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century. It recognises the importance of modernist cross-fertilisation between literature and the visual arts and encourages students to explore links between modernist literature and the development of, for example, cubism and surrealism. The primary materials are Paris-focused but are chosen to open an international perspective on literary culture and history.

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30

Among the various paradigms from which diasporic writing should be distinguished is the literature of exile. Exile is often the consequence of political pressure or disaffection with a society rather than the result of the larger and often spatially and chronologically extended migratory movements which led to the emergence of diasporic communities. While both paradigms may intersect, the concerns and motivations of diasporic and exilic literatures usually differ.

A historically and culturally significant geographical, and frequently also imaginary, point of intersection between the diasporic and the exilic paradigms is the metropolis of Paris. In this module, our comparative focus will be on diasporic and exilic literatures and on the significance of the diasporic or exilic space of the French metropolis, both as production context and as informing literary production. Writers to consider include: American expatriates in 1920 (like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Djuna Barnes), in the Post World War II era (like Richard Wright and James Baldwin), and other writers who chose exile in Paris (like Heinrich Heine, Oscar Wilde, Rainer Maria Rilke, Samuel Beckett)

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30

This course examines the medium of film, considering its specific qualities as an art-form and the particular ways in which it is influenced by and influences other artistic and cultural forms in the historical moment of early 20th century Paris. The emphasis of the course varies from year to year, responding to current research and scholarship, but it maintains as its focus the aesthetic strategies of film in contrast with other arts, film's relationship to historical change, particularly as it is developed in the growth of Paris as a city. The course also addresses the particular strategies used by the cinema to communicate with its historical audience. The course explores both the historical place of the cinema within the development of twentieth-century urban culture in Paris as well as how this historical definition informs the development of the cinema.

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30

This module is designed to examine the overlapping influence of Early Modern and Enlightenment thinkers and writers mainly based in England, France and Germany. A particular focus is provided by the Parisian setting: several key figures (such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot) lived in Paris for a significant part of their lives, and Paris was a city second to none in its importance within a vast international exchange of ideas during the Enlightenment period. The module will encourage students to consider the historical contexts out of which the various texts emerge, and show how ideas passed between England, France, Germany and elsewhere. Attention will consistently be paid to the tension between Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment in Europe. This will include allowing the students to understand debates, in the eighteenth century (and, if appropriate, since then), around the following issues: empiricism; sensationism; toleration; freedom of speech; aesthetics; literary genres; the 'pre-Romantic'.

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30

The curriculum includes a selection of texts from various countries, all readily available in English and all specifically relevant to the modern history, evolving population and changing appearance of Paris and to how these aspects of the city has been perceived and represented in literary prose. The set texts are by writers from different periods and of various nationalities and they are all set in and inspired by Paris. The texts are chosen for their high literary quality, but also because they represent essential aspects of the city’s evolution and exemplify various narrative strategies and ways of engaging with the realities of life in the city, always shaped by personal preoccupations and sensibilities. This varied selection within the genre of prose fiction allows study of Zola’s naturalism and his presentation of the political and aesthetic implications of baron Haussman’s plans for urban renewal and control; Edith Wharton’s perspective as an American incomer; André Breton’s combination of oneiric urban encounters with photographic illustrations of the city, inserted into the text; Jean Rhys’s clearly gendered experience of the city in the 1920s and 1930s; the identity of the city as a site for postwar liberation and literary dynamism in the work of expatriates from the Beat generation; and the representation of today’s city as a centre for immigrant communities and cultural diversity. The primary texts are thus all Paris-focussed but are chosen to open an international perspective on the literary representation of an increasingly cosmopolitan city.

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30

The module will focus on Paris as a centre of artistic experimentation. The city served as the launch pad for key artistic movements from the mid-19th century through to the period after the Second World War (Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, etc.), and as a magnet for budding and established artists from all around the world. The module will take advantage of the great museum collections that encapsulate such developments (Musées d'Arte Moderne and d’Orsay, Rodin and Picasso Museums, Beaubourg, Quai Branly, etc.) and also of the major exhibitions on show in Paris in any given year.

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This module, to be taught at the Paris School of Arts and Culture, looks at Paris' revolutionary and resistance past. We cover a two-hundred-year period, beginning with the revolution of 1789 and ending with the student protests of May 1968. We will explore Paris during the two world wars, the Commune of 1871, the 1848 revolution and advances in medicine, science, painting and literature.

The aim of this module is to examine the ways in which Parisian culture, which has long been at the centre of innovation in the fields of architecture, film, literature, art, philosophy and drama, has been transformative. The module is interdisciplinary and will include the analysis of memoirs, oral histories, memorials, instruments, paintings, literary texts, cartoons, posters, film, newspapers, radio and the internet.

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30

From the French Revolution to the European Union, the term 'Europe' has long been a placeholder for a large number of utopian, internationalist aspirations. These aspirations are necessarily culturally and politically contingent; to trace the history of cultural constructions of Europe is to hold a mirror up to its changing intellectual faces. Focusing on a series of influential texts published at significant moments in the recent history of the continent, this module investigates how the changing ‘idea of Europe’ reflects the changing priorities of cultural discourse. In particular, it considers the key role – but also contested – played by Paris in particular as a European cultural capital, central to the idea of Europe and to the development of European culture. The texts studied on this module range across disciplines and genres, and include poems and pamphlets, essays and lectures, philosophy and politics. Through studying these texts in their socio-political contexts, the idea of Europe is triangulated through reference to a number of key categories (e.g. ‘prophecy’; ‘crisis’; ‘utopia’; Europe as ‘conservative’; Europe as ‘progressive’). The overall aim of this module is to explore what it means to be – in Friedrich Nietzsche’s words – a ‘good European’, and to consider the central role played by Paris in the emergence of modern European culture.

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The Dissertation module consists of supervised research by the student. Students will develop a project around their own particular research interests.

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by coursework on the taught modules and the dissertation on the MA programme.

Careers

The interdisciplinary nature of the programme means that you can specialise while also being well-prepared for the modern University job market, where versatility and interdisciplinary is increasingly the norm.  The University’s aim of ensuring our students acquire discipline-specific and transferable skills through the curriculum is at the heart of this new MA programme. Additionally, the experience of living overseas brings a confidence and independence that many employers find desirable. Although teaching is in English, you also enhance your linguistic skills, enhancing your skill set for the competitive job market.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The Templeman Library has strong electronic and print collections in religious studies, and a wide range of related disciplines including anthropology, cultural and critical theory, history, literature, philosophy, politics and sociology. Doctoral students are offered research support funds to enable them to attend academic conferences or to meet other costs associated with their research.

Training

Postgraduate students in Religious Studies are expected to play an active role in the training and research culture of the Department as a whole. This includes the Department’s regular research seminar, the advanced theory reading group and other training workshops offered through the year involving internationally recognised researchers. Postgraduate students have the opportunity to take the Department’s week-long training course in methodological approaches to the study of religion in the spring term, which is also taken by doctoral students from around the UK. Doctoral students are supported with undertaking wider professional development activities, including teaching and writing for publication, that would prepare them for future academic work. Broader training support is also available through the University’s Graduate School.

Paris culture

In Paris, you are encouraged to make full use of the city's cultural resources and to integrate that experience into your studies. As a student of religion, you will get to experience the Catholic heritage of France, notably in the iconic architectural masterpiece of Notre Dame. The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, Musée d’Arte Moderne, Grand Palais and other world-class museums and exhibition spaces are on your doorstep.

In addition, you benefit from borrowing rights at the libraries of the University of Paris VII, which have viewing facilities and holdings of films, books and periodicals in English. You also have access to the libraries of University of Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle). Other Paris libraries with relevant holdings include the French National Library, the Centre Georges Pompidou Public Library and the American Library in Paris.

Dynamic publishing culture

All staff are involved in writing research monographs and articles, as well as a range of research networking and editing activities. Where appropriate, postgraduate students are helped to publish their own work, either as sole-authored pieces with feedback and guidance from staff, or as co-authored projects written with a staff member.

Students based in Paris collaborate with Kent students from other campuses to produce a literary magazine, Le Menteur, which was founded in 2012. Le Menteur specialises in poetry, fiction, essays and visual art. For details, please see http://thementeur.com

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A first or upper-second class honours degree (or the equivalent) in a relevant humanities or social science subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Mysticism, religious experience and religious subjectivities

Work within the Department focuses particularly on theory and method of mysticism and religious experience, the psychology of religion, William James, Indian religious thought (particularly Hinduism), and the study of religious subjectivities in late modern societies.

Religion, the sacred and contemporary society

This includes the study of the role of religious NGOs in global civil society, the cultural sociological study of the sacred (including humanitarianism and nationalism), the relationship between religion and late capitalism, and religious engagements with pluralist, secular societies.

Religion, media and culture

The Department has particular expertise in the study of religion and film, including the religious significance of film as a medium and the critical theological analysis of film texts. Other work explores different forms of the mediation of religion, the material and aesthetic dimensions of religious life, and the significance of news media for the circulation of sacred meanings.

Theory and method in the study of religion

In addition to engaging with current debates about the nature of religious experience and the broader understanding of religion and the sacred, the Department has expertise in a range of theoretical writers and debates within continental philosophy, cultural, critical and social theory, and psychological theory. Research supported within the Department utilises a range of approaches including theoretical research, textual analysis, analysis of visual and material culture, historical research and ethnography.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Ward Blanton: Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought

St Paul; the New Testament; continental and European thought.

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Professor Jeremy Carrette: Professor of Religion and Culture

Michel Foucault; William James; critical psychology and religion; globalisation, social theory and religion; politics of spirituality; capitalism and religion; theology and economics; Christian ethics; gender, sexuality and theology. 

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Dr Chris Deacy: Reader in Applied Theology

Theology, religious studies and film; theological/religious perspectives on life after death.

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Professor Richard King: Professor of Buddhist and Asian Studies

Buddhism and Asian traditions, theory and method; politics and spirituality; the comparative study of apophatic mysticism (Christian, Vedantic, Buddhist); Eastern-inspired New Age spiritualities.

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Professor Gordon Lynch: Michael Ramsey Chair of Modern Theology

The sacred within contemporary culture; religion, media and culture; lived religion; religion and the secular; conservative and progressive religious movements in the West; religion, arts and public cultural spaces.

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Professor Yvonne Sherwood: Professor of Biblical Cultures and Politics

Biblical studies (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible); religion and continental philosophy; genealogies of the religious and the secular.

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Dr Anna Strhan: Lecturer in Religious Studies

Conservative evangelicalism in contemporary society; childhood and religion; religion and the city; religion and education; subjectivity; ethnographic approaches to the study of religion.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Religion - MA at Canterbury and Paris:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £8250 £15200

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: