42571 - Introduction to Religion Studies (A-L)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Moduli: Giuseppina Paola Viscardi (Modulo 1) Davide Dainese (Modulo 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Anthropology, Religions, Oriental Civilizations (cod. 8493)

Learning outcomes

The course provides a theoretical and historical framework on religious phenomena, then moving on to an internal examination of some religions as systems - Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam; at the end of the course the student acquires skills for the interpretation of the relationships between religions and contemporary society.

Course contents

The course introduces certain features of religious “fact” or “phenomenon” under an historical-critical profile. More specifically, the course will examine the specificity of its epistemological statute and its method, its intrinsic historicity, and the unique nature of its sources and manifestations.

The teaching is organized into two modules: Module I will be taught by Prof. Giuseppina Paola Viscardi, and Module II will be led by Prof. Davide Dainese.

The following topics will be examined throughout the lessons, which shall be organized into two parts (the actual order of the topics may differ from the order below):



  • Religion/religions: a matter of definition of the object in the historical-religious research field (lessons 1-5)
  • Questions of method: heuristic paths and hermeneutic perspectives method (lessons 6-10)

  • An historiographic problem: “classifying religions?” (lessons 11-15)



  • Religious illiteracy
  • Max Weber

MODULE 1: Lesson period Sep 20, 2023 - Oct 27, 2023

MODULE II: Lesson period Nov 08, 2023 - Dec 15, 2023


Attending students shall study:


  • G. Filoramo, M. C. Giorda, N. Spineto, Manuale di scienze della religione, Brescia 2019.
  • P. Antes, A. W. Geertz, M. Rothstein (eds.), Contemporary Views on Comparative Religion, Sheffield and Bristol 2016: an essay chosen by the student from those selected on the pages 33-46; 47-58; 87-99; 127-140; 141-152.


  • A. Melloni, Rapporto sull’analfabetismo religioso in Italia, Bologna 2013.
  • M. Weber, Sociologia delle religioni, vol. 1 L’etica protestante e lo spirito del capitalismo [any edition].


Non-attending students will also read: 

  • U. Bianchi, Problemi di storia delle religioni, Rome 1993.
  • J. Z. Smith, Religion, Religions, Religious, in Mark C. Taylor (ed.), Critical Terms for Religious Studies, Chicago & London 1998, Chapter Fifteen, pp. 269-284
  • É. Durkheim, Le forme elementari della vita religiosa, Rome 2005 / Brescia 2019 [or any other edition].

Teaching methods

Lessons are held exclusively in presence and are not registered.

Online/in-person lectures, analysis of texts, critical reading of journalistic sources (written and audiovisual). Reflections on case studies that allow students to develop their scientific considerations independently, applying the tools they have learned over time. More specifically in this context, the course aims to achieve five overarching goals: to render students able to:

  • identify and analyze the characterizing forms of religious phenomena;

  • acquire skills for interpreting the relationships between religions and society;

  • read, analyze, summarize, understand and explain explicit and implicit information from texts on historical-religious theories;

  • develop an initial historical-critical interpretation of textual and iconographic/audiovisual sources inherent to religious phenomena;

  • master the fundamental scientific vocabulary of religious phenomena.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

Course attendance facilitates understanding of content but does not affect the student’s assessment. The exam includes a written part held in the IT lab or remotely (based on the global health situation). The exam consists of a series of open-ended questions on the texts in the syllabus and their themes.

The written text comprises three questions: question 1 is worth 11 points, question 2 and question 3 are worth 10 points.

To register for the exams, use the Almaesami website.


Assessment criteria:

  1. In-depth, detailed knowledge of the context of the texts.

  2. Critical and argumentative ability

  3. Language skills


Assessment scale:

  • Excellent (with the possible attribution of honors in the case of original exposition): achievement of an organic vision of the issues presented during the lessons and their critical use that demonstrates a mastery of the content and technical vocabulary.
  • Good: mnemonic knowledge and partially accurate use of technical vocabulary.
  • Sufficient: minimal understanding of issues (dates and names) without serious errors.
  • Insufficient: lack of minimum requirements (i.e., of sufficient assessment)

An insufficient mark may be recorded as “rejected”: a negative assessment does not involve the attribution of a numeric mark, but only an assessment reported in the record, not inserted in the curriculum, and therefore not influencing the average of the final mark.

Teaching tools

Multimedia (audiovisual) tools will be used.

Almost all lessons will be accompanied by PowerPoint slides.

Teaching materials will be uploaded on the DOL platform by instructors.

Office hours

See the website of Giuseppina Paola Viscardi

See the website of Davide Dainese


Quality education Reduced inequalities Peace, justice and strong institutions Partnerships for the goals

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.