13753 - History of Religions (1)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to understand religious phenomena by a comparative historical method, and identify their features and types, focusing on areas and events where religion and culture interacted. They will be able to describe and illustrate specific instances of interrelation among various religions, and understand multicultural contexts. They will also know how to listen, understand and debate respectfully with different cultures and viewpoints, spotting the tie-ups among different disciplines.

Course contents

Studying magic-religious phenomena: fundamental theories

In this course, students will acquire the fundamental notions to interpret the complexity of religious systems, recognize their mutual relations and focus on their structural patterns. They will possess knowledge that is suitable to favor inter-religious understanding and communication.

This course will address a number of classic topics in religion anthropology and focus on some of the conceptual issues in the study of the sacred and of magic and religion practices, including lay ones.

During the course the following subjects will be addressed:

  • Rites, myths and sacrificial apparatus
  • Beliefs and practices
  • Terminology of the history of religions (holy, religion, etc.)
  • Classification of religions
  • Religious Studies: origin, authors and main theories
  • Religion as a product of man and historical document
  • Components and structure of the religious system
  • Corporality in religious systems
  • Religious scriptures and text construction
  • Religious identity and plurality

Attending students 12 cfu shall carry out a (optional) small fieldwork-based study on a micro religious fact/event to decide during class on a topic agreed with the students in relation to those covered in the first part of the course. Students are required to write two short reports: one of historical-ethnographic analysis and one methodological-interpretative (5-6 pages each).

  1. Writing an historical-ethnographic description of the event/fact (essay 1)
  2. Presenting the issues encountered and discussing them in class;
  3. Writing a text in which the methodological questions incurred are problematized (in a bullet list format) (essay 2)

At the end of the course the student shall be able to:

  • determine and analyze the distinguishing features of religious facts;
  • acquire competences to interpret the relations between religions and society;
  • develop collaboratively a functional analysis model applied to historical-anthropological research;
  • read, analyze, summarize, understand, and explain explicit and implicit information in texts about historical-religious theories;
  • provide some basic means to develop the necessary skills in collecting, processing, analyzing, and interpreting genuine empirical data concerning the magical-religious field.

Some of the issues discussed in the course will also be reconsidered by watching some documentaries, short videos and movies:

On fait les reliques, Francesca Sbardella (2002); Brian di Nazareth, Terry Jones (1979).

Readings/Bibliography

Programme for attending and for non-attending students 6 cfu

  1. Jensen Sinding Jeppe, Che cos’è la religione?, Bulzoni, 2018
  2. Geertz C., «La religione come sistema culturale», in Id., Interpretazione di culture (ebook www.bonomoeditore.com)
  3. Classics. One of the following texts:

    Boyer Pascal, 2010 [2001], E l’uomo inventò gli dèi, Bologna, Odoya

    Dumézil Georges, 1977 [1966], La religione romana arcaica, Milano, Rizzoli

    Eliade Mircea, 1984 [1957], Il sacro e il profano, Torino, Boringhieri

    Evans-Pritchard Edward E., 1965 [1956], La religione dei Nuer, Firenze, Sansoni

    Evans-Pritchard Edward E., 1971 [1966], Teorie sulla religione primitive, Firenze, Sansoni

    Frazer J. G., 1992 [1922], Il ramo d'oro, Roma, Newton & Compton

    Freud S., 2009 [1929-1930], Il disagio della civiltà, Prato, Piano B. Il testo si trova anche in Freud S., Il disagio della civiltà e altri saggi, Torino, Boringhieri

    Hubert H. - Mauss M., 2002 [1899], Saggio sulla funzione e la natura del sacrificio, Brescia, Morcelliana

    Jung, Carl Gustav, 1984 [1938-40], Psicologia e religione, Torino, Boringhieri

    Leeuw G. Van der, 2017 [1933], Fenomenologia della religione, Torino, Boringhieri

    Levi-Bruhl, Lucien, 1982 [1922], La mentalità primitiva, Torino, Einaudi

    Lewis Joan M., 1972, Le religioni estatiche. Studio antropologico sulla possessione spiritica e sullo sciamanismo, Roma, Ubaldini

    Malinowski Bronislaw 1676 [1948], Magia, scienza e religione, e Baloma: gli spiriti dei morti nelle isole Trobriand, Roma, Newton Compton

    Marx Karl, Engels Friedrich 1958 [1845-46], L’ideologia tedesca, Roma, Editori Riuniti

    Mauss M., 2000 [1950], Teoria generale della magia e altri saggi, Einaudi, Torino

    Otto R., 1976 [1917], Il sacro: l’irrazionale nella idea del divino e la sua relazione al razionale, Milano, Feltrinelli

    Schmitt Carl, 2014 [1922-1953], Le categorie del 'politico'. Saggi di teoria politica

    Tambiah Stanley J., 1993 [1990], Magia, scienza, religione, Napoli, Guida

    Tillich Paul, 1967 [1957], Dinamica della fede, Roma, Ubaldini.

    Turner Victor W., 1972 [1969], Il processo rituale, Brescia, Morcelliana

    Tylor Edward B., 2000 [1871], Alle origini della cultura, vol. IV Animismo. L’anima e le anime. Dottrine e funzioni, Pisa-Roma, Istituti Editoriali Poligrafici Internazionali

    Van Gennep Arnold 2012 [1909], I riti di passaggio, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri

The syllabus for non-attending students is not subject to any integration. Non-attending students will need to make a greater effort in preparing the exam individually.

Programme for attending and for non-attending students 12 cfu

    1. Jensen Sinding Jeppe, 2018, Che cos’è la religione?, Bulzoni, Roma

    2. Filoramo G., Giorda M.C., Spineto N., 2019, Manuale di scienze della religione, Brescia, Morcelliana

    3. Thematic works. One of the following texts:

Sbardella F., Abitare il silenzio. Un’antropologa in clausura, Viella, Roma 2017.

Sbardella F, Antropologia delle reliquie. Un caso storico, Morcelliana 2007.

         4. Classics. One of the following texts:

Boyer Pascal, 2010 [2001], E l’uomo inventò gli dèi, Bologna, Odoya

Dumézil Georges, 1977 [1966], La religione romana arcaica, Milano, Rizzoli

Eliade Mircea, 1984 [1957], Il sacro e il profano, Torino, Boringhieri

Evans-Pritchard Edward E., 1965 [1956], La religione dei Nuer, Firenze, Sansoni

Evans-Pritchard Edward E., 1971 [1966], Teorie sulla religione primitive, Firenze, Sansoni

Frazer J. G., 1992 [1922], Il ramo d'oro, Roma, Newton & Compton

Freud S., 2009 [1929-1930], Il disagio della civiltà, Prato, Piano B. Il testo si trova anche in Freud S., Il disagio della civiltà e altri saggi, Torino, Boringhieri

Hubert H. - Mauss M., 2002 [1899], Saggio sulla funzione e la natura del sacrificio, Brescia, Morcelliana

Jung, Carl Gustav, 1984 [1938-40], Psicologia e religione, Torino, Boringhieri

Leeuw G. Van der, 2017 [1933], Fenomenologia della religione, Torino, Boringhieri

Levi-Bruhl, Lucien, 1982 [1922], La mentalità primitiva, Torino, Einaudi

Lewis Joan M., 1972, Le religioni estatiche. Studio antropologico sulla possessione spiritica e sullo sciamanismo, Roma, Ubaldini

Malinowski Bronislaw 1676 [1948], Magia, scienza e religione, e Baloma: gli spiriti dei morti nelle isole Trobriand, Roma, Newton Compton

Marx Karl, Engels Friedrich 1958 [1845-46], L’ideologia tedesca, Roma, Editori Riuniti

Mauss M., 2000 [1950], Teoria generale della magia e altri saggi, Einaudi, Torino

Otto R., 1976 [1917], Il sacro: l’irrazionale nella idea del divino e la sua relazione al razionale, Milano, Feltrinelli

Schmitt Carl, 2014 [1922-1953], Le categorie del 'politico'. Saggi di teoria politica

Tambiah Stanley J., 1993 [1990], Magia, scienza, religione, Napoli, Guida

Tillich Paul, 1967 [1957], Dinamica della fede, Roma, Ubaldini.

Turner Victor W., 1972 [1969], Il processo rituale, Brescia, Morcelliana

Tylor Edward B., 2000 [1871], Alle origini della cultura, vol. IV Animismo. L’anima e le anime. Dottrine e funzioni, Pisa-Roma, Istituti Editoriali Poligrafici Internazionali

Van Gennep Arnold 2012 [1909], I riti di passaggio, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri

The syllabus for non-attending students is not subject to any integration. Non-attending students will need to make a greater effort in preparing the exam individually.

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures will alternate with seminars for in-depth discussion in which students are invited to actively take part with personal investigations, presentations and reports concerning the proposed issues.

Part of the programme will be completed by using e-learning tools: this activity will be based on collaborative writing applied to ethnographic research through the use of collaborative digital tools.

Assessment methods

The final examination is an interview. The students will be asked some questions concerning the texts included in the syllabus and the subjects presented in them.

For attending students, the assessment of the final interview is complemented with specific questions on the subjects discussed in class and with the research report on the fieldwork assignment.

Exam registration should be completed via the Almaesami website.

Assessment criteria:

  • In-depth and detailed knowledge of the syllabus text contents
  • Teamwork and problem solving skills
  • Quantity and quality of each student’s participation in e-learning activities
  • Active participation in class discussion: ability to present, contrast, and defend one’s ideas with data that are relevant to the proposed subjects
  • Argument and critical skills
  • Language appropriateness
  • The evaluation of the written report will consider the typical conventions of academic writing (orthography, layout, and presentation), and also the ability to ponder, analyze, and draw conclusions.

Teaching tools

Multimedia tools will be used, e.g. audio recordings and videos. For some fieldwork activities the students will work in a team and use collaborative digital resources, such as e-learning tools.

Slides and Power Point presentations will also be used in some classes.

Office hours

See the website of Francesca Sbardella