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Confronting modernity


Admission requirements

Students should preferably have knowledge on a BA level of Religious Studies or Middle Eastern Studies to take this course.


  1. From 1800 onward believers have been confronted with the question “how to deal with modernity”. While traditionalists prefer to distance themselves from modernity, progressives wish to adapt their faith to the modern world. Adaptation involves harmonizing results of modern science and culture with one’s religious convictions. This recasting of the religious message includes adapting to modern scientific theories, including Darwinism and the modern-historical approach to sacred documents, but also reinterpreting and/or reforming religious practices, rituals, liturgy as well as social and political convictions. These accomodationist believers are stamped with various labels such as ‘liberals’, ‘modernists’, ‘reformists’ and ‘progressives’.
  2. Religious modernism is a transnational and transreligious phenomenon, thus the project of “adaptating to modernity” is one shared by all global religious. In this MA-Seminar the focus will be on religious responses to modernity from a comparative perspective.
  3. The comparative analysis in this MA seminar, which will be central to the class discussions, will help identify the similarities and differences in strategies involved in coping with modernity. For their papers and presentations the students may focus on changes within one world religion dealt with in the seminar by selecting one specific topic.
  4. In a broader sense the MA-seminar will shed new light on transnational religious history.

Course objectives

The MA-seminar will confront students with basic topics concerning the relationship between religion and modernity. They will analyse the theoretical and historical complexities surrounding the notion of ‘modernity’. They will study the material from a comparative perspective with the aim of rethinking traditional views on similarities and dissimilarities between major world religions.
Career Skills Development
Critical analysis and evaluation of academic articles and the presuppositions of their authors
Professional presentations including use of powerpoint, developing communication skills to present complicated concepts relating to modernity and modernism
Developing a research question and hypothesis relating to a topic on religion, modernism and the place of religion in modern society

Timetable This will be completed by the Administration

The timetable is available on the [Name programme website](URL Roosterpagina opleiding)

Mode of instruction

  • Presentations by lecturers

  • Presentations of topics related to and elaborating upon the assigned weekly reading by students (20 minutes)

  • Class discussion: questions for class discussion based on each of the readings to be submitted by students weekly to the lecturers and presenters.

Course Load

  • Total course load: 10 x 1 EC (28h) = 282h

  • Attending the weekly seminars (A1): 12 x 3h = 36h

  • Drafting a paper outline (A2): 4h

  • Reading and formulating questions (B1): 12 x 7h = 84h

  • Preparing the oral presentation (B2): 18h

  • Doing research for / writing the final paper (C): 140h

Assessment method

The assessment will be based on the following 3 components:
A. Practical Exercises (10%)

  • A1: presence and class participation

  • A2: outline of paper
    B. Assignments Based on the Weekly Reading Material (30%)

  • B1: questions

  • B2: oral presentation
    Each week, each student has to formulate questions related to the required reading. These questions have to be put on Blackboard at least 24h in advance of each class. In addition, once during the course, each student needs to give a presentation based on the required reading for one of the classes.
    C. Final Paper (60%)
    The final paper needs to be the result of independent work. The topic of the paper needs to be chosen in consultation with the instructor.
    Please note the following:

  • Class attendance is compulsory. Students who cannot attend a class need to inform the instructor of their absence in advance. Students who are absent more than twice will be excluded from the course.

  • The final mark is established by the weighted average of the grades for components A, B and C.

  • In order to pass this course, the grades received for components A, B and C must be a minimum of a 5,5 for each component and no less than a 6,0 for the average.

  • If component B is graded with a 5,4 or lower and consequently responsible for an average final grade of a 5,9 or lower, a student has to make an extra assignment within two weeks after having received the grade.

  • If component C is graded with a 5,4 or lower and consequently responsible for an average final grade of a 5,9 or lower, a student is allowed to revise the final paper within two weeks after having received the grade.

  • Deadlines for submitting assignments need to be strictly kept. If not, this will affect the grade.

  • Feedback on paper outlines and oral presentations will be given in class and by e-mail. Feedback on the final papers will be given by e-mail.


Blackboard will be used for notifications, weekly schedule, reading assignments, uploading assignments.

Reading list

TBA – Articles and primary source material will be available via links from blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website