Religious Studies and English Literature (MA)

This joint honours programme combines the vibrant study of religions with the excitement of English Literature.

Programme Director Professor Hannah Holtschneider discusses the undergraduate Religious Studies (MA), Religious Studies and English Literature (MA), and Religious Studies and Scottish Literautre (MA) programmes here at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.

Studying religion and literature prepares you to contribute to a society in which an understanding of texts of all kinds is crucially important. Students develop an understanding of the main phenomena of religion, such as belief systems, rituals, mythology, iconography and ethics, through a variety of methodologies as well as an understanding of the main genres and interpretive practices of English Literature. At the School of Divinity, the study of Religious Studies proceeds from a non-confessional perspective, based on the principle that religions influence most human endeavours for good or ill.

This programme is delivered together with the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

Why study this programme

  • Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary field that studies a wide range of religious tradition, religious beliefs and practices and their relationships with the broader world.
  • You will study the concepts and emotions which underpin religious belief and practice, and their function in culture and society, covering historical and contemporary material.

  • English Literature introduces you to major texts and gives you the tools and critical skills to read works of literature written in English from around the world, understand and interpret them.

  • You will gain the essential skills needed for the critical close reading of poetry, drama and prose, encounter different ideas about the nature and purpose of literary study using a range of methods to examine where religious ideas illuminate literature and where religion is mediated in texts.

  • You will discover the links between religious questions and the production of literature. You can enhance your knowledge of specific religious traditions by taking language courses.
  • You will not only acquire a profound knowledge of your subject but also gain a good understanding of research methodologies and develop a range of skills to prepare you for various employment opportunities and continued life-long learning.

Degree programme information and specifications

Degree structure and courses

  • Students take 480 credits over four years (120 each year).
  • In years one and two, students take 240 credits from pre-honours courses.
  • In years three and four, students take 240 credits from honours courses, including a 40-credit dissertation in the fourth year.

Throughout your time on this programme, half of your time will be dedicated to the study of Religious Studies and the other half to English Literature.

In your first two years of study (pre-honours level), you will be introduced to a range of religious traditions and methods. You can choose to start specialising in Asian traditions, Buddhist and Hindu traditions, Christianity, indigenous religions, Islam, Judaism, New Age, spirituality and new religions from the start. You will also acquire a good grounding in English literary traditions.

In years three and four (honours level), you will be expected to choose from a wide range of course choices across your two subjects. At this level, learning activities include field visits and guided research projects. You will benefit from small seminar groups that allow for student-centred learning.

Degree programme table

Aims and outcomes

The Religious Studies and English Literature MA programme has six main goals:

  • To develop knowledge and understanding of the histories, practices and cultural expressions of religious traditions and literary traditions.
  • To develop skills in collecting, analysing and interpreting a wide range of sources, including field studies, written texts, oral traditions and testimonies of adherents.
  • To develop the ability to evaluate and critique work from a range of methods appropriate to Religious Studies and English Literature and also from adjacent disciplines such as Anthropology, Sociology, and Philosophy.
  • To develop the ability to formulate research questions and develop arguments which represent different attitudes and positions fairly.
  • To develop the ability to engage with views different from their own and to express ideas and arguments clearly, both orally, in writing and using electronic media.
  • To develop the ability to prepare written texts for a range of audiences – peer, semi-formal, academic, and popular; skills in working with others with various backgrounds and knowledge.

Related Links