Theology and Religion postgraduate modules

Indicative module descriptions 

Approaches to the Study of Islam

Module convenor: Dr Yafa Shanneik

‘Islamic Studies (IS),’ in the extended sense of the term and with all its various branches and disciplines, is a complex and contested field. This module introduces students to the diverse ways in which Islam and Muslim societies have been approached as a scholarly subject. Through the study and discussion of key texts and approaches students will engage with significant traditional and modern scholarship, will be able to navigate critically through the relevant academic literature, and will be able to argue coherently for their own particular points of view. Approaches to understanding Islam that students encounter may include: Quranic and Tafsir traditions; legal approaches; historical methods; orientalism; feminist approaches; and socio-cultural and political science methods.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay


Module convenor: Professor Nicholas Adams

A survey of classic atheist texts from Voltaire to Nietzsche, in dialogue with Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
Indicative texts include: Voltaire, Candide; Hume, ‘On Miracles’; Lessing, ‘On the Proofs of the Spirit and of Power’; Hegel, ‘Enlightenment Struggle Against Superstition’; Strauss, Life of Jesus; Feuerbach, Essence of Christianity; Marx, ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’; Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality.

Assessment: Two 2,500 word assessments (Critical review, Commentary, or Essay)

Auschwitz in History and Memory

Module convenor: Dr Isabel Wollaston

This interdisciplinary module explores Auschwitz in history and memory.

The history of KL Auschwitz: topics covered may include the evolution and multi-functionality of the site; the experience of non-Jews (Poles, Sinti and Roma, Soviet POWs and British POWs); gendered experiences; the nature of survival; the nature and extent of resistance; the Sonderkommando; perpetrators and perpetrator texts.

Auschwitz in memory: we focus on the cultural and symbolic ‘afterlife’ of the site and ongoing debates over what ‘Auschwitz’ means today both as a physical location/memorial and as a symbol, and controversies between different communities of memory over who ‘owns’ Auschwitz (i.e., whose experience and sensitivities should take precedence there). Topics covered may include visual representations of Auschwitz (art, photographs, film); memorialisation of the site; the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim with particular reference to its evolution over time, and to permanent and national exhibitions there; Auschwitz as a site of pilgrimage and (contested) sacred space, and/or as a site of mass/dark tourism, and as a site of pilgrimage.

Assessment: 1,000-word critical reflection and 3,000-word essay

Conceptualising God in Christian Theologies

Module convenor: Professor Wolfgang Vondey 

This module provides students with an opportunity to explore in depth the notion of “God” in Christian thought through biblical, historical, and theological documents. Students will engage with various ways that texts, events, and communities have argued for specific ways to understand “God”. The module explores how different ideas of “God” have developed over time and in relation to different contexts. For example, particular themes explored are the ideas of divine nature and personhood, and the understanding of trinitarian theology in its use of the titles ‘Father,’ ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit.’

Assessment: 500 word Definition Question AND 4,000 word Critical Review/Commentary

Continental Philosophy of Religion: Selected Themes and Issues

Module convenor: Professor David Cheetham

Continental philosophy is identified not by geographical region but by a style of thinking and writing. Complementing ‘analytic’ approaches, continental approaches to philosophy of religion draw upon literary devices; cultural, feminist or political theory; historical analysis; play and imagination; experimental forms of language; psychoanalysis; deconstruction and many others. This module will consider examples of ‘continental’ thinking through primary texts as they relate to traditional topics in the philosophy of religion such as faith and knowledge, thinking and being, subject and object, individual and community, religious language, revelation and religious experience, the nature of God, evil and suffering, life and death. 

Students will engage with selected themes, issues and texts which may be drawn from such examples as Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bonhoeffer, Arendt, Levinas, Derrida, Deleuze, Marion, Agamben, Žižek etc. 

Assessment: 1500 word critical response (30%) and 3500 word essay (70%)

Critical Thinkers of Modernity, Science, Society and Religion

Module convenor: Dr Ali-Reza Bhojani

Religions, and the study of them, do not exist in a vacuum. Ideas and practices of religion have been deeply influenced by broader understandings of society, science, identity, and power. This module develops students critical understanding of the core texts and complex concepts of a selection of key modern critical thinkers. The module will examine how each thinker/text impacts on, and can be applied to, theology and the study of religion. By focusing on only a few core texts the module will also build students’ key analytical and critical thinking skills.

An indicative list of thinkers includes Agamben, Baudrillard, Butler, Foucault, Habermas, Haraway, bell hooks, Levi-Strauss. Three of these or similar will be studied in any given iteration of the module

Assessment: 2,500 word Essay (50%) AND 2,500 word Critical Response (50%)

Dissertation Preparation and Guided Reading

Module convenor: Dr Isabel Wollaston

The MA programme culminates in the writing of a 15,000 word dissertation or a Placement-based dissertation, a substantial piece of supervised, but essentially independent, research on a topic of your choosing, albeit one approved by the Programme Director and/or LM Dissertation Tutor. Following the relevant research methods module for your programme, where you will have identified your dissertation project, this module is designed to aid your planning and research for this dissertation, by further developing the relevant skills and knowledge in a structured way in the form of a literature review and study skills sessions.

Assessment: 4,500 word literature review

Gender, Sexualities and Religion

Module convenor: Dr Amy Daughton

This module explores the complicated and often heated relationship between LGBTQ movements, feminist movements and religion/spirituality. It investigates how patriarchal and heteronormative constructions of gender and sexuality are challenged, both by those who attempt to reform religious traditions from within and those who break away to invent new forms of spirituality.

Assessment: 4,500 word essay

Historical and Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust

Module convenor: Dr Isabel Wollaston

The module introduces students to a range of historical and contemporary debates on the Holocaust. The focus is methodological, focusing on how this historical period is conceptualized, interpreted and studied, both as events were unfolding and subsequently.

Examples of the debates and controversies studied will vary from year to year, but could include the emergence of different national approaches to the history and commemoration of the Holocaust; approaches to survivor testimony; the nature of resistance during the Holocaust; the grey zone’ and the possibility of moral choice; the adequacy and possible overlap between categories such as ‘victim’, ‘bystander’ and ‘perpetrator’; gendered approaches; representing the Holocaust on film.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Holocaust and Genocide: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Module convenor: Dr Isabel Wollaston

This module explores the complexities and challenges of defining and studying the ‘Holocaust’ and ‘genocide’, both on their own terms and comparatively. Attention will be paid to ongoing disputes over what constitutes appropriate terminology in this subject area. This discussion will be contextualised within the emerging and developing fields of Holocaust studies and genocide studies and the complex and contested historiography of ‘Holocaust’, ‘genocide’ and their interrelationship.

Topics covered may include: ‘the politics of uniqueness’; interpretations of the Holocaust as ‘a mosaic of victims’; the relationship between Holocaust/genocide and war; the complexities of categories such as ‘victims, perpetrators and bystanders’; the significance of gender (e.g., ‘gendercide’); genocide and ‘prevention’; prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity; different manifestations of denial; and the growing phenomena of memorial museums and the controversies surrounding ‘exhibiting’ atrocity.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Interfaith Relations and Issues

Module convenor: Professor David Cheetham

Many of us no longer live in culturally and religiously homogenous societies, but rather in pluralistic societies. Here, different religions live side by side, sometimes in mutual understanding, but sometimes also in conflict. This has made the study of interreligious relations an important field for scholars of religion and theologians alike, including giving rise to questions of comparative theology.

The module treats central concepts, theories and positions in the study of interreligious relations, such as for example dialogue, ecumenics, religious freedom, conversion, exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism and the theology of religion. Present-day problems and challenges are in focus, and questions are highlighted from the perspective of different religions, as well as in the light of research in both religious studies and theology.

Assessment: 1,250-word critical reflection on a key institutional statement/document on the topic AND 3,250-word essay

Islamic Economics – Faith, Morality and Economics

Module convenor: Professor Mohamed Iqbal Asaria

The module explores faith and ethical perspectives on economic organisation and behaviour. It explores faith perspectives on economics and finance. Utilising this context it then explores in detail the Islamic perspectives on these issues. The module defines an Islamic economy, identifies its major players and explains how they behave and interact. It also attempts to explain and analyse contemporary Islamic economic behaviour at individual, organisational and the market level.

The educational aims are to introduce one to the notion of Islamic economy and different sectors within it, with special focus on financial institutions and markets, and interaction between them; provide one with a basic understanding of the Islamic doctrine in relation to the matters related with economic behaviour and organisation, and the opportunity to analyse Islamic economic behaviour (in relation to individuals, organisations and markets) in contemporary Muslim societies.

Assessment: 4500 word essay 

Mediaeval Arabic Thought (Provided by Al-Mahdi Institute)

Module convenor: Dr Wahid Amin

Focussing on the philosophical and theological ideas of mediaeval Arabic thinkers, this module provides students with an opportunity to study a range of thinkers and their ideas, ranging from topics such as the Graeco-Arabic translation movement during the so-called Islamic ‘Golden Age’, to the impact of Neoplatonism on Islamic philosophy, the proofs of God’s existence, political philosophy, theological reactions to Hellenistic philosophy, ethics and philosophical Sufism. It aims to give students the ability to navigate original texts in their historical context, the ability to unpack and assess philosophical arguments, to appreciate the ecumenical nature of shared philosophical and theological concerns among Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the ability to assess the compatibility or lack thereof of faith and reason during the Islamic middle ages. Throughout this course students will be tested on their ability to engage primary philosophical literature. Furthermore, they will be expected to summarise the key ideas and themes mentioned in each week’s reading through group discussion and question-led activities.  

Assessment: 4000 word essay

Religion in Contemporary Global Politics

Module convenor: Professor Jocelyne Cesari

This module focuses on theoretical and conceptual debates about the role of religion in contemporary global politics. Traditionally, the study of political science and international relations has framed the understanding of religion within the context of secularisation and the nation-state. This interpretation is being increasingly contested by the impact of globalisation and the rise of anti-secular movements.

The module critically examines the secularisation thesis as applied to the ‘West’ (developed countries) and the ‘East’ (underdeveloped countries) and evaluate the impact of globalisation on collective religious identities.

Following an introduction to the theoretical perspectives, the module will focus on three particular themes: religious nationalism; religious identities and mobilisation; and religious transnationalism. The module concludes by reflecting on the wider implications for the study of politics and international relations of organised religious movements today.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Special Study

Module convenors: Dr Carissa Sharp

This is intended as an opportunity for postgraduate students to engage in a specific, limited research project within an area of research agreed with the tutor. Projects may be determined by the tutor (led by their research interests) or proposed independently by students, subject to approval by the module tutor and the availability of resources.

Assessment: 4,500 word Essay (100%) OR 3,000 word Essay (70%) AND 1,500 word Research Project Reflection (30%)

Thematic Study of Shi’ism: History, Doctrines and Religious Authority (Provided by Al-Mahdi Institute)

The module on Thematic study of Shi’ism will provide students with an opportunity to review an extensive list of Western scholarship (in English) on key themes that have formed and continue to form the unique identity of Shi’ism within Islam. Such key themes could include:

  1. Beginnings of Shi’ism - Exploring the different interpretations between Shia and Sunni regarding the succession of the Prophet; examining schisms (such as Zaydi, Ismaili, Alawi, Twelver) within Shi’ism and when and how they came about.
  2. Theological doctrines of Shi’ism – Exploring the historical context in which theological doctrines of Shi’ism were developed; exoteric and/or esoteric nature of Shiism; the conception of Imamology, including an examination of key concepts such as wilaya, ʿilm al-ghayb and ʿiṣma; if and how theological doctrines vary between the different schisms of Shiism.
  3. Legal doctrines of Twelver Shi’ism – Exploring the historical context in which the Shiite legal discourse begun; examining the main theological, ontological and epistemological assumptions upheld in the Shiite legal discourse; examining the Uṣūlī (rationalist) and Akhbārī (traditionalist) interpretation of Shi’ite law.
  4. Authority structures within Shi’ism – Exploring the Shi’ite conception of ghayba (occultation) and the authority of the Imam within different schisms of Shi’ism; the continued authority of jurists in Twelver Shi’ism after occultation and the study of theological and jurisprudential proofs regarding the concept of Wilayat al-faqīh (guardianship of a Muslim jurist) and marjaʿ al-taqlīd.
  5. Contemporary issues of the Twelver Shi’i world – Exploring the Twelver Shi’ite conceptions of, taqiyya (dissimulation), mutaʿ (temporary marriage), and the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of the third Shi’ite Imam, Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī.

Assessment: 4,000 word essay

Theology and Economics

Module convenor: Dr Daniela C Augustine

This module offers a theological engagement with the complex realities of economics and globalization, examining various theologies of economics relevant to the contextual issues and concerns of economic life within the global village. The module surveys significant themes, texts and contributors within the disciplines of theology and economics, highlighting the intersections between them and exploring the ways in which Christian spirituality has influenced economic theory and practice. The module will reflect through a theological lens on a broad range of questions, such as: What motivates people to work? Should governments intervene in regulating the market – and if yes, when and to what extent? What factors should influence our consumer patterns? How does religious commitment effect economic productivity? What are the roles of faith based organisations (FBOs) in the economy and economic development?

Assessment: 4,500 word essay

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year, and depending on your programme of study. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.