Areas of Study FAQ
What are the areas of study at the Divinity School?
The Divinity School curriculum is organized in three faculty committees, each of which has subdivided areas of study. PhD students concentrate thier work in one of the 11 areas of study. The faculty committee on Constructive Studies houses the areas of Religious Ethics, Philosophy of Religions, and Theology. The Historical Studies in Religion committee houses Bible, History of Christianity, and History of Judiasm areas of study. The Religion and Human Sciences committee houses the History of Religions, Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, and Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture areas of study. Our newer areas of study, Islamic Studies and Religions in America offer courses across multiple faculty committees and are not associated with any one committee.
Some of the schools to which I’m considering applying have topically arranged areas of study, but the Divinity School’s organizational scheme seems different. What can you tell me about that?
The Divinity School’s areas of study are organized methodologically rather than topically—suggesting common questions, interpretive principles, and trajectories of thought. The committees of the faculty are mutually interactive, which allows for the same subject to be studied from various vantage points.
I don’t see an area in Jewish Studies or Buddhist Studies. Does the Divinity School offer programs in these areas?
Students working in Jewish Studies tend to work through the (Hebrew) Bible and History of Judaism areas of study, depending on the nature of their research interests and questions. Students interested in Jewish Studies should view the faculty bios of Professors Michael Fishbane, James T. Robinson, Sarah Hammerschlag, Jeffrey Stackert, and Simeon Chavel.
Buddhist Studies at the University is a highly interdisciplinary field that encompasses the Divinity School, several academic departments in the graduate divisions of humanities and social sciences, and multiple language centers. Divinity students interested in Buddhist Studies work primarily through Philosophy of Religions or History of Religions areas, depending on the nature of thier research interests and questions. Students interested in Buddhist Studies should view the faculty bios of Professors Christian K. Wedemeyer, Daniel A. Arnold, Matthew Kapstein, and Brook A. Ziporyn.
I am interested in doing coursework and research in a particular religious tradition (e.g. Hinduism, Vedism, Daoism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, etc.), but I do not see an area of study for any of these. Does the Divinity School have a program for me?
Students pursuing work on these or any other tradition might do so through one or more areas of study in the Divinity School, depending upon the nature of one’s research interests and questions. Students should explore the Anthropology and Sociology of Religions, History of Religions, and Philosophy of Religions areas, and may also find relevant coursework in Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture, Religions in America, and Religious Ethics.
I’m torn between two or more areas of study for the PhD, as it seems that my research could be pursued in all of them. What would you advise?
First, spend some time reading through the faculty profiles organized by areas of study and think through which area includes faculty whose research interests most closely align with your own. Reach out to a member of the faculty to discuss your interests. Next, read through the Area Guidelines and Qualifying Exam lists for the areas in question. Sometimes students discern the appropriate area by way of the texts and questions that most centrally animate the examination process.