American Religion

David Morgan , convener

The study of American religion at Duke encompasses historical, sociological, and visual culture methods. It is set in the context of general American history from the 19th century to the present. Interests in the interdisciplinary study of lived religion, new religious movements, immigrant religions, media and religion, and materiality are supported by a range of courses at Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and Asian religions in the USFor more information on the rich resources for the study of American religion at Duke and UNC, visit our new website.

Faculty

Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology, Religion, and Divinity (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1991).  Specialization: Sociology of religion, social organization of American religion

Grant Wacker, Professor of Christian History, Duke Divinity School (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1979).  Specialization: evangelicalism, missions, Protestant thought

David Morgan, Professor of Religion (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1990). Specialization: history of religious visual and print culture

Major Field

A major field is defined more by level of competence than by course credits. It assumes that graduates will be prepared to teach advanced courses in that field at the college, seminary, or university level. Students in American religion must complete at least four seminars in the field, including one in approaches to the study of American religion.

Minor Fields

A minor field assumes that on graduation students will be prepared to teach an introductory course in that field at the college, seminary, or university level. Students in American religion must meet the requirements for inside and outside minors as specified by the minor field. An internal minor is another field in the Graduate Program in Religion. An external minor is a relevant field in a department or program other than religion. Students who wish to present American religion as a minor for another field or program must complete at least two seminars in the American area.

Course Load

Students will take three seminars per semester. Candidates entering directly from an undergraduate program ordinarily will complete six semesters of course work. Candidates entering with advanced degrees, such as M.Div. or M.A. in religion, ordinarily will complete four semesters of course work. Courses aimed to develop reading knowledge of a foreign language are not counted in the course load.

Languages

Before taking preliminary examinations, students will demonstrate by examination a reading knowledge of two modern languages relevant to their dissertation research OR demonstrate by examination a reading knowledge of one modern language relevant to their dissertation research as well as basic competence in quantitative methods.

Quantitative Methods Competence: This option is intended for students who wish to become literate readers of scholarly work that uses statistics. Students pursuing this option will demonstrate competence by passing an exam administered by the faculty. Prior to taking the exam, students normally will take a quantitative methods course approved in advance by the American Religion faculty.

Committees

Students preparing for preliminary examinations will assemble, in consultation with their main advisor, a committee composed of faculty representatives from the four areas under examination (see below). On completion of the preliminary examinations, students will assemble, in consultation with their main advisor, a dissertation committee composed of faculty members suitable to their dissertation topic. The preliminary examination and the dissertation committees consist of at least four faculty members, at least three of whom must be members of the Graduate Program in Religion. All examiners must be present in person or by phone at both the preliminary and dissertation examinations. At the dissertation proposal meeting (see below), at least three of the examiners must be present in person, and absent faculty members must approve in writing.

Preliminary Examinations

Students will prepare reading lists in consultation with their full advisory committees.

In the major and in the dissertation areas, students will begin by consulting reading lists compiled by recent doctoral students in the field. Lists are kept on file in the Graduate Program in Religion office and by the advisors. Most contain 50 to 75 titles, depending on the difficulty of the texts. They are divided among works the students have mastered and those with which they are familiar. They also are divided among primary, secondary, and tertiary texts, and among textbooks, monographs, and articles. The student's main advisor will help the student revise the lists in order to reflect new works, general knowledge of the field, and knowledge appropriate to the student's particular interests and career goals. In the inside and outside minor areas, students will compile their lists in consultation with the faculty members who will oversee those examinations.

After the advisory committees have approved the lists, candidates will take four written examinations:

 1. a four-hour test in the general history of religion in America

 2. a three-hour test in methods and materials particularly relevant to the dissertation topic

 3. a three-hour test in the inside minor

 4. a three-hour test in the outside minor

These examinations must be completed within two weeks. The written examinations will be followed by an oral examination as specified in the by-laws. The oral examination is generally taken within one week following the written examinations and will last two hours. Both the written and the oral examinations must be approved by the student's main advisor; all but one of the other members of the committee also must approve. For further information, consult the Prelimary Guidelines and Procedures of the Graduate Program in Religion.

Dissertation

By the end of the semester following the passing of the preliminary examinations, students will prepare a dissertation proposal in consultation with their main advisor. Before the proposal examination, the main advisor will confirm with the other members of the committee that the proposal is sound and examinable. Dissertation proposals ordinarily run 4,500 words and must be approved by the dissertation committee. At the time the proposal is approved, the student, the advisor, and the other committee members will agree on expectations for the writing and the reading of the dissertation.

Normally students will write the first draft in consultation with their advisors, though other members of the committee may ask or be asked to read chapters (or parts of chapters) as they are written. Students will give their advisors one month to review the penultimate draft and determine what revisions are still required. The advisor will then decide if the dissertation is ready for defense. The completed dissertation and the oral defense must be approved by the student's main advisor; all but one of the other members of the committee also must approve. The oral defense usually lasts two hours. All members of the dissertation committee, including the advisor, must be present at the defense or may participate by conference call.

The dissertation must meet the standards of the Graduate Program in Religion and the Graduate School of Duke University. Doctoral dissertations ordinarily run 90,000 words including notes and bibliography. For information about the format specified by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, see Guide for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations.