(Syllabus) “SAVAGES,” “MYSTICS,” & “MODERNS” (Theories & Methods in Study of Religion) (Classics)




REL 601

Fall 2017



This introduction to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century classical theorists of religion keys the discussion of religion in such a way as to accomplish two things. [1] To consider what we can learn about “religion itself,” theorized as a human phenomenon combining and mixing up social, political, psychological, and spiritual elements. [2] A critical look at the theorists themselves, most notably what particular constructions of “primitive origins” and “religious experience” tell us about the modern (i.e. western) (mostly Christian, post-Christian) social imaginaire in its social, political, psychic, aesthetic, and affective dimensions. The study of religion thus stands out as an object in its own right in relation to religion, now viewed as a theoretical object putatively put on view to orient the critic’s understanding of his or her own putative modernity.



Course Requirements

Class participation

Weekly Critiques (1 page) (required, but not for credit)

Mid-term paper (5 pages)

Final paper (12-15 pages)



Marx, Marx-Engels Reader (second edition)

Durkheim, Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Fields translation)

Weber, Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, (Kalberg translation)

James, Varieties of Religious Experience (Penguin edition)

Freud, Totem and Taboo (Strachey translation)

Freud, Future of An Illusion (Strachey translation)

Masuzawa, In Search of Dreamtime: The Question for the Origin of Religion

Achebe, Things Fall Apart





8/30   Class introduction

9/6     Origins, Others, Culture, Religion

Masuzawa, In Search of Dreamtime, Introduction and chapter 1

Trinh Minh-Ha “The Language of Nativism” in Woman, Native, Other,

Charles Long, Significations, Part II:  “Religion and Cultural Contact”

Masuzawa, “Culture” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies

Smith “Religion, Religions, Religious” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies


9/13  Marx,

from the Marx-Engels Reader, “On the Jewish Question,” “Communist Manifesto,” “German

Ideology,” Capital, Volume One, pp.319-29 on the commodity fetish

Pietz, “The Problem of the Fetish II” and “The Problem of the Fetish IIIa”

          Geller, “From Rags to Risches: On Marx’s Other Jewish Question,” 197-212




9/27   Max Muller

Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, “The Perception of the Infinite,”

“The Worship of Tangible, Semit-Tangible, and  Intangible Objects,” The Ideas of Initity and Law,” and “Retrospect”

Masuzawa, In Search of Dreamtime, chp. 3

Susanne Manchard, selections from German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion,

Race, and Scholarship


10/4   Durkheim.

Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Introduction, Bk I, Bk II chps 1, 3, 6, 7, 8

Masuzawa, chp. 2


10/11 Durkheim

Elementary Forms of Religious Life,  Bk. III and conclusion

“Individuualism and the Intellectuals”


10/18 Weber

Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, chps 1-4


10/25 Weber

Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, chp 5

“Science as a Vocation,” “Politics as a Vocation,” “The Sociology of Charismatic Authority”


11/1   James

Varieties of Religious Experience, preface and lectures 1-10


11/8   James

Varieties of Religious Experience, lectures 11-20 and postscript


11/14 Freud,

Totem and Taboo


11/29 Freud

Future of An Illusion

Masuzawa, In Search of Dreamtime, chp4


12/6   Achebe

Things Fall Apart







About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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