North American Religions

The history of religions in America examines both historical and contemporary patterns of religious life in America, approached by historical, sociological and ethnographic methods.

Graduate students in the history of religions of North America are expected to take 4-6 graduate courses in the field of American history of religion prior to the field examinations, in addition to course work required by the department. Those courses would include historiography of American Religion, Sociology of Religion and additional graduate courses related to the student's area of interest offered both by the department and by other departments, notably History and English, as well as Union Theological Seminary.

The First Field Examination

The first field examination should be broad in scope, testing general knowledge of the field and control over the historiography. It may take one of several forms:

  1. a four-hour closed-book examination
  2. a twenty-four-hour take-home exam
  3. a bibliographical essay

The candidate should consult with members of the field regarding both the form and the content of the exam. The candidate may, for example, design a course syllabus together with an extensive bibliography and then submit to an examination based upon those materials. In all cases, the first part of the exam will be followed within a week of submission with a one-hour oral exam.  The examination committee may decide on one of three courses of action: (a) pass a student, (b) terminate a student from the program, or (c) allow the student to retake the exams.

The Second Field Examination

The second examination is intended to prepare the candidate to undertake dissertation research; it should be regarded as a kind of feasibility study. In consultation with members of the field, the candidate will define a topic, frame both central and tertiary questions that will guide the research and outline a methodological approach.

The examination itself will consist of a research paper, and may include the following: preliminary formulation of a topic and pertinent research questions, specification of methodological approach, identification of sources and review of background literature, and an annotated bibliography. An oral follow up exam (1 hour) with the faculty committee and the candidate will be scheduled within two weeks of submission of the paper.