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MA Religious Studies: Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway (MA)

Course Aims

The MA in Religious Studies: Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway gives students opportunities to study a wide range of myths in textual, visual, cinematic, and oral forms. The degree also develops analytical skills in numerous disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, history and literary studies.

Course Description

The course is delivered via a range of core and subject-specific optional modules, with an emphasis placed on flexibility and student choice.

Students taking the MA in Religious Studies: Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway will complete modules comprising a total of 180 credits, including:

  • 40 credits worth of core study skills: a 20-credit module that offers generic postgraduate research and study skills training in the Humanities, and a further 20-credit module that offers subject-specific training in the field of Myth, Narrative and Theory.  
  • 80 credits from a range of 20-credit thematic module options. 
  • 60 credit dissertation module, on a topic agreed between the student and tutor/s.

Students have opportunities to choose from a range of topics within each module, for further focus and study.  They may, for example, wish to focus on ‘myths of masculinity’, ‘performance, mythology, and the politics of the family’, ‘myth in Greece and Rome’, ‘myth, sexuality and gender’, ‘Myth and mysticism’, ‘Gnostic myth’ or ‘African myths in Africa and diaspora traditions’ .

Core Modules

HST900: Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study

RTT503: Approaches to Myth Narrative and Theory

Myth is one of the most prolific products of social, religious and cultural activity.  It can be transmitted orally, in art, through performance, in contemporary cinema, and in a wide range of literary genres including epic literature and tragedy.  Myth is often closely associated with other aspects of the transmission and transformation of social identities, for example in dreams, visions, initiation rites and morality tales.  For this reason myth has held an enduring fascination for scholars from a wide range of different perspectives and has been both studied in its own right and utilized in the creation of scholarly disciplines such as psychology (arguably a mythical system itself).  In this module students will have the opportunity to explore a variety of important contributions to social, psychological and critical theory through their engagement with anthropological, literary, artistic and cinematic mythological materials.  They will be encouraged to explore ways in which myths provide frameworks  for considering many of the most important and troubling questions that human beings in society face, including the nature and exercise of power, the implications of gender and sexuality, the uses and limits of violence, and conflicts between different aspects of personhood, such as the intellect and emotions.

Option Modules

RTT512: Myth, Religion, and Culture

This module will give students the opportunity to consider ways in which mythology and debates about it have influenced culture in a number of social and historical contexts.  Mythology has been transmitted and utilized in a wide range of mediums and cultural products, including oral traditions, art, poetry, performance, and texts such as tragedy and epic literature.  While on the one hand myth is associated with collective tradition, on the other mythic motifs can form the basis of new religious movements and cultural innovations such as, for example, African diaspora religions, goddess spirituality or surrealist literature and art. Moreover, myth has not simply been analysed by scholars, it has also been utilized in the formation of psychological and sociological theories that have in turn contributed to contemporary culture.  Myth also permeates and shapes religious and social behaviour in a variety of ways, including structuring and justifying ethical codes, providing narratives of origin, and the interpretation of dreams and visions.  In this module students will be introduced to theories about myth, together with its expression in a range of contexts and have the opportunity to focus on and develop their understanding of a specific chosen topic related to myth and culture

RTT510: Myth and Sacrifice

This module will give students the opportunity to consider the ways in which myth is thought to be related to ritual action, and in particular initiation rituals, secret rituals and ritual sacrifice.  Ritual is a source of fascination within and beyond the societies in which it has been practiced, not least because of the degree of uncertainty about whether myths give rise to ritual traditions or explain already existing practices.  Myths also play an important role in debates about the ethics of killing humans and animals, submission to religious authority, the politics of gender and sexuality, the assertions of pagan or monotheistic traditions, and the relationship of religion to social classes.  The relationship between myth and ritual is also important to scholarly understandings of performance and the arts more broadly, for example, in Greek tragedy.  This module offers a grounding in the study of myth and ritual, including the ways in which these themes have influenced social and psychological theory, and then proceeds to an in depth study of a chosen topic that may include an examination of  archaeological or anthropological studies of myth and initiation or sacrifice, ritual within specific religious traditions, sacrifice in specific bodies of literature and drama or the ways in which images of sacrifice influence contemporary film, including for example, the bullfight in Spanish cinema and the 'ritual' behaviour of the serial killers as constructed by fictional media.

RTT509: Myth and Film

This module gives students the opportunity to explore religious and mythical themes and motifs in films and television programmes, ranging from engagements with established religious traditions to portrayals of supernatural phenomena. In addition to critical perspectives derived from psychological theory, gender, and cultural studies, the module suggests ways in which insights from the anthropology of religion can be utilized to explore issues related to collective and social identity.  Film both borrows from mythological material and creates mythical worlds inhabited by ghosts, witches, aliens, vampires, spirits and deities.  These worlds can reflect contemporary social structures, but can also be a site of imaginative questions about the nature of personhood, emotion, communication and power.  While some of these questions refer to conceptions of the sacred in the contemporary west, there are also important developments in world cinema that reflect complex interactions between conceptions of indigenous religions and the challenges of post colonial cultures.

RTT511: Myth and Narrative

This module will give students the opportunity to conduct an in depth study of myth within a chosen religious or cultural tradition.  Examples of expertise within the School include Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Gnosticism, Greek and Roman Classical religions, indigenous religions, and Christian and pagan religions of Late Antiquity.  Myth has permeated and shaped a wide range of textual sources and material culture, including philosophy, biographies, letters, ritual texts, legal documents, speeches, epic and tragic literature, and statues and monuments, and has thereby been central to creation, development and change in religions and cultures.  Students will be given opportunities to examine primary sources, explore ways in which they can be historically and socially situated and analyse debates that they have, and continue to, express and raise, both within and beyond the boundaries of the religious culture in which they were born.  Practitioners, philosophers, scholars, politicians and scholars all draw from, revise and contest myth in order to build social structures, consider ethical questions, and transmit pedagogy, and myth has therefore been central to the imaginative exploration of questions such as the nature of evil, the social position of women and men, the politics of public life and family relationships, and the inclusion or exclusion of social groups (including those based on geography, ethnicity and class).  Moreover, mythology often explores ideas about deities, spirits, monsters, elemental forces, and extraordinary or supernatural events that suggest an imaginative engagement with conceptions of personhood and communication that both set and exceed boundaries and students will have the opportunity to analyse such collective representations  from text historical, anthropological and psychological scholarly approaches.

Students may also take other optional modules offered within the School including:

HST533: The Early Celts

HST534: Celtic Mythology and Religion

HST033: Special Topic: Ethnicity in Ancient World

HST906: Epic Warriors: Achilles, Beowulf and Beyond

HST018: Gender, Sexuality and Society Greece/Rome

HST607: Self, Family and Nation 1

HST608: Self, Family and Nation 2

Special Features

The Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway provides an introduction to postgraduate research and study skills with an emphasis on theory and method in the study of religion.  Students have opportunities to draw on a wide range of approaches to the study of religion, including psychological and social theory, gender and critical studies, history, anthropology, and philosophy.  A unique feature of the pathway is the opportunity to examine a variety of cultural products including texts, oral mythology, and film.

Skills Acquired

Students who successfully complete the MA in Religious Studies: Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway will be able to demonstrate self-direction and originality in planning and implementing research at a professional level.  This is in addition to an ability to communicate ideas and arguments effectively, in speech or in writing, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.  By the end of the programme, it is expected that students will be able to formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and participate in postgraduate-level scholarly discourse.  The Pathway also offers a distinctive opportunity to develop and propose independent research projects, and articulate achievements and progress with clarity and accuracy.

Career Prospects

Students are prepared for further postgraduate study at PhD level, but the course offers many transferable skills that are recognized and would be useful for careers in teaching, media, NGOs and charitable organisations, and government posts.

Entry Requirements

1st or upper 2nd class UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject.

The course is suitable for graduates in a wide variety of Humanities disciplines and Social Sciences.

Students whose first language is not English will be required to pass an IELTS test (minimum 6.5) or equivalent.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.

Contact Information

Dr Louise Child

Position:Lecturer in Religious Studies
Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 74039Extension: 74039

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