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RELS229 Paganism

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Late Greek and Roman religion, its representation and self-representation from late antiquity to the Renaissance; the contemporary Pagan revival.

An overview of the history and the category of 'Paganism' from late Roman religion to the contemporary revival in Neopaganism.

This paper examines the history of 'Paganism' as a constructed religious category, with reference to various stages of Western religious history. The first half of the paper examines 'pagan' religious traditions of the Roman Empire (including the Mysteries, Neoplatonism, Judaism and Christianity) and the growing suppression of and creation of a pagan 'other' during the Christianisation of the Empire. The second half explores the revival of Paganism in European modernity, the modern occult (eg Aleister Crowley), Neopagan movements (eg Witchcraft, Wicca, Asatru and Hellenic Restorationism) and their reception in pagan pop culture (eg Black and Pagan Metal and the fiction of Alan Moore).

Paper title Paganism
Paper code RELS229
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2020 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $904.05
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,954.75

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36 points
RELS 329, RELX 229, RELX 329
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Associate Professor Will Sweetman:
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Will Sweetman
Lecturer: Dr Deane Galbraith
Paper Structure
  • Essay (2,000 words) - 20%
  • Essay (2,500 words) - 30%
  • Final exam - 50%
Teaching Arrangements
Two hours of lectures per week (50 minutes each).

The on-campus lectures will be recorded for distance students. In addition, five fortnightly online discussions will be set up so that distance students can converse about the materials and to allow monitoring and feedback of progress.

Students should also conduct self-study with the course book's Study Guide, which provides guidance to approaching the assigned readings.
A coursebook will be available for the paper. No textbook is required.
Course outline
View the sample course outline for RELS 229
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to
  • Identify and discuss the basic characteristics of religion in the Roman Empire and its practices, as well as the theories surrounding it
  • Identify and discuss the way in which 'Paganism' and the practices of the 'pagans' have been portrayed in Christianity, European intellectual tradition and modern theories and historiographies of religion
  • Identify and discuss various pagan revivals of the Renaissance and later, including 20th- and 21st-century Neopaganism
  • Distinguish between traditional Roman religious practices in their original historical context and from their later polemicisation or, alternatively, their later valorisation

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Not offered in 2020

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system