Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module THEO43030: Spirituality, Anthropology, Life and Death

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO43030: Spirituality, Anthropology, Life and Death

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To consider how selected aspects of (a) social anthropology and sociology, and of (b) theology, may engage with reflections upon human spirituality within religious traditions, wider society, and secular forms of human self-awareness, in relation to human survival and flourishing in association with celebratory rites of passage, rites of intensification as in prayer, worship and birthday parties, and with end of life concerns, and of death.


  • The module will develop the idea of spirituality understood as cultural wisdom related to wellbeing and human flourishing documented within selected cases of Christian churches and sects as well as in some 'traditional' small-scale societies,
  • Issues of the life course, aging, and of the 'spiritual career' will be discussed alongside the way associated emotions may be preferred and managed by particular groups.
  • One major focus will be that of death, funeral rites and issues of grief. This will include the role of the UK National Health Service in relation to spirituality and end of life care, the role of chaplains, and the role of clergy and secular celebrants in changing patterns of funerals in Britain. Attention will be given to forms of traditional burial, cremation, woodland burial and other forms of body disposal.
  • Theoretical issues of ritual, symbolism, liturgy, identity, gender and embodiment will be considered in relation to all the above topics.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of the concepts of religion, spirituality, ritual and symbolism within and beyond religious institutions.
  • An understanding of recent debates over human emotions and over theories of grief in relation to bereavement.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to appropriate anthropological forms of description in ethnographies and of interpretation through a variety of theories.
Key Skills:
  • To develop an ability to appreciate ways in which groups classify and engage with their world of meaning and to take this skill into a reflexive capacity to engage with their own communities.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • A seminar format in which the teacher introduces set readings and the group then discusses them from prepared reading. Seminar presentations in which students offer a description and analysis of social contexts of church or society that focus on the aims of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 weekly 1hr 20
Seminars 20 weekly 1 hr 20
Fieldwork as required 5
Reading and preparation 255

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 5,000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University