FALL 2021 Syllabus

REL 502 Public Humanities & Religious Studies: Foundations

TR 1:30-3:20 pm, PRH 210

Michael J. Altman



Office: Presidents Hall 205

Office hours by appointment

Course Description

This graduate seminar introduces students to public humanities and digital humanities approaches to the study of religion. Students learn methods and tools for conducting digital research and explore ways to communicate theoretical and religious studies research to public audiences through digital media. Students are introduced to a number of digital tools for research, scholarly communication, and public engagement and will work to apply those tools to their individual research interests and goals.

Course Objectives

  • The course will provide an introduction to the public humanities in religious studies.
  • The course will introduce digital tools and platforms for scholarly communication and public engagement.
  • The course will discuss the current state of public humanities in the field of religious studies.

Student Learning Outcomes

In this course, we will:

  • Develop IT-oriented competencies for effective data management.
  • Learn the basics of internet privacy and security.
  • Review the current state of public humanities among religious studies scholars, research groups, and institutions.
  • Build a collaborative digital project
  • Learn to work with outside institutions to develop public humanities projects.
  • Practice hands-on skills on an actual digital project.

Course Materials

Required technology

  • A computer capable of installing and running Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • A high-speed internet connection.
  • Installation of free software available to UA students through the Office of Information Technology.
  • Slack installed on your computer and mobile device.

Required Texts

Digital_Humanities by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Schnapp Jeffrey (available as open access PDF from publisher or hardcopy at SUPEstore).

Class Requirements

Participation (30%)


You are required to attend all of our class sessions and come to each session prepared. Being prepared means having all preparatory assignments and tasks done on time, all reading completed, and ready to engage all discussions or activities for the class. In short, do everything in the “Before class” section of the schedule.


Participation also means actively participating and communicating on the REL 502 Slack. Because this course involves the hands-on development of a digital project, we must communicate quickly and effectively. We are on a deadline and questions, concerns, and tasks cannot always wait for our next class meeting.

Project Tasks (35%)

Because this course involves students building a digital project, half of the course’s requirements are the completion of tasks related to that project. These may change and may be different for different students as we divide up the work of building our digital project. However, the directions and requirements for each task will be clear.

Writing Assignments (35%)

There will be a writing assignments throughout the semester. Each will have its own directions and due dates. Writing assignment responses should be posted in the REL 502 Slack channel.

Course Policies

As this is a graduate seminar, you are expected to attend the class, be prepared for the class, and participate in the class. Assignments and tasks are expected to be completed on time. If you miss class for any reason please let me know promptly so we can ensure you don’t fall behind. Unexcused absences, frequent tardiness, or a lack of participation will lower your grade for the course. If you have any questions or concerns about the course I am happy to talk to you.

The grade scale for the course is based on satisfactory completing the above requirements. Students will be consulted individually by the instructor if their work is unsatisfactory.:

  • A         Satisfactory completion of all requirements
  • B         Satisfactory completion of at least 90% of the requirements
  • C         Satisfactory completion of at least 80% of the requirements
  • D         Satisfactory completion of at least 70% of the requirements
  • F          Satisfactory completion of less than 70% of the requirements

Course Schedule

University of Alabama Policies

Academic Honor Code:

All students in attendance at The University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars. The University of Alabama expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline. At the beginning of each semester and on tests and projects, at the discretion of the instructor, each student will be expected to sign an Honor Pledge. The Academic Honor Pledge reads as follows:

I promise or affirm that I will not at any time be involved with cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or misrepresentation while enrolled as a student at The University of Alabama. I have read the Academic Honor Code, which explains disciplinary procedures that will result from the aforementioned. I understand that violation of this code will result in penalties as severe as indefinite suspension from the University.

Code of Academic Conduct:

Academic misconduct includes all acts of dishonesty in any academic or related matter and any knowing or intentional help, attempt to help, or conspiracy to help, another student commit an act of academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following acts, when performed in any type of academic or academically related matter, exercise, or activity: cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, and misrepresentation.

Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act:

In keeping with its mission and in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The University of Alabama is committed to providing persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all programs and services conducted or sponsored by the University. See the Office of Disability Services website for more information. ODS is the central contact point for students with disabilities at UA. Services for students focus upon providing accommodations and services to help meet University demands, while promoting student responsibility and self-advocacy. Students who choose not to self-identify when they enter UA do not forfeit their right to identify themselves and to receive accommodations at a later date. However, UA is not obligated to provide accommodations or services for students with disabilities until students are registered with ODS. Students must also make known their need for accommodations each semester. For more information on The University of Alabama student policies, see the Student Handbook.

UAct Statement

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History of the Capstone Creed

The Capstone Creed was created by the Student Leaders Council. In the spring of 2000, a discussion of campus culture among student leaders led to an effort to identify the core values that sustain us as members of the University community. The Student Leaders Council recognized that the Capstone experience is not limited to our formal affiliation with the University during enrollment and that the University community does not end at the geographic boundaries of campus. As members of the Capstone community, there is a common thread that unites us all, and the Student Leaders Council has endeavored to make those core values manifest through the implementation of a campus-wide creed with which all Capstone stakeholders can identify.

COVID-19 Statement

All University faculty, staff, and students are expected to maintain a commitment to the health and safety of our campus community. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, specific health and safety standards are in place to minimize exposure and community spread on campus. In the interest of your health and safety and that of all UA students, faculty and staff, the University reserves the right to change the mode of instruction or schedule of instruction at any time, based upon prevailing public health and other guidance. While the method of delivery may change, educational instruction and opportunities will continue. As such, the University will not provide a refund of tuition, in whole or in-part, based on any such changes. Detailed information on changes in format or schedule can be found at studentaccounts.ua.edu and financialaid.ua.edu.

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Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and our herd. COVID-19 vaccines are being administered by the University Medical Center, the Student Health Center and various businesses and healthcare providers. Students who report proof of their vaccination status will receive Bama Cash as a thank you gift for doing their part.