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Religion and Enlightenment


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


The eighteenth century is usually known as the age of reason. However, it was a religious age as well, giving birth to Methodism and Pietism, for example. A small elite of philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hume did not hesitate to fiercely criticize revealed religion and the ecclesiastical institutions based on it.

Consequently, the theme ‘Religion and Enlightenment’ may cover a good deal of 18th-century European and Western cultural history.
To be true, matters will prove to be even more complicated. Quite a lot of contemporaries managed to concoct a symbiosis of traditional religious elements and enlightened novelties, resulting in the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Enlightenments, respectively.

In this course students will attend lectures of the instructor and some guest lecturers. Moreover, 18th source materials will be read in class.

Course objectives

By its lectures and the reading of original texts, this course will confront students with basic topics concerning the relationship between religion and Enlightenment in a formative period of modern religious and cultural history. Students will study (by reading and giving short presentations) the evolution of pre-modern and modern views of God, nature, and society from the comparative perspective, both temporally and internationally. Furthermore, they will review current theories of secularization.


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website for the first semester and the second semester

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of a series of lectures by its instructor and by a number of guest lecturers. Some original texts will be read in class. Students will give short presentations on their reading assignments as well. Moreover, an excursion to Teylers Museum in Haarlem will be part of this course.

Course Load

  • Weekly reading assignments and preparation of short presentations (13 × 4 hours) = 52 hours

  • reading Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, 3rd ed. Cambridge 2013 (175 pp.) = 26 hours

  • Hours spent on weekly attending lectures (13 × 4 hours) = 56 hours.

  • Excursion to Haarlem, Teylers Museum (including preparation) = 6 hours

Total course load for the course (number of EC x 28 hours), for a course of 5 EC is 140 hours.

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (e.g. preparing for presentations and discussions, brief reports, or tests, exercises on scholarly research and writing), including oral presentation (25 %)

  • Final essay, blog or column of approximately 1500 words.
    The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
    If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the final essay. Contact the course lecturer for more information.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab office in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


Blackboard is used in this course, mainly for communication purposes

Reading list

Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2013 (ISBN 9781107636576). This book should be purchased in advance, well before the course starts.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab


Lecturer: Dr. J.W. Buisman, Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR)

Humanities Lab office: e-mail


Students with a reading knowledge of German and French are particularly welcome. If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.