KULH4171 – Cognitive Cultural Studies: New approaches to Religion and Narration

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Course content

As an interdisciplinary endeavour, cognitive cultural studies are an emerging field aiming to inform the study of culture by insights and models derived from cognitive anthropology, evolutionary psychology, analytical philosophy of the mind and linguistics. This course provides an introduction to the foundations and application of recent cognitive approaches to cultural analysis. Our focus is on the interface of narrative and religion, two areas of study where cognitive theorizing made a major – and quite controversial – impact. Can culture be explained?

The course covers different approaches within cognitive historicism, the cognitive science of religion and cognitive narratology developed in recent years. You will be familiarised with theories and methods and learn to apply them to the analysis of sources. Of course, we will address prominent core questions of the cognitive approaches, such as

  • does culture shape our perception of the world?
  • how do we make sense and use of stories?
  • what distinguishes religious and fictional characters?
  • can religious thought be explained from evolutionary origins?

Besides actively applying cognitive theorising and reflecting on the implications of naturalism and reductive anthropologies we will engage in discussions with invited cognitive scientists.

Learning outcome

Upon successful completion of the course, students are able to

  • define core concepts and outline major theoretical models employed in cognitive cultural studies
  • analyse historical or literary sources based on cognitive theorising
  • demonstrate an advanced knowledge on at least one approach to cognitive cultural studies / cognitive literary studies / cognitive science of religion / cognitive narratology
  • engage in professional discussions on the potential and implications of naturalism in the humanities in general, and a cognitive approach to their discipline in particular


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

Sufficient reading skills in English.


Lectures and seminars are conducted in English, with key terms translated into Norwegian. Individual supervision is offered in both English and Norwegian. The course is based on a combination of input lectures, interactive seminars and digital colloquia. The teaching format has the goal of an active learning process, with ongoing feedback on academic progress and understanding and visible progression. Deadlines and tasks will be announced at the start of the teaching term. An electronic reader will be provided.

Obligatory coursework

An exercise and a short written assignment (2 pages) are part of the assessment and must be completed and approved in order to be admitted to the exam.

All obligatory coursework must be approved in order to qualify for the exam. It is the student’s responsibility to check whether or not the obligatory coursework have been approved. This is how you apply for valid absence from obligatory activities/obligatory attendance.


The exam (portfolio / mappeeksamen) consists of 2 written assignments with a total of 10 pages (2300 characters / page). All parts of the exam may be taken either in English or a Scandinavian language.

Previous exams and grading guidelines.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Continuous evaluations

Facts about this course






The course runs on an irregular basis. 

Teaching language