Teaching

My academic teachers were (Bonn:) Hans-Joachim Klimkeit (PhD supervisor), Karl Hoheisel, Karl Bärthlein, Hans-Michael Baumgartner, Rudolf Lassahn; (Tübingen:) Hermann Bausinger, Burkhard Gladigow, Günter Kehrer, Walter Jens, Manfred Frank, Hans-Joachim Krämer; (Bergen:) Anders Hultgård, Ragnhild Finnestad; (Rome:) Ugo Bianchi, Dario Sabbatucci, Gilberto Mazzoleni. The class I enjoyed most during my studies was a seminar on the various versions of Antigone throughout Western literary history (with Walter Jens).

My teaching experience derives from five universities in four countries: Bergen/Norway (my current home), Bern/Switzerland, Heidelberg/Germany, Tübingen/Germany, and Uppsala/Sweden.

I like interacting with students, and teaching is one opportunity to meet them in the first place. Accordingly, I prefer interactive teaching methods rather than monologues. Not getting questions from the audience in lectures always makes we wonder whether the students already knew the things I was trying to convey, or whether my way of talking was so obscure that they are not even able to ask a question. An esteemed colleague once said that he prefers to appear trivial rather than obscure. I have great sympathy for that attitude, but it IS a challenge to be trivial.

For me, teaching amounts to learning. Teaching helps me to sort out my thoughts on any given topic and to put them in a clearer order. Teaching also is about exploring new areas. Teaching and research are, or ideally should be, two sides of one coin. And this is not a one-way avenue, for teaching may stimulate research as much as research should inform teaching.

In my period as head of department and director of program (2005-2010), we have reviewed the main components of our teaching portfolio. Based on evaluation and discussions with students we have rearranged modules on all levels. That was an exciting process.

In Bergen, most of our courses take the shape of shared teaching, with one colleague having the main responsibility for the respective course. (That role is being interpreted in a variety of ways.) For my part, I am currently responsible for one undergraduate and one graduate course: RELVI250 (undergraduate, for second year students) is on “the systematic study of religion”, and RELV306 (graduate) is on “research methods in the study of religion”. I have also started a course on “theory in the study of religion” (RELV301) for which my colleague Håkan Rydving has now assumed responsibility.

Apart from the shared courses, each colleague at the department teaches one or two special area courses. In the past I have been teaching special courses on “religion and (post-) modernity” [together with my former colleague Clemens Cavallin], “sacrifice”, “theories of sacrifice”, “new religions”, “recent theories of religion”, and “religions and religion in the US” (with Bruce Stuart).