A number of students have expressed distress that there is no “happy ending.” The course emphasizes problems and criticisms of previous work without providing a constructive alternative. A number of colleagues at the regional meetings expressed similar reservations. I can only say that if the course has this effect, it has been successful. I conceive of the role of the college teacher to be precisely that of insuring that his students have “wrinkles on their brows,” that they become adept in the “hermeneutics of suspicion.” I believe for those students that take no further courses in religious studies, they have learned how to be cold-blooded about humanistic materials; for those students who continue to take other courses in religious studies, the effect of this course will be relativized by other offerings.
J.Z. Smith, “Basic Problems in the Study of Religion,” pp. 20-27 in On Teaching Religion, ed. by Christopher I. Lehrich (NY: Oxford UP, 2013), p. 27.