Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions

Paperback | February 5, 2010

byCatherine Bell

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From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities thatqualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways, equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic historical and comparative scrutiny. In this book, Catherine Bell offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she surveys the mostinfluential theories of religion and ritual, the major categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how definitions emerge and evolveand to help us become more familiar with the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self- expression that goes into constructing this complex social medium.

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From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities thatqualify as ritual and their many contradictory ye...

Catherine Bell is Former Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 9.1 × 6.2 × 0.8 inPublished:February 5, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199735107

ISBN - 13:9780199735105

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Table of Contents

Part I: Theories: The History of Interpretation1. Myth or Ritual: Questions of Origin and EssenceEarly Theories and TheoristsThey Myth and Ritual SchoolsThe Phenomenology of ReligionsPsychoanalytic Approatches to RitualProfile: Interpreting the Akitu FestivalConclusion2. Ritual and Society: Questions of Social Funciton and StructureEarly Theories of Social SolidarityFunctionalismNeofunctional Systems AnalysesStructuralismMagic, Religion, and ScienceProfile: Interpreting the Mukanda InitiationConclusion3. Ritual Symbols, Syntax, and Praxis: Questions of Cultural Meaning and InterpretationSymbolic Systems and Symbolic ActionLinguisticsPerformancePracticeProfile: Interpreting British and Swazi Enthronement RitesConclusionPart II: Rites: The Spectrum of Ritual Activities4. Basic Genres of Ritual ActionRites of PassageCalendrical RitesRites of AfflictionFeasting, Fasting, and FestivalsPolitical RitesConclusionPart III: Contexts: The Fabric of Ritual Life6. Ritual DensitySystemsTypologiesOrthopraxy and OrthodoxyTraditional and SecularOral and LiterateChurch, Sect, and CultConclusion7. Ritual ChangeTradition and TransformationRitual InventionMedia and MessageConclusion8. Ritual ReificationRepudiating, Returning, RomancingThe Emergence of "Ritual"ConclusionNotesReferenceIndex

Editorial Reviews

"A rich and detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the nature and functions of ritual. Scholars in all fields will profit from this sound and probing study." --Religious Studies Review