Special Issue "Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method"
A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 August 2019).
Interests: Comparative Philosophy, Comparative Religions, Medieval European Religious and Philosophical Traditions, Tibetan Religions and Mahāyāna Buddhist Philosophy, Comparative Mythology
This special issue engages with questions of theory and method in the comparative, cross-cultural study of hagiographical sources. As such, it offers, first and foremost, the venue for conducting a scientific discussion on a (re)definition of "hagiography", and the identification of shared approaches and methodologies to the study of material that may be apprehended through this categorization, as an effective strategy for the study of religious phenomena. To achieve this, the present volume brings together a selected number of scholars whose work has focused on the theoretical study of "hagiography" and the historical examination of hagiographical sources. Each one among them will put forward a proposition for the comparative and cross-cultural (re)definition of "hagiography", to which further contributors will be invited to respond, eventually providing a vibrant debate on a core theoretical and methodological issue in religious studies at large.
How to approach the study of hagiographical sources, and to what end study them, has long been a topic for discussion and analysis among scholars of the European Late-Antiquity and Middle-Ages (see, famously: Pierre Delooz Sociologie et Canonisations, 1969; Peter Brown The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, 1981; Thomas Heffernan Sacred Biography: Saints and Their Biographers in the Middle Ages, 1988; Thomas Head Hagiography and the Cult of Saints: The Diocese of Orléans, 800–1200, 1990; Aviad Kleinberg Prophets in Their Own Country: Living Saints and the Making of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages, 1992). In the last two decades, questions as to the use and validity of hagiographical sources for the study of human societies and religious traditions has been taken up also within the context of non-Christian and non-European cultures, and comparatively (see, most recently: Rico Monge, Kerry San Chirico, and Rachel Smith eds. Hagiography and Religious Truth, 2016; and Massimo Rondolino Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Hagiographical Strategies, 2017). The feasibility and validity of the application of taxonomies and categories fundamentally rooted in European and Christian history, has also famously been challenged (see, chiefly, the work of Jonathan Z. Smith). Yet, recently, scholars in religious studies have also begun offering systematic responses to this criticism (see, for example: Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Andreas Nehring eds. Interreligious Comparisons in Religious Studies and Theology, 2016; Peter van der Veer The Value of Comparison, 2016; Oliver Freiberger ed. Religions. Special Issue: Methodical Aspects of Comparison, 2018).
This special issue develops from a preliminary discussion of these related debates that was held a pre-conference workshop at the 2017 gathering of the American Academy of Religion, in Boston. This event was aimed at a first collaborative appraisal of the feasibility of the joint application of the approaches exemplified by the works cited above. A forthcoming pre-conference workshop at the 2018 gathering of the American Academy of Religion, in Denver, will provide the venue for the further collaborative engagement with these questions. Eventually, the present volume will offer a first systematic collaborative engagement with the core issue of the definition and use of "hagiography" in a comparative and cross-cultural perspective.
Prof. Dr. Massimo Rondolino
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- Comparative study of religions
- method in religious studies