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).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Massimo Rondolino
Website
Guest Editor
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Carroll University, 100 N. East Avenue, Waukesha, WI 53186, USA
Interests: Comparative Philosophy, Comparative Religions, Medieval European Religious and Philosophical Traditions, Tibetan Religions and Mahāyāna Buddhist Philosophy, Comparative Mythology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

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
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Comparative study of religions
  • hagiography
  • method in religious studies
  • sainthood

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction: Comparative Hagiology, Issues in Theory and Method
Religions 2020, 11(4), 158; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040158 - 30 Mar 2020
Abstract
This special issue has a dual intent [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Is Comparison Based on Translatable Formal Concepts?
Religions 2020, 11(4), 163; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040163 - 01 Apr 2020
Abstract
Fully realized ethical and metaphysical concepts have intension and extension only within an historically situated epistemic tradition. Only people who live the epistemic tradition fully understand the concept and can accurately identify items that satisfy the concept. Such concepts are only fully understood [...] Read more.
Fully realized ethical and metaphysical concepts have intension and extension only within an historically situated epistemic tradition. Only people who live the epistemic tradition fully understand the concept and can accurately identify items that satisfy the concept. Such concepts are only fully understood by those whose lives are shaped from within the epistemic tradition. This makes comparison of ethical and metaphysical concepts across epistemic traditions difficult if not impossible. Comparative hagiology employs theological concepts that may function differently from ethical and metaphysical concepts. The articles in this volume seem to suggest that some theological concepts may function as formal concepts. A formal concept is defined by rules or form, rather than by its intensional or extensional content. Thus, formal concepts may be translatable across epistemic traditions. Because the rules do not fully determine intension or extension, a formal concept can apply to otherwise diverse individuals. Theological concepts may be formal concepts that could provide the basis for comparison of the untranslatable concepts that give meaning and value to the lived experience of people in epistemic traditions. The articles in this volume suggest several candidates for such formal concepts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Comparison as a Provisional Activity
Religions 2020, 11(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010036 - 08 Jan 2020
Abstract
The careers of many scholars in various disciplines have been focused on the study of hagiography, including that of the author. Yet, as those scholars have uncovered new knowledge and employed new interpretations of the materials at hand, the very notions of “hagiography” [...] Read more.
The careers of many scholars in various disciplines have been focused on the study of hagiography, including that of the author. Yet, as those scholars have uncovered new knowledge and employed new interpretations of the materials at hand, the very notions of “hagiography” and “hagiology” have become deeply problematized. The issues become more complex as multiple religious traditions are examined. The scholarly work that forms the basis of the essays in this volume has explored the effects of taking a comparative and collaborative approach to “hagiography”. This piece responds to the core essays by showing first how personal the study of such sources and act of comparison can be, and then exploring how knowledge changes through the processes of comparison and collaboration. In the end, this response argues that comparison is by its very nature a provisional activity in that the knowledge it creates constantly changes as comparative methods and theories are re-applied again and again over time. This process is only aided by collaborative efforts which make the act of comparison even more effective and productive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Comparison as Collaboration: Notes on the Contemporary Craft of Hagiology
Religions 2020, 11(1), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010031 - 07 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
A workshop on “comparative hagiology” over the course of three years at the American Academy of Religion has yielded not only a series of articles but an experimental methodology by which scholars hailing from different disciplines and working in different fields might collaborate [...] Read more.
A workshop on “comparative hagiology” over the course of three years at the American Academy of Religion has yielded not only a series of articles but an experimental methodology by which scholars hailing from different disciplines and working in different fields might collaborate in threshing out commonalities and entanglements in their respective treatments of holy figures. This article’s response to the workshop identifies three pillars of general consensus among the participants that serve as promising footholds for aligned innovation in our respective fields: That hagiography (1) is constituted not only in verbal texts but in a wide array of media, both material and ephemeral; (2) is best interpreted by attending substantially to the “processes” of thought, life, and society in which it is rendered; and (3) opens possibilities of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary comparison by way of the many family resemblances in how saints (or more broadly, religious and even para-religious exemplars) are rendered in transmittable media and mobilized for a particular group’s benefit. The article concludes by suggesting vectors for further development on these grounds, indicating how the category of “hagiography” affords a resource for interpreting unauthorized and apparently irreligious phenomena akin to sanctification, and calling for a professional and pedagogical ethic of collaboration that extends beyond any particular scholarly fruits of hagiological comparison. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Dare to Compare: Reflections on Experimenting with Comparative Hagiology
Religions 2019, 10(12), 663; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120663 - 06 Dec 2019
Abstract
In this response essay, I consider Jon Keune’s proposal to prioritize the act of comparison over definitional agreement when beginning an exercise in comparative hagiology. Reflecting on my own experience as the respondent for a panel at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the [...] Read more.
In this response essay, I consider Jon Keune’s proposal to prioritize the act of comparison over definitional agreement when beginning an exercise in comparative hagiology. Reflecting on my own experience as the respondent for a panel at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which saw me comparing two very different “hagiographical texts,” I argue in support of Keune’s approach by stressing its advantage in pushing conceptual creativity and collaborative inclusivity. In the process, I accept Massimo Rondolino’s invitation to consider his working re-definition of “hagiography”, which I take as a starting point for thinking through some of the questions my panel’s unconventional primary texts raise and how they might recommend revisiting our categories. In the end, I advocate for a capacious view of potential comparanda as one of the best ways to foster a process of continuous self-reflection and scholarly development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
The Ethics of Doing Comparative Hagiology
Religions 2019, 10(12), 660; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120660 - 04 Dec 2019
Abstract
This paper argues that a virtue-informed methodology is foundational to best practice in scholarly, collaborative, and comparative hagiological work. Following a discussion of how this resonates with Todd French’s work in this volume, I then draw from my experience as an educator to [...] Read more.
This paper argues that a virtue-informed methodology is foundational to best practice in scholarly, collaborative, and comparative hagiological work. Following a discussion of how this resonates with Todd French’s work in this volume, I then draw from my experience as an educator to outline how a virtue-based approach might play out in pedagogy. Finally, I offer two metaphors for an “other-person centered” collaborative–comparativist mindset. Both of these are taken from my lived, and conversational “apprenticeship” in comparative hagiology on the Argentine–Brazilian border. Reflection on these metaphors, as well as their generative experiences, demonstrates the need for holistic self-reflection in the comparative study of religions, and of “hagiography” in particular. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Comparative Hagiology and/as Manuscript Studies: Method and Materiality
Religions 2019, 10(11), 604; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10110604 - 31 Oct 2019
Abstract
Although the academic study of hagiography continues to flourish, the role of comparative methods within the study of sanctity and the saints remains underutilized. Similarly, while much valuable work on saints and sanctity relies on materialist methodologies, issues of critical bibliography particular to [...] Read more.
Although the academic study of hagiography continues to flourish, the role of comparative methods within the study of sanctity and the saints remains underutilized. Similarly, while much valuable work on saints and sanctity relies on materialist methodologies, issues of critical bibliography particular to the study of hagiography have not received the theoretical attention they deserve. This essay takes up these two underattended approaches to argue for a comparative materialist approach to hagiography. Through a short case study of the Latin Vita of Lutgard of Aywières (1182–1246) written by the Dominican friar Thomas of Cantimpré (c. 1200–1270), I suggest that comparative material research into the textual history of hagiographic literature can provide us with a more comprehensive and nuanced picture of the production of any specific holy figure, as well as the evolving discourses of sanctity and holiness in general. While this suggestion emerges from my own work on medieval hagiography from the Christian Latin West, it resonates with recent arguments by Sara Ritchey and David DiValerio to call for a materially comparative approach to narratives of holy lives in any religious tradition in any time period. Furthermore, I suggest that medieval studies, and in particular medieval manuscript studies, may have much to offer to scholars of sanctity working in later periods and other settings. Offering a view of material textual scholarship as intrinsically comparative, we may expand our theoretical definitions of the comparative and its possibilities within the study of sanctity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
A Preliminary Controlled Vocabulary for the Description of Hagiographic Texts
Religions 2019, 10(10), 585; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100585 - 18 Oct 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
As a genre defined by its content rather than by its form, the extreme diversity of the kinds of texts that can be considered “hagiographic” often proves an impediment to the progress of comparative hagiology. This essay offers some suggestions for the creation [...] Read more.
As a genre defined by its content rather than by its form, the extreme diversity of the kinds of texts that can be considered “hagiographic” often proves an impediment to the progress of comparative hagiology. This essay offers some suggestions for the creation of a controlled vocabulary for the formal description of hagiographic texts, demonstrating how having a more highly developed shared language at our disposal will facilitate both the systematic analysis and the comparative discussion of hagiography. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Saints across Traditions and Time Periods: Methods for Increasing Range and Reading in Comparative Frameworks
Religions 2019, 10(10), 577; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100577 - 16 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This paper offers a nascent attempt at best practices for the comparative method in a conference setting. Exploring the value in transcendence of traditions and specialization, it traces the preparation and outcome of a recent comparative hagiology panel and develops a list of [...] Read more.
This paper offers a nascent attempt at best practices for the comparative method in a conference setting. Exploring the value in transcendence of traditions and specialization, it traces the preparation and outcome of a recent comparative hagiology panel and develops a list of possible steps for facilitating meaningful interchange between scholars. Building on Freiberger’s methodology for Comparative Religions, it applies a method specifically to hagiographical studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Comparative vs. Hagiology: Two Variant Approaches to the Field
Religions 2019, 10(10), 575; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100575 - 15 Oct 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
There is a basic tension within the idea of Comparative Hagiology, because the two terms that constitute its name are incongruous. To formulate a comparative hagiological project, we must choose at the outset which term will take priority. Prioritizing the comparative in comparative [...] Read more.
There is a basic tension within the idea of Comparative Hagiology, because the two terms that constitute its name are incongruous. To formulate a comparative hagiological project, we must choose at the outset which term will take priority. Prioritizing the comparative in comparative hagiology orients us to focus more on the basic disciplinary approaches to gather compare-able data, leaving hagiology as a placeholder whose content will be defined by the results of the comparison. Prioritizing hagiology requires first defining hagio- and reckoning with the European and Christian baggage that it brings to cross-cultural and inter-religious comparison. Holding that definition in mind, we then locate examples to compare by whatever approach seems fruitful in that case. Different choices of priorities lead to potentially different results. I argue that a path that prioritizes comparative is more likely to inspire experimental and innovative groupings, unconventional definitions of hagiology, and new perspectives in the cross-cultural study of religion. An approach that prioritizes hagiology runs a greater risk of repeating the same provincial and conceptual biases that doomed much of 20th-century comparative religion scholarship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Dialogue and Destabilization: An Index for Comparative Global Exemplarity
Religions 2019, 10(10), 569; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100569 - 12 Oct 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
This reflection derives from a discussion that took place at the 2018 “Comparative Hagiology” pre-conference workshop of the American Academy of Religion. The goal during that meeting was to articulate points of dialogue for the comparison of exemplary figures in various historic, geographic, [...] Read more.
This reflection derives from a discussion that took place at the 2018 “Comparative Hagiology” pre-conference workshop of the American Academy of Religion. The goal during that meeting was to articulate points of dialogue for the comparison of exemplary figures in various historic, geographic, and faith traditions. Here, I offer an open-ended descriptive index as a heuristic device for beginning a comparative study, whether collaborative or single-authored. After positioning my inquiry from within my own field of study, medieval European Christianity, I offer a brief “test case” for the portability of the index by using its terms to think through a text that is widely-regarded within my subfield as deeply complicated and difficult to interpret, the Life of Christina Mirabilis. I conclude by re-describing some of the terms of the index and by inviting further re-description. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
Open AccessArticle
Some Foundational Considerations on Taxonomy: A Case for Hagiography
Religions 2019, 10(10), 538; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10100538 - 20 Sep 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Since its now notorious mid-1800s historiographical positivist critiques, the term hagiography was often contested as a valid and valuable category for the comparative study of religious phenomena. This essay argues for the perpetuation and careful use of the term hagiography and its cognates [...] Read more.
Since its now notorious mid-1800s historiographical positivist critiques, the term hagiography was often contested as a valid and valuable category for the comparative study of religious phenomena. This essay argues for the perpetuation and careful use of the term hagiography and its cognates in comparative contexts. Drawing from my work on the narrative traditions of the medieval Christian Saint Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) and the Tibetan Buddhist Milarepa (c. 1052–1135), I offer a revised definition of hagiography that reflects the nexus of behaviors, practice, beliefs, and productions through which a community constructs the memory of a human being it considers to have embodied religious perfection. I then suggest that the category, so redefined, allows us to more readily and accurately characterize these kinds of narratives. Consequently, we can easily apprehend them as emic historiographical creations that situate a given community between past and future in light of a given theory of truth, embodied in the literary saintly figure. This, eventually, orients individuals and communities, doctrines, and practices within a historical timeframe. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method)
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