Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions--Revised Edition

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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 that qualify 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 most influential 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 evolve and 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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A very impressive achievement....[Bell's] is one of the most interesting and important voices in the field of ritual studies today."—Worship

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199735105
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Former Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Theories: The History of Interpretation
1 Myth or Ritual: Questions of Origin and Essence
Early Theories and Theorists
They Myth and Ritual Schools
The Phenomenology of Religions
Psychoanalytic Approatches to Ritual
Profile: Interpreting the Akitu Festival
2 Ritual and Society: Questions of Social Funciton and Structure
Early Theories of Social Solidarity
Neofunctional Systems Analyses
Magic, Religion, and Science
Profile: Interpreting the Mukanda Initiation
3 Ritual Symbols, Syntax, and Praxis: Questions of Cultural Meaning and Interpretation
Symbolic Systems and Symbolic Action
Profile: Interpreting British and Swazi Enthronement Rites
Part II Rites: The Spectrum of Ritual Activities
4 Basic Genres of Ritual Action
Rites of Passage
Calendrical Rites
Rites of Affliction
Feasting, Fasting, and Festivals
Political Rites
Part III Contexts: The Fabric of Ritual Life
6 Ritual Density
Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy
Traditional and Secular
Oral and Literate
Church, Sect, and Cult
7 Ritual Change
Tradition and Transformation
Ritual Invention
Media and Message
8 Ritual Reification
Repudiating, Returning, Romancing
The Emergence of "Ritual"

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