Abstract

Histories of the discipline of literary studies have long relied on a narrative of secularization that traces the gradual transformation of a profession that was once more religious into one that is now largely secular. Recent work in a number of different disciplines has revised and challenged the basic assumptions behind secularization narratives, in part by complicating our understanding of the processes by which the categories "religious" and "secular" are constructed and differentiated. This essay begins with an account of some of this recent work, primarily from cultural anthropology and religious studies. In light of these theories, the essay then examines how various attempts to differentiate the religious and the secular have shaped disciplinary boundaries and identities as manifested in histories of the profession. To indicate how an account of these continued acts of differentiation is central to an understanding of professional history and identity, and to literary critical practice, the essay concludes with a brief look at some recent work in literary studies that has moved away from reliance on a straightforward narrative of secularization, and has instead re-instated questions about the on-going relationship between the religious and the secular.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 607-628
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-21
Open Access
No
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