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Between Dancing and Writing

The Practice of Religious Studies

Kimerer LaMothe

Publication Year: 2004

This book provides philosophical grounds for an emerging area of scholarship: the study of religion and dance. In the first part, LaMothe investigates why scholars in religious studies have tended to overlook dance, or rhythmic bodily movement, in favor of textual expressions of religious life. In close readings of Descartes, Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Kierkegaard, LaMothe traces this attitude to formative moments of the field in which philosophers relied upon the practice of writing to mediate between the study of religion,on the one hand, and theology,on the other.In the second part, LaMothe revives the work of theologian, phenomenologist, and historian of religion Gerardus van der Leeuw for help in interpreting how dancing can serve as a medium of religious experience and expression. In so doing, LaMothe opens new perspectives on the role of bodily being in religious life, and on the place of theology in the study of religion.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Faced with the task of acknowledging the people who have enabled the event of this book, I cannot help thinking about a quotation from Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo: “How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life?” ...

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Preface: Moving Between

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pp. ix-xiv

At first I tried to choose. I wanted to choose. I thought I had to choose between being a dancer and being a scholar of religion—that is, between the study and practice of modern dance and the study and practice of Christian theology and philosophy of religion. It seemed obvious. ...

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Introduction: A Disconcerting Miracle

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pp. 1-18

This book sets an agenda for an emerging area of scholarship in the field of religious studies: the philosophy of religion and dance. It provides scholars in the field, whether historians, humanists, social scientists, or theologians, with the theoretical resources they need to recognize why and how a given instance of “dance”is significant for what they perceive as “religion.” ...

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Part One: Writing against Theology

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pp. 19-20

An analysis of Christian philosophers and theologians writing on the eve of the so-called emergence of religious studies from theological contexts reveals a dynamic not predicted by emergence narratives of the field. Early modern Christian philosophers and theologians introduce “religion” as a category in generative tension with “theology” as competitors in a project of Christian reform.1 ...

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Chapter 1: The Rift in Religion: René Descartes and Immanuel Kant

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pp. 22-45

René Descartes (1596-1650) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), often considered as representing the respective ends of the European Enlightenment, each drew upon the methods of “science” in an attempt to clarify the nature and value of “religion.”1 They each were concerned with various excesses they observed among Christians in their time. ...

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Chapter 2: Recovering Experience: Friedrich Schleiermache

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pp. 46-64

In his address to the “cultured despisers” of religion, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1769-1834) was speaking, among others, to admirers of Kant. First published in 1799, six years after Kant’s Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers openly rejects Kant’s attempt to negotiate a critical affirmation of religion. ...

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Chapter 3: Doing the Work of Spirit: G.W. F. Hegel

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pp. 65-84

The discussions in Chapters 1 and 2 map two conceptual axes that continue to define the terms of contemporary debates over “religion”: one stretching between a core of religion and its phenomenal forms and a second, within that definition of core, stretching between rational belief and inner experience. Chapters 3 and 4 engage this terrain in ways that open a third dimension: that between “religion”(so defined by these two axes) and the scientific study of it. ...

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Chapter 4: The Poet and the Dancer: Søren Kierkegaard

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pp. 85-102

In several of his pseudonymous works, Søren Kierkegaard introduces dance as a figure for representing that aspect of religion that a Hegelian philosopher cannot comprehend:faith. 1 In these appearances, the metaphoric weight of the image does not depend on an opposition of the bodily to the intellectual, the outer to the inner, or the emotional to the rational. ...

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Conclusion to Part One: Living the Legacy

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pp. 103-106

In the web woven from the works of these five thinkers an alternative narrative of the study of religion appears that serves to explain the popularity of the emergence narrative, the self-perpetuating antitheology polemics of the contemporary scene, the kind of attention paid to dance in the field, and their necessary interconnection. ...

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Part Two: Reviving van der Leeuw

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pp. 107

Gerardus van der Leeuw was a scholar with an uncanny sense of the importance of dance for religion and for the study of religion. He was also a scholar who acknowledged the impossibility of excluding “theology” from the field of religious studies. ...

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Chapter 5: A Braided Approach to the Study of Religion: Gerardus van der Leeuw

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pp. 109-128

In order to appreciate the contemporary relevance of van der Leeuw’s braided methodological approach to the study of religion, this chapter introduces the influences and issues informing its development. What we find is that van der Leeuw’s strategies for addressing the issues of his day are relevant for our day based on the ways in which they engage and advance the issues rehearsed in Part 1...

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Chapter 6: A Practice of Understanding

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pp. 129-158

In what, then, does the phenomenology of religion consist? What does it mean to call religion a phenomenon? Where does the phenomenologist of religion look to find “it”? What kinds of movements propel the phenomenologist back and forth across the surface of historical events, between the chaos of the given and conceptual forms? ...

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Chapter 7: Under standing Religion and Dance

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pp. 159-178

There is evidence in van der Leeuw’s descriptions of the phenomenological method and in his accounts of dance that it was his interest in dance, at least in part, that impelled him to design a theory of religion and a phenomenological method for the study of it that would prove flexible enough to comprehend both historical appearances of dance...

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Chapter 8: Spinning the Unity of Life: Dance as Religion

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pp. 179-209

The first comprehensible association van der Leeuw discusses under each art—namely, the “unity” between a given art and religion—appears most highly developed in his chapters on dance. Conversely, most of the historical examples he gives for dance fall within the rubric of this structural relation as opposed to the four discussed in Chapter 9. ...

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Chapter 9: Marking Boundaries: Dance against Religion

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pp. 210-228

When van der Leeuw turns to elaborate four other phenomenological nets he has woven in his efforts to write about relationships between dance and religion appearing in human history, the significance of the first net—namely the unity of dance and religion—emerges with greater clarity. ...

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Conclusion to Part Two: Can Dance be Religion?

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pp. 229-240

For scholars interested in the study of dance and religion, van der Leeuw’s phenomenological method, his theory of religion, and his five structures characterizing appearances of religion and dance provide a rich if challenging inheritance. To sift through the value of this work and some of its implications...

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Chapter 10: Dancing Religion

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pp. 241-258

So far my discussion of van der Leeuw has followed a traditional paradigm: a scholar devises a method which enables him to make sense of a given set of phenomena by guiding his reflections on those phenomena in ways which generate knowledge. Yet, as is hinted at the beginning of Chapter 7, the reverse of this narration may be true as well...


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pp. 259-282


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pp. 283-296


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pp. 297-299

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247509
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823224036
Print-ISBN-10: 0823224031

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004