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Sacred Fictions Cover

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Sacred Fictions

Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity

By Lynda L. Coon

Late antique and early medieval hagiographic texts present holy women as simultaneously pious and corrupt, hideous and beautiful, exemplars of depravity and models of sanctity. In Sacred Fictions Lynda Coon unpacks these paradoxical representations to reveal the construction and circumscription of women's roles in the early Christian centuries.

Coon discerns three distinct paradigms for female sanctity in saints' lives and patristic and monastic writings. Women are recurrently figured as repentant desert hermits, wealthy widows, or cloistered ascetic nuns, and biblical discourse informs the narrative content, rhetorical strategies, and symbolic meanings of these texts in complex and multivalent ways. If hagiographers made their women saints walk on water, resurrect the dead, or consecrate the Eucharist, they also curbed the power of women by teaching that the daughters of Eve must make their bodies impenetrable through militant chastity or spiritual exile and must eradicate self-indulgence through ascetic attire or philanthropy.

The windows the sacred fiction of holy women open on the past are far from transparent; driven by both literary invention and moral imperative, the stories they tell helped shape Western gender constructs that have survived into modern times.

Sacred Land Cover

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Sacred Land

Sherwood Anderson, Midwestern Modernism, and the Sacramental Vision of Nature

From the 1910s through the 1930s, Midwestern writers were conspicuously prominent in American literary life. A generation of writers from the Midwest had come of age and had shared an important and motivating cultural experience: the encompassing transformation of rural and urban Midwestern life from traditional craftsmanship, manual labor, and local community to a fragmented, machine-driven, and intensely capitalistic mode of existence. A profound sense of lost possibilities pervaded the literary mood of these authors. An organic Midwestern village culture that had only just begun to take definite shape was swept away, and a fruitful and promising region was sacrificed to crass commercialism.

In Sacred Land, author Mark Buechsel shows that Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others, turned to two potential sources for grounding their region’s and nation’s life authentically: nature itself—particularly the super-abundant nature to be found in Midwestern states and the model provided by the traditional sacramental culture of medieval Europe. The result was a new sacramental vision of how life in the Midwest—and, by extension, life in modern America—might be lived differently. Buechsel demonstrates that each author painted his or her spiritual and cultural vision with different shades and nuances and looked to America’s future with varying degrees of optimism.

Of crucial importance in each author’s work are the characters’ encounters with the Midwestern land, a recalcitrant objective reality that refuses to yield to the wrong kinds of dreams. Characters who are genuinely open to what their engagement with the land has to teach them generally find some personal blessing and learn how to claim a fully human place in the order of things. Characters who fail to learn the lessons nature offers become distorted and grotesque, in a way that expresses the modern condition emblematically. Sacred Land shows that in the process of critiquing American culture, Midwestern writers redefined the American pastoral myth so central to the national psyche.

Sacred Misfits Cover

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Sacred Misfits

MARK BLICKLEY

Sacred Misfits is a short fiction collection by Mark Blickley.

Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition Cover

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Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition

Black Christian Nationalism in the Age of Jim Crow

Adele Oltman

Using Savannah, Georgia, as a case study, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition tells the story of the rise and decline of Black Christian Nationalism. This nationalism emerged from the experiences of segregation, as an intersection between the sacred world of religion and church and the secular world of business. The premise of Black Christian Nationalism was a belief in a dual understanding of redemption, at the same time earthly and otherworldly, and the conviction that black Christians, once delivered from psychic, spiritual, and material want, would release all of America from the suffering that prevented it from achieving its noble ideals.

The study’s use of local sources in Savannah, especially behind-the-scenes church records, provides a rare glimpse into church life and ritual, depicting scenes never before described. Blending history, ethnography, and Geertzian dramaturgy, it traces the evolution of black southern society from a communitarian, nationalist system of hierarchy, patriarchy, and interclass fellowship to an individualistic one that accompanied the appearance of a new black civil society.

Although not a study of the civil rights movement, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition advances a bold, revisionist interpretation of black religion at the eve of the movement. It shows that the institutional primacy of the churches had to give way to a more diversified secular sphere before an overtly politicized struggle for freedom could take place. The unambiguously political movement of the 1950s and 1960s that drew on black Christianity and radiated from many black churches was possible only when the churches came to exert less control over members’ quotidian lives.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Sacred Modern Cover

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Sacred Modern

Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection

By Pamela G. Smart

Renowned as one of the most significant museums built by private collectors, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, seeks to engage viewers in an acutely aesthetic, rather than pedagogical, experience of works of art. The Menil’s emphasis on being moved by art, rather than being taught art history, comes from its founders’ conviction that art offers a way to reintegrate the sacred and the secular worlds. Inspired by the French Catholic revivalism of the interwar years that recast Catholic tradition as the avant-garde, Dominique and John de Menil shared with other Catholic intellectuals a desire to reorder a world in crisis by imbuing modern cultural forms with religious faith, binding the sacred with the modern. Sacred Modern explores how the Menil Collection gives expression to the religious and political convictions of its founders and how “the Menil way” is being both perpetuated and contested as the Museum makes the transition from operating under the personal direction of Dominique de Menil to the stewardship of career professionals. Taking an ethnographic approach, Pamela G. Smart analyzes the character of the Menil aesthetic, the processes by which it is produced, and the sensibilities that it is meant to generate in those who engage with the collection. She also offers insight into the extraordinary impact Dominique and John de Menil had on the emergence of Houston as a major cultural center.

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The Sacred Oral Tradition of the Havasupai

As Retold By Elders and Headmen Manakaja and Sinyella 1918-1921

Edited by Frank D. Tikalsky, Catherine A. Euler, and John Nagel

Early in the twentieth century, Leslie Spier and Erna Gunther, graduate students trained by anthropologist Franz Boas, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to learn about Havasupai culture. In the process, they asked two Havasupai leaders and elders for every story they could remember. These were translated by native speakers and transcribed by Spier and, later, Gunther. Yet for unknown reasons Spier never published the whole collection of forty-eight stories, one of the earliest, most complete translations of an entire Native American oral tradition. Passed from Spier to anthropologist and Havasupai scholar Dr. Robert C. Euler, the stories, published here for the first time in book form with the permission of the Havasupai Tribal Council, are a cultural library and a cultural treasure that reflect an ancient Yuman-language mythological tradition. Publication restores them to the People (Pai/Pa/Pah) from whom they arose.

Sacred Players Cover

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Sacred Players

The Politics of Response in the Middle English Religious Drama

Heather Hill-Vásquez

Offering a unique historical perspective to the study of medieval English drama, Heather Hill-Vásquez in Sacred Players argues that different treatments of audience and performance in the early drama indicate that the performance life of the drama may have continued well beyond its traditional placement in medieval history and into the Reformation and Renaissance eras.

The Sacred Self Cover

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The Sacred Self

A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing

Thomas J. Csordas

How does religious healing work, if indeed it does? In this study of the contemporary North American movement known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Thomas Csordas investigates the healing practices of a modern religious movement to provide a rich cultural analysis of the healing experience. This is not only a book about healing, however, but also one about the nature of self and self- transformation. Blending ethnographic data and detailed case studies, Csordas examines processes of sensory imagery, performative utterance, orientation, and embodiment. His book forms the basis for a rapprochement between phenomenology and semiotics in culture theory that will interest anthropologists, philosophers, psychologists, physicians, and students of comparative religion and healing.

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Sacred Sites and the Colonial Encounter

A History of Meaning and Memory in Ghana

Sandra E. Greene

"Greene gives the reader a vivid sense of the Anlo encounter with western thought and Christian beliefs... and the resulting erasures, transferences, adaptations, and alterations in their perceptions of place, space, and the body."
-- Emmanuel Akyeampong

Sandra E. Greene reconstructs a vivid and convincing portrait of the human and physical environment of the 19th-century Anlo-Ewe people of Ghana and brings history and memory into contemporary context. Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, early European accounts, and missionary archives and publications, Greene shows how ideas from outside forced sacred and spiritual meanings associated with particular bodies of water, burial sites, sacred towns, and the human body itself to change in favor of more scientific and regulatory views. Anlo responses to these colonial ideas involved considerable resistance, and, over time, the Anlo began to attribute selective, varied, and often contradictory meanings to the body and the spaces they inhabited. Despite these multiple meanings, Greene shows that the Anlo were successful in forging a consensus on how to manage their identity, environment, and community.

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Sacred Sound

Experiencing Music in World Religions

Includes CD with 40 selections of music and chants. See Table of Contents for CD track playlist.

This innovative book explores religion through music, one of the most universally recognized forms of human experience. The only art form named after a divinity, music has been documented from prehistory to the present age in virtually all known cultures. For many, music is a vehicle for spiritual growth and community empowerment, whether it’s understood as a gift of the gods or simply a practice for achieving mental states conducive to enlightenment.

Traditionally, when religious scholars talk about music, it’s as a kind of aesthetic supplement to the important spiritual content of a religion, analogous to stained-glass windows or temple paintings. In contrast, Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions acknowledges the critical role of musical activity in religious life. Music, including chant and vocal utterance, is not incidental in religious practice but a sacred treasure that is central to the growth and sustenance of religions throughout the world. Musical sound is sacred in most religions because it embodies the divine and can be shared by all participants, enduring among diverse communities of people despite theological differences.

Covering six of the major world religionsJudaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism—the book is accompanied by a CD of forty selections of music and chant. Contributors are respected scholars in religious studies and musicology and provide insight from both disciplines. The first book of its kind, Sacred Sound is a milestone in the growing cross-disciplinary study of religion and music.

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