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Christianity and Caste Society in India
The Saint in the Banyan Tree is a nuanced and historically persuasive exploration of Christianity’s remarkable trajectory as a social and cultural force in southern India. Starting in the seventeenth century, when the religion was integrated into Tamil institutions of caste and popular religiosity, this study moves into the twentieth century, when Christianity became an unexpected source of radical transformation for the country’s ‘untouchables’ (dalits). Mosse shows how caste was central to the way in which categories of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ were formed and negotiated in missionary encounters, and how the social and semiotic possibilities of Christianity lead to a new politic of equal rights in South India. Skillfully combining archival research with anthropological fieldwork, this book examines the full cultural impact of Christianity on Indian religious, social and political life. Connecting historical ethnography to the preoccupations of priests and Jesuit social activists, Mosse throws new light on the contemporary nature of caste, conversion, religious synthesis, secularization, dalit politics, the inherent tensions of religious pluralism, and the struggle for recognition among subordinated people.
Canonized in 1297 as Saint Louis, King Louis IX of France (1214-1270) was the central figure of Christendom in the thirteenth century. He ruled when France was at the height of power; he commanded the largest army in Europe and controlled the wealthiest kingdom. Renowned for his patronage of the arts, Louis was equally famous for his choice to imitate the suffering Christ as a humbly attired, bearded penitent. Armed with the considerable resources of the nouvel historien, Jacques Le Goff mines existing materials about Saint Louis to forge a new historical biography of the king. Part of his ambitious project is to reconstruct the mental universe of the thirteenth century: Le Goff describes the scholastic and intellectual background of Louis’s reign and, most importantly, he discusses methodology and the interpretation of written sources—their composition, provenance, and reliability. Le Goff divides his unconventional biography into three parts. In the first, he gives us the contours of Louis’s life from birth to death in the usual context of family dynamics and genealogy, courtly and regional politics, and shifts in economic, social, and cultural life. In sifting through the historical accounts of the king’s life, Le Goff determines that it is Louis IX’s profound sense of moral and religious purpose—his desire to become the ideal Christian ruler—that colors his every action from boyhood on; it is also, for Le Goff, what renders contemporary accounts problematic and what necessitates further scrutiny. That dissection of sources occupies the second part. Le Goff’s intention is to pare away the layers of homily and anecdote produced by the king’s early biographers to discover the true St. Louis. In the third part, Le Goff highlights the contradictions within Louis and his historical image that previous chroniclers have elided and overlooked.
Amy Lemmon’s stunning and heart-wrenching debut, Saint Nobody, offers us a profound meditation on the body, on the tribulations and the hard-found joys of incarnation. Lemmon does not shy away from a world where “vestigial angel-parts ache to emerge” and where there doesn’t appear to be a “speck of God.” This piercing meditation takes the problem of the body, and the problem of the body in a world that often seems God-less, head-on, without flinching, and yet delivers us truths and beauty we would never have imagined. Lemmon knows that we can’t count on the intercession of an absent saint, and she refuses easy solace. Instead, she probes deeply into the pain, into the conflicting emotions of childbirth, into the birth of a child with Down Syndrome—which is probably the most extraordinary poem written on that subject—to understand the life of our body here, the body in which “pain is sharpest where my wings would be.” This is a world of urine samples, “errant” chromosomes, lost kisses, first bleedings, chaotic cells, and scars, where the blood seems ours alone, and where the words are the only bread we have that may deliver us. In the bread of her words, Lemmon has given us a profound sacrament.
Weingrod presents an anthropological study of the development of a new Jewish saint, or zaddik, in Israel and of the annual pilgrimage to his enshrined grave by thousands of North African Jews. It is the fascinating story of how Rabbi Chayim Chouri, an aged Tunisian rabbi, became famed as the “Saint of Beersheba,” after his death in the 1950s. The author focuses upon the meaning of this event in the lives of the participants, and interprets the relevance of mystical-religious traditions to present-day Israeli society, politics, and culture. It includes a photographic essay that brilliantly evokes the joyful events that occur during the ritual and festivity of the pilgrimage.
When Sergius of Radonezh founded a monastery near Moscow, his example spawned a movement of monastic foundations throughout Russia. Within three decades of his death in 1392, Sergius was recognized as a saint, and by 1450 many considered him the intercessor for the Russian land who freed its people from Mongol rule. Over the next century and a half, thousands sought St. Sergius’s intercession with gifts to the monastery. Moscow’s rulers made Sergius patron saint of their dynasty and of the Russian tsardom. By 1605, the Trinity-Sergius monastery was the biggest house in Russia. Miller presents Trinity’s dramatic history from the 14th century to the beginning of the Time of Troubles. Using extensive archival materials, he traces the evolution of Trinity’s relationship to Sergius’s venerators and its traditions, governance, social composition, and the lifestyle of its members. In lucid prose, Miller argues that St. Sergius’s cult and monastery became integrating forces on a national scale and vital elements in the forging of a Russian identity, economy, and cohesive society. The power of religion to shape national identity is a lively topic today, and Miller’s study will interest both medievalists and modern historians, as well as readers of Orthodox Church history.
Following his highly acclaimed study of the life and works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., continues his masterful work on the great Dominican theologian and brings an immense learning to bear on a subject that most readers have not considered very carefully: Thomas's spirituality
The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra
With his rosy cheeks and matching red suit—and ever-present elf and reindeer companions—Santa Claus may be the most identifiable of fantastical characters. But what do we really know of jolly old Saint Nicholas,"patron saint"of Christmastime? Ask about the human behind the suit, and the tale we know so well quickly fades into myth and folklore.
In The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus, religious historian Adam English tells the true and compelling tale of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Around the fourth century in what is now Turkey, a boy of humble circumstance became a man revered for his many virtues. Chief among them was dealing generously with his possessions, once lifting an entire family out of poverty with a single—and secret—gift of gold, so legend tells. Yet he was much more than virtuous. As English reveals, Saint Nicholas was of integral influence in events that would significantly impact the history and development of the Christian church, including the Council of Nicaea, the destruction of the temple to Artemis in Myra, and a miraculous rescue of three falsely accused military officers. And Nicholas became the patron saint of children and sailors, merchants and thieves, as well as France, Russia, Greece, and myriad others.
Weaving together the best historical and archaeological evidence available with the folklore and legends handed down through generations, English creates a stunning image of this much venerated Christian saint. With prose as enjoyable as it is informative, he shows why the life—and death—of Nicholas of Myra so radically influenced the formation of Western history and Christian thought, and did so in ways many have never realized.
For more, including photos, author interviews, news, and author appearances, visit SaintWhoWouldBeSanta.com.
A Drama in Five Acts
Based on events that began in Saint-Domingue on August 21, 1791, The Saint-Domingue Plantation; or, The Insurrection vividly dramatizes the genesis and outbreak of a slave revolt. When a representative of the French Assemblée nationale, Monsieur de Tendale, arrives at the Valombre family plantation to examine the condition of slaves in Saint-Domingue and to preach their liberation, he sparks a debate among the local curé and the Valombres—Monsieur, Madame, son Léon, and daughter Célestine—who disagree about how slaves should be treated and whether they should be freed. Meanwhile, rebellion brews on the plantation. As the slave revolt unfolds, the play's white hero, Léon, realizes the discrepancy between his liberal political and philosophical ideas and the reality of his family's economic interests. The black hero, Timur, confronts the slaves' bloodthirsty desire to kill the masters, their resistance to his leadership, and the realization that freedom places heavy demands on him and the other insurgents.
Translated into English by Norman R. Shapiro for the first time since its publication in 1825, The Saint-Domingue Plantation addresses a wide range of topics that antislavery activists raised during Charles de Rémusat's time, including antitorture measures, slaves' access to the sacrament of marriage, and religious education. An informative introduction by Doris Y. Kadish places the play in its historic and literary contexts, inviting further discussion and interpretation of this important work.
Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Philosophy of Religion
Since the publication of her first book, Emmanuel Levinas: The Problem of Ethical Metaphysics, in 1974-the first book about Levinas published in English-Edith Wyschogrod has been at the forefront of the fields of Continental philosophy and philosophy of religion. Her work has crossed many disciplinary boundaries, making peregrinations from phenomenology and moral philosophy to historiography, the history of religions (both Western and non-Western), aesthetics, and the philosophy of biology. In all of these discourses, she has sought to cultivate an awareness of how the self is situated and influenced, as well as the ways in which a self can influence others.In this volume, twelve scholars examine and display the influence of Wyschogrod's work in essays that take up the thematics of influence in a variety of contexts: Christian theology, the saintly behavior of the villagers of Le Chambon sur Lignon, the texts of the medieval Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia, the philosophies of Levinas, Derrida, and Benjamin, the practice of intellectual history, the cultural memory of the New Testament, and pedagogy.In response, Wyschogrod shows how her interlocutors have brought to light her multiple authorial personae and have thus marked the ambiguity of selfhood, its position at the nexus of being influenced by and influencing others.
Voices of Holiness in Our Time
In his new book, Saints As They Really Are, priest and scholar Michael Plekon traces the spiritual journeys of several American Christians, using their memoirs and other writings. These “saints-in-the-making” show all their doubts and imperfections as they reflect on their search for God and their efforts to lead holy lives. They are gifted yet ordinary women and men trying to follow Christ within their flawed and broken humanity—“saints as they really are,” as Dorothy Day put it.