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Ethical Awareness & Resilience Survey

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Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice

In the opening chapters, Stephenson takes a big-history perspective, at least in human terms, and fruitfully explains the function that ritual may have played in forming human societies in prehistoric times and even its hypothetical role in the evolution of homo sapiens.He also discusses how the concept of ritual has been used in the field of ethology as an analogue to describe the behavior of animals. Since we too are animals, Stephenson thoughtfully reflects on the role ritual plays in bridging our biological and cultural selves.

Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice

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In terms of audience, the book is accessible to non-academics and could be used productively in all manner of university courses from undergraduate to graduate levels. Undergraduates could use it over many weeks in concert with specific readings, while graduates could be assigned it as a quick digest to give them a competent overview of the field. This is also true for anyone wanting a pithy, enlightening introduction to the field of ritual studies.

The project has a particular focus on the environment, and two of the REDO researchers will come to Oslo this spring to teach a course that combines perspectives on rituals and environment with ethnographic and theological perspectives on pilgrimages.

Sarah Pike is the main teacher of the course and Marion Grau will give two lectures. The topics of the lectures are ritual theory, historical and contemporary pilgrimage practices - and eco-philosophy and anthropological perspectives on nature.

Ritual interpretations of Ugaritic narrative poems once had a prominent place in the critical literature. It was claimed by some that Baal and Aqhat in particular were recited as the verbal accompaniment of rituals or enacted as ritual dramas in a cultic context. Wright's book is not in this now largely discarded tradition. Rather, recognizing the pervasiveness of rituals among the actions performed by the characters in the story of Aqhat, the author raises the question why these rituals appear there. What is their function in the story? What is their role in the plot and in the characterization of the actors? Wright's aims are thus primarily literary and address a feature of the text that has not been directly or adequately addressed before. Further, recognizing the difficulty of interpreting the actual ritual texts from Ugarit (for which see Pardee 2000; Pardee forthcoming), Wright believes that the authors' portrayal of rituals, though serving their immediate narrative purposes, may also shed some light on how the people of Ugarit viewed their rituals, the roles of the gods in them, and their success or failure.

After reviewing various definitions of ritual, Wright opts for that of Catherine Bell (1992: 71), which focuses on what distinguishes ritual from ordinary, everyday activities in a given culture and on the ways in which it is privileged, especially by reference to transcendent powers. He then identifies twenty "ritual scenes or elements" in Aqhat, which fall... 041b061a72


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