A guest at the table of the gods: Religion and the origins of academic life
AbstractProceeding from the Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, this paper is an attempt to survey the historical premises of the academic study of religion, both as a practice of detaching the subject matter of religion from its institutional restrictions, and as a practice of rehearsing certain modalities of thought and action (philosophical as well as religious) flourishing in the ancient world long before Christianity conquered the sphere of public worship in the fourth century. By paying particular attention to themes of suspension and commensality in religious practice and discourse, an attempt is made to reconsider the critical task of the history of religions, famously devised by Bruce Lincoln as a reversal of the orientation of religious discourse.
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