Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions by Catherine Bell

Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions was written by Catherine Bell who was a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Santa Clara and one of the world’s leading experts in the field of ritual studies. This book was copyrighted 1997 but it was re-issued with a new forward in 2009 after the death of Catherine Bell in 2008.

The aim of the book is to give a fairly comprehensive look at the history of theories about ritual and religion (this was the subject matter of part I in the book), the spectrum of both ritual and ritual like activities (the subject matter of part II of the book), and the fabric of social and cultural life that forms the context in which people turn to ritual practices and to ritual theories (the subject matter of part III of the book).

So what do I like about this book? Honestly, everything. The theories of ritual are explained in an easy manner. You can tell that she was a teacher. She makes everything sound logical. In her explanations of Islamic ritual you can tell that she knew exactly what she was talking about and while she was talking about the different religions there was no sense of disdain or ridiculing coming through like many other scholars I’ve read even if they don’t know they are doing it. The book is a bit dense but it is a great introduction to the subject of rituals.

3 thoughts on “Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions by Catherine Bell

  1. Indeed, Catherine Bell is THE last word in Academic exploration of ritual. I have a serious problem, though, with a discipline (Religious Studies) whose roots come right out from 19th Century Social Evolution, from the likes of Sir James Frazier who never left his office and depended on the diaries of his mentor, Edward Bernard Taylor who travelled a great deal. I see ritual as an embodied experience — a reaction to communication to deity whether you see the gods as real entities or simple archetypes. Looking at ritual from an uninvolved distance is much like somebody thinking they can be a physician by simply dissecting a cadaver.

    I didn’t know she died. When did she die? wow. I thought she was still teaching? http://religion.ua.edu/aboutrelbiobell.html

    • celticscholar says:

      In the forward of the book it said she died in 2008. As to the roots of the discipline, well…Then we will be having problems with a lot of the disciplines available to us. Everything had to start somewhere and I believe things have quite moved on since James Frazier’s day 🙂

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