Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion
Aims, Methods, and Theories of Research. Introduction and Anthology
Preface by McCutcheon, Russell T.
Series:De Gruyter Studium
Aims and Scope
Jacques Waardenburg’s Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion, first published in 1973 and updated in 1999, was groundbreaking in establishing religious studies as an independent academic field. The volume consists of two parts. The first is Waardenburg’s magisterial essay tracing the rise and development of the academic study of religion from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, outlining the establishment of the discipline, its connections with other fields, religion as a subject of research, and perspectives on a phenomenological study of religion. The second part comprises an anthology of texts from 41 scholars whose work was programmatic in the evolution of the academic study of religion. The pieces selected for this volume were taken from the discipline of religious studies as well as from related fields, such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology, to name a few. Each chapter presents a particular approach, theory, and method relevant to the study of religion. This second edition also includes a new foreword by Russell McCutcheon. This pioneering work is essential reading for any student of religion.
“There are many reasons to be enthusiastic about this fortuitous republication of Waardenburg’s Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion. Not only does the volume serve as an important sourcebook to the archive of the study of religion—valuable both for scholarly and pedagogical purposes—but it also provides us with an opportunity once again to reflect on our identity as a field or discipline: Who are we? What are we doing? What continuities and discontinuities can we identify synchronically and diachronically? What errors or biases have we rightly left behind, and what long-forgotten theoretical or methodological battles are we unknowingly still playing out today? As Russell T. McCutcheon notes in the new foreword that brilliantly frames this edition, ‘issues of definition, delimitation, and institutional identity are no less relevant today’ than they were when the volume first appeared.”
– Dr. Craig Martin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, St. Thomas Aquinas College
“This landmark text should be on the reading list of any student or scholar of religion. Jacques Waardenburg assembles an array of formative texts in the field and asks a number of probing and prescient questions that we should not lose track of in this trans- and inter-disciplinary age.”
– Dr. Rosalind I. J. Hackett, Professor and Head of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee
“Unlike contemporary debates about the (allegedly invented) nature of religion, which seem to involve only a handful of academics, there was a time, beginning about a century and a half ago, when theories and theorists of religion were discussed not just in academic journals but in the magazines read by the educated public. The theories about gods, spirits and magic advanced by scholars in Victorian England, from Max Müller, Edward Tylor and Andrew Lang to James Frazer and Robert Marett, were followed by the same public that followed Darwin’s theory of evolution. Elsewhere, the debates may have been less public, but they were no less intense; and while many of those who wrote about religion have been forgotten, some, such as Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss and Max Weber, are still read, their works being subject to assiduous exegesis. It is Jacques Waardenburg’s merit to have assembled in Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion well-chosen excerpts from the works of forty-one scholars, from Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815-1887) to Joachim Wach (1898-1955), who sought to explain this most peculiar of human creations. Guided by Waardenburg’s insightful ‘View of a Hundred Years’ Study of Religion’ and by the biographical introduction to the forty-one authors, the reader will be introduced to theories that are as varied, rich and occasionally implausible as the religion they seek to elucidate.
– Dr. Gustavo Benavides, Pennsylvania, USA