Many regard religious experience as the essence of religion, arguing that narratives might be created and rituals invented but that these are always secondary to the original experience itself. However, the concept of "experience" has come under increasing fire from a range of critics and theorists. This Reader presents writings from both those who assume the existence and possible universality of religious experience and those who question the very rhetoric of "experience". Bringing together both classic and contemporary writings, the Reader showcases differing disciplinary approaches to the study of religious experience: philosophy, literary and cultural theory, history, psychology, anthropology; feminist theory; as well as writings from within religious studies. The essays are structured into pairs, with each essay separately introduced with information on its historical and intellectual context. The ultimate aim of the Reader is to enable students to explore religious experience as rhetoric created to authorize social identities. The book will be an invaluable introduction to the key ideas and approaches for students of Religion, as well as Sociology and Anthropology. CONTRIBUTORS: Robert Desjarlais, Diana Eck, William James, Craig Martin, Russell T. McCutcheon, Wayne Proudfoot, Robert Sharf, Ann Taves, Charles Taylor, Joachim Wach, Joan Wallach Scott, Raymond Williams
Craig Martin is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at St. Thomas Aquinas College, New York and Executive Secretary of the North American Association for the Study of Religion. He is editor of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. Russell T. McCutcheon is Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. His areas of interest include the theories of myths and rituals, the history of the publicly funded study of religion in the US as well as the history and politics of the classification 'religion.' His major publications include Manufacutring Religion (Oxford University Press, 1997), Critics not Caretakers: Redescribing the Public Study of Religion (State University of New York Press, 2001) and The Discipline of Religion: Structure, Meaning, Rhetoric (Routledge, 2003).