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Remembering J. Z. Smith

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This volume presents an archive of remembrances of the person and the contributions of the late Jonathan Z. Smith (1938–2017)—the long-time University of Chicago faculty member who was one of the world’s most influential scholars of religion. Part I collects previously unpublished papers from three separate recent scholarly panels (from the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the North American Association for the Study of Religion), in which a wide variety of scholars reflect on the impact Smith had on their own careers and the field at large. Part II includes revised versions of blog posts, many of which appeared shortly after news of Smith’s death, in which scholars, journalists, and former students of Smith offer a more intimate and personal look at his legacy. Part III features extended transcripts of seven interviews about Smith carried out with those who either trained or worked with him. The volume closes with an afterword by Emily D. Crews, along with a previously unpublished essay of Smith’s own. Taken together, the volume documents the role Smith’s work has played in the modern study of religion while providing a basis for further considering the future direction of the field. While of interest to scholars who either knew Smith or those who are already familiar with his work, this volume will also be helpful to newcomers to Smith’s writings, read alongside his own essays, as a way to deepen their understanding of the modern study of religion—its history, its methods, and how to teach it.

Published: Nov 5, 2020

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Emily Crews, Russell McCutcheon
Remembering Jonathan Z. Smith (1938-2017) Russell McCutcheon
I. Essays
1. Introduction: Remembering J.Z. Smith - Shaping our Field and Our Work in the Comparative Study of Religion (American Academy of Religion's Comparative Studies in Religion Unit Panel) Kathryn McClymond
2. The Poetics and Politics of Comparison: From Revolutionary Suicide to Mass Murder (AAR Panel) Hugh Urban
3. The Magus: Jonathan Z. Smith and “the Absolute Wonder of the Human Imagination” (AAR Panel) Kimberley Patton
4. Citing Smith (AAR Panel) Kurtis Schaeffer
5. J. Z. Smith on Comparison: Insights and Appropriations (AAR Panel) Oliver Freiberger
6. Wrestling with Angels and Heavy Books (AAR Panel) Eric Mortensen
7. Introduction: In Memory of Gene M. Tucker (1935-2018) and J.Z. Smith (1938-2017) (Society of Biblical Literature Wisdom of the Ages Panel) Zev Garber
8. A Matter of Interest: In Memory of Jonathan Z. Smith (SBL Panel) Ron Cameron
9. Introduction: Remembering J.Z. Smith (North American Association for the Study of Religion Panel) Willi Braun, Russell McCutcheon
10. Transformed Agendas: Generalism in the Work of Jonathan Z. Smith and the Study of Religion (NAASR Panel) Stephanie Frank
11. J. Z. Smith and the Necessary Double-Face (NAASR Panel) Sam Gill
12. Remembering J. Z. Smith: Some Personal Reflections (NAASR Panel) James Tabor
II. Blogs
13. J. Z. Smith: The College’s Iconoclastic, Beloved, Chain-smoking Dean Pete Grieve
14. How I Failed J. Z. Smith Brett Colasacco
15. The Positive Genealogy of J. Z. Smith Tenzan Eaghll
16. In the Laboratory of Taxonomy and Classification (When the Chips Were Really Down) Richard Hecht
17. My Preliminary Journey through the World of J. Z. Smith Mitsutoshi Horii
18. On J. Z. Smith and the Remarkable Richard Newton
19. “It Ain’t Too High, and it Ain’t Too Theoretical” William O'Connor
20. A Matter of Difference: On the Legacy of J. Z. Smith Matt Sheedy
21. On Articulate Choice Vaia Touna
22. J. Z. Smith’s Gift Donald Bruce Woll
23. Significant, Significance, Signifier Ipsita Chatterjea
III. Interviews
24. Interviews Sam Gill, Amir Hussain, Donald Wiebe, Carole Myscofski, Christopher Lehrich, Eugene Gallagher, Ron Cameron, Michael Altman
IV. Afterword
25. Clues to a Great Mystery Emily Crews
V. Appendix
26. Academic Freedom and Academic Responsibility J. Z. Smith
End Matter
Index Emily Crews, Russell McCutcheon