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Religion and the Work of Art

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In the afterword to Religion and Contemporary Art: A Curious Accord (edited by Ronald Bernier and Rachel Hostetter Smith, Routledge, 2023), S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate insists that “to understand the religiousness of art, the artwork is often much less important than the work of art”, specifying that, while “artwork” is a noun, in “the work of art,” the term “work” is verbal (424). There is a tendency endemic in art history and the study of art and religion to remain on the level of content, of analysis of the artwork itself, rather than of its effects.

Religion and the Work of Art employs the word “work” in its specifically verbal sense. The volume seeks to investigate what art does and how it works, specifically in respect of religions. While consideration and analysis of artworks themselves is necessary, the further consideration of the work of art is the principle focus of this volume. “Art” is intended in its widest possible sense including conceptual, performative, literary, plastic, audible, and visual arts. Considerations from perspectives as wide-ranging as neuroscience and cognitive science to paleoanthropology and philosophy will be included, as will articles on the work of art in specific faith traditions.

Published: Mar 1, 2026