Book: Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion
Chapter: 4. The Melancholy Empire Builder: The Life and Works of Mircea Eliade
Russell T. McCutcheon’s article “The Melancholy Empire Builder: The Life and Works of Mircea Eliade” which criticizes Mircea Eliade’s turn to the sacred
From the Present Volume:
Although originally published in 1993, the version that is included here was originally revised (and probably doubled in size) sometime in 2002, when I had considered including an updated version of it in the essay collection, The Discipline of Religion (2003). It is hardly a definitive overview of Eliade’s life and the controversies surrounding it and his work (see McCutcheon 2001 for additional commentary on the controversies), but it has been cited in the literature around Eliade (inasmuch as it came out not long after the controversy on Eliade’s life and work first developed); given the manner in which the depoliticized approach to his story often wins the day—as it often does with any tale purporting to tell an origins story or which addresses the exploits of someone considered to be a founder—this earlier essay also served as a useful springboard into a few wider issues, such as the manner in which those interested in such topics as religion and violence—a research area that has picked up speed considerably since the early 2000s—employ the same sort of rhetoric in their work on the causes of certain sorts of violent acts. For all of these reasons—plus the fact that it is not difficult to find people, twenty years after critiques like this were being first leveled, still aestheticizing our field’s past—it seemed worth including here.
Russell T. McCutcheon, 2014