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Book: Thinking with J. Z. Smith

Chapter: 15. Teaching J. Z. Smith in Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39930


Gabriel Levy questions the usefulness of J. Z. Smith both for teaching and for the study of religion. The first point brought up by Levy has to do with the playful character of Smith’s prose. Simply put, this dimension of Smith’s writings is often lost on non-native English speakers. If Gill is right in arguing for the importance of riddles and jests in Smith’s essays, then those of us functioning outside the English-speaking environment are faced with the question: how to translate Smith. Is it at all possible? And perhaps a more fundamental question is, would such a translation be in fact worthwhile? Against scholars in whose opinion Smith’s contributions to both method and theory in the study of religion should make his oeuvre a crucial part of the syllabi we design as well as our own research practice, Levy argues that there may be no coherent method to be found in Smith and that his theoretical contributions to the study of religion are less useful than some tend to argue.

Chapter Contributors

  • Gabriel Levy ([email protected] - gabriellevy1) 'Norwegian University of Science and Technology '