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Religion after Religion, History after History: Postmodern Historiography and the Study of Religions

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

The following essay reviews Steven Wasserstrom's Religion after Religion— a partial history of the History of Religions—and three theoretical works on historiography: Hayden White's Metahistory, Peter Novick's That Noble Dream, and Robert F. Berkhofer Jr.'s Beyond the Great Story. As well as introducing readers to the argument of these works, the essay uses Wasserstrom's book as an example of a "monovocal" style of the narration of the phenomenal past in opposition to the polyvocal style called for by the historiographers. The purpose of the essay is to indicate the degree to which monovocal representations can apparently justify singular viewpoints by concealing various agendas and lending authority to dubious conclusions. The essay challenges the elevation of a single authorial voice over the plurality of voices representing the plurality of phenomenal pasts and calls for a greater engagement with the pluralism and polyvocality of postmodern historiography.


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