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Discourse analysis within the study of religion: Processes of change in ancient Greece

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

The aim is to show how formations of discourse can be seen as the subject matter for the historian of religions, drawing on structuralist and hermeneutic approaches. Although these may differ on important theoretical and methodological issues, I find the way in which they correspond, namely by pointing to the topic of discourse as their field of investigation, even more important. In this article a discourse is understood as a framework of communication, and the focus is laid upon religious discourse as a special kind of authorization. In ancient Greece, for example, "authors" such as Homer and Orpheus were the authorities of two different discursive traditions. The analysis of discourse can present us with a view of how certain frames of communication were interacting by means of contest, and how, eventually, it was the very strategy of authorization that was contested. Hence, what has often been seen as a paradigmatic shift from mythos to logos could more fruitfully be viewed from a discursive angle than from a perspective of different mentalities. Discourse analysis, as presented in this article, is a way of coming to terms with the process of transformation by regarding dynamic properties of communication, that is, as interrelated strategies on connected levels of system and event.

Affiliations: 1: University of Aarhus, Denmark


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