|The Book Corner|
Welcome to The Book Corner. In each March and October issue, we will feature books that have recently been published by Oxford University Press in the various AAR/OUP book series. The seven books featured in this issue were published between July and October 2011. For more books published in the various series, visit www.aarweb.org/Publications/Books.
Davies, Daniel. Method and Metaphysics in Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed. Oxford University Press, 2011.
More than 800 years after Maimonides’s death, his Guide for the Perplexed remains hotly debated, with readers seeking secret philosophical messages behind its explicit teachings, a quest fueled partly by Maimonides’s own statement that certain parts of the Guide are based upon ideas that conflict with other parts. Through close readings of Maimonides’s work, Daniel Davies addresses the major debates surrounding its secret doctrine. He argues that perceived contradictions in Maimonides’s accounts of creation and divine attributes can be squared by paying attention to the various ways in which he presented his arguments. Davies shows how a coherent theological view can emerge from the many layers of the Guide. However, Maimonides’s clear declaration that certain matters must be hidden from the masses cannot be ignored, and the kind of inconsistency that is peculiar to the Guide requires another explanation. It is found in the purpose Maimonides assigns to the Guide: scriptural exegesis. Davies offers a detailed exposition of Maimonides’ interpretation, the deepest "secret of the Torah," which shares its name with metaphysics. By connecting the secret with currents in the Islamic world, the chapters show how Maimonides devised a new method of presentation in order to imitate scripture’s multilayered manner of communication. Maimonides updated what he took to be the correct interpretation of scripture by writing it in a work appropriate for his own time and to do so he had to keep the Torah's most hidden secrets.
Cheah, Joseph. Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation. Oxford University Press, 2011.
While academic and popular studies of Buddhism have often neglected race as a factor of analysis, the issues concerning race and racialization have remained not far below the surface of wider discussion among ethnic Buddhists, converts, and sympathizers, regarding representations of American Buddhism and adaptations of Buddhist practices to the American context. In this book, Joseph Cheah provides a much-needed contribution to the field of religious studies by addressing the undertheorization of race in the study of American Buddhism. Through the lens of racial formation, Cheah demonstrates how adaptations of Buddhist practices by immigrants, converts, and sympathizers have taken place within an environment already permeated with the logic and ideology of whiteness and white supremacy. In other words, race and religion (Buddhism) are so intimately bound together in the United States that the ideology of white supremacy informs the differing ways in which convert Buddhists and sympathizers and Burmese ethnic Buddhists have adapted Buddhist religious practices to an American context. Cheah offers a complex view of how the Burmese American community must negotiate not only the religious and racial terrains of the United States but also the transnational reach of the Burmese junta.
Dressler, Markus, and Arvind Mandair. Secularism and Religion-Making. Oxford University Press, 2011.
"Religion-making" is, for Dressler and Mandair, the configuration of social and cultural practices within a discussion of world religions — a discussion whose historical and semantic roots are planted in a predominantly Western Christian worldview. The essays in the volume investigate how religion is universalized and how certain ideas, social formations, and practices regarded as religious by society are integrated in and subordinated to liberal-secular assumptions about history, politics, and religion. The individual contributions, written by a new generation of interdisciplinary scholars, examine the translation and globalization of historically specific concepts and practices of religion and its counterpart, the secular. The essays contribute new arguments to the emerging field of thought that addresses the relationship between religion and secularism as concepts in the modern world.
Nishida, Kitarō. Place and Dialectic. Krummel, John W. M., and Shigenori Nagatomo, trans. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Place and Dialectic presents two essays by Nishida Kitarō, translated into English for the first time. Nishida is widely regarded as one of the father figures of modern Japanese philosophy and as the founder of the first distinctly Japanese school of philosophy, the Kyoto school, known for its synthesis of Western philosophy, Christian theology, and Buddhist thought. The two essays included here are "Basho" from 1926/27 and "Logic and Life" from 1936/37. Each essay is divided into several sections and each section is preceded by a synopsis added by the translators. The first essay represents the first systematic articulation of Nishida's philosophy of basho, literally meaning "place," a system of thought that came to be known as "Nishida philosophy." In the second essay, Nishida inquires after the prelogical origin of what we call logic, which he suggests is to be found within the dialectical unfoldings of world history and human society. A substantial introduction by John Krummel considers the significance of Nishida as a thinker, discusses the key components of Nishida's philosophy and its developments throughout his life, and contextualizes the translated essays within his oeuvre. The introduction also places Nishida and his work within the historical context of his time, and highlights the relevance of his ideas to the global circumstances of our day.
Parsons, William, ed. Teaching Mysticism. Oxford University Press, 2011.
The term "mysticism" has never been consistently defined or employed, either in religious traditions or in academic discourse. The essays in this volume, written by leading scholars in the field, offer informed and innovative ways of defining mysticism, as well as methods for grappling with its complexity in a classroom. Teaching Mysticism addresses the diverse literature surrounding mysticism in four interrelated parts. The first part features essays on the tradition and context of mysticism, devoted to drawing out and examining the mystical element in many religious traditions. The second part engages traditions and religiocultural strands in which "mysticism" is linked to other terms, such as shamanism, esotericism, and Gnosticism. The book's third part focuses on methodological strategies for defining "mysticism" with respect to varying social spaces. The final essays demonstrate how contemporary social issues and movements have impacted the meaning, study, and pedagogy of mysticism. This comprehensive volume presents pedagogical reflections on how best to communicate mysticism from a variety of institutional spaces. It surveys the broad range of meanings of mysticism, its utilization in the traditions, the theories, and methods that have been used to understand it, and provides vital critical insight into the resulting controversies.
Peters, Rebecca Todd, and Bernadette McNary-Zak, eds. Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies. Oxford University Press, 2011.
This book offers an introduction to the philosophy and practice of undergraduate research in religious studies and takes up several significant ongoing questions related to it. This volume emerges from sustained conversations about the pedagogy of undergraduate research by a group of teacher-scholars in the discipline, and it seeks to extend those conversations. For those new to undergraduate research, this book provides an overview of fundamental issues, pedagogical questions, and practical models for application in the classroom. For seasoned mentors, it acts as a dialogue partner on emerging issues and offers insight into pertinent questions in the field based on the experience of recognized experts. Individual chapters focus on select theoretical and practical topics including the nature of collaboration between faculty and students, what it means for undergraduate students to make an "original contribution" in their research, how to identify and shape a research project that is appropriate and manageable, the types of institutional and professional support systems needed to adequately support and reward faculty who participate in this kind of pedagogy, and procedures for adequate and appropriate assessment. Student perspectives highlight the importance of undergraduate research to student learning.