Item description for Religious Studies : The Making of a Discipline by Walter H. Capps...
Overview The author nationally recognized for the quality and depth of his teaching in religious studies has written the first full-scale introduction to the history and methods of the study of religion.
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Studio: Fortress Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.98" Width: 6.69" Height: 1.06" Weight: 1.54 lbs.
Release Date Sep 5, 2000
Publisher Augsburg Fortress Publishers
ISBN 0800625358 ISBN13 9780800625351
Availability 74 units. Availability accurate as of Jan 20, 2017 12:20.
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More About Walter H. Capps
Capps is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Walter H. Capps currently resides in Santa Barbara, in the state of California.
Reviews - What do customers think about Religious Studies : The Making of a Discipline?
An admirable but unsuccessful effort. May 9, 2002
This is a fundamentally flawed book, though the motivation and the breadth of scope are, in many respects, admirable. Unfortunately, that breadth is also much of the problem. Capps tries to provide a comprehensive overview of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion. In his encyclopedic efforts, though, he fails to provide a coherent discussion of the "the making of a discipline" (the text's subtitle). I can imagine a reasonably successful attempt at such a book being organized as a history. The logical place to begin would be to look at the history of pre-Enlightenment attempts to grasp other religious traditions. This might tend to emphasize Western thinkers, "religious studies" as a discipline begins as a Western academic enterprise, but should go beyond that scope to include similar efforts in other cultures. Next one would move into Enlightenment discussions of "natural religion." Then, Look at efforts to study religion by the pioneers of the social sciences. Next, turn to the religionswissenschaft and its offshoots followed by contemporary theologians and advocates of the ecumenical movement. The text could conclude with a look at the diversity of contemporary theories and methods for the study of religion and contemporary debates among proponents of opposing schools of thought (such as McCutcheon vs. Rennie or Katz vs. Forman).
Capps does not take this approach. Instead, he offers six windows onto religious life and institutions (essence/definitions of religion, origins, description, function, language, and comparison) and seeks to categorize a host of scholars accordingly. In itself, an approach somewhat like this, that recognizes the multiple vantage points from which religion can be viewed, could also be quite valuable. But, many of the connections he makes in this effort are rather arbitrary. For example, Marx is found in the chapter on the essence of religion, though he could also easily fit into the section on functions of religion. Of course, some of Capps' attempts to circumscribe the thought of prominent scholars come across as superficial. But, to a large extent these flaws may be inevitable in this sort of project. It may be unfair to be overly critical here, though these remain problems with the text.
More problematic is the fact that Capps asserts in the opening lines of his preface that religious studies can be viewed as one continuous narrative. He qualifies this by stating that the narrative winds its way through multiple "modalities" of scholarship. Even so, his treatment fails to elucidate the continuity he seeks. Rather than a multi-branched but coherent arboreal model of the discipline's history, religious studies still looks like a rhizomatic field of inquiry when Capps is done. Much of this is once again due to his inclusiveness. Capps includes anyone whose work has been relevant to the study of religion, including art historians like Warburg and Panofsky. I applaud Capps for situating religious studies within a much larger context in the humanities and social sciences and agree with him as to the relevance of theorists who might otherwise be neglected in a work like this. But, this does not serve his stated agenda.
Ultimately, Capps' book fails because it tries to be both an encyclopedia and a synthesis and succeeds at neither. Wishing to provide a handbook for the study of religion is certainly understandable and I have looked to Capps' book as a quick reference for theorists with which I was not yet familiar. As long as one uses it as the most elementary of starting points and allows Capps' comments to point beyond themselves to more fundamental works by the scholars themselves, the book can be somewhat useful. On its own, as a comprehensive and systematic introduction to the academic study of religion, it is much less valuable.
A summary of major contributors to religious studies Oct 12, 1999
This book attempts to be a sort of phenomenology of religious studies, relating briefly all the major theorists/theories concerning religious studies. Unfortunately, Capps takes on more theorists than a book this size can cover well, and ends up including entire sections that are completely vacuous.
In addition, it's poorly written, with many typographical errors.