Thursday, March 27, 2008

i've missed you ::weeps silently in corner::

vigilant phlog readers, i am sure you exist, are noticing that i have been conspicuously absent from these digital pages.
the sad facts are that my thesis has kidnapped me, stuffed me in the basement of JTS and has been anally raping me daily.
not fun.
well, mostly not fun.

so, as proof of my still being alive, and of my self-worth, here is a snippet of my far-too-long paper (it's gonna be like 100 pp)

Chapter 1: Do You Believe in Magic?
A Theoretical Introduction to Magic and Its Relation to Religion

“That's the thing with magic.
You've got to know it's still here,
all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.”
~Charles de Lint

“One man's ‘magic’ is another man's engineering.”
~Robert A. Heinlein

“Some call it magic
And I don't know how
But I know that I have it
And it all works out”
~Iris Park

If there is any topic of scholarly inquiry that ignites the imaginations of both academics and the general populace, it is the inquiry into the nature of magic. A glut of articles, monographs and book-length studies available to the interested student, as well as the prominence of a certain boy wizard, give credence to this fact. When presented in popular culture, magic typically takes on an immediately recognizable form. The practitioner wears a long robe; he brandishes a wand or staff, and he completes his ensemble with an impressive white beard. His demeanor is similar to the absent-minded professor, though there is an ineffable wisdom secreted behind his half-moon spectacles. The portrait of magic in our minds today is clear indeed. However, the state of magic in the realm of scholarly research shares none of that enviable, simple lucidity.
There has, perhaps, never really been, among scholars, a consensus on a theory of magic. It’s arguable whether any academic or expert has ever truly produced a real, coherent theory at all, on the topic. It has become apparent to the past generation of critical studies that this confusion is has its roots in the field of inquiry itself and its relation to the study of religion. Scholars have been caught on both sides of this controversial and very difficult issue, with some arguing for its irrelevance in today’s scholarship , while others have presented it as being in direct and irreconcilable opposition to proper religion. The entire project of comparison is fraught with danger, as J. Z. Smith warns us, “Comparison provides the means by which we ‘revision’ phenomena as our data in order to solve our theoretical problems.” The question of whether we can ever truly escape the confines of our historical and cultural conditioning is absolutely essential for one to maintain in the back of one’s mind when engaging in such a study.
I intend to sketch out a brief and (sadly, but necessarily) incomplete history of the scholarly study of magic, focusing on how each writer’s theory of magic relates with his or her ideas concerning religion. The end result of this overview will frame the rest of part 1 of this paper, while part 2 will have its own theoretical introduction."