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Smith At Play

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What I would most like to carry forward, or perhaps better, recuperate, from J. Z. Smith’s work is an orientation toward play, especially play as it opens onto polysemy, irony, and unfixed or fugitive meanings. On this point, I draw inspiration from Sam Gill, who has suggested, “following Smith, that religion is a term that makes sense only when seen in a ludic frame—the frame of metaphor, irony, and joke” (Gill 1998, 201). Compared with Smith’s best-known dicta—that “religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study” (Smith 1982, xi) and that the point of comparison is to identify and explore difference—the issue of play has not received much attention. Nevertheless, in my own work this is where I find the most intriguing possibility for rereading Smith’s oeuvre.

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News source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion Current Issue

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