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    Some Reflections on Theology and Popular Piety: A Fruitful or Fraught Relationship?

    Ryan, Salvador (2012) Some Reflections on Theology and Popular Piety: A Fruitful or Fraught Relationship? The Heythrop Journal, 53. pp. 961-971. ISSN 0018-1196

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    It hardly needs reminding but scholarship over the past twenty years or so has moved quickly to close what was once perceived to be a chasm between so-called ‘popular’ belief and its ‘elite’ counterpart. Indeed in recent years historians can be said to have come to a consensus at least on the porous nature of what were once viewed as quite distinct categories. As early as 1978[2] Peter Burke argued that while the ‘great’ culture of elites remained largely foreign territory to the majority of the population, both the ‘little’ and the ‘great’ cultures could be accessed by the higher orders, allowing the nobleman to be pious in a ‘popular’ sort of way and, indeed, opening up new avenues that permitted traffic to cross categories at least in one direction. Later work by scholars such as Martin Ingram would speak of a ‘cultural consensus’ uniting all levels and, perhaps most notably, in 1992 Eamon Duffy argued for a degree of religious homogeneity across the social divide by coining the term ‘traditional religion’.[3] In the years since Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars, many scholars, while critiquing his approach, have, nevertheless chosen to join the increasingly long wagon train of academics who like to congratulate themselves on not being associated with their less ‘enlightened’ predecessors who only viewed the world in black and white – popular or elite religion, non-official or official religion, unlearned or learned religion, heretical or orthodox religion, superstition or sound doctrine. However, while everyone seems now to be an expert on what was wrong with the old system, few are confident about what should replace it. If there are to be categories such as ‘popular piety’ at all, the challenge now seems to be how they should be defined.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Some Reflections; Theology; Popular Piety; Fruitful or Fraught Relationship;
    Academic Unit: St Patrick's College, Maynooth > Faculty of Theology
    Item ID: 7803
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Prof. Salvador Ryan
    Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 16:06
    Journal or Publication Title: The Heythrop Journal
    Publisher: Wiley
    Refereed: Yes

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