Beginning with the Catholic doctrine of the literal, embodied presence of Christ, scholar of religion Robert Orsi imagines an alternative to the future of...

Beginning with the Catholic doctrine of the literal, embodied presence of Christ, scholar of religion Robert Orsi imagines an alternative to the future of religion that early moderns proclaimed was inevitable. The gods really present, in the Catholic sense, were translated into metaphors and symptoms, and into functions of the social and political. Presence became evidence of superstition, of the infantile and irrational. History and Presence (Harvard University Press, 2016) confronts this intellectual heritage, proposing instead a model for the study of religion that begins with humans and gods present to each other in everyday life. These intersubjective encounters are always, Robert Orsi writes, an engagement with oneself and ones world in all modalities of being. Along the way, History and Presence examines Marian apparitions, the cult of the saints, relations with the dead, clerical sexual abuse, and a host of other events and encounters.

Robert Orsi holds the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago.


Hillary Kaell is associate professor of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

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