By Randall J. Stephens
The latest issue of Historically Speaking includes a forum on “Abundant History,” which features a lead piece by Robert Orsi and responses from Thomas Kselman, Jane Shaw, Brad S. Gregory, and Constance M. Furey. The forum was made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. I have posted Orsi’s lead essay and Shaw’s response here.
It’s a provocative subject. Some of you may know that Orsi has been looking at the limits of critical historical method and its epistemological underpinnings. The essays in the forum examine the religious experiences that lay outside “the conceptual range of modernist epistemology and historiography.”
After discussing Marian apparitions, Orsi poses several critical questions:
What words or categories of interpretation are there for phenomena such as these? How do we talk about what happened, first at Lourdes (and at other sites where the transcendent breaks into time and comes face to face with humans in the circumstances of their everyday lives), and then afterward, as the result of what happened at Lourdes, there and at all the other Lourdes? How do we account for the excess?
A few related items: Johns Hopkins University Press will begin publishing HS in January 2009. It's been a pleasure to work with them. That means that HS will now be available on Project Muse. It's good news for us because to date we've had a limited web presence. I’ve moved up from associate editor to editor. And, lastly, I’ve started doing some caricatures. Call that an experiment, failed or successful. William James, which accompanies Shaw’s piece, is one of the first.