15. Teaching J. Z. Smith in Scandinavia

Thinking with J. Z. Smith - Mapping Methods in the Study of Religion - Barbara Krawcowicz

Gabriel Levy [+-]
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Gabriel Levy is a Professor of Religious Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway and Chairperson of the board for the Interdisciplinary PhD Research School, Authoritative Texts and their Reception at University of Oslo. He is the author of Judaic Technologies of the Word: A Cognitive Analysis of Jewish Cultural Formation (Routledge 2014).


Gabriel Levy questions the usefulness of J. Z. Smith both for teaching and for the study of religion. The first point brought up by Levy has to do with the playful character of Smith’s prose. Simply put, this dimension of Smith’s writings is often lost on non-native English speakers. If Gill is right in arguing for the importance of riddles and jests in Smith’s essays, then those of us functioning outside the English-speaking environment are faced with the question: how to translate Smith. Is it at all possible? And perhaps a more fundamental question is, would such a translation be in fact worthwhile? Against scholars in whose opinion Smith’s contributions to both method and theory in the study of religion should make his oeuvre a crucial part of the syllabi we design as well as our own research practice, Levy argues that there may be no coherent method to be found in Smith and that his theoretical contributions to the study of religion are less useful than some tend to argue.

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Levy, Gabriel. 15. Teaching J. Z. Smith in Scandinavia. Thinking with J. Z. Smith - Mapping Methods in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2023. ISBN 9781781799840. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39930. Date accessed: 26 Nov 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39930. Oct 2023

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