¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Abstract: This chapter proposes neither a theory of religion nor a study of data from a particular religious practice; rather, it aims to integrate well known elements within a global framework, inspired by discourse analysis approaches. I will underline some basic characteristics of religious discourse in a narrow sense, that is, that of religions which refer to a Thesaurus of founding texts. I will proceed in two stages. First, religious discourse will be considered as an element of a broader category, “self-constituting discourses”; second, it will be described as an interaction of three modules.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 When they study utterances that are considered as “religious”, linguists follow a variety of paths. Some claim to study “religious language” the same way they would study “legal” or “medical language”, from a sociolinguistic (Ferguson 1973, 1982) viewpoint, or as a “register”, a “style”, a specialized use of language that links text function and the use of specific linguistic forms (Crystal 1964, Crystal & Davy 1969, Banks (ed) 2008, Adam 2009, Ruetten 2011). The interaction between religious practices and language through history is also a prominent research theme (Mühleisen 2007, Kohnen 2010). Other linguists, undoubtedly the most numerous, use linguistic concepts and methods to help interpret texts, or edit manuscripts from a philological perspective.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As for discourse analysts, they claim to study religion as discourse. Unlike many researchers in religious studies who use “religious discourse” in a superficial manner, they consider “discourse” as a key concept. In fact, according to their interpretation of the term, they tend to follow one of two main routes. According to the first one, drawing upon Foucault’s line of thought, they see discourse as “the totality of thought-systems that interact with societal systems in manifold ways” (von Stuckrad 2010: 158). According to the second one, they practice “‘textually oriented discourse analysis’ against (although drawing in some aspects from) Michel Foucault’s more abstract and broadly historical approach” (Hjelm 2011: 134). In this chapter I shall not try to define religion (in any case, as a discourse analyst, I very much doubt that this is possible) nor will I present a painstaking study of texts. I will simply emphasize some basic characteristics of “religious discourse”, according to a narrow sense of the term, that is, as a regime organized around sacred texts and associated with a field (Bourdieu). Although in any kind of society anthropologists can consider that such or such a practice is “religious”, the very possibility of delimiting “religious discourse” as a specific and recognized area of discourse production implies particular socio-historical conditions. If we adopt this narrow sense, the rites and beliefs of Amazonian tribes or Ancient Greece, for example, will not belong to “religious discourse“. Of course, I am not claiming that one cannot find in ancient Greek religion or Amazonian tribes rites, beliefs, rules… that anthropologists may consider as “religious”; I am not even claiming that one may not consider them as belonging to “religious discourse”. By using here the term “religious discourse”, I give to “discourse” a more restricted meaning than in Foucault’s line of thought; according to my use of the term, it refers to a network of genres within a specified area of society. The boundaries of this network are constantly negotiated by the actors, who at the same time oppose various positions in their own field and distinguish it from others (political, philosophical…). From a historical viewpoint, such a configuration is possible only when religious practice is structured around sacred texts.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 By focusing this way on “religious discourse” my purpose is not to present new data or new interpretations, but to integrate well-known elements into a general frame, with the aim to contribute to linking a holistic perspective and “textually oriented” analysis, “to transcend the division between work inspired by social theory which tends not to analyse texts, and work which focuses upon the language of texts but tends not to engage with social theoretical issues” (Fairclough 2003: 3). I will proceed in two stages. First, religious discourse will be considered as an element of a broader category, “self-constituting discourses”; second, it will be described as an interaction of three components. This way of analyzing religious discourse differs from the usual practice of most discourse analysts who study genres (Groeger 2010, Kohnen 2010, 2012, Maingueneau 2009), which by their very nature are deeply anchored in socio-historical contexts. I think that both approaches are necessary and complementary.
1. The paradox of the French situation
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Wijsen (2013: 1) rightly states that “whereas discourse analysis has become a well-respected method in a variety of disciplines it is rarely used in religious studies in a systematic and methodical way”. But one may be surprised that it is also the case in French discourse analysis, which, given its theoretical background, ought to favour research on this subject.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Although we cannot speak of a “French school”, in much research currently done in the frame of “French” discourse analysis, there is a family likeness based on some specific tendencies:
- ¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0
- A non empiricist style of research: ‘facts’, ‘data’ are not considered as given, but as the product of a construction of the researcher. The emphasis is placed on the conceptual coherence of the investigation.
- The interest in ‘constrained’ corpora—oral or written—bound to institutional frames and often associated with the memory of other texts. As a consequence, political debates on TV or in Parliament are much more likely to be studied than everyday talk. From this viewpoint, French-speaking discourse analysis strongly differs from North-American trends as it does not focus on conversation and does not draw on micro-sociological theories.
- Researchers are supposed to take into account linguistic forms (morphology, syntax, enunciation phenomena), and not only their social function. Language is not considered as a passive tool with the help of which social or psychological purposes can be achieved: it has its own rules and its own history.
- The primacy of interdiscourse: the identity of a discourse is seen as a constant process of determining its borders. Discourse is always criss-crossed by manifold forms of other discourses, be they virtual or real. From such a viewpoint, meaning is not a mere projection of communicative intention, but a move inside a radically conflicted space. The reflection on interdiscourse relates to the question of “dialogism” and “polyphony”, as developed by M. Bakhtin.
- A close relationship with the question of subjectivity in language: this preoccupation is tightly connected to “enunciative pragmatics” (Angermuller, Maingueneau, Wodak 2014: 133) whose main inspirer is the French linguist E. Benveniste (1966). As a result of the essential reflexivity of language, enunciation is the reference point of an utterance, which bears many of its traces: person, time, place, determination, modality. “Speaker” and “enunciator” are not considered as synonymous. The speaker is the individual, considered as someone belonging to the world outside language, whereas the “enunciator” appropriates and sets language in motion during the process of enunciation. As “enunciators” exist only through enunciation, many enunciators are not speakers (Ducrot 1984); for example, the enunciator of proverbs is “popular wisdom” or “common sense”, and not a flesh-and-blood being.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Within such a landscape, one would assume that the analysis of religious discourse was bound to develop in France. Of course, as in many other countries, researchers in sociology or anthropology have made extensive use of notions from linguistics to study religious phenomena, but most of them do not claim to practice discourse analysis.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The paucity of research in discourse analysis on religion can be explained by the history of the field and the cultural context. When discourse analysis appeared, in the 1960s, it marked its difference from traditional practices of text commentary by studying corpora that, beforehand, had been ignored: conversations, TV programs, ads, newspapers…As for the specialists of “great texts”, of “Works”, they were reluctant to adopt these new approaches that they considered as reductionist. This has been aggravated by the fact that in France, discourse analysis has been perceived as a left-wing approach. For a long time, the political left has been associated with the rejection of religion, together with the principle of secularism (« laïcité »). Indeed, most French discourse analysts have perceived religion as an ideology, in the Marxist sense of the term, and are not familiar with religious culture. Most of the time, when they happen to study religious texts, they do not do it to understand the functioning of religious discourse, but because religion interferes with political or social problems.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Independently of the French situation, the reluctance of many discourse analysts to study religious corpora may also be motivated by epistemological reasons. Discourse analysts prefer to study texts from media, politics, education, law, or health because with such corpora it is much easier to fulfil the basic requirement of discourse analysis: linking linguistic and social phenomena. They seem to believe that his is less the case with religious texts, especially when they deal with theological matters. In this respect, it is significant that my research on religious controversies of the seventeenth century (Maingueneau 1983, 1984) did not receive attention because it improved the understanding of religion, but because it proposed a semantics model of polemics. The priority that most discourse analysts give to micro-sociological approaches and to oral interaction also plays a part. If you consider oral interaction as the core of discourse activity, you are induced to cast religious discourse to the fringes, because of its strongly scriptural dimension and the special relationship it has with memory.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The marginalization of religious discourse in discourse analysis can be observed in two prominent journals of the field: Discourse & Society and Discourse studies. In the former, among the 200 articles published between 2010 and 2015 none deals with religious topics. In the latter, over the same six years (36 issues), only one article deals with religion: “Call and response: An anatomy of religious practice” (Loeb 2014). This study “details the interactional practices of ‘call and response’ using conversation analysis to analyze video data gathered from Bible study meetings” (Loeb 2014: 514) in a catholic community of African Americans and Latinos. Significantly, the author studies oral interactions with the toolkit used for ordinary conversation. This kind of research is undoubtedly necessary, but religious discourse analysis cannot focus only on conversational practices.
2. Religious discourse as a self-constituting discourse
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 To broaden the perspective, instead of focusing on the aspects of religious discourse that can be studied with the help of concepts and methods used to study conversation or media, I think that a reflection in terms of « self-constituting discourses » (Maingueneau & Cossutta 1995; Maingueneau 1999) can be fruitful.
2.1. Ultimate discourses
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Integrating religious discourse into this wider category, alongside aesthetic, philosophical, or scientific… discourses, means that many of its features are not specific to it. To clarify the notion of “self-constituting discourses”, one can start with a commonplace observation. Philosophers or scientists are not supposed to appeal to the authority of journalists when they deal with philosophy or science; but when a debate is organized in the mass media about important problems, particularly ethical problems, journalists request the intervention of priests, scientists, philosophers, writers… These people are perceived as authorities because they are the spokespersons of ‘ultimate’ discourses: discourses upon which others are based—that have a particular relationship with the foundations of society. ‘Self-constituting discourses’ by their very nature claim to be above any other type of discourse. As discourses bordering on unspeakable meanings, they must negotiate the paradoxes that such a status implies. To found other discourses without being founded by them, they must set themselves up as intimately bound with a legitimizing Source and show that they are in accordance with it, owing to the operations by which they structure their texts and legitimate the way they emerge and develop. Discourse analysts can study the textual operations by which they manage such a self-foundation: only a discourse that constitutes itself can found others.
- ¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0
- ‘Constituting’ as the action of establishing legally, of giving legal form to some entity: self-constituting discourses emerge by instituting themselves as legitimated to utter as they utter.
- ‘Constituting’ as forming a whole, an organization: self-constituting discourses are sets of texts whose structure must be legitimized by discourse itself.
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Self-constituting discourses produce texts dedicated to embodying norms, to guaranteeing behaviours of a community, to drawing the frontiers of good and evil, falsehood and truth, etc. They take charge of what could be called the archeion of discursive production in a given society. This Greek word has, from our viewpoint, an interesting polysemy: derived from arché (‘source’, ‘principle’, ‘order’, ‘power’), the archeion is the centre where authority sits, a group of magistrates, and also refers to public archives (archivum comes from archeion). So, this notion binds tightly founding operations in and by discourse, the determination of a place for legitimate speakers and addressees, and the management of memory.
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In modern societies, as in classical Greece, various self-constituting discourses exist at the same time, thus competing with each other. The common-sense belief is that each self-constituting discourse is autonomous and has contingent relations with others. Actually, their relation to others is a part of their core identity: they must manage their impossible coexistence and the way they manage it is their very identity. For a few centuries in Europe, philosophical discourse claimed to be prevalent: it attributed to itself the privilege of assigning boundaries to the others. Theological discourse also did so beforehand, and so did scientific discourse later…
2.2. The three dimensions of self-constituting discourses
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Self-constituting discourses can be viewed as three dimensional: they are at the same time an apparatus, a field and an archive. But each self-constituting discourse combines the three elements in a specific way.
- ¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0
- An apparatus by which individuals can be instituted as legitimate speech producers or addressees, where a network of discourses activities are stabilized. In the case of religious discourse, these activities can be private or collective (cf. rites) and imply various places (holy mountains, monasteries, temples…) and categories of participants (in particular a structured clergy).
- A discursive field (Maingueneau 1984) where various positions compete, where frames are steadily discussed. The content of this notion of ‘position’ (doctrine, school, party…) is very poor; it only implies that no position can occupy the whole space of a given self-constituting discourse, that the identity of each position emerges and is kept up through the interaction, often conflicting with the others. In order to understand the “contents” of texts, we must refer to the place their producers, at a given moment, attempt to hold in the field.
- An archive. Self-constituting discourses imply a memory that dominates them, but that they also constantly rework. This is especially true about religious discourse, which draws on founding texts and their commentaries. The link between discursive field and archive is essential:
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 each position implies taking an original route through the archive; by claiming a filiation and by excluding others, religious speakers can validate their own enunciation, and show what is for them the legitimate way of being a right member of the community.
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 However, we must be careful when we use notions such as “field”, “apparatus” “position”… Self-constituting discourses, by their very nature, are basically paratopic (Maingueneau 2004a), that is, they belong to society without fully belonging to it. Paratopy is a never ending negotiation between locality and un-locality. Without locality, there are not institutions that legitimate discourse, but without un-locality, there is no privileged relationship with some transcendent reality. Paratopy also characterizes the great personalities who elaborate their doctrine or their works through their very impossibility to occupy a true place in society.
2.3. Position and Discourse Community
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 When we study texts belonging to self-constituting discourses, we have to deal with highly structured discourses that speak of humankind, society, rationality, beauty, good and evil…, that have a large scope or global aims. But these discourses are produced locally, by few people belonging to a small sector of society. A position in a field is not only a more or less systematic set of ideas, it also implies a certain way of life for these groups of people, for discourse communities (Maingueneau 1987) that are structured by the texts that they produce and put into circulation, that are both the product of discourse communities and the condition of their existence. Inventing a new way of having dealings with the members of the community and producing new discourses are two dimensions of the same phenomenon. The way people make science, practise philosophy or religion, or lead an artistic life, is inseparable from the way they produce discourse (De Certeau 1975; Debray 1983, 1991; Maingueneau 1984). But this principle must be diversified according to the type of discourse taken into consideration: communities do not behave in the same way when they belong to a scientific field or to a theological field; moreover, sub-fields must be distinguished: theology does not imply the same type of community as devotion.
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 A self-constituting discourse is not a genre; it forms a network of genres, which are distributed over a scale. More exactly, two complementary hierarchies must be distinguished. The first one opposes ‘archetexts’ and ‘ordinary texts’; the other ‘top’ and ‘secondary’ genres.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Archetexts are singular texts that are reputed to have a privileged relation with the ‘archeion’. For instance, Plato’s Dialogues or Descartes’s Meditations for philosophical discourse, Homer’s Odyssey for literature, The Gospel for Christians, etc. But the notion of ‘archetext’ varies according to self-constituting discourses. Whereas in literature archetexts are ‘chefs-d’oeuvre’ and in scientific discourses archetexts exemplify the norms of scientific activity at a given moment in time, in religious discourse archetexts are the eternal Source of Truth. Two kinds of archetexts can be distinguished: those that are acknowledged as such by everyone, and those that are acknowledged only by a part of the members of a given discursive field. In fact, this distinction is not clear-cut. From the viewpoint of Moslems, the Bible is an indirect archetext in that it announcesthe Quran; for philosophers, Hume, Kant or Husserl’s greatest works are archetexts, but all philosophical positions do not attribute the same value to each of them. The definition of archetexts is indeed controversial: each position has its own archetexts, its proper textual pantheon, setting its own identity by modifying prevailing hierarchies. Hierarchies of archetexts can be guaranteed by institutions: handbooks of literature oppose ‘great’ writers to menores, while the Catholic Church has drawn up a sophisticated scale of textual authorities.
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Although it seems contrary to common sense, the archetexts, which are destined to be commented upon, and their commentaries presuppose each other. Archetexts, when taking place in what could be called a ‘hermeneutic frame’ (Maingueneau 2004a: 56–67), receive a pragmatic status that turns them into texts that are worthy of interpretation but exceed the abilities of its interpreters. If interpreters fail to understand them, it is not because the text is deficient, but because interpreters are deficient. This failure is the consequence of their ‘hyperprotected’ pragmatic status (Pratt 1977). The more interpretations texts give rise to, the more enigmatic they appear.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 The second hierarchy opposes top and secondary genres. This distinction founds in particular the necessity of popularization: on the one hand there are texts that are supposed to be dominated by no other text; on the other hand one finds genres that clarify, simplify or diffuse doctrines already established. The top genres of theology or basic science, for instance, are disseminated through secondary genres, such as preaches in churches or TV programmes about diseases, diets, beauty… Between these boundaries (top genres and mass TV programmes) various intermediate levels can be recognised, such as handbooks. The analysis of self-constituting discourses cannot focus only on archetexts and top genres of texts: self-constituting discourses are basically heterogeneous, they are made up of the interaction between the elements of a network of genres.
3. The modules of religious discourse
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Unlike ordinary faithful, most experts, to play their part, need to postulate that their religion can form a coherent whole. Actually, religious discourse is not a whole, organized around a centre, as it claims to be. It is more realistic to see it as a constant negotiation between three relatively independent discourse modules: a Thesaurus (TH) of founding texts, a regulation module (RM), and an indexical module (IM). Hence, religious discourse proves an unstable system, punctuated by crises of variable intensity.
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 In order to connect these modules, I had originally thought of using the notion of dispositif, drawing in a personal way on a concept of Foucault which is widely used in social sciences and in philosophy. Foucault characterises it in these terms:
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions – in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the dispositif. The dispositif itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements. (Foucault 1980: 194).
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 This definition is rather open-ended, but in my view it has two main drawbacks if we use it to analyse religious discourse: 1) it integrates elements that belong to various levels of society; 2) although these elements are heterogeneous, they implicitly converge into a consistent whole, according to a structural conception of discourse. I prefer an approach based on modularity. By this, I mean a “weak” modularity, as the modules I am dealing with are not closed domains.
3.1. Thesaurus, Regulation and and Indexical modules
- ¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0
- A Thesaurus (TH) is a set of oral or written archetexts: what has been said by the highest authorities. They can be based on a revelation (Christianity or Islam) or on an illumination (Buddhism), but as a rule they mix didactic and hagiographical elements. They are not considered as belonging to a genre but as founding events that collective memory preserves, singular traces of a transcendent Speech whose meaning cannot be exhausted by any interpretation. As a rule, TH is written in an ancient and foreign language (Hebrew and Greek for Christians) or in an ancient and prestigious variety of vernacular language (biblical Hebrew for the Jews, classical Arabic for Islam, Sanskrit for Hinduism, etc.). Even the contemporary translations of the Bible that claim to be “modern” preserve some lexical, syntactic and pragmatic archaisms.
- The regulation module (RM) structures the life of the believers. It associates two sub-modules: ritual and prescriptive.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 The ritual module includes collective rites, but also the utterances of everyday life (prayers, spells…). These signifiers are supposed to preserve the identity of the religion. Their stability is enhanced and embodied by the use of liturgical language, which is not used for ordinary transactions (Slavonic in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Pali in Theravada Buddhism, Aramaic in the Chaldean Church, etc.). In the case of Sanskrit, to keep rites effective the priestly caste has been constantly striving to preserve the original signifiers, that are in no way to be touched by the corruption of everyday language.
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Those who participate in a religious service or say a prayer are supposed to be inhabited by a “hyperenunciator” (Maingueneau 2004b), the spirit of the community which is activated by the enunciation process. Rituals imply repetition, at two complementary levels. The utterances a) are destined to be indefinitely reiterated, b) are structured by the repetition of signifiers (see for example litanies (Rabatel 2015)). Reciting the same texts shapes the community, whose members repeat together repetitive texts.
¶ 34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 But the ritual module takes many forms, according to the circumstances and the kind of religion. Whereas Brahmanism minutely fixed the way ritual utterances had to be enunciated and the Catholic Church—until the Second Vatican Council—tried to keep a strong control of its rites, each church of American evangelical Protestantism can, within certain limits, establish its own rites.
¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 The prescriptive module defines what must be done and not be done to be a legitimate member of the community. As a rule, these prescriptions are concentrated into short texts that can be easily memorized: for example the Ten Commandments, the Five Pillars of Islam…But it is a small part of the whole set of implicit or explicit prescriptions a believer is submitted to in his/her everyday life. A part of the prescriptions concerns the ritual component (what prayers one must say in certain circumstances, when one must go to the cult, etc.). According to the society and the time, the tension between these prescriptions and the norms which prevail in the society varies widely. In traditional rural societies, the tension can be weak; but in other contexts it can be very strong: the Amisch in Protestantism or the Haredim in Judaïsm are good examples of a strong divergence between the enforcement of religious prescriptions and the society that surrounds the community.
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 In principle, the Regulation Module is, in one way or another, anchored in the TH. Actually, it is the product of a negotiation between, on the one hand, anthropological and historical constraints, and on the other hand doctrinal constraints, which themselves are shaped through the relations between the positions in the field. In Christianity, for example, the cult of the saints or the Virgin have a problematic relationship with the TH; this is one of the key differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, which holds that the Bible is a higher source of authority than Church tradition. Even when the TH seems to give clear instructions about rites, there always exist differences between what is said in the TH and actual practice at a particular place and time. But most of the time, the divergence between the TH and actual practice does not yield important conflicts: rites or prescriptions that are no longer widely accepted are not explicitly rejected, but progressively marginalized, or forgotten.
- ¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0
- The function of the indexical module (IM) is to make relevant TH or RM in a particular context. The difference between IM, on the one hand, and TH or RM, on the other hand, manifests itself through language: as a rule, IM uses vernacular living languages. A religion, by drawing on the authority of a very limited stock of utterances that have been produced in particular circumstances, must respond to the demands of sense from men and women who are always put in new situations and different historical environments.
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 The way “indexicalization” is managed depends on the specific constraints of the genre and of the doctrinal positioning. IM covers a wide range of genres: from the most hermetic genres of theology to those that involve ordinary believers: in Christianity religious classes, encyclicals of the Pope, parish bulletins, websites, preaches, “Bible meetings”… These genres and the way they are practised are socio-historical realities and are at one with the doctrine : all religious faiths do not tolerate something like Bible meetings, where common believers discuss about the meaning of sacred texts, where. “religious doctrine is made relevant in the interpretation of personal experience” (Loeb 2014: 514). Inferences and categorization play a key role in this kind of session. For example in collective reading of the Bible by the Seventh-day Adventists:
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 The participants use words and expressions that recontextualize the Bible story, connect it to categories that are relevant in the world of the participants. Understanding the categorizations is, however, dependent on the skill of inferring. The inferential order of the Bible study relies on cultural resources. The participants must, for example, see themselves as potential believers and as potentially engaged in teamwork. Understanding the recontextualizations is dependent on the same resources as producing them.
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 It is important to note, however, that the skill involved is a practical one. There is no need for the participants to draw on any fixed body of cultural knowledge. Rather, they need a skill to make contextual inferences. The contextuality of their work becomes even more evident when the categorizations are explored in their sequential context. (Lehtinen 2009: 22)
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 IM does not concern just the people who must give sense to their life and take decisions: it focuses also on the very institutions, which constantly need to legitimate their own organization and their activities. It is especially important in critical moments, when people challenge the legitimacy of such or such practice or organization and may come into open conflict with orthodoxy.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 The most evident difference between RM and IM is that the believers who share the same elements of RM do not need to give them the same meaning. This divergence becomes visible when there is a conflict. I will give an example. In the seventeenth century there was a controversy between the Humanists and the Jansenists about the French translation of the Latin hymn to the Virgin “Ave maris stella”, which was part of the Catholic liturgy. Their respective translations in the missals showed that they interpreted the Latin words according to their own doctrines, as we can see by comparing the first stanza.
|(1) Original text||(2) Jansenist translation||(3) Humanist translation|
|Ave maris stella||Eclaire, Astre divin, les noirs flots de ce monde||Bel Astre Intendant de la mer|
¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 In (2) the author divides the universe into two worlds (the “black” world of sin, and the bright world of God), which are connected by the light of divine Grace. In (3) the world is a Cosmos where the Virgin, associated with the rhythms of the sea, is a mediator between the human being and God.
¶ 54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 If we take into account the distinction made by Kohnen between “first-order”, “second-order” and “third-order sphere” in religious discourse, TH and the Prescriptive component of RM belong to the “first-order sphere” (“texts that are issued by a superior, binding body or authority and are directed at all the members of the discourse community”); IM belongs mainly to the third-order sphere (“texts with which members of a discourse community, who do not form a superior body or institution, communicate with each other”). A good part of the Ritual component falls within the second-order sphere (“the members of a discourse community address a superior authority or institution”).
3.2. The relationship between the modules
¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 IM must satisfy the demands from the believers, but preserve a link with TH and ensure the evolution of RM. This is possible because the masses of the faithful perceive TH and RM as relatively stable: TH is supposed to remain unchanged and RC seems to last hundreds of years. Indeed, for the common believers, who are immersed in the present, the relation between TH, RM and IM is experienced as unidirectional: TH guarantees directly the legitimacy of RM and any legitimate member of the clergy is supposed to say “the” meaning of TH, which is supposed to remain unchanged since the Origin, in its signifier as well as in its signified. In fact, both aspects are submitted to historical evolution.
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 In principle, any fragment of TH is sacred. But at a given moment in time all its utterances do not have the same value for the members of the community. Each position in the field gives priority to some texts or excerpts to the detriment of others. This is favoured by the fact that TH is constituted by texts from different genres or different periods; their compatibility is problematic. As the experts of the IM who produce doctrines must define a coherent position by delimitating a specific space in the field, they have to value some excerpts over others and to present this selection as the right interpretation of TH. As a rule, over a given period, a hegemonic interpretation casts to the fringes a good part of TH, which is ignored, or interpreted in a different way. In Catholicism, the Song of Songs was widely quoted and commented on in the first half of the seventeenth century, but marginalized in the second half of the century, when there was a strong mistrust of mysticism.
¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 Texts that have been produced in IM happen to be integrated into the TH. Paul’s epistles, for example, that clearly belong to IM, were added very early to the New Testament, together with the Gospels. Likewise, but to a lesser degree, “great Church Fathers” (Augustine, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Jerome) were a high source of authority. Saint Augustine has for centuries defined the orthodoxy on the subject of Grace. In this respect, one can mention too the example of rabbinic literature: the Torah denotes both the Pentateuch and the Oral Torah, which consists of commentaries that have been transmitted from generation to generation. Likewise, in Islam the sunna is made up of two components: the Quran and the collection of “hadiths”, which report the words and the life of the Prophet. But a hierarchy has been established: a) between the Quran, directly revealed by God, and the hadiths; b) among the hadiths: some are considered as authentic, others not; actually, the boundary cannot be clear-cut: it depends on the criteria that are considered as relevant, which opens a space for conflict
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Religious institutions can decide to exclude some texts from TH (for example “Apocryphal” Gospels in the first centuries of Christianity). They can also grant them less authority: the Torah includes only five books.
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 The key role of IM is especially visible when the believers perceive a change in RC, whose stability gives them the feeling that their religion remains the same over time. They associate the stability of the signifiers and the very identity of the community. They are particularly sensitive to the modification of rituals and prescriptions. Replacing liturgical language of RM by another one can trigger sharp controversy, or the simple fact of modifying a translation: for example, when in 1966 the Catholic Church imposed a new “ecumenical” translation in French of the “Our Father” where God was called “tu” instead of “vous”.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 As for the experts, they can use sophisticated resources to show that, in spite of the appearances, the deep transformations of the RM preserve the identity of the religion. The Second Vatican Council was presented by his/her sympathisers as a “prophetic act” which, instead of innovating, brought the Church back to its foundation:
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 The second Vatican Council is a prophetic event. […] An extraordinary event in the purest fidelity to the Good News announced by Jesus-Christ, an extraordinary event in that it shows an institution given – at least for a while – to the powers of prophets, an institution that accepts to consider its own reform and that exposes itself to the risks of being called into question (…) This auto-destruction is not a destruction, the refusal of the heritage, a break of the continuity, but a moment of reflexivity, of dismantling, a moment of crisis, as if the institution thought the crisis. (Nault 2011: 461).
4. Community and embodiment
4.1 The three communities
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 The modules that we have sketched are not sufficient to characterize religious discourse. Italso implies a community whose members share a cultural background, constituted of heterogeneous elements (beliefs, characters, narratives…). This community takes three complementary forms: transcendent, instituted, global.
- ¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0
- The “transcendent” community is not limited to a specified context: it integrates the living and the dead, the present and the absent; over time it must always be the same community.
- “Instituted” communities are the multiple groups of people who participate in the same discourse activity: a religious service, a predication, a prayer… They take their legitimacy from the transcendent community, which envelops them. When the faithful sing or pray together, the “I” of each participant implies also all those who, addressing the same divinity, have said, are saying, will say, might say the same words in the same situation. Even in solitary practices (meditating a sacred text, praying…) the transcendent community gives sense to the activity.
- At a higher level, instituted communities are incorporated into the “global community” of all the believers considered at a given moment, independently of such or such a discourse activity. The global community is structured by the distinction between clerics and non-clerics. The status of the clerics is ambiguous: they are both mediators of the divinity and members of the community; as a result, they are expected to legitimate themselves by behaving in an exemplary manner. Depending on the situation and the moment, in their discourses they can distance themselves from the other members, taking on the point of view of the divinity, or presenting themselves as any member of the community.
¶ 64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 This leads us to the polysemy of “body”, which can refer both to the anatomical body of a person and to a mystical body, the whole community. The members of the community are supposed to maintain the same disciplined body, especially the same speaking body. Here we can refer to notions like “habitus” or “hexis” (Bourdieu) in sociology, or “discursive ethos” (Maingueneau 1999, 2014; Amossy 2010) in discourse analysis. Speaking with a certain ethos enhances the belonging to the community and validates the doctrine through one’s utterances. In the case of self-constituting discourses, speaking with the right ethos is not a rhetorical strategy: it means being consistent with the world that has been intended by the divinity. In other words, conflicts between doctrines are inseparable from conflicts between discursive ethos. In the France of the seventeenth century, the controversy between Christian Humanism and Jansenism was also the opposition between two ethos. For the Humanists, speaking in a “sweet” way meant being in conformity with the rules of God’s Cosmos. This doctrine, which refused rigorous devoutness and particularly Calvinist discipline, was in a sense embodied in this ethos. In the beginning of the most famous book of this trend, Introduction à la vie dévote (“Introduction to devout life”) by François de Sales (1609), the author stages a representation of the body of good devoutness, which is opposed to that of bad devoutness. According to the medical categorization of the time, the latter is represented by the stereotype of a melancholic character opposed to the sanguine temper of the enunciator.
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 The people, dear Philothée, defame as much as possible holy devoutness, depicting devout persons with an unpleasant, sad and peevish face, and publishing that devoutness gives melancholic and insufferable humours.
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 This “anti-ethos” indirectly legitimates the enunciator as a good Christian: the person who is speaking so softly and in such a friendly manner is the very person who does not have a “peevish face” or “insufferable humours”.
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 The embodiment of religious convictions is not just a matter of speech. It also implies a way of dressing and moving one’s body that must be in line with the required ethos. This aspect is particularly important for the mass of the faithful. Catholics were particularly moved when the Second Vatican Council decided to change the way priests and nuns were dressed: many people thought that abandoning the cassock was damaging for their status. The same thing happened with religious service: the introduction of songs with guitar accompaniment implied a different embodiment of religion. So, depending on the kind of society, religion can to a large extent be in charge of the surveillance mechanisms—external and internalized—that Foucault has described.
¶ 68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 However, the problem of ethos cannot be reduced to doctrinal aspects. We must also take into account the specific constraints of the genres, especially those of RM. A prayer, a song, a litany…imply by their nature a specific ethos, which is largely independent of the various doctrines. Moreover, the ordinary faithful and clerics do not have to satisfy the same requirements: clerics must embody the doctrine, whereas only very few believers adopt a religious ethos: they behave mainly according to the social groups they belong to (family, social class, gender, profession…).
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 I have stressed that religious discourse, in the narrow sense I give to the term, is both stable and unstable. This can be explained by its modularity. The modules are relatively autonomous and submitted to a specific history, but at any moment of time they must interact, in order to somehow look compatible. Discourse practice is constantly engaged to both repeat and to forget, to preserve signifiers and to invent new meanings and new speech frames, implying new forms of subjectivity and new audiences.
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 Discourse analysis cannot replace philosophy, sociology, psychology or anthropology to propose a theory of religion. But it can contribute to changing the way religion is studied. Its purpose is to overcome the traditional relationship between “linguistics” and “religious text” or “religious language” where linguistics is only an auxiliary discipline that offers help in interpreting texts or analysing a language register. But most discourse analysts are still reluctant to study religious corpora. When they do, they tend to select the aspects of religious discourse that resemble the data they are familiar with: especially oral interaction and preach. I think that religious discourse must be considered in the full diversity of its practices and of its components. Undoubtedly, the integration of religious data will have an impact on the theoretical background and the methods of discourse analysis, but we cannot just expand its usual toolkit towards corpora that until has been marginalized up until now. New concepts must be used. But opening up this new field of research is in line with what ought to be its aim: considering in their full diversity the interactions of all manifestations of discourse in society.
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Almeida I., 1978, L’Opérativité sémantique des récits-paraboles. Sémiotique narrative et textuelle. Herméneutique du discours religieux, Louvain-Paris, Peeters-Cerf.
¶ 87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 Foucault, M., 1980, “The Confession of the Flesh” (1977), interview in Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings. 1972–1977, C. Gordon (ed.), New York, Pantheon Books, pp. 194–228.
¶ 91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 Hjelm, T., 2011. “Discourse Analysis,” in The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, Edited by: M. Stausberg and S. Engler, London, Routledge, pp. 134–150.
¶ 93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0 Kohnen, T., 2012, “A toolkit for constructing corpus networks,” in: Suhr, C., Taavitsainen, I. (eds.): Developing Corpus Methodology for Historical Pragmatics. VARIENG e-journal, volume 11.
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 Maingueneau, D., 1989, “Un conflitto di traduzioni: l’Ave maris stella tra umanesimo devoto e giansenismo,” in Lingua, tradizione, rivelazione : le chiese e la communicazione sociale, Lia Formigari et Donatella di Cesare éd., Casale Monferrato (Italie), Marietti, pp. 161–175.
¶ 105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 Mühleisen, S., 2007. Language and religion. In Hellinger, Marlis and Anne Pauwels (eds.) Handbook of Language and Communication: Diversity and Change, Berlin, de Gruyter, pp. 459–491.
¶ 111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 Rabatel A., 2007a, « L’alternance des tu et des vous dans Le Deutéronome: deux points de vue sur le rapport des fils d’Israël à l’Alliance », Études théologiques et religieuses, Tome 82, volume 4, pp. 567–593.
¶ 112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 Rabatel A., 2007b, Répétitions et reformulations dans L’Exode: coénonciation entre Dieu, ses représentants et le narrateur, dans Mohamed Kara (dir.), Usages et analyses de la reformulation. Université de Metz, pp. 75–96.
¶ 116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 Stausberg, M., Engler, S., 2011, “Research methods in the study of religion\s,” in The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, M. Stausberg and S. Engler (eds), London, Routledge, pp. 3–20.
¶ 118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0 von Stuckrad, K., 2003, “Discursive study of religion: from states of the mind to communicative action,” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 15(3), pp. 255–171.
¶ 119 Leave a comment on paragraph 119 0 von Stuckrad, K., 2010, “Reflections on the limits of reflection: an invitation to the discursive study of religion,” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 22(2–3), pp. 156–169.
¶ 121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0  I cannot mention here the multitude of articles that deal with these topics; on the website http://www.discourses.org/resources/bibliographies/ an extensive list (about 300 references, but only until 2013) can be found. Regarding religious studies and discourse analysis, see in particular the two different points of view illustrated in von Stuckrad (2003, 2011) and Hjelm (2011).
¶ 122 Leave a comment on paragraph 122 0  “Despite much talk of ‘discourse’, few scholars of religions have used the methodological tools of discourse analysis” (Stausberg & Engler 2011: 13). For example, in the book by the philosopher M. Scott Religious language (2013), the section bearing the title“Religious discourse” does not deal with texts but only with “the use of religious sentences”, “the information that a sentence is used to communicate” (2013: 153). On the website http://www.discourses.org/resources/bibliographies/ many of the books and articles that are supposed to belong to the field of discourse studies do not fall, in fact, within this domain.
¶ 123 Leave a comment on paragraph 123 0  We make here a distinction between text and discourse. This is not always the case. R. B. Terry, for example, entitles A Discourse Analysis of First Corinthians a study that falls within the domain of text linguistics: « discourse analysis is roughly equivalent to text analysis or textlinguistics » (1995: 3).
¶ 129 Leave a comment on paragraph 129 0  There was not the same reluctance in French semiotics (A.-J. Greimas), which was very influential until the 1980s. Unlike discourse analysis, semiotics claimed to study texts, not social practices; in spite of its structuralist assumptions, such an approach was more easily compatible with traditional commentary practices. 1971 saw the publication of a special issue of Langages, the most prestigious French journal of linguistics, edited by C. Chabrol et L. Marin on the study of the Bible : “Sémiotique narrative : récits bibliques”. It was followed by other publications (Marin 1972, Marin and Chabrol 1972, Groupe d’Entrevernes 1977, Almeida 1978). 1975 saw the founding of the journal Sémiotique et Bible, edited by L. Panier. From the 1980s on, semiotics has lost much of its influence and the linguists interested by religious studies have increasingly used tools from enunciative pragmatics (Rabatel 2007a, 2007b; 2015).
¶ 134 Leave a comment on paragraph 134 0  Le Maistre de Sacy, L’Office de l’Eglise et le la Vierge en latin et en français avec les hymnes traduites en vers, Paris, Veuve Jean Camusat et Pierre Le Petit, p.114. Translation: “Light up, divine aster, the black waves of this world / Mother of the God of Gods / Always virgin, but fortunately fruitful virgin / Clear door of the heavens”.
¶ 135 Leave a comment on paragraph 135 0  Jean Adam, Heures catholiques en latin et en français, Paris, G. Meturas, 1651, p. 544. Translation: “Beautiful star intendant of the sea / whose eyes can appease the fiercest winds / Mother of God, door of the Heaven /Virgin before and after your childbirth”.
¶ 137 Leave a comment on paragraph 137 0  Original text: « Le monde, ma chère Philothée, diffame tant qu’il peut la sainte dévotion, dépeignant les personnes dévotes avec un visage fâcheux, triste et chagrin, et publiant que la dévotion donne des humeurs mélancoliques et insupportables. » (1969: 34)