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Victorian ReformationThe Fight Over Idolatry in the Church of England, 1840-1860$
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Dominic Janes

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195378511

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195378511.001.0001

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Satan Transformed: Comparative Religion

Satan Transformed: Comparative Religion

(p.93) 4 Satan Transformed: Comparative Religion
Victorian Reformation

Dominic Janes (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter four focuses upon the significance of comparative religion on the readings of Catholicism in early 19th-century England. Intense contact with Hinduism in India, combined with classical scholarship on paganism had led to notions of the interconnectedness of systems of worship. The basis of primitive religion was understood to lie in the fetishistic worship of base substances and objects combined with an obsession with fertility. This led to interpretations of the supposed ‘primitiveness’ of Catholicism as evidence of its sexual focus. Or, to put it another way, contemporary Catholicism, including that espoused by ritualists, was sexualised by critics. The pollution that this was understood to represent is then, in the chapter, considered in the light of anthropological understandings of taboo and danger. In this analysis the material culture of ritualism was, to use Mary Douglas’ phrase, matter out of place. Therefore, the search was on for ways in which to make use of this conceptual dirt.

Keywords:   Hinduism, paganism, Catholicism, comparative religion, ritualists, pollution, Mary Douglas

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