RAI RESEARCH SEMINAR
SEMINAR SERIES AT THE ROYAL ANTHROPOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
William Robertson Smith's Influence on the "Myth and Ritual School"
Prof Aleksandar Bošković, Institute of Social Sciences and Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
Wednesday 31 May at 5.30 pm
Scottish Semitist William Robertson Smith (1846-1894), who was at the time of his death Chair and Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, had a lasting impact on the representatives of what later became known as “Myth and Ritual School.” His book on the religion of the Semites had a profound impact on early anthropologists, beginning with Sir James George Frazer, and he remained very highly regarded by some of the key figures in social anthropology, such as Bronislaw Malinowski and Dame Mary Douglas. The present lecture will outline some of the historical origins and both theoretical and practical consequences of his influence on the scholars associated with the “Myth and Ritual School,” like Jane Ellen Harrison and S. H. Hooke, Sigmund O. P. Mowinckel, and H. S. Nyberg. It will also take into account different lines of inquiry among the British, primarily interested in Classical studies, on the one hand – and North European and Scandinavian “myth-ritualists” (including scholars associated with the methodology of “Higher Criticism” and members of the so-called “Uppsala School”), mostly interested in the study of Bible, especially Old Testament, on the other. It will become obvious how some concepts – like, for example, the one of God as both “king” and “father” of his people – made it into the subsequent scholarship. This line of research should open some important clues for understanding development of the comparative method – in the study of myths, in social anthropology, as well as in the history of ideas in general.