ISBN 13: 9780028648606

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Viewing standard material from a fresh perspective, and presenting new and innovative research by current scholars as well as the work of female religious scholars of the past, the Encyclopedias 600 articles place all aspects of religious thought and experience in a new light. Major themes explored include comparative study of issues such as mythology, ordination and afterlife; wide ranging perspectives including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and others; relationship of religion to study of art, literature, and science; historical perspectives on religions both new and prehistoric; biographies of religious leaders and scholars; methods and theories for study of women in religion. Two volumes

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Recent decades have seen a marked increase in scholarship and academic research on women and their experiences, including their participation in and treatment by world religions. As stated in the introduction, "This encyclopedia endeavors to represent this burgeoning field by serving as a culturally and historically comprehensive reference work that reflects contemporary approaches to women's history and experience in world religion from the beginning of time to the present."

Entries are arranged alphabetically, are signed by the scholars or experts who wrote them, and conclude with supplemental bibliographies, many of which are annotated. The editors have striven to include all religions of the world, but traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism receive more detailed coverage. In fact, the entries for these traditions are quite lengthy and are divided into sections that cover a particular chronological period or geographic area. Many specific terms and concepts are discussed within these lengthy essays instead of having entries of their own (e.g., enlightenment). This necessitates use of the index, and, fortunately, the index to this encyclopedia is very good. Another reason to use the index is that separate biographical entries are limited. Important women in the history of religion and important scholars of women and religion are usually mentioned within entries on larger topics.

What is particularly unique about this source is that entries strive to describe the experiences of women in particular traditions or state the relevance of a particular practice to women. The entry monasticism treats various types of women monastics in both Eastern and Western traditions. The entries clothing and prayer describe not only how women have used both in religious practice but also how they have been used against women by male-dominated religious traditions. The encyclopedia also includes what the editors term "transreligional terms," such as blood, divine, and nature, describing the significance and explaining the meaning of such terms in many traditions. Of course, all entries are not equally successful. Critical theory provides a good summary of that topic, but, unlike the entry for epistemology, it fails to provide examples how this approach has been applied in scholarship on women and religion.

Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion is an excellent resource, owing in no small measure to the fact that it is one of a kind. Two concerns limit its use for a wide audience. First, its self-admitted "feminist agenda" runs counter to the notion that reference works strive for neutrality, to the extent that this is ever possible. Second, the variety of methodological approaches represented in the entries requires a high degree of sophistication when reading them to sort out which approach is used when and how it shapes the content. The editors also concede that employing one methodological approach over another is a matter of debate. Therefore, the work is recommended primarily for academic libraries, although larger public libraries might also consider it.

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ISBN 10:  0028648595 ISBN 13:  9780028648590
Publisher: Macmillan Library Reference, 1998
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9780028646084: Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion

Macmil..., 1998
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