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Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation Is religion an extreme form of traditional authority?

  • Maurice Bloch


Recent studies of symbols in ritual share two features. First, they isolate symbols from the ritualprocess; second, they interpret symbols as units containing meaning. In this paper I want to argue thatsymbols in ritual cannot be understood without a prior study of the nature of the communication medium of ritual in which they are embedded, in particular singing and dancing, and that once this has been done we find that symbols cannot any more be understood as units of meaning simply on the Saussurian signifier/signified model, however subtly this model is handled. Such varied writers as Bettelheim (1954) and Turner (1959) are to my mind examples of writers ultimately using this model for the study of meaning in ritual.



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