Apples and Oranges
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Apples and Oranges

Explorations In, On, and With Comparison

Bruce Lincoln

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eBook - ePub

Apples and Oranges

Explorations In, On, and With Comparison

Bruce Lincoln

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About This Book

Comparison is an indispensable intellectual operation that plays a crucial role in the formation of knowledge. Yet comparison often leads us to forego attention to nuance, detail, and context, perhaps leaving us bereft of an ethical obligation to take things correspondingly as they are. Examining the practice of comparison across the study of history, language, religion, and culture, distinguished scholar of religion Bruce Lincoln argues in Apples and Oranges for a comparatism of a more modest sort.Lincoln presents critiques of recent attempts at grand comparison, and enlists numerous theoretical examples of how a more modest, cautious, and discriminating form of comparison might work and what it can accomplish. He does this through studies of shamans, werewolves, human sacrifices, apocalyptic prophecies, sacred kings, and surveys of materials as diverse and wide-ranging as Beowulf, Herodotus's account of the Scythians, the Native American Ghost Dance, and the Spanish Civil War.Ultimately, Lincoln argues that concentrating one's focus on a relatively small number of items that the researcher can compare closely, offering equal attention to relations of similarity and difference, not only grants dignity to all parties considered, it yields more reliable and more interesting—if less grandiose—results. Giving equal attention to the social, historical, and political contexts and subtexts of religious and literary texts also allows scholars not just to assess their content, but also to understand the forces, problems, and circumstances that motivated and shaped them.

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1. Here, one should note that “apples” and “oranges” relate to other entities (Macintoshes, Cortlands, Winesaps; Valencias, Navels, Mandarins) in much the same way, reducing those to the status of subcategories whose distinctive particularities risk being consigned to irrelevance within the encompassing category.
2. Jonathan Z. Smith, “The Glory, Jest, and Riddle: James George Frazer and The Golden Bough” (PhD diss., Yale University, 1969). Although Smith’s dissertation was never published and remains difficult to access, one gets some idea of the content from an article published a few years later: Smith, “When the Bough Breaks,” History of Religions 12 (1973): 342–71. Smith describes his struggle with Eliade in a more recent essay of similar title, “When the Chips Are Down,” in Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 1–60.
3. Wikander declined to publish his lectures, which acquired a somewhat legendary status. They were ultimately published long after his death by Mihaela Timus, “Les ‘Haskell Lectures’ de Stig Wikander, University of Chicago, 1967,” Archaeus 8 (2004): 265–322. In contrast, Dumézil published his Haskell Lectures as Mythe et epopée, vol. 2, Types épiques indo-européens: Un héros, un sorcier, un roi (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), one of the culminating works of his much-acclaimed career. Translations into three separate English volumes followed: The Destiny of the Warrior, trans. Alf Hiltebeitel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); The Destiny of a King, trans. Alf Hiltebeitel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973); and The Plight of a Sorcerer, ed. Jaan Puhvel and David Weeks (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).
4. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), available online at, based on Henry Bradley, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, vol. 4, F-G, ed. James A. H. Murray (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), 574–75.
5. Ibid. Several other definitions are given, but identified as rare, obsolete, or technical and late of origin. These include (a) a fruit-tree; also a foodplant (obsolete and rare); (b) a course of fruit; the dessert (obsolete, first attested 1577); (c) the seed of a plant or tree, regarded as the means of reproduction, together with its envelope (technical, first attested 1794); (d) offspring, progeny (now rare, except in biblical phraseology); (e) a male homosexual (slang, first attested 1895).
6. Cursor Mundi (Galba), line 28833: Þe pouer man es like þe felde, Þat mekill fruit es wont to yelde.
7. Cleanness, line 1044: Þe fayrest fryt þat may in folde growe, As orenge & oþer fryt.
8. Jacob’s Well, line 202: Þe fruyte & þe profyʒte of þat lande & of beeste in þi tyme.
9. Pilgrim’s Sowle v.xiv.80: Alle the wyde world is fulfylled with the fryte of theyr good labour.
10. Hali Meidenhad: An Alliterative Homily 7: Þus hauen godes freond al þe fruit of þis world þat ha forsaken habbeð.
11. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879), 784.
12. Cicero, Oration on the Agrarian Law 2.2.5: hoc tam singulare vestrum beneficium ad animi mei fructum atque laetitiam duco esse permagnum.
13. Livy 21.7.3: in tantas brevi creverant opes, seu maritimis seu terrestribus fructibus.
14. Cicero, Oration on Behalf of Sulla 1.1: Maxime vellem, iudices, ut P. Sulla . . . modestiae fructum aliquem percipere potuisset.
15. Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary, 785.
16. Ibid., 1939.
17. Alfred Ernout and Antoine Meillet, Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue latine (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1951), 455–56. Cf. Alois Walde and J. B. Hofmann, Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1965), 1: 552–53. Comparison of the Latin terms to their cognates in Germanic makes clear that the general semantics of enjoyment preceded any botanical referent, since the latter is entirely lacking in all the relevant terminology, which includes Gothic brūks (“useful”), unbrūks (“useless”), and brūkjan (“to make use of”); Old High German brūchan, Old Frisian brūka, Old English brūcan, and Anglo-Saxon brūkan (“to make use of, enjoy; eat; spend”), and Anglo-Saxon brýce (“use, service; the occupation or exercise of a thing; profit, advantage”), as well as Dutch gebruiken and German brauchen. See further Sigmund Feist, Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der gotischen Sprache (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1939), 107; Joseph Bosworth and T. Northcote Toller, An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1898), 128 and 129; and Julius Pokorny, Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1959), 173.
18. Thus, Priests, Warriors and Cattle: A Study in the Ecology of Religions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981) combined an attempt to reconstruct Indo-Iranian religion with a comparison to the religious systems of Nilotic East Africa, based on similarities of ecology and economy; Emerging from the Chrysalis: Studies in Rituals of Women’s Initiation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) considered five different examples scattered across the globe; Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986) remained fully within the Indo-European paradigm; and Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991) voiced my growing dissatisfaction with it. Most interesting, diverse, and experimental, however, is Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989; 2nd ed., 2014), in which I was groping for alternatives.
19. Potent critiques of Eliade on other grounds had already been published, above all Edmund Leach, “Sermons by a Man on a Ladder,” New York Review of Books, October 20, 1966, 28–31, but his involvement with Romanian fascism emerged as a major concern in debates that began with the publication of a Romanian dossier in an obscure publication: Th. Lavi, “Dosarul Mircea Eliade,” Toladot: Buletinul Institutului Dr. J. Niemirower 1 (1972): 21–26. There followed Alfonso di Nola, “Mircea Eliade e l’antisemitismo,” La Rassegna Mensile di Israel 43 (Jan.–March 1977): 12–15; Vittorio Lanternari, “Ripensando a Mircea Eliade,” La Critica Sociologica 79 (1986): 67–82; Ivan Strenski, Four Theories of Myth in Twentieth-Century History: Cassirer, Eliade, Lévi-Strauss, and Malinowski (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1987); Mac Linscott Ricketts, Mircea Eliade: The Romanian Roots, 1907–1945 (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1988); Claudio Mutti, Mircea Eliade e la Guardia di Ferro (Parma: Edizioni all’ Insegna del Veltro, 1989); Adriana Berger, “Fascism and Religion in Romania,” Annals of Scholarship 6 (1989): 455–65; Berger, “Mircea Eliade, Romanian Fascism, and the History of Religions in the United States,” in Nancy Harrowitz, ed., Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 51–74; Daniel Dubuisson, Mythologies du XXe siècle: Dumézil, Lévi-Strauss, Eliade (Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1993; English trans., 2006; 2nd ed. 2008); Dubuisson, Impostures et pseudo-science: L’oeuvre de Mircea Eliade (Villeneuve d’Asq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2005); and a great many others.
20. Like Eliade, Dumézil had been criticized on other grounds, but the discussion shifted in the 1980s to the way his political commitments informed, inflected, and found expression in his scholarly writings. Significant contributions to this discussion include Arnaldo Momigliano, “Premesse per una discussione su Georges Dumézil,” Opus 2 (1983): 329–41; English trans. in G. W. Bowersock and T. J. Cornell, eds., A. D. Momigliano: Studies on Modern Scholarship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 286–301; Carlo Ginzburg, “Mitologia germanica e Nazismo: Su un vecchio libro di Georges Dumézil,” Quaderni Storici 19 (1984): 857–82; English trans. in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, 114–31; Georges Dumézil, “Une idylle de vingt ans,” in L’oubli de l’homme et l’honneur des dieux: Esquisses de mythologie (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 299–318; Dumézil, “Science et politique: Réponse à Carlo Ginzburg,” Annales ESC 40 (1985): 985–8...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  12. NOTES
  14. INDEX
Citation styles for Apples and Oranges

APA 6 Citation

Lincoln, B. (2018). Apples and Oranges ([edition unavailable]). The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

Lincoln, Bruce. (2018) 2018. Apples and Oranges. [Edition unavailable]. The University of Chicago Press.

Harvard Citation

Lincoln, B. (2018) Apples and Oranges. [edition unavailable]. The University of Chicago Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Lincoln, Bruce. Apples and Oranges. [edition unavailable]. The University of Chicago Press, 2018. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.