Robert Orsi

Robert Orsi holds the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University and is the 2016–2017 Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He studies American Catholicism in both historical and ethnographic perspective, and he is widely recognized also for his work on theory and method for the study of religion. His numerous publications include The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (Yale University Press, 1985; 2nd ed., 2002), Thank You, Saint Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes (Yale University Press, 1996), Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (Princeton University Press, 2004), and, as editor, Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape (Indiana University Press, 1999). Read Robert Orsi's contribution to Contending Modernities.

Posts by Robert Orsi:

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

The breaking-in of the gods

In the early pages of my recently published book, History and History and Presence | Harvard University PressPresence (Belknap Harvard 2016), I describe something that happened to me many years ago which became a touchstone for the questions I have asked about religion since. I was traveling in Ireland in 1976 on one leg of a year-long journey around contemporary European Catholic monasteries when I stopped by chance in the town of Knock, County Mayo, to fuel my car. I asked the gas station attendant how it was that Knock boasted such an enormous church and plaza, which I had passed on my way through the town, and its own airport. Do you not know what happened here? he asked me. No, I did not. Are you Catholic? he asked. I am, I said. Not a very good one then, he said. He condescended to explain to me that on August 21, 1879, the Virgin Mary, along with several other holy figures, appeared beside the church wall to a cluster of villagers, and the sacred figures lingered in Knock. “Here,” the gas station attendant ended his story, “the transcendent broke into time.” I remember all this because I wrote it down in a journal at the time, but I would not have forgotten it even if I hadn’t.

Read the rest of The breaking-in of the gods.
Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The Catholic heresy, again

The reason I am talking about Catholics here is because of the subtitle of Bender’s book: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination. The evocation of the singular here—“the American religious imagination”—points to an enduring question about how American religions and religion, in the present and the past, are conceptualized. In particular, the singular articulates the resilient assumption that the subject of American religion or American spirituality is sufficiently plumbed by studying groups of evangelical or liberal (or post-evangelical and post-liberal) Protestants. . . . The irony here is that as Bender moves more deeply into the experiential world of the new metaphysicals, she begins to describe their ways of being religious in terms that strike me as Catholic.

Read the rest of The Catholic heresy, again.