This book brings the emerging fields of practical theology and theology of the arts into a dialogue beyond the bias of modern systematic and constructive theology. The authors draw upon postmodern, post-secular, feminist, liberation, and dialogical/dialectical philosophy and theology, and their critiques of the narrow modern emphases on reason and the scientific method, as the model for all knowledge. Such a practical theology of the arts focuses the work of theology on the actual practices that engage the arts in their various forms as the means of interpreting and understanding the nature of the communities and their members, as well as the mechanisms through which these communities engage in transformative work, to make persons and neighborhoods whole.
This book presents its theological claims through the careful analysis of several stories of communities around the world that have engaged in transformational practices through a specific art form, investigating communities from Europe, the Middle East, South America, and the U.S. The case studies explored include Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze, indigenous, and sometimes agnostic subjects, involved in visual art, music, dance, theatre, documentary film, and literature. Theology and the Arts demonstrates that the challenges of a postmodern and post-secular context require a fundamental rethinking of theology that focuses on discrete practices of faithful communities, rather than one-dimensional theories about religion.
"The book’s contributions to theology are many: it bridges the disciplinary study of practical theology and the arts, challenges and amends theology as it has been constructed, gives ample space to showing practical theology at work, and works across differences of international location and religious tradition." – Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Vanderbilt University
"W. Alan Smith and Ruth Illman have identified a movement within theology that bridges disciplines as diverse as art history, ethnography, and justice and peace studies. Their methodology making sense of this development is truly momentous." – Kimberly Vrudney, University of St. Thomas, USA
"This is also a text that could be engaging in the classroom, although clearly written as a scholarly study, not a textbook. The case studies, supported by the additional material on the [companion website], lend themselves to discussion in classes on religious and cultural pluralism, interreligious dialogue, theological aesthetics, ethics and social justice, embodiment and disabilities. Thus, Illman’s and Smith’s volume is, in itself, a very fine example of the practical theology of the arts that the authors develop in it." – Stefanie Knauss, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"This book…provides a kaleidoscope through which the question of theology and the arts can be engaged from many horizons. What makes this books truly unique is the methodology that bridges disciplines as diverse as art history, ethnography, and justice and peace studies." – Michael S. Driscoll, Theological Studies
Part 1. A Practical Theology of the Arts Introduction: A Prelude 1. When the Center No Longer Holds: Challenges to Modernism 2. Otherness and Meaning: Dialogue and Interpersonal Relatedness 3. Outlining a Practical Approach to Theology and the Arts Part 2. Études 4. Art as Community Practice: Murals from the Voice of the Community 5. Fabric Arts in Peru as Identity 6. Literature as a Scene for Dialogue 7. Eliminating Walls, Honoring Stories: Improvised Theatre "Creating Space" 8. Film as an Embodiment of Interpersonal Relations 9. Music as an Attentive and Creative Interplay 10. Embodied Grace: Dance—An Art Form that Transforms 11. Finale and Recapitulation