Ecstatic Inquiry: Religion, Literature, and the Feminist Mythological Imagination, 1870-1980


ACLS Project Development Grants




In early twentieth-century Britain, the first feminist theorists of religion developed a genre of scholarship that recounted alternative histories of religion while fostering ecstatic experiences in readers. At a time when evolutionary theories assumed women’s susceptibility to so-called “primitive” enchantments, these women—classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, medievalist Jessie L. Weston, and Egyptologist and folklorist Margaret A. Murray—embraced enchanting practices not only as topics but as precedents for the modern study of religion. Though largely absent from histories of the humanities, their work with its primitivist feminist aesthetics, shaped major currents in literature, religion, and scholarship itself.