A Generative Entanglement: Word and Image in Roman Catholic Devotional Practice

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Devotional piety broadly depends on events that are not accessible for direct observation and commonly offer little, if anything, in the way of historical documentation. Sometimes the experiences to which devotion is directed in the veneration of saints is based on visionary experience for which reports are contradictory. This essays explores ways in which word and image are brought together to anchor evanescent or ephemeral, or entirely uncertain, origins and provide devotion with stable objects. I develop the view that word and image are generatively entangled, meaning that their ambiguous connections with one another are able to produce a medium in which devotion finds a footing.






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Morgan, David (2020). A Generative Entanglement: Word and Image in Roman Catholic Devotional Practice. Entangled Religions, 11(3). pp. 1–21. 10.13154/er.11.2020.8443 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20266.

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David Morgan

Professor of Religious Studies

David Morgan is Professor of Religious Studies with a secondary appointment in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke. He chaired the Department of Religious Studies from 2013 to 2019 and has returned to chairing it from 2023 to 2025. Morgan received the Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1990. He has served twice as Director of Graduate Studies in Duke's PhD program in Religion. Morgan has published several books and dozens of essays on the history of religious visual culture, fine art, and art theory. Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment, was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press. The Forge of Vision: A Visual History of Modern Christianity, based on the 2012 Cadbury Lectures delivered at the University of Birmingham, UK, appeared in 2015 from the University of California Press. Previous books include The Embodied Eye: Religious Visual Culture and the Social Life of Feeling (California, 2012), The Lure of Images: A History of Religion and Visual Media in America (Routledge, 2007) and two that he edited and contributed to: Religion and Material Culture: The Matter of Belief (Routledge, 2010) and Key Words in Religion, Media, and Culture (Routledge, 2008). Earlier works: The Sacred Gaze (California, 2005), Protestants and Pictures (Oxford, 1999), and Visual Piety (University of California Press, 1998). Morgan is co-founder and associate editor of the international scholarly journal, Material Religion, and co-editor of a book series entitled "Bloomsbury Studies in Material Religion," published by Bloomsbury, London. His latest book appeared this year from the University of North Carolina Press, entitled "The Thing about Religion: An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions." He is currently at work on a new book project entitled "The Art of Seeing Things: A History of Revelation in Christian Visual Culture since the Middle Ages."

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