cover of book

Unbridled: Studying Religion in Performance
by William Robert
University of Chicago Press, 2022
Paper: 978-0-226-81690-6 | Cloth: 978-0-226-81658-6 | eISBN: 978-0-226-81689-0
Library of Congress Classification PR6037.H23E6376 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 822.914

A study of religion through the lens of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus.
In Unbridled, William Robert uses Equus, Peter Shaffer’s enigmatic play about a boy passionately devoted to horses, to think differently about religion. For several years, Robert has used Equus to introduce students to the study of religion, provoking them to conceive of religion in unfamiliar, even uncomfortable ways. In Unbridled, he is inviting readers to do the same.
A play like Equus tangles together text, performance, practice, embodiment, and reception. Studying a play involves us in playing different roles, as ourselves and others, and those roles, as well as the imaginative work they require, are critical to the study of religion. By approaching Equus with the reader, turning the play around and upside-down, Unbridled transforms standard approaches to the study of religion, engaging with themes including ritual, sacrifice, worship, power, desire, violence, and sexuality, as well as thinkers including Judith Butler, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jonathan Z. Smith. As Unbridled shows, the way themes and theories play out in Equus challenges us to reimagine the study of religion through open questions, contrasting perspectives, and alternative modes of interpretation and appreciation.

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