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secular themes to the classic masterpieces of Christian art,

Methods and Methodologies
The amorphous nature of the relationship between art and religion as both a topic of investigation and a field of study is paralleled by the oftentimes perceived “flexible” methodologies employed by specialists. The breadth of methodological approaches, technical languages, and questions investigated continue to expand in tandem with the study of religion. The lacuna of a single or even commonly accepted “core” methodology is irksome at best. The diverse technical vocabularies and methodologies include but are not limited to art history, iconography and iconology, cultural history, church history, ethics, history of religion, ritual studies, comparative religions, and theology. The primary characteristic of art and religion that defies its definition as a normative field of study is that it is fundamentally a multidisciplinary field that is broad in its subject matter, geographic sweep, world religions foci, and technical language.

From its possible “official” beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century into the twenty-first century, art and religion has traversed a variety of methodological formulae and vocabularies, beginning with art history, iconography and symbolism, history of religion, cultural history, theology, philosophy, phenomenology, and iconology, while the foci of a new generation of scholars in the 1970s incorporated the principles and lenses to expand the borders of art and religion into the questions raised by the emerging categories of “the marginalized” and feminism into the 1980s issues of the body and class. The reception of art historian David Freedberg’s groundbreaking study, The Power of Images (1989), defined and traced the history of “response theory,” which provided art and religion with an affirmation of its interest in the human, or worshiper’s, experience of art. Beginning with the late 1980s, specialized studies with methodologies and languages for material culture, popular culture, performance and display, visual culture, and museum studies were incorporated, sometimes tangentially, into art and religion.