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The Problem of Miracles and Methodology in Hagiography Research
By S. Miriam Mueller
Published Online (2004)
Introduction: What is hagiography? Defined broadly, it is the modern academic study of sanctity and materials relating to saints. Defined narrowly, it is the study of the narrative biographies of saints. The word also denotes the process of writing the biography of a saint. Etymologically, it has little relation to saints, meaning simply sacred literature. This problem of definition exemplifies the troubles within hagiographical research itself. Recent scholarship has not reached a consensus on the meaning of the term or what materials to include in the field, much less a methodology or theoretical approach. This is partly due to the complexities that hagiography contains for the modern secular scholar, and partly due to the almost complete neglect of these materials since the institution of the field of history as a social science. In the following paragraphs I hope to bring to light the current state of study of hagiography and the issues which beset it. The following research is based on the most current research in the field as well as the most influential. These studies attempt to resolve some of the field’s content and method issues. I also hope to illustrate through my discussion the reason why the academic field of religion is suited to this field of study as no other discipline could hope to be, both in its topical focus and the issues inherent to both.