Show how four theories of ritual can be used to understand Leonard and Sheldon’s
disagreement over getting a new table.
What does A.J. Jacobs’ experience tell us about sacred texts in terms of context, cafeterias
April 7 – Exam Jam
Readings: Tricksters: Derry 3404 & Text, context, and the world – Nye 157160
Assignment: write an analytical paragraph about Bugs bunny clip using one theory from
either text, supporting the message you found.
Ritual: definition issue (what is “ritual”)
Use of ritual theory to explain, not describe
“What does this behavior mean!” vs. “is this a ritual?”
(study of religion study of other stuff)
Interpretations of ritual also change
Ways of which Eid is practiced: if you go to china and talk to muslims in china, in
waterloo, in Egypt, etc, you’ll see they have interpretations of celebrating. Its about
sacrifice. Yet to meet a Canadian muslim that slaughters their own animal to celebrate
Jesus particular meal is Jewish. Different Christians will do this in different ways. The
meal that Jesus ate had different things in the plate but now they talk about the Bread in
Many theories focus on FUNCTION (not “content”)
Rather than saying “The Last Supper” what does the wine represent? What does
the bread represent? (The Last Supper Jesus ate)
Ritual as “social glue” etc. like coming to class.
Ritual = neurosis
Same ritual each month, each week
Brings comfort; avoids real problem(s)
Function of this ritual brings you comfort, a comforting way of functioning in this
world. It’s a ritual > its comforting.
Rituals and power relations
Power operation? In “The Last Supper” itself, or anywhere else? At church you
have a priest. Somebody is in chanrge often. There is a person, usually a guy who is in
charge of everything, supervises everything. The story about Jesus, he is completely in control of everything. He is the one that gives out the bread, he sets the scene in his own
rituals that he performs.
Rituals and relationships
Rituals are about relationships, she is trying to suggest that you can’t generalize.
You can’t simply just say power is some way.
You need to know context – which is what she is trying to say.
Important to know cultural AND individual contexts
Instrumental vs. expressive action
His idea was to think about 2 aspects – instrumental meaning and expressive
“Literal” vs. “symbolic” meaning
Driving a car – literal and symbolic meaning = YOU HAVE TO GET
SOMEWHERE, instrumental and expressive meaning = DO YOU DRIVE A NICE
CAR? YOU MIGHT USE YOUR CAR TO SYMBOLIZE YOUR STATUS. Males: drive
masculine cars, race cars > any way to symbolize your genitals.
Growing/cutting hair – literal and symbolic: a woman: have longer hair – now its
like screw that and cut it all off.
Ritual and Big Bang Theory:
Who wants a dining room table? Why?
Penny and the rest of the gang.
Who doesn’t want it? Why not?:
They want to buy a table because for practical reasons, people are sitting on the
floor and eating – need a table. Sheldon does not want the table because he wants control.
They want to change things and Sheldon feels like that takes away from his control.
The table symbolizes change, the group being together? The table represents
How can we understand all this using ritual theories?
About a ritual that is a meal (“the Last Supper”), lack of prohession because there
is one persont that has to sit on the floor.
Freud theory: Sheldon explanation: does not like change because that will bring chaos.
The issue of buying this table becomes a power struggle.
Foucault Theory?: One of the girls? Amy? Gets closer to Sheldon by allieing with him.
Amy uses this to her advantage by going on Sheldon’s side.
Catherine Bell theory: in the show penny says: “what happens in relationships” you
cant predict what is going to happen when you put people together. Sheldon has changed
in some ways, Penny has changed in some ways. Effects how we think, rituals, etc. “Why
that change was bad and this change is good” Religion did not appear suddenly. It is a
sign of change. We think of things like tradition – the way we do something is the way it
has always been done –THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THAT THAT’S NON SENSE.
There is nothing that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.
People say music is not the same anymore – but do you really want to listen to Rihanna
for 8 years straight? You kind of need change – it’s a good thing. That’s what relates back
to religion. Circumcision: changes have been created to this ritual – new tools since Abraham
Lincoln was alive. There is changes in everything.
Arnold van Gennep: he talked about transformations – how rituals transform space.
Transformation (of space, time, social relations, etc)
Rites of passage: 1. Separation 2. Liminality (where the change takes place) 3.
Incorporation (you either have rupture or this – sometimes it does not quite
work e.g.: marriage does not go right – family, etc, something has changed).
This once again is a ritual – before class starts this is a different space – before class starts
this class is loud – everyone is talking – and then when the ritual starts the professor
himself even acts like a different person – he starts to teach!
Ritual: after marriage – you feel like after the ritual you will feel like a different person,
after graduation – after you graduate, you get your degree and you feel like you will feel
like a different person – BUT YOU DON’T
Image: they wear white, they paint their face white – rituals – they change when they are
back in community – there ways of life change.
The Wizard of OZ: tornado at her house – seperates from her house ends up in Oz –
people made of metal and straw – she has to learn something – the lesson she learns at the
end is: there is no place like home. She is upset she wants to run away from home – no
body is paying attention to her, everyone is doing there own thing at the farm – she ends
up going back after running away from home. In the movie she learns that she has to
accept her role at home. A lot of rites of passage in this movie. She learns that she should
be a young woman, and shut up and do anything to help. When she firsts lands in Oz,
Dorothy kills someboy.
Harold & Kumar: White Castle: about eating a hamburger