Dame Mary Douglas remembered
Anthropologist Dame Mary Douglas, described in the New York Times as a woman “whose influence ranged beyond the traditional questions of her field to examine areas as diverse as kosher diets, consumer behavior, environmentalism and humor as she described how humans work together to find shared meaning,” passed away in London at the age of 86. Douglas remained active throughout her later years, writing over 15 books; the most recent, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition, was published by Yale University Press.
In this controversial book, Douglas argues that many famous antique texts are misunderstood and others have been dismissed because they employ ring composition, a literary style unfamiliar today. She explores ring composition across cultures and examines its function in the Iliad, the Bible’s Book of Numbers, and Tristram Shandy.
Harold Attridge, Dean of the Yale Divinity School, describes Dame Mary Douglas as “an extraordinarily influential anthropologist,” while Edward Rothstein of the New York Times states, “Over the course of her career Ms. Douglas has become a master at discerning order in unexpected forms and surprising places. In an unassuming way, without pretense or revolutionary claims, she reveals the logic behind the varied customs of a society.”