Scholars have converged on a theory that ritual involves poetically dense figuration of macrocosmic order in microcosmic action. I illustrate this by surveying work on how ritual and oratory involve coordination of action across multiple semiotic media. I review at greater length the “poetic density” theory's interest in how ritual and oratory causally shape people's worlds, and the theory's interest in the edginess of ritual as a site of articulation between actors with disparate political positionalities. Much scholarship now examines norms of the pragmatics of sign use (not just signification's semantics, so to speak) as being of a piece with the poetic, figurational organization of ritual and oratorical processes. This turn of attention is important for understanding what it means that ritual seems to be action about the organization of action itself. A final element in ritual and oratory's poetic density surveyed here is their nesting in culturally variable ideologies of ritual and oratorical genres themselves.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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