Conjuring (divine) authority: the myth of the 'found' text
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In this study, I classify and examine a literary device that I term ‘the myth of the found text’ so as to explore how such stories operate to authorize and reinforce, especially religious, authority. Here I contend that individuals or groups in specific socio-historical contexts construct stories of found texts as a kind of conjuring trick, one that functions to confer the storyteller’s power and stature. By appealing to the authority of an ancient text allegedly newly recovered, these mythmakers are able to situate social programs and religious reforms in an imagined, ideal antiquity—an exemplary past. The creation and telling of such myths can thus be seen as a political manoeuvre, a manoeuvre that constructs an authority (the ‘found’ text) that is then cleverly protected from contestation. While we may be quick to impugn such strategies, they have much in common, I argue, with ‘religion’ and with scholarship itself.