Callf or Papers -Fortean Approaches to the Study of Religion
Edited by Jack Hunter(Doctoral Candidate, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Bristol)
Over the course of four intriguing books (The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1925), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932), Charles Hoy Fort meticulously collected hundreds of accounts of anomalous events documented in scientific journals and newspapers, including such unusual occurrences as fish falling from the sky, poltergeists, unidentified flying objects, levitations, mysterious objects, disappearances, ball lightning, and so on. Throughout all of his works, Fort employed the philosophy of intermediatism: “that nothing is real, but that nothing is unreal: that all phenomena are approximations in one way between realness and unrealness.” Through this rigorously agnostic epistemology Fort was able to explore some exceedingly strange territory, unearthing phenomena (what he called “damned facts”), that mainstream science had rejected outright, and in so doing inspired others to employ a similarly Fortean approach in their own writings. This collection draws together scholars who have taken a Fortean approach to the study of religion, itself a category filled with a wide range of weird and anomalous accounts: from miracles, encounters with supernatural beings, and self-mortification, to stigmata, spirit possession and mystical experience.
Submissions of abstracts on areas related to the following would be greatly appreciated:
*Fortean approaches to religion.
*The paranormal in the context of religion and religious studies.
*Explorations of implications of Fortean/paranormal phenomena for the study of religion
*Relating Fortean concepts to theory, theology, etc.
*Examinations of the relevance of other Fortean writers, e.g. John Keel, John Michell, Colin Wilson, Jacques Vallee, etc. to the study of religion.
*Extraordinary religious phenomena (stigmata, spirit possession, magic, shamanism, visions, altered states of consciousness etc.)
These are just a few ideas, and I would be more than happy to hear other thoughts or suggestions for possible chapters that would fit within the general theme of the book.
Deadline for abstract submissions and expressions of interest: June 15th 2015.
If you have any ideas or questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio: Jack Hunter is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol. His research takes the form of an ethnographic study of contemporary trance and physical mediumship in Bristol, focusing on themes of personhood, performance, altered states of consciousness and anomalous experience. In 2010 he established Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, as a means to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on issues relating to paranormal beliefs, experiences and phenomena. He is the editor of Paranthropology: Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal (2012) and Strange Dimensions: A Paranthropology Anthology (2015, forthcoming), both of which gather some of the best articles from the first four years of the journal. He is the author of Why People Believe in Spirits, Gods and Magic (2012), a beginner's introduction to the anthropology of the supernatural, and co-editor with Dr. David Luke of Talking With the Spirits: Ethnographies from Between the Worlds (2014).
Recently Tor.com included an article that brought together my interests in the fantastic as well as respectful engagement even in criticism. The article is "Protecting What You Love: On the Difference Between Criticism, Rage, and Vilification" by Emily Asher-Perrin.
The author acknowledges a place for criticism within fandom, but rightly takes issue with demonizing creators of different versions of beloved items of the fantastic. At one point the author writes:
But maybe none of this is the point. Maybe you’re just upset with the people in charge for creating something that didn’t grab you. To which the answer is simple: Disliking something is fine. Hating a person, a human being you’ve never met, for no reason other than the creative choices they made? Even if they’re weren’t great creative choices? That’s pretty extreme. And openly attacking that human being? That’s unnecessary and damaging to all fandom communities. Choices themselves can be critiqued. But that person was doing their job, trying to make something that they were hoping you’d like. Regardless of how strong your feelings are, they do not deserve that level of fury and contempt directed right at them.
I couldn't agree more. TheoFantastique involves critical analysis of various facets of the fantastic loved by fans, but every attempt is made to be fair and respectful in the process. You can read Asher-Perrin's piece here.
It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Leonard Nimoy at the age of 83. He was one of my childhood heroes due to Star Trek. I remember identifying with his logical approach to dealing with his emotions in his human half as I wrestled with my own emotions and social changes during teen years in the 1970s. My appreciation continued during this time period as he served as the host for In Search of... on the paranormal, and in things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and his ongoing Trek films. I was privileged to meet him during a speaking engagement he had at Delta College in Stockton, California in the 70s when my brother and I dashed back stage after his presentation to get an autograph and a snapshot. He was a great icon of the the fantastic in my life.
Recently Jess Peacock got in touch with me to let me know about his new book, Such a Dark Thing: Theology of the Vampire Narrative in Popular Culture (Resource Publications, 2015). It is a good read, and for those interested in exploring various theological aspects of the vampire, this book is worthwhile, bringing together an academic interest in probing deeply with a fan's passion for the monstrous. Jess responded to some interview questions about his book in the following interview.
TheoFantastique: Jess, thanks for getting in touch and letting me know about Such a Dark Thing even before it was released. It was a great read. How did a horror fan from his youth, later a theologian involved in various aspects of ministry, come to develop an academic interest in vampires viewed through a theological lens?
Jess Peacock: My childhood was heavily influenced by the horror genre. I was obsessed with the entire Universal monsters franchise, Hammer films terrified and fascinated me, and I was reading Famous Monsters of Filmland at a very young age. In middle school, Fangoria magazine and the VHS revolution completed my transformation into a horror nerd. The genre really spoke to me, but nothing petrified me more than vampires. That obsession just never waned and, in all honesty, I always saw the vampire connected to theology in some manner. How could you not? Resurrection, holy water, the crucifix? It’s as if they were malevolent creatures that stepped right out of the Bible.
As I entered graduate school to study religion, it made sense to steer my research toward the vampire narrative in popular culture. Like I said, the mythos is a lens through which to analyze questions about death, the quandary of evil, and the role of religious symbols. Beyond that, I felt that the traditional narrative held a lot of potential for contemporary society. Meaning, I didn’t want to do research for the sake of research, but wanted to connect the western vampire narrative to tangible social justice efforts going on within the culture.
TheoFantastique: Among the many fine points you make in the book, you argue that not only is the vampire a figure for theological reflection on the nature of sin and evil, but you also connect it to conceptions of the divine in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This will be a bitter pill to swallow for conservative Christians who tend to hold to a sanitized version of their faith tradition. How do you see the vampire and the more general concept of the monstrous connecting to an understanding of God?
Jess Peacock: In all honesty, while I didn’t write the book to annoy conservative Christians, many of them probably wouldn’t like Such a Dark Thing. I am not anti-religion, and I make a case within the book for the potential of religion to be a force for justice within society. I am, however, anti-orthodoxy…anti-fundamentalism, and many of my conclusions skew wildly from conservative Christian dogma. Having said that, and to your question, it is undeniable that the vampire has often stood as a theophany within literature and cinema. The figure still exists as a powerful representation of topics including sin, redemption, evil, and death. Perhaps more controversial, the vampire and other fictional representations of the monstrous open a symbolic window onto the issue of theodicy, as well as shedding light on what could be interpreted in Scripture as the horror or monstrousness of God.
Reading the Hebrew Bible, it doesn’t take long to understand that Yahweh can be pretty scary. Fear is a common and stated tool of influence wielded by the Divine over humanity, and as such God comes to be seen less as a nurturer and more as a mercurial cosmic overlord who demands worship and faithfulness…or else. Many overlook the fact that in the narrative of the Egyptian plagues Yahweh is called “the Destroyer.” That’s pretty frightening to me.
TheoFantastique: You speak in the book about "interreligious horror," and the possibility that the vampire might evolve beyond Christian symbolism and particularism. How might the vampire rooted in different religious and irreligious ideas be of value in a pluralist society?
Jess Peacock: This is a difficult question to answer without delving at length into the content of the book. But in a nutshell, I wanted to look at how the increasingly deemphasized Christian symbolism within the vampire narrative might be reflective of the waning influence of religion in the wider culture. And while that might be alarming to some, it could provide an opportunity for a spiritual revolution for others.
I would argue that the traditional view of theism is no longer needed by society, and I think we’re definitely seeing this reflected in irreligious vampire narratives from Blade to Twilight. Rather than this being a portent of the death of faith, the contemporary vampire mythos could be viewed as a symbol of a new theology, one of transcendence over immanence. In other words, the community creates and interprets God versus having to obey morals and precepts stemming from an authoritarian, unseen, and unquestioned deity. This reversal, that of a community influencing the Divine versus a “God said it, that settles it” dynamic, creates a safe and imaginative space to discuss theological and social issues without the threat of the inflexibility of religious exceptionalism or biblical literalism.
TheoFantastique: Another major idea of yours is that the vampire can serve as a symbol of resistance and liberation. You mention this in connection with liberation theology. One could argue that resistance and liberation is one facet of the so-called "war on terror." Given our present debates over religion and violence, have you given any thought as to how the vampire might contribute to our reflection on these important global realities?
Jess Peacock: Absolutely. As I alluded to earlier, to some extent I use the vampire narrative to discuss at what point gods become monsters. With regard to the “war on terror,” we can use the same analytical process to discuss when a so-called exceptional nation turns into a monstrous one. When does the United States cross the line between justice and terror, displaying shocking ambivalence toward the innocent people victimized by its actions? When, in our search for monsters, do we become what we hate? I feel that, with our record of mass drone strikes and an illegal torture program, this is a question long overdue and one still not sufficiently publicly addressed and debated. And while we might consider our “war” to be a righteous one fueled by redemptive violence, our monstrous actions inevitably breeds more monsters, much as a vampire sires more vampires.
TheoFantastique: Jess, thanks again for the book and for the opportunity to drink deeply from the well of the vampire and the theological.
This book comprises essays that explore transhumanism and the issues that surround it, addressing numerous fascinating questions posed by scholars of religion from various traditions. How will "immortality" or extreme longevity change our religious beliefs and practices? How might pharmaceuticals enhance spiritual experiences? Will "post-human" technologies be available to all persons, or will a superior "post-human race" arise to dominate the human species? The discussions are as intriguing as the future they suggest.
Beyond addressing the Christian tradition of possession and exorcism, Pentecostalism, and "New Age" and less widely known Western concepts about possession and exorcism, this work examines ideas about possession and exorcism from other world religions and the indigenous cultures of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It also covers historic cases of possession and presents biographies of famous theologians, exorcists, and possessed individuals. High school and undergraduate readers will learn about world history, religious and spiritual traditions, and world cultures through a topic that figures prominently in popular culture and modern entertainment. Bibliographies that accompany each entry as well as a selected, general bibliography serve to help students locate print and electronic sources of additional information.
Sound is arguably one of the most fear-provoking aspects of horror. Ghost stories and horror films employ sonic tropes such as creaking floor boards, sudden loud thumps, or ephemeral children's choirs in order to enhance suspense through the evocation of unseen terror. "The spectre of sound", as Kevin Donnelly has called it, creeps up on us dorsally, evading the relative comfort of visual recognition. Sonic horror tropes have also been used to imbue other genres, such as musical theatre and popular music, with elements of horror. Whether through whispers darkly, in the sinister connotations of the harpsichord timbre, via the decontextualising power of white noise, or in the uncanniness of complete silence, horror's performativity relies on sonic guises.
Horror Studies is seeking essays for a special issue devoted to horror and sound. "Sonic Horror" will explore the manifold roles of music, sound, and silence in horror. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:
* Sonic and musical references in horror literature
* Horror and recording technology
* Horror film and television soundtracks
* Survival and psychological horror videogame soundtracks
* Horror themes in rock/metal/Goth lyrics
* Horror samples and references in rock/metal/Goth musical settings
* Horror themes in subcultures of popular music
* Horror in opera and music theatre
* Silent horror
Essays of approximately 8500 words (including apparatus) should be sent to Isabella van Elferen (I.vanElferen@kingston.ac.uk) by January 31st, 2016. Horror Studies uses Harvard Style in its formatting; authors should consult http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=151/ and download the full style sheet.