Reflections on an Academic Conference on the Saint and ‘Cult of Death’

smhollandposterSanta Muerta, the Saint of Death, and the international following she has is an area of interest here at TheoFantastique. R. Andrew Chestnut, author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerta, the Skeleton Saint (Oxford University Press, 2012), recently posted on his blog regarding his thoughts on an international conference in the Netherlands that brought scholars together to discuss differing perspectives on this phenomenon. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite the fact that over 90% of Santa Muerte devotees live in Mexico and the U.S., the first ever academic conference  dedicated exclusively to the skeleton saint was held in Europe, at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, on 11/21/14. Europeans have taken a particular interest in the growth of devotion to Saint Death partly because of the historical link to their own Grim Reaper or Reapress (la Parca) in the case of Spain.  Reflecting the increasing  globalization of the Americas’ fastest growing new religious movement,  the scholars presenting on Santa Muerte hailed from many different countries, including Mexico, the U.S., Germany, Denmark,  Spain and the UK.

To read more about the conference and Chestnut’s observations click here. Chestnut will be interviewed here about Santa Muerta in the near future.

TFQ Podcast 5.1 – Interview with Doug Jones on “Nosferatu”

Doug Jones is interviewed by John Morehead of Doug discusses David Lee Fisher’s Nosferatu remix of the classic silent horror film and his long interest in playing Count Orlok. Through the interview you will get a sense of Doug’s passion, and learn how you can get involved in the crowd funding project to help make this film a reality.

Learn more at the Kickstarter campaign page for “Nosferatu” at

Titles of Interest – Religion in Science Fiction: The Evolution of an Idea and the Extinction of a Genre

51p9gosa8JL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Religion in Science Fiction: The Evolution of an Idea and the Extinction of a Genre by Steven Hrotic (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014)

Religion in Science Fiction investigates the history of the representations of religion in science fiction literature. Space travel, futuristic societies, and non-human cultures are traditional themes in science fiction. Speculating on the societal impacts of as-yet-undiscovered technologies is, after all, one of the distinguishing characteristics of science fiction literature. A more surprising theme may be a parallel exploration of religion: its institutional nature, social functions, and the tensions between religious and scientific worldviews.

Steven Hrotic investigates the representations of religion in 19th century proto-science fiction, and genre science fiction from the 1920s through the end of the century. Taken together, he argues that these stories tell an overarching story-a ‘metanarrative’-of an evolving respect for religion, paralleling a decline in the belief that science will lead us to an ideal (and religion-free) future.

Science fiction’s metanarrative represents more than simply a shift in popular perceptions of religion: it also serves as a model for cognitive anthropology, providing new insights into how groups and identities form in a globalized world, and into how crucial a role narratives may play. Ironically, this same perspective suggests that science fiction, as it was in the 20th century, may no longer exist.

Titles of Interest – Holy Sci-Fi! Where Science Fiction and Religion Intersect

51Dzhi4kieL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Holy Sci-Fi! Where Science Fiction and Religion Intersect by Paul J. Nahin (Springer, 2014)

Can a computer have a soul? Are religion and science mutually exclusive? Is there really such a thing as free will? If you could time travel to visit Jesus, would you (and should you)? For hundreds of years, philosophers, scientists, and science fiction writers have pondered these questions and many more.

In Holy Sci-Fi!, popular writer Paul Nahin explores the fertile and sometimes uneasy relationship between science fiction and religion. With a scope spanning the history of religion, philosophy, and literature, Nahin follows religious themes in science fiction from Feynman to Foucault, and from Asimov to Aristotle.

An intriguing journey through popular and well-loved books and stories, Holy Sci-Fi! shows how sci-fi has informed humanity’s attitudes towards our faiths, our future, and ourselves.

By the author of the popular books “Time Machines” and “The Science of Radio”

Discusses the opinions and writings of philosophers and scientists (Pascal, Hume, Nietzsche) and science fiction authors (Arthur C. Clark, C. S. Lewis, Isaac Asimov)

Draws connections between science fact, science fiction, philosophy, and theological debate over the past five centuries

Call for Papers – ‘The Company of Wolves’: Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives—Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Feral Humans

dore‘The Company of Wolves’: Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives — Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Feral Humans

Conference, University of Hertfordshire, Sept 3rd-5th 2015: Call for Papers and Panels

Wolves have long been the archetypal enemy of human company, preying on the unguarded boundaries of civilisation, threatening the pastoral of ideal sociality and figuring as sexual predators. Yet, in their way, with their complex pack interactions, they have served as a model for society. Lately, this ancient enemy has been rehabilitated and reappraised, and rewilding projects have attempted to admit them more closely into our lives. Our company with wolves has inspired fiction from Ovid, through Perrault and the Grimms’ narrators, to Bram Stoker and Kipling; and, more recently, to Angela Carter, Neil Jordan, Anne Rice, Marcus Sedgwick and Glen Duncan.

The Open Graves, Open Minds Project was initiated in 2010 with the Vampires and the Undead in Modern Culture conference and reconvened for the Bram Stoker Centenary Symposium in 2012. We turn our attention now to creatures not strictly undead but which haunt the peripheries of the vampire— werewolves and shapeshifters. Such beings have served in narrative fiction to question what humanity is; weres tend to reveal the complex affinities and differences between our existence as linguistic, social subjects and our physiological continuity with other animals. They also draw our attention to questions of hierarchy and sexuality, to the instinctive, and to what extent our conceptions of these are ideological.

Werewolves, along with vampires, have recently become humanised, even romanticised, as identity politics became mainstream and the Other assimilated. The ancient paradigm of Beauty and the Beast lives on in paranormal romance. And just as the vampire figure both conditions the shape of the subgenres it dwells in and draws other genres into its sphere, so fictions about werewolves, wild humans, and human-animal relationships also invoke questions of genre and intertextuality. Thus, we are also interested in other narratives and discourses such as beast fables, taxonomies, human metamorphoses, and stories of feral children and those raised by animals which question the boundaries between animal and human.

Amidst concerns about our relationship with nature, in a culture informed by Romanticism and a post-Enlightenment doubt about the centrality of humanity, contemporary fictions often turn to the animal, and to transitions between animal and human (particularly the werewolf and kindred figures) to interrogate what is special about our species. In her werewolf paranormal romance, Shiver, the YA author Maggie Stiefvater quotes Rilke: ‘even the most clever of animals see that we are not surely at home in our interpreted world’. This perhaps captures our amphibious nature and raises the kind of questions we are interested in.

The conference will explore human social existence and its animal substrate, and the intersection between the human and the wolfishly bestial as expressed in narrative media from a variety of epochs and cultures. It will provide an interdisciplinary forum for the development of innovative and creative research and examine the cultural significance of these themes in all their various manifestations. As with the initial OGOM conference, from which emerged a book and a special issue journal, there will be the opportunity for delegates’ presentations to be published.

The conference organising committee invites proposals for panels and individual papers. Possible topics and approaches may include (but are not limited to) the following:

* Werewolves, lycanthropy, and shapeshifters
* Feral and wild children
* Language, culture, and nature
* Instinct and agency
* Animal studies and humanist perspectives
* Phenomenology and the philosophy of language, mind, and body
* Animality and sociality from Hobbes through Rousseau to Darwin
* Narratives of the Grimms, Perrault, Kipling, Angela Carter, Neil Jordan, Anne Rice, Maggie Stiefvater, Glen Duncan, Marcus Sedgwick
* Genre, intertextuality, and narratology
* Young Adult and children’s fiction
* Urban fantasy and paranormal romance
* TV, film, and other media
* Folklore and anthropology
* Fables, fabliaux, and fantasy
* The Gothic, fairy tale, and myth
* Sexuality and romance
* Species, ‘race’, identity, and taxonomy

Abstracts (200-300 words) for twenty-minute papers or proposals for two-hour panels should be submitted by 31st March 2015 as an email attachment in MS Word document format to all of the following: Dr Sam George,; Dr Bill Hughes,; Kaja Franck,

Please use your surname as the document title. The abstract should be sent in the fol-lowing format: (1) Title (2) Presenter(s) (3) Institutional affiliation (4) Email (5) Abstract. Panel proposals should include (1) Title of the panel (2) Name and contact information of the chair (3) Abstracts of the presenters. Presenters will be notified of acceptance by April 2015

The programme features Neil Jordan and plenary talks from Sir Christopher Frayling on ‘Angela Carter’, Dr Catherine Spooner on ‘Wearing the Wolf’, Dr Stacey Abbott on ‘The Sound of the Cinematic Werewolf’, Dr Sam George on ‘Wolf Children’ and Dr Bill Hughes on ‘Werewolves and Paranormal Romance’. There will be contributions from novelists Marcus Sedgwick and Glen Duncan (tbc) together with special guests. OGOM PhD students, Kaja Franck and Matt Beresford, will present papers on their current research involving werewolves. Delegates will have the opportunity to visit unique places associated with our theme, and to actually ‘walk with wolves’.

For more information, contact Dr Sam George at

The conference is organised by the University of Hertfordshire, UK

Click here to see details of the Open Graves, Open Minds book
Our website is at: and our blog, with updates on the conference and project, is

For more information, contact Dr Sam George at

The conference is organised by the University of Hertfordshire, UK

Titles of Interest – Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror

51kg6DdepcL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror (McFarland, 2013), edited by Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland

This groundbreaking collection of new essays presents critical reflections on teaching horror film and fiction in many different ways and in a variety of academic settings–from cultural theory to film studies; from women’s and gender studies to postcolonialism; from critical thinking seminars on the paranormal to the timeless classics of English horror literature. Together, the essays show readers how the pedagogy of horror can galvanize, unsettle and transform classrooms, giving us powerful tools with which to consider interwoven issues of identity, culture, monstrosity, the relationship between the real and the fictional, normativity and adaptation. Includes a foreword by celebrated horror writer Glen Hirshberg.

Titles of Interest – It Happens at Comic-Con: Ethnographic Essays on a Pop Culture Phenomenon

978-0-7864-7694-7It Happens at Comic-Con: Ethnographic Essays on a Pop Culture Phenomenon (McFarland, 2014), edited by Ben Bolling and Matthew J. Smith

This collection of 13 new essays employs ethnographic methods to investigate San Diego’s Comic-Con International, the largest annual celebration of the popular arts in North America. Working from a common grounding in fan studies, these individual explorations examine a range of cultural practices at an event drawing crowds of nearly 125,000 each summer.

Investigations range from the practices of fans costuming themselves to the talk of corporate marketers. The collection seeks to expand fan studies, exploring Comic-Con International more deeply than any publication before it.

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibit

Open until Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015

Two hundred rare objects trace 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre

From Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick and Alexander McQueen, via posters, books, films – and even a vampire-slaying kit – experience the dark shadow the Gothic imagination has cast across film, art, music, fashion, architecture and our daily lives.

Beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Gothic literature challenged the moral certainties of the 18th century. By exploring the dark romance of the medieval past with its castles and abbeys, its wild landscapes and fascination with the supernatural, Gothic writers placed imagination firmly at the heart of their work – and our culture.

Iconic works, such as handwritten drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the modern horrors of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and the popular Twilight series, highlight how contemporary fears have been addressed by generation after generation.

Terror and Wonder presents an intriguing glimpse of a fascinating and mysterious world. Experience 250 years of Gothic’s dark shadow.

See more here.

Forthcoming Interview with David Lee Fisher on “Nosferatu”


Have you heard about the forthcoming independent horror film Nosferatu that will star Doug Jones? TheoFantastique will be interviewing the director David Lee Fisher soon. Take a look at the trailer and consider getting involved in their Kickstarter campaign to finance this film.

The Harvard Crimson and the value of artistic representations of gore

The painting SATURN by the Spanish artist GOYA.The Harvard Crimson has an interesting essay posted titled “The Aesthetics of Horror: an investigative essay into the value of artistic representations of gore.” After beginning with a considertaion of Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ painting “Saturn Devouring His Son,” the analysis begins. Here’s an excerpt from this thoughtful piece:

In other words, is it permissible to show something that inspires horror for its own sake? How committed are we to art for art’s sake, to the abolition of artistic boundaries? There is a modern desire to be near-absolute about the freedom granted to artists, a sincere wish for intellectual consistency and an old-fashioned fairness: one might not always like good art, and condemning something merely because it violates our mores or preferences seems petty.

Yet life rarely cuts so cleanly. Can art for art’s sake be a true guiding principle—or, more specifically, horror for horror’s sake? Yes it can; but as horror shows us, it may demand things of us that we are not willing to concede.

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