|GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters|
GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters (Back issue 2006)
Spring 2006, Volume 1: Issue 1
Welcome! This inaugural issue of GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters illustrates the ways in which our perception of anomaly is really a mirror reflecting ourselves. The main section of GOLEM explores four fascinating sites revolving around monstrous, hybrid bodies that elicit nagging questions regarding self-identity and social order.
Writing on Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Rebecca Raphael argues that the title character is constructed as a monster through double strategies of anomalous embodiment: first, as a disabled person whose non-normative body challenges the assumed equality inherent in liberal democratic theories, and second, as a cyborg who exists uneasily at the organic-machine boundary, signaling contemporary anxieties over the global nuclear military apparatus. In “The Doomsday Body, or Dr. Strangelove as Disabled Cyborg,” Raphael draws on insights from anthropology, literary criticism, and disability studies to weave her nuanced analysis, exploring the film as a secular apocalypse that transposes ancient motifs into a sharp twentieth century commentary on nuclear and social anxieties.
Michael W. DeLashmutt proposes a theological critique of another human-machine boundary, posthumanity, in “Immanaence for Transcendence: Confronting the Techno-Theological Eschatology of Posthuman Speculative Science.” Using a Christian hermeneutical lens particularly indebted to Tillich, DeLashmutt evaluates the spectrum of dis- or re-embodied future humanity envisioned by posthuman speculative scientists Hans Moravec, Frank Tipler, and Ray Kurzweil. As DeLashmutt frames it, the issue turns on whether posthumanism represents the spiritual evolution of humanity and machine or the monstrous. His theological appraisal takes us squarely into questions of ultimate concern: the nature of divinity, spirit, eschatology, death, and social justice.
As in Raphael’s opening piece, disabled bodies are also a central concern in Kent Brintnall’s “The Moral Demand of the 'Loving Cup:' The Presence of the Abject Body in Tod Browning’s Freaks and the Christian Eucharist.” Brintnall employs Julia Kristeva’s notion of the abject to tackle the controversial film Freaks (1932), which casts real-life circus side-show freaks in a tale about rejected community. Brintnall contends that the film, which eventually won critical acclaim and cult status, uncomfortably situates the audience in a changing relationship to the exceptional body, which is variously configured as abject and monstrous. In particular, he maintains the “wedding-banquet” scene recasts the Christian eucharist so as to invite the spectators to identify or dis-identify with a particular construction of horror.
Kim Paffenroth tackles another sort of anomalous body in “Religious Themes of George Romero’s Zombie Movies.” By taking the zombie genre seriously as social critique, Paffenroth draws parallels with Dante’s Inferno to show that these movies expose assumptions about morality and social order, as well as about normalcy, intelligence, and agency. His reminders of the violence by and against the zombies highlight the complexities attending the portrayal, reception, and interpretation of filmic monsters, which should make viewers and readers uncomfortable.
We also invite you to read our undergraduate publication section, GREMLIN, which features two insightful articles that examine monsters as a somewhat positive force. Elizabeth Smith’s “Today the Pond, Tomorrow the World: A Look at Frogs as Divine Portent through an Ecological Lens” analyses how the B-movie Frogs (1972) reflects growing ecological concerns of the late 1960’s and early 70’s and uses religious iconography to cast attacks by wildlife on humans as a divine judgment on environmental devastation. In “The Religious Functions of Pokemon,” Mandie Street also contends monsters can be good. She draws on Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion to argue that the Pokemon franchise is a secular religion that empowers children in relation to friendly, controllable monsters.
Finally, our experimental MONSTER TRACKS section, which showcases short contributions to serve as catalysts for further interpretation, contains two interesting reflections on Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. Lindsay Porter investigates Catholicism, superstition and folk religion in relation to the vampire’s and protagonists’ actions, while Kari Thompson argues that Victorian attitudes towards Darwinian evolution lurk in the background of the novel. Other one to two page reflections on Dracula are welcome.
The editorial board of GOLEM hopes you enjoy reading this first issue as much as we have. We greatly welcome your feedback, ideas, suggestions and, of course, your submissions.
- Frances Flannery-Dailey, Founding and Senior Editor
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Volume 1, Issue 1 (2006, Spring)
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Rebecca Raphael , The Doomsday Body, or Dr. Strangelove as Disabled Cyborg
Abstract: This paper analyzes Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick 1964) as a 20 th Century apocalypse in which human-machine mixture provides the central dualism. Unlike ancient apocalypses, however, the film does not attribute good or evil to either pole of its central dualism. Instead, the conflicting desires for purity, General Ripper’s for organic and the Soviet’s for mechanical, drive the action to global thermonuclear war. Using cyborg, disability, and monster theory, the paper situates the character Dr. Strangelove as the film’s central monster, for he embodies human-machine hybridity and other elements abjected from the liberal-democratic ideal.
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Kent L. Brintnall , The Moral Demand of the “Loving Cup”: The Presence of the Abject Body in Tod Browning’s Freaks and the Christian Eucharist
Abstract: Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) cast real-life circus side-show celebrities in a tale of love, betrayal and revenge. Pulled from theatres soon after its release due to financial losses and critical controversy, it was rediscovered and championed during the 1960s. With the rise of disability studies, the film gained a new scholarly audience. This paper uses Julia Kristeva’s notion of the abject to analyze Freaks. Specifically, the paper compares the film’s “wedding banquet” scene and the Christian Eucharist, arguing that both provide opportunities for the spectator/participant to reflect on and renegotiate their relationship to the abject.
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Michael W. DeLashmutt, Immanence for Transcendence: Confronting the Techno-Theological Eschatology of Posthuman Speculative Science
Abstract: Posthuman speculative science, typified by the writings of Hans Moravec, Frank Tipler, and Ray Kurzweil, evinces a faith in technology’s capacity to transform the future destiny of humankind. For these thinkers technology, and in particular information technology, will provide the means by which present-day humanity or its descendents will participate in their posthuman evolution, thus ushering in an eschatological kingdom marked by the end of human and cosmic finitude. This paper will critique the implied techno-theology of this posthuman eschatology and offer as its counterpoint a theology of technology informed by a Christian hermeneutical framework.
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Kim Paffenroth, Religious Themes of George Romero’s Zombie Movies
Abstract: The zombie movies of George A. Romero can be seen as an updated version of Dante’s Inferno, giving modern believers or secularists a vision of damnation as endless, sterile, mindless repetition, and offering some glimpses of how one might avoid such a fate. Besides Romero’s paradigmatic zombie movies, passing reference will be made to the films of other directors, especially 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004).
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Student Publication Section
Today the Pond, Tomorrow the World: A Look at Frogs as Divine Portent through an Ecological Lens
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