The Postmodern Sacred

Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Genres


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About the Book

From The Matrix and Harry Potter to Stargate SG:1 and The X-Files, recent science fiction and fantasy offerings both reflect and produce a sense of the religious. This work examines this pop-culture spirituality, or “postmodern sacred,” showing how consumers use the symbols contained in explicitly “unreal” texts to gain a secondhand experience of transcendence and belief. Topics include how media technologies like CGI have blurred the lines between real and unreal, the polytheisms of Buffy and Xena, the New Age Gnosticism of The DaVinci Code, the Islamic “Other” and science fiction’s response to 9/11, and the Christian Right and popular culture. Today’s pervasive, saturated media culture, this work shows, has utterly collapsed the sacred/profane binary, so that popular culture is not only powerfully shaped by the discourses of religion, but also shapes how the religious appears and is experienced in the contemporary world.

About the Author(s)

Emily McAvan teaches cultural, media and gender studies at Murdoch University and Curtin University, both in Perth, Australia. Her work on religion and culture has appeared in print in The Journal of Literature & Theology, The Bible and Critical Theory, and The Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

Bibliographic Details

Emily McAvan

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 194
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6388-6
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9282-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Introduction: The Return of the Religious and the Postmodern Sacred      1

1. The Postmodern Sacred      21
2. Virtual Religion: Techniques of the Postmodern Sacred      31
3. “Something Up There”: Transcendental Gesturing in New Age–Influenced Texts      43
4. Of Gods and Monsters: Metaphor and the Postmodern Sacred      64
5. Buffy and Xena: Polytheisms On-Screen      80
6. Whither Leonardo da Vinci? New Age Gnosticism      98
7. Christ Figures and the Messianic in The Lord of the Rings      108
8. The Cultural Logic of Postmodern Christianity: The Christian Right and Popular Culture      117
9. The Islamic Other and SFF Responses to 9/11      130
10. Good, Evil and Ethics: Morality and All That Stuff      143

Conclusion: Is There an Outside to Capital?      154
Chapter Notes      165
Bibliography      173
Index      187

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Midwest Book Review
  • “Well researched”—Science Fiction Studies