What’s the (Sacred) Point?

motelofthemysteriesHave you heard the one about Howard Carson, the amateur archeologist, who, in the year 4022, landed “at the bottom of an ancient shaft,” and then discovers what he decides is “a long-forgotten tomb”?

But which readers know to be just the ruins of a motel? Continue reading

A Good Book with Prof. Trost

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The latest episode in our A Good Book series has just been uploaded to Vimeo! This video features Prof. Theodore Trost and his discussion of James Joyce’s monumental novel Ulysses. Be sure to give it a watch!

A Good Book with Prof. Trost from UA Religious Studies.

Young Southern Historians

Bag of Plastic Toy Soldiers

Warner Thompson is a senior at the University of Alabama, who wrote the following for REL 490. He is a History major and a Religious Studies minor with future plans of Law School at the University. He was born and raised in Homewood, Alabama, and he is the oldest of three children.

When I was young, playing with sets of toy soldiers was a favorite pastime of mine. I had entire tiny armies, from different time periods and different wars, and I would spend hours lining my floor with intricate battle formations. After recently seeing a video of myself meticulously setting up one of these scenes, I began to reflect on the elementary historical narratives that were manifesting themselves in the positioning of my soldiers. The good guys, bad guys, and end results were not always consistent with historical fact, but they represented my young mind’s idea of what should have happened, and which side deserved to win. The American patriots would always whip the British redcoats; the Texans would always old the Alamo against Santa Anna; the Sioux would always win the Battle of Little Big Horn; and the gray-clad Confederate rebels would always defeat the blue-clad Yankees. All of these seem to reflect a pretty good moral foundation for a young historian except for the last example.

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“You don’t know what that means!”

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By Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She is now working on her M.A. in Religious Studies at CU Boulder. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

Several weeks back, I came across College Humor’s “If Gandhi Took A Yoga Class” video. In the clip, they have Gandhi challenging “western” yoga practices and understandings. Take a look… (Warning, there is some foul language)

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“He Thinks He’s Got it So Good…”

Picture 21In 2001, in a collection of essays, I included a chapter on teaching courses on theories of myth and ritual, describing there how I sometimes use pop music (songs that, with each year, get more and more dated) to make a point. Continue reading

Mulholland Drive: Extremely Enigmatic or Surprisingly Simple?

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Vincent M. Hills is a senior at the University of Alabama
majoring in History and minoring in Religious Studies.
This post was originally written for Dr. Rollens’ course,
REL 360: Popular Culture/Public Humanities.

Mulholland Drive begins with a woman named Rita who’s suffering from amnesia after a violent car crash. She roams the streets of Los Angeles in a daze before retreating to an apartment where she is discovered by a woman named Betty, a blonde who has come to LA seeking fame as an actress. Together, the women attempt to resolve the mystery of Rita’s real identity…

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Classification or Confusion?

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Catie Stewart is a junior at the University of Alabama from Madison, Mississippi. She is double majoring in English and Religious Studies and minoring in Psychology. This post was originally written for Dr. Rollens’ course, REL 360: Popular Culture/Public Humanities.

Recently I found myself sitting in a dark room staring at a projector trying to make sense of what I was seeing. It was our fourth and final REL 360 meeting, and there were only thirty minutes left in the movie that Dr. McCutcheon had picked for us to watch.

I was completely lost.

Should I have expected this from a David Lynch film? Probably. However, when Dr. McCutcheon inserted Mulholland Drive into the DVD player at the beginning of the meeting, I had been certain that what I was about to see would make perfect sense.

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What to Do When David Lynch Starts Making Sense (Don’t Panic!)

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Now a sophomore at UA, Maggie Patterson was raised in the graveyards and Southern Baptist churches of Nashville, Tennessee. Although she may mumble her way through the second half of the Lord’s Prayer, Maggie remains captivated by spirituality in the South and is majoring in Religious Studies. This post was originally written for Dr. Rollens’ course,
REL 360: Popular Culture/Public Humanities.

When I sat down for Mulholland Drive, I was anticipating a good dose of Lynch-induced bewilderment. And I was not disappointed. The film is all shades of weird; most of the plot takes place in the psychotic dreamstate of Diane, an aspiring actress who is driven mad by the Hollywood hustle. Perhaps the oddest part of the film is the uncharacteristically straightforward and simple ways in which David lynch imparts meaning to the viewer. His emphasis on the insidiousness of Hollywood is, for those familiar with his other work, almost startlingly overt.

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Putting the “Religion” in “American Religion”

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Craig Prentiss is a professor of religious studies at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of, Staging Faith: Religion and African American Theater from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II (NYU 2014).

 

On Thursday, June 4, I took a flight from Kansas City, Missouri to Indianapolis to attend the Fourth Biennial Conference on Religion American Culture hosted by the the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture at IUPUI. Though it was the fourth incarnation of the conference, it was the first time I had attended. Historians and sociologists made up the majority of participants (some of them situated in religious studies departments), mixed in with a few anthropologists, a couple of theologians, and even a political scientist! Sandwiched between two receptions, the conference took place over two days and consisted of eight sessions—attended by all conference participants—lasting an hour and a half each. Three panelists per session were asked to present short narratives on their assigned topics before opening questions and discussion to the audience. The format succeeded in helping to generate spirited and valuable conversation.

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Classification matters — at least to G.O.B.

Picture 22You a fan of “Arrested Development”?

If so, you may remember the pilot episode where, during his retirement party, agents from the Securities and Exchange Commission raid the yacht to arrest George Sr. — but his son, G.O.B., the ungifted but enthusiastic amateur magician, hides him in the Aztec Tomb.

Moral of the story?

Classification matters.

Oh, and don’t defraud investors in your real estate development company.