“Who said names were supposed to be easy to say? What are you, a candy bar?”

Picture 2Students in REL 237 are watching Avalon this week, a 1990 film about the changes that take place within a family of early to mid-20th century Americans who, like so many of our ancestors, came to this continent from somewhere else.

“I came to America in 1914…, by way of Philadelphia. That’s where I got off the boat,” says Sam, one of the film’s protagonists, recollecting an epic past for the grandchildren.

One of the reasons that I like using the film is the chapter on it that Bruce Lincoln contributed to a 1996 collection of essays, Myth & Method. If we watch the movie then we also read the chapter afterward. Continue reading

Golden Age Thinking

midnightinparisI’m using Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (2011) as one of two movies to help set the tone for one of my courses this semester — an upper-level course that also uses a forthcoming book I’ve edited, all of which is devoted to examining the social, even political, role played by origins tales.

Have you seen the film? Continue reading

Gotcha

ISRAEL-VATICAN-POPENote to self: if you’re going to spin tales of origin in the service of contemporary interests then be careful, for someone with different interests can always tweak what you’re trying to do, to suit their own purposes.

Case in point: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent effort to use an origins narrative to spin a tale of similarity quickly cut toward difference when the Pope corrected him on a detail, requiring some hasty fine tuning to get back to the original point…

 

“How Old is That?”

fossilAmong the assorted knick-knacks that line my office’s shelves—ranging from such relics as photos of friends and family or gifts I’ve accumulated over the years to a selection of tattered romance novels shelved long ago among my books by mischievous students—is a nicely matted and framed “fossil” of Knightia, a long extinct genus of small boney North American freshwater fish, dating to more than 35 million years ago (or what scientists know as the Eocene epoch), and which was recovered from the well-known (to fossil hunters, at least) Green River Formation in southwestern Wyoming.

I bought it one summer, heavy wooden frame and all, about ten years ago in a gift shop in downtown Iowa City, Iowa, at the same time that I purchased for my Department’s library a number of other so-called artifacts, such as the stereotypical dancing Shiva statue and the Thai-styled bust of Buddha, complete with its intricately carved curls. (What a disappointment when people learn I got these in Iowa City!) I never anticipated writing about my framed piece of sedimentary rock that, for whatever reason, has found a home among the Cs in my shelving taxonomy (yes, I shelve books by author’s surname, so?), though I have often used it in classes to illustrate a point or two about discourses on origins; I now realize that this rock might have some uses outside of the classroom. Continue reading

For Example…

wilburysWhat’s the relevance of the study of religion?

Well, religious studies students know how to study things like myths and origins tales, right? And all of us tell origins tales, no? From Uncle so-and-so spinning an annual yarn at some family holiday to scholars trying to find the origins of civilization, we’re all doing it.

So that suggests that we’re particularly well-equipped to say a fair bit about how these tales work and why we all tell them.

For example, consider this post on an all-star rock group that just happened to be formed…

Mind the Gap

HamletBy Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She currently works as a staff member in the Department as a Student Liaison and filmmaker. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across this video that discussed the benefit of performing Shakespeare’s plays in their “Original Pronunciation,” or “OP.” Take a look… Continue reading