Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Genres

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Genres

Article excerpt

McAvan, Emily. The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Genres. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012. 194 pp. $40.00 (USD. paperback) ISBN: 978-0-7864-6388-6. Ebook ISBN: 978-0-7864-9282-4

The premise of Emily McAvan's dissertation-based book, The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy Genres, is elementary to many studies of popular culture: popular culture both represents and contributes to the ongoing formulation and reformulation of cultural values and beliefs. More unique is her focus on the theme of New Age religion and spirituality as it is expressed in particular films, television shows, and novels. McAvan cites Oprah's consumerist approach to the New Age and references the commodification of many aspects of religion, but she evidently coined "the postmodern sacred" as a substitute for "popular culture spirituality" to embrace her favoured theorists of the postmodern. These theorists, all introduced in chapters one, two, and three, include Baudrillard, Derrida, Jameson, and Lyotard, who are associated with the concepts of hyperreality, the transcendental signified, pastiche, and the collapse of metanarrative respectively. She regards her cited texts as examples, or as incorporating examples, of these concepts, and the concepts as characteristics of the postmodern sacred.

Of the profane, she argues that computer-generated imagery has "collapsed" the distinction between it and its traditional opposite, the sacred (70), such that monsters and deities are easily converted from one into the other (78). In addition, although almost all of her texts are chosen from the descriptively unproblematic (at least in this study) genres of fantasy, fantastic horror, and science fiction, she prefers to call them "unreal" fiction. She takes care to establish her view of the relationship between these genres and the literature produced by Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals: "The science fiction/fantasy text produced for entertainment and the evangelical text produced for proselytizing are very much two sides of the same coin. The first is made for profane purposes and stages disavowed belief in an overtly fictional way, while the latter states overt belief in a disavowed fictional way" (3). The coinage of "unreal" fiction is not about the relationship between science fiction and Christian fundamentalist literature, however, but is instead intended to emphasize the connection between familiar types of popular fiction and the use of "unreal" computer-generated characters and contexts, and, further, the manner in which these latter effects may variously represent and fulfill the New Age emphasis on personal experience as the basis for all true spirituality--for both filmic characters and flesh-and-blood viewers.

The elements and entities that create that experience vary with the films, television shows, and novels under discussion. …

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