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Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film
full name / name of organization:
Regina Hansen/Boston University
Call for Chapter Proposals:
Since at least the late 18th Century, the symbolism, practices, and personnel of the Roman Catholic religion have been elements of the fantastic, the supernatural and the horrific in Western literature and art. Mad monks and evil nuns, abandoned monasteries, and the so called “mumbo jumbo” of the Latin Mass were staples of 18th and 19th Century Gothic fiction, while late 19th Century poets and artists like the Pre-Raphaelites used images of female saints and the Virgin Mary to create a more beneficent supernatural atmosphere in their work. As film became central to European and North American culture, Catholicism and Catholic spirituality were frequent subjects, or at least elements, of many movies, especially in “fantastic” genres such as horror, supernatural or fantasy. Roman Catholic belief, practice and imagery is central not only in genre films like The Exorcist, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, and later Constantine and Hellboy, but provides the fantastic element in historical mysteries like The DaVinci Code. Even films like Mystic River, which are presented as realistic non-supernatural mysteries, retain a sense of the fantastic by including Catholic symbols, scenes taking place in old churches, or the appearance of nuns and priests. More often than not these Catholic elements retain their sense of the fantastic and foreign, even the horrific, because they recall a pre-1960’s Catholicism less often practiced today but which still retains a kind of mystique and sense of the foreign. Moreover, recent scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have reintroduced the theme of Catholic clergy and nuns as Gothic monsters, even in films with no other supernatural or horror elements.
Nuns, priests, monks and friars as heroes/villains
Proposals not longer than one page (double-spaced), and in Word format, should be submitted electronically to the attention of Regina Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 15, 2009, but a brief note by email of intent to submit would be helpful at any time. Proposals should include title, author(s), institutional association (if any), mailing address, email address, and the text of proposal. Acceptances will be sent out Oct 15, 2009.