Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film

full name / name of organization: 
Regina Hansen/Boston University
contact email: 

Call for Chapter Proposals:
Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film

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.
This collection will explore the practices and symbolism of Roman Catholicism as depicted in films of the fantastic, including fantasy, horror, science fiction and the supernatural, or as a fantastic element in overtly realist films. Possible chapter topics include the following, but other relevant proposals are welcome and encouraged:

Nuns, priests, monks and friars as heroes/villains
Catholic schools, monasteries, convents and churches and the sense of fantastic or haunted space
Saints, angels, demons and devils as portrayed in fantastic film, hagiography and demonology
The Virgin Mary and Mariology
Biblical prophecy (Catholic view)
Catholicism in sword and sorcery or Medievalist films
Anti-Catholicism and/or nativism
Pro-Catholicism and/or apologism
Catholic symbolism and practice as a fantastic or horrific element in non-fantastic film
Lives of the saints as fantastic film
Intersections of Catholicism and atheism/agnosticism
Intersections of Catholicism and other religions (Western or non-Western
Intersections of Catholicism and myth/folklore
Intersections of Catholicism and Science
Judaic and Pagan roots of Catholicism
Pre-Vatican II Catholicism
Post-Vatican II Catholicism
Catholic theology in fantastic film based on works by Catholics (Tolkien Etc.)
Gothic/Catholic elements of fantastic film
Gender, Sexuality and Catholicism
Catholicism and vampires or other monsters
The Catholic Mass and other sacraments
Catholic spirituality and the fantastic
The Catholic understanding of God and Jesus
Hymn, chant and other soundtrack elements

Proposals not longer than one page (double-spaced), and in Word format, should be submitted electronically to the attention of Regina Hansen at 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.