Special Panel: Living Words and Vital Images: Cinematic Adaptation and Evocation of Esoteric, Occult, : Area for Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association annual conference, Feb 23-26, Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Area of Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association seeks papers for a special panel for its annual conference this February 23-26 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which focuses on the adaptation of esoteric, occult, and magical texts into the medium of film. While the direct adaptation of such texts into the cinematic medium is vanishingly rare (a notable example, characteristically obscure but intriguing, being the 2003 filmic adaptation of Austin Spare's Earth Inferno; by contrast, the other most notable example, The Wizard of Oz, eclipses the Theosophical origins of its adapted source text with its cinematic fame), suggestion or simulation of such texts in reception, reference, or placement in film, or as inspirational thereof, is frequent. In some cases, the text in question is conceived as an element of the film, such as The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows (The Ninth Gate, 1999, itself an adaptation of a novel, The Club Dumas, 1993); more commonly, films refer either directly or tangentially to an established esoteric or occult text (Hereditary  accurately employs a just-slightly-variant version of the goetia in The Lesser Key of Solomon; Midsommar  uses a quick glimpse of various works relating to left-hand path and volkisch rune magic for foreshadowing) or include reference to a fictional one. The Necronomicon, initially conceived as a grimoire in the fictional mythos of H.P. Lovecraft (later inspiring multiple real-world simulations as actual texts), has made a variety of appearances. Perhaps the most striking example is one that fits both of these categories simultaneously: a copy of the Avon Books Necronomicon (the "Simon" Necronomicon) makes a prominent appearance in the 2019 Richard Stanley adaptation of The Color Out Of Space, itself an adaptation of a Lovecraft story in which the Necronomicon is not referenced. Of comparable interest, however, are two other complementary categories in which the film functions as self-referential metatext. Esoteric, occult, and magical fiction is occasionally adapted into film in such a way that the text itself appears within the film that adapts it (The Naked Lunch), but more commonly, films have utilized the device of an occult or magical film as a plot element or thematic signifier of self-awareness within the narrative (the Ring series, perhaps most prominently, but also Sinister , inspired by a nightmare induced by watching The Ring, according to the screenwriter's own account). Finally, while the trope of the "paranormal film" of or about the paranormal could well receive its own special panel (and perhaps in the future will do so), the occult aesthetic of the trope-making Blair Witch Project deserves particular mention. This panel welcomes contributions approaching any and all of these and related categories of esoteric, occult, and magical text-to-film, text-in-film, and film-as-text-or-metatext, from any and all disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary perspectives. If you would like to propose a presentation for inclusion in this panel, please directly contact the Area Chair for Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association, Dr. George J. Sieg, as soon as possible, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (505-440-2105). The extended and final deadline for all proposals is November 14. You can also request a copy of the main Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic call for papers, as the Area is still accepting proposals relating to any and all intersections of these foci with historical and contemporary popular culture.