Magic and Marvel: Theorizing Religion Through Popular Culture (RELIGST 15N)
Wells-Oghoghomeh, A. (PI)
Though marginalized through terms like 'superstition' and 'witchcraft,' magic remained a ubiquitous feature of the United States sociocultural and religious landscape well beyond the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. From dream books to horseshoes to conjure, phenomena once termed black or white magic in Western European and early Anglophone American cultures became a part of an expansive collection of ritual and material practices that occupied the margins of American 'religion' serving as a foil to more mainstream manifestations of the category. Racialized visions of magical creatures and capabilities from faraway places solidified understandings of magic as the province of non-Whites and non-Americans, contributing further to the category's marginalization, even as interest in spiritualism, mesmerism, and other metaphysical movements heightened in the nineteenth-century. The result was a religious milieu in which practices previously deemed 'magic' became entrenched within some mainstream institutional religions and the categorical lines between magic and religion became increasingly blurred in popular culture. Beginning with the religious history of American magic and moving towards the twentieth century, this course explores the American fascination with magic as expressed through the Marvel cinematic universe. Together, we will ask questions of how magic appears in the popular imagination, its role in the success of the Marvel franchise, and the terms on which we define the category.
Letter or Credit/No Credit
Literature, Culture, and the Arts