Creating Imaginative Pauses with Sin: The Queer Theological Aesthetics of Oscar Wilde and Paul Cadmus
Forthcoming article in Religion and the Arts, Vo. 28 (2024)
Oscar Wilde and Paul Cadmus both utilize their art to renegotiate how we imagine our relationship to sin within Catholicism. This article draws attention to resonances between their approaches by presenting a Wildean queer theological aesthetic as a framework to interpret Cadmus’s art. A Wildean framework utilizes the excesses of both Catholicism and queerness as a foil for each other to create pauses for the imagination in a culture and religious tradition that risks falling into mechanization. In the space of that excess, we are allowed to escape the trap of existence to live as Individuals, claiming sin as an excess that offers an imaginative pause out of mere existence. Applied to Cadmus, a Wildean framework focuses on how Cadmus’s works also engages queer and Catholic excess to renegotiate Catholic guilt around the body and instead see the body and its sin as a site to know the Self.
"Not Built as a Shrine, but as a Sacred Space": The Devotional Nature of Museums Dedicated to Candidates for Sainthood
Fandom and the Cult of the Saints as Alternate Religious Networks: Fanzines and Books of Hours
Article in The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (Advanced Access) (https://doi.10.3138/jrpc.2022-0041)
Many interpretations of fandom communities as religious focus on fandom in relation to the “world religions” and the institutional authority they carry. By way of contrast, I aim to interpret fandom based on religious practice, primarily the Christian Cult of the Saints as a practice of religious devotion. The perspective of religious practice emphasizes that the communities that form as fandom often exist in tension with more traditional religious networks, similar to saint cults. To demonstrate this parallelism, I explore community formation around saints and fantasy characters as serious play expressed in Books of Hours and fanzines.
In the past twenty-five years, fantasy literature and media have exploded, capturing the imagination and gaining a following. Given fantasy’s history with religious writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis and the dedication of fandom communities, scholars have attempted to explain the connections between fantasy and religion. This was an area of exploration for the first generation of Arts, Literature, and Religion scholars. Now, a second generation is addressing these genres to further define “religion” and its limits. I propose to explain fantasy’s connection with religion by putting it in conversation with the lives of Christian saints. This approach allows us to speak of fantasy as a serious religious practice, while still different from traditional conceptions of religion. Fantasy literature, thereby, becomes a “second hagiography” that ritually opens a liminal space for individuals to enter to shape and own identity through the religious imagination. My interpretation acknowledges that modern Americans, as the Pew data indicates, have left traditional religious movements, and over a quarter of Americans identify as “spiritual,” suggesting increasing disconnections to religious traditions. The devotion to fantasy, individually and in fan groups, however, acknowledges that there is spiritual hunger to engage with the religious imaginary. Young people, particularly, turn to fantasy to enter a religious frame of mind that mediates relationships with the world around them. Moreover, they claim ownership over these new hagiographic figures because they play a part in shaping the narrative that informs those relationships. This mirrors the ways scholars describe the participatory relationships between the cult of the saints and its devotees. Hagiography proves a fruitful comparison to fantasy due to their literary and functional similarities. In the space both genres create, we can speak about humanity’s relationship with God, relationships with other human beings, and a lived morality.
Angelomorphic Pneumatology--the belief that the Holy Spirit takes the form of an angel, most notably the seven archangels of greatest power, in its interaction with humanity--is widespread in the Early Church, especially the Church associated with Alexandria. Overtime, however, as Trinitarian Theology, Christology, and Pneumatology develop, this theology slowly disappears. Angelomorphic Pneumatology morphed into a belief that the Holy Spirit is an angel (instead of just taking the form of an angel) as people, such as Arius, attempted to better distinguish between the members of the Godhead in reaction to Monarchianism and Two-Stage Logos Theology. Angelomorphic Pneumatology then almost completely disappears as it becomes associated more with Arianism and it is caught up into the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople as the bishops battle the Arians and the Pneumatomachians. Interestingly enough, though, some remnants of Angleomorphic Pneumatology survive into the later Church, such as the seven-fold distinction of the Holy Spirit.