Going to the AAR

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 1, 2008 — 2 Comments

Today and tomorrow I’ll be attending forums, sessions, and lectures at the American Academy of Religion’s 2008 Annual Meeting (in Chicago). The AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion, and their annual meeting has become a vital place to hear about the latest scholarship in the field of Pagan Studies (and just about every other religious and philosophical tradition as well). This year will feature an abundance of Pagan-friendly events, including the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group’s stellar-looking line-up of presentations.

“In places as diverse as Italy, China, the Ukraine, and the United States, we see groups of people turning away from established religious traditions to polytheism in a search for spiritual meaning. This defies the current linear model of religious progress and may signal a paradigm shift. This session explores polytheism in practice and focuses on places and communities where this development may not have been expected.”

A partial list of presenters shows a veritable who’s who of academic Pagan authors, including Chas Clifton, Wendy Griffin, Michael York, Nikki Bado-Fralick, and Graham Harvey (among others).

I’ll be attending as many Pagan-oriented presentations as I can, and will report back with some initial thoughts and (hopefully) photos. My only regret is that there is only one of me. It is downright cruel to make me choose between a series of themed presentations on Samhain/Halloween and one on art and esotericism that includes a paper on Dr. Strange!

“‘The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth’ surveys representations of occult themes in American comic books from early horror comics to 21st century post-superhero stories, with a particular focus on the Doctor Strange character as developed during the 1960s and 70s ‘occult explosion.’ Notable aspects of the Doctor Strange protagonist and storyline include appeals to eclectically secularized supernatural entities, an understanding of dreams as a medium for communication with spirits, and esoteric Orientalism of the type associated with the Theosophical Society. These comics constitute an especially detailed documentation of a type of visual imagination actively developed to address notions of occult magic that are consistent with the forms that Robert Ellwood has theorized as ‘excursus religion.’ This study also proposes that the comics medium itself has also become more of an excursus literature, as its attention to occult topics has been sustained over the last four decades.”

Maybe I can run back and forth? Do people do that there? I guess I’ll have to find out. In addition to all that, I’ll get to meet some colleagues, online acquiescences, and fellow Pagan bloggers for the first time in the flesh (so to speak). So it should be a stimulating couple of days (and that’s not even counting the exhibit hall full of publishers). Stay tuned for my first official AAR update tomorrow.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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