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Religion and Media I: Texts

Session Chair: N.N. | Tuesday, August 25, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Anja Döscher

The analysis of contemporary literature as a possibility to follow religious change

Religious change becomes visible through materialization and therefore through art, as Clifford Geertz puts it. In the art the artist toys with his recipient´s perception and his given knowledge, the so called pretext. These recipients who have a similar social / religious background to the artist´s one are able to unmask the full meaning of a narrative – and discourses of a religious community. I would like to take literature of the Parsi community in India – made by Parsis about Parsis – as a representative example of materialization of religious change and discourses. It is modern literary studies in contrast to a hermeneutic approach to ancient texts / „Holy Scriptures“, which offers new possibilities in religious studies for revealing discourses instead of theological dogma. The presentation will be based on a project about Cyrus Mistry´s Parsi novel „Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer“, published in 2012.

Niels H Bader

Translating Poems, Reading Allusions, Writing Hagiographies : Contemporary Zen-Buddhist Exegeses of Sōseki’s Classical Chinese Poetry

In Japan, the medium of kanshi, poetry written in Classical Chinese, has in many cases since the medieval “Literature of the Five Mountains” maintained a close relationship to Zen-Buddhism. Natsume Sōseki (1867 – 1916), alleged founder of modern Japanese literature, took recourse to this medium as well to express highly individualized Buddhist thoughts. Kanshi became virtually unintelligible to the public thereafter. Yet, Sōseki’s work has been translated, annotated and commented on by various writers and scientists. Taking his last poem as example I will analyze these works – especially one written by a Rinzai-Zen-Buddhist scholar, to show processes of exegesis between traditional, Buddhist and modern scientific methodologies. By drawing on classical allusions, free translations into modern prose-poetry, and by identifying an implicit narrator as Sōseki himself, all of these works tend to contribute to hagiographies, portraying Sōseki as enlightened genius and heir to the religious and literati traditions of Zen-Buddhism.

Darin Lenz

‘Fed by Faith’: Making the Story of George Müller into a New Tradition of Living Piety in Nineteenth Century Print Culture

In 1834 George Müller, an emigrant from Prussia, established an orphanage in Bristol, England, that was funded, according to Müller, by prayer and trust that God would supply the necessary resources to care for the children. Abandoning the direct solicitation of funds to support his work, Müller received acclaim for establishing the largest orphanage in Great Britain by faith. His method of living by faith garnered Müller a great deal of attention globally thanks to his story being repeated in periodicals and books that celebrated him as a model of Christian piety. This paper will analyze the role that publications played in creating Müller’s reputation as the practitioner of living by faith in the nineteenth century. The aim of the paper is to show how print culture legitimized Müller’s method and created a new tradition of living piety that affected the practice of Christianity worldwide by the late nineteenth century.

Anna Hojdeczko

Tabloidization of religious-oriented press in Poland on example of "Egzorcysta" and "Dobry Tydzień" periodicals

Polish Catholic-oriented media surprisingly followed the global tendency of providing “infotainment”, and this style of journalism worked astonishingly well. The staggering example is "Egzorcysta" ("The Exorcist"), a monthly magazine, founded in 2012, the aim of which is "fighting with the spiritual dangers". This self-proclaimed "tool of modern evangelization" publishes articles about possessions, revelations and spectacular conversions, interviews with exorcists and advice concerning religious life. The magazine's circulation reached 40,000 at the beginning of 2014. The trend might be confirmed by "Dobry Tydzień" ("The Good Week"), a weekly first published in October 2014, targeted at "women who appreciate tradition, family and religious values" and containing articles about history, celebrities, memories from the time of the Polish People's Republic and Bible study. The presentation will focus on main issues that appear in those periodicals and will be an attempt to put the religious-oriented press tabloidization phenomenon in a larger context of changes in the modern press.


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