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Representing Religion in Modern Media

Session Chair: N.N. | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Gabriel Badea

Mircea Eliade and Art as a Spiritual Experience: a Complementary View to the Aestheticized Hermeneutics and Interpretation of Art as a Historical Phenomenon

The proposed paper is structured as follows: first, I will focus on Eliade’s ideas regarding art and creation as types of religious experience, especially in the traditional societies. Then, I will put these ideas in relation to the main discourses on art in modern context (aesthetics and art history, the system of modern art). A major feature of Eliade's hermenutics is the "primeval" perspective on the work of art and its metaphysical origins, as a means of access to the sacred. His approach may be similar to that of other scholars, such as Rudolf Otto, Ananda Coomaraswamy or Gerardus van der Leeuw. It should be noted however that that while their contributions remained in the field of the sacred art or the syncretism between art and religion, Eliade was interested also in the recent changes imposed by the literary and artistic modernism. Secondly, I will follow Eliade’s impressive reception of Brancusi’s sculpture, by emphasizing the profound link between anamnesis and artistic creation and the modern avatar of the sycretism art/religion. Finally, I will insist on the reception of Eliade's "aesthetic" ideas and their relevance for present-day debates.

Ruth Illman

Tradition and Change in Contemporary Jewish Song Practices

Jewish musical practices stemming from mystical sources have since the turn of the millennium notably increased in popularity inside as well as outside Jewish communities in Israel, Europe and North America, relocating and reframing traditional practices for a late-modern, urban, liberal and liquid spiritual milieu. This development has been met with mixed responses: some valuing it as a vitalisation of Jewish worship, others dismissing it as vulgarisation and commodification. This paper presents an ethnographic study of the contemporary practice of niggunim among progressive Jews of various backgrounds in North London. The Hasidic tradition of singing niggunim – wordless spiritual melodies – is currently experiencing a renaissance as part of an experience-based, un-dogmatic, emotionally saturated and border-crossing form of Jewish spirituality. The presentation discusses the ethnographic research and in relation to a theoretical framework combining Judaic Studies with a vernacular religious perspective on religious change, embodiment, the arts and creativity.

Antony Pattathu

Narratives of death: The representation of funeral rituals in fiction film

Representations of funeral rituals in fiction films constitute a dominant part of the current medialization of death. Being based on real world occurrences, these representations mediate norms and values about the topic of death and dying, and the role of religion in society. Through their specific filmic aesthetic and narration they offer alternative views on death and dying that will be discussed by introducing a methodology for a religious studies film analysis. Understanding film as discourse from a communication studies perspective, examples from the fiction film funeral landscape of the last two decades will be analyzed to examine the dominant trends and narratives concerning new forms of rituals. Embedding these findings as part of the thanato-historical setting of our times, the debate of the changing face of funeral representations and their political and religious implication come to the fore.

Assia Harwazinski

The Reception of "primitive religion" in Modern Dance as Metaphor and Paradigm For Social Change: "Le Sacre du Printemps" by Igor Stravinsky

"Le sacre du printemps" was first composed as a musical piece by Igor Stravinsky. “Le Sacre”, both musically as well as in dance-form, broke with all the rules of commonly accepted stage performance. Dancers moved in skin-coloured costumes "naked" on stage to new, scattered music full of disharmonies. Stravinsky was inspired by a pre-Christian Russian myth about the necessity of a virgin human sacrifice to ensure the successful recurrence of spring. Hence, he symbolically cited the political situation of radical change in Tsarist Russia and staged it as a ballet, featuring radical choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. Modern dance thus became a vehicle for challenging acknowledged social norms, and a medium for the communication concepts such as “primitive religion”.


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