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CFP for MLA 2018 — Commodification of the Spirit

2018 Modern Language Association Annual Convention

January 4-7, New York City, NY

CFP for MLA Special Session: Commodification of the spirit, soul, or religion in film and TV (apocalypse, afterlife, deities, demons); intersections between genre and industry. Abstract and CV by 15 March 2017; Steven Holmes ( and IdaYoshinaga (

Summary: Representations of spirituality are interminable fixtures of Western film and television, from Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) to HBO’s The Young Pope(2016-present). Recent scholarly works focus on the portrayal of religion, deities, and the afterlife in popular culture, from Kyle Bishop’s American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture (2010) to Emily McAvan’s The Postmodern Sacred: Popular Culture Spirituality in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy Genres (2012). This panel focuses on the current proliferation of television and filmic depictions of the sacred, divine, or eschatological, whether via undeath (zombies, vampires, ghosts), apocalypse (i.e. The Leftovers), or supernatural (gods, curses, miracles).

Recent TV series explore the imagined inner workings of religious institutions, such as Fox’sThe Exorcist (2016-present). Media corporations appropriate spiritual and mythical histories of indigenous peoples for genre films, as in the case of Disney’s Moana (2016). This 2018 MLA panel considers how television and cinematic productions negotiate the adaptation of religious narratives and the representation of holy institutions. How do corporations and audio-visual texts work to commodify the representation of spiritual beliefs, religions, and practices?

Global, queer, feminist, economic, embodied/affective, faith-based, and indigenous perspectives welcomed.