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The Serpent's GiftGnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion$
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Jeffrey J. Kripal

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226453804

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226453828.001.0001

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Mutant Marvels

Mutant Marvels

Chapter:
(p.126) 4 Mutant Marvels
Source:
The Serpent's Gift
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226453828.003.0006

This chapter turns to popular and material culture, and in particular to the modern American mythologies of the comic book. Taking up Stan Lee's tale of “The X-Men,” of Professor X(avier) and his secret band of extraordinary individuals, or “mutants,” as a kind of multidimensional allegory, it probes the interfaces between religious studies scholarship, American popular culture, and possible psychical phenomena. In particular, the chapter points out that the double forms of knowledge that scholars of religion often possess are unknown, even secret, to the vast majority of Americans, and that the often provocative and subversive implications of such knowledge routinely render scholars suspect, if not actually censorable, in the public eye as cultural or religious mutants. It further suggests that the fantastic superpowers of the comic book heroes are relatively “accurate” exaggerations of erotic, traumatic, psychical, and dissociative phenomena well known to the historian of religions. Finally, the chapter asks how scholars of religion can now face the challenge of communicating their own “mutant” forms of knowledge and consciousness, their own rational gnosis, to an American and global public that may well reject them.

Keywords:   X-Men, religious studies, American popular culture, psychical phenomena, comic book

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