Journal of Gods and Monsters Special Issue: The Monstrosity of DisplacementVol. 1 No. 1 (2020)
Monsters are often defined as those unfortunate beings displaced from the “normal,” and in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Gods and Monsters, we are exploring this displacement and the role of religious traditions in its construction, maintenance, and complication. Such beings labeled as monsters might be displaced from biology, such as the cynocephalic protagonist of the Greek Life of St. Christopher. Then again, a monster’s displacement could be cultural, as seen in contemporary efforts by some Burmese Buddhists to displace and monstrosize the Rohingya minority. Or it could be soteriological, like the transhistorical phenomenon of Jews and Muslims being made into monsters via their exclusion from some structures of Christian salvation.
In this special issue, we present three methodologically-diverse submissions that tackle the issue of monstrosity and displacement from a wide range of regional and temporal arenas, including 1960s West Virginia, 16th-century France, and 1940s science fiction literature. We also present reviews of new and important materials in the field of Monster Theory.
The Journal of Gods and MonstersVol. 2 No. 1 (2021)
Welcome to another issue of The Journal of Gods and Monsters. We trust that you’ll find plenty in this issue to unsettle the boundaries between the sacred and the monstrous.
As editors, one of the things that drew us to this topic was the wide variety of ways in which deities and monsters intersect, overlap, and help define each other, all while complicating any sense of stable boundaries or identities. As most who have studied religion know, the things we worship and the things we are afraid of are often difficult to distinguish from one another. This means that questions of Gods and Monsters can be found in a wide range of disciplines, over an abundance of texts, and in times both ancient and modern. Not only do these explorations question the boundaries between Gods and Monsters, but they also destabilize boundaries between academic disciplines, literary genres, and even so-called high and low culture.
But in the midst of this bewildering range of diverse topics, there are also fascinating thematic connections that keep bubbling to the surface. The three articles in this issue come from very different corners of the scholarly world: Matthew Goff’s essay on the Enochic traditions, Steven Engler’s study of the Brazilian religion Umbanda, and Gerardo Rodríguez-Galarza’s exploration of how close attention to monsters can help unravel what the author refers to as “the colonialism of time.” Even though they might seem to belong in very different journals – perhaps journals on the topics of Second Temple Jewish literature, religious studies, and postcolonial theory - these articles are brought together through the lens of monsters, and through the attention to what we can learn by analyzing the figure of the monster (and the narrative in which it appears) through a variety of lenses.
Perhaps most importantly, these articles pay attention to the myriad ways in which the figure of the monster announces a rupture in conventional thought, an anxiety which cannot be captured through traditional semantics – and which escape confinement by traditional modes of theological thinking. As Jeffrey Jerome Cohen has noted, the monster always escapes; in these three essays, that escape is something akin to Ricouer’s “surplus of meaning,” an escape from an interpretation that can be exhausted through explanatory modes of thought. In essence, the monster calls to the places where intellectual understandings – of texts, of historical events, of religious practices, of the oppressive forces of colonialism – fall short. The monster begs us to interpret it, and through this act to come at least a few steps closer towards understanding the system that the monster inhabits.