Vol. 2 No. 1 (2021): The Journal of Gods and Monsters
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.