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Mormonism, Twilight AS a Religion, and, Yes, O’Donnell, we do have a constitutional separation of church and state… (Twilight: The Texts and The Fandom re-cap week 8)

October 22, 2010

This week we focused on religious subtexts in the saga, the concept of authorial intent, and fan practices functioning AS a sort of religion.

One of the framing questions I posed was as follows:

“If religion is such a good thing, and if Mormonism is as wonderful as the author’s devotion to it suggests, why must the fervent religious foundation of the saga be not only silenced in the text, but only tepidly endorsed (and sometimes vehemently denied) by the author and many fans?”

Students had lots of interesting comments – some which were critical of what seems like hidden/denied proselytizing, and others defending Meyer’s right both to write a text shaped by her faith AND to tithe generously to that faith.

I will admit my own bias – I am rather critical of organized religion – but I tried as much as possible to focus our discussion on analyzing the religious subtexts in the texts, the fandom, and wider culture rather than on any sort of “religion bashing.”

I will further admit that I find it somewhat unexpected that the saga and the fandom go to such lengths to pretend the lure of the story is not rooted in a deep religiosity, especially given a general turn in the direction of the religious right witnessed in US culture in the era of Twilight’s release dates, as well as its championing of one currently popular strand of religious tenet– the championing of abstinence.

I also find it surprising that so many readers don’t see all the religious undertones until they are pointed out – to me, the apple on the cover and the quote from Genesis pretty much screams it out… Indeed, when John Krakauer argues that Mormonism is “so thoroughly American” that “God lets it be known that the Garden of Eden had been located in America,” he might just as well be speaking of Twilight – which is so thoroughly American as to replant the story of Genesis on the Olympic coastline, apple and all (Under the Banner of Heaven 70).

Perhaps the contradictory attitude towards religion in the texts themselves as well as in the fandom is best viewed as a reflection of America’s own vacillating stance towards belief. After all, the US has had a historically contradictory relationship with religion– pretending on the one hand to be a profoundly secular society while radically departing from its constitutional separation of church and state on the other. (A constitutional factor that Republican Tea-Party candidate Christine O’Donnell is sadly woefully unaware of I might add…)

As for the classroom consensus on the topic of religion in Twilight – thankfully, there wasn’t one. I, unlike many a political candidates and religious leaders, would like my students to make up their own minds. Do I teach from a feminist perspective? Of course I do, I am a Women’s Studies professor!!! Do I attempt to make them think more deeply about the deeply patriarchal nature of most organized religion? Yes. Do I hope to make them hate religion (or Twilight)? Of course not. Instead, I hope to make them love critical analysis – whether of Twilight, of Mormonism, or of the latest icky GQ Glee cover

Happy Friday everyone.

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