ReligionProf Podcast with Ken Derry: The Myth Awakens

ReligionProf Podcast with Ken Derry: The Myth Awakens November 14, 2018

This week’s episode of the ReligionProf Podcast features Ken Derry who, along with John Lyden, edited the new book The Myth Awakens: Canon, Conservatism, and Fan Reception of Star Wars. The book is published by Cascade, an imprint of Wipf and Stock. The incredible thing about it, the thing that I couldn’t believe when it was pointed out to me and yet must acknowledge is true, is this: this is the first complete volume focused on Star Wars undertaken from the perspective of religious studies.

Seriously, look into it. There have been lots of Star Wars devotionals, uses of Star Wars to illustrate theological and spiritual traditions, but no volume that was about Star Wars using the secular tools of religious studies.

My reaction was akin to Luke Skywalker’s in The Empire Strikes Back: “No…it’s not possible!”

But following advice akin to that of Darth Vader’s, I searched my bookshelf and found it to be true.

And so of course, that leads to a follow-up question: How did we miss this? It is certainly a great illustration of the fact that, if it can be hard to notice what is there, it is harder still to notice what is missing.

Now that the gap has begun to be filled, I am sure you will share my excitement about this book – and the others that we may now hope will follow in its footsteps. What new books on Star Wars from the perspective of religious studies do you hope someone will write in the near future?

Of related (but clearly theological) interest, see Erin Wathen’s post on “The Gospel according to Star Wars.”

Since The Myth Awakens was inspired by the controversy over non-white and non-male heroes in the most recent Star Wars movies, I also need to link to the evidence that a significant amount of that controversy was driven by bots. And that in turn connects this post with another of my research areas, the intersection of computing and ethics. Bots drive a lot of conversation about news, beyond Star Wars. See too the recent First Monday article about Star Wars.

I will also add that I was especially delighted that there was a musicological element included in the book. I thought a musicologist was essential when I put together Religion and Science Fiction, too. IO9 recently shared one of the beautiful melodies that John Williams composed for for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, arranged for violin solo and orchestral accompaniment, namely “Across the Stars.” The video they shared has since been removed for copyright infringement. But here is Anne Sophie Mutter’s actual concert performance of the piece:

And here is the video that YouTube’s AI knew I would want to see and kindly played for me after I finished watching the above – John Williams’ new arrangement of Han and Leia’s theme music, another of my favorites:

If you’ll be at AAR/SBL in Denver, you’ll definitely want to swing by the Wipf and Stock section (calling it a “booth” is inadequate, given how extensive it is) to pick up a copy of this important book!

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  • John MacDonald

    In a way, the Force in Star Wars is reprehensible because it equally empowers Good and Evil, but in another way the Force is radically ethical because “the use power is put to” falls back on an individual’s choice/responsibility. This is an interesting contrast with the Judeo-Christian God tradition.

  • Ken

    Thanks for the shout out (and the interview), James! Also thanks for the info on the bots behind some of the hate — this is really interesting and helpful.

    • It was great getting to meet you in person at AAR/SBL in Denver!