JRFM 9/1 (May 2023), Deadline: August 15th, 2022
Paradise Lost. Presentations of Nostalgic Longing in Digital Games
Paradise Lost is not only the title of John Milton’s famous epic poem (1667), but also a philosophical-theological notion linked to and emerging from the ‘Fall from Eden’ in Genesis. It expresses – or imagines – the human experience of a definite rupture in history, the inextinguishable urge to return to the period before the rupture and – unable to do so – thus constructs an idealized version of this past to long for. Throughout history, this longing has been expressed in artwork, architecture, literary works and is, perhaps, best observed in the Romantic era with its preference for the past, the future, and the contemporary exotic. Today, the notion of ‘Paradise Lost’ has far from disappeared but finds postmodern manifestations in the revival of (secular) nationalism and (religious) fundamentalism. In addition to literature and art, the 20th and 21st centuries have seen a new arena for narratives and iconographies of ‘Paradise Lost’ emerge: digital games.
When applied to the field of digital game studies, the notion of ‘Paradise Lost’ can be traced in three different ways:
In the past decade, the game industry has been witnessing a surge in retro-gaming as a kind of narratological, ludological, visual, and technological longing for the early age of gaming. For example, some modern games have (re-)introduced the concept of perma-death (Wasteland 2, Hades, Xcom, Diablo series) and retro-graphics has become a deliberate design approach in contemporary games (Cuphead, Celeste, Undertale). The industry – and consumer – has also witnessed the emergence of various re-makes of old-school classics (1942, Baldur’s Gate,Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus as Oddworld: Soulstorm). In other words: the present longing for the past, or the early (or golden) age of gaming, manifests itself in and through the game. Papers could explore this longing for a(n idealized) past in all its diversity, including the social, philosophical, theological, and psychological mechanisms associated with this, either because they occur in the game or because the game itself is part of such a romanticization of the past.
Some games explicitly and deliberately employ and reflect on the idea of a rupture in human history; that is, the loss of an earlier (potentially utopian) state one strongly longs for but is beyond reach (for example Horizon Zero Dawn). This lost period could be medieval times, paradise, 9/11, the pre-Corona time in light of prolonged lockdowns, and so forth. It also includes the romanticization of earlier periods and pre- and non-Christian traditions, societies, and a pre-Christian age. Papers could explore the presentation and interpretation of such a perceived rupture in human history, including its ramifications for contemporary philosophical and/or theological debates on ethically-sensitive issues, like race, gender, or religion.
Other games speculate about what will happen if we die; that is, they speculate if we can regain – and at the same time could be seen as the expression of hope to regain – the paradise once lost to us. Examples are the in-game portrayal of afterlife, either heaven, hell or something in between in games such as Limbo, Dante’s Inferno, or the Doom series. But such speculations do not remain confined to in-game narratives. Instead, they spill over into lived religious practices and can become part of how religious practitioners imagine the afterlife. Papers could explore topics such as religious life/practice as playful life/practice, the afterlife as game, gaming in the afterlife, the practice of gaming as symbol for innocence that was lost.
We invite contributions that explore the theme of ‘Paradise Lost’ in the context of digital games from various cultural and religious backgrounds that take the debate beyond a western and Christian context.
We invite contributions from scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including – but not limited to – religious studies, theology, game studies and media studies, sociology, digital anthropology and cultural studies.
We also welcome contributions that employ a range of approaches to the study of digital games including both game-immanent (text-immanent author/reader) and actor-centered (real reader/author) approaches.
We also encourage the exploration of games from all platforms, including mobile ones.
The issue also includes an open section for articles on other topics linked to the profile of JRFM. The deadline for all submissions is 15 August 2022. Contributions of 6,000-8,000 words (including notes) should be submitted for double-blind peer review through the journal homepage www.jrfm.eu. We kindly ask authors to register and consider the instructions for submitting contributions, especially the stylesheet. Publication is scheduled for May 2023. For any questions about the issue or possible contributions, please contact the issue editors: Dr. Frank Bosman (F.G.Bosman@tilburguniversity.edu) and Dr. Alexander Darius Ornella (email@example.com).
JRFM 9/2 (November 2023), Deadline: February 15th, 2023
Here Be Dragons. East Asian Film and Religion
Although film production started in China as early as 1905 with Dingjun Mountain (Dingjun shan, Ren Jingfeng, CN 1905), the East Asian media landscape largely remained terra incognita for almost five more decades.
Little of the remarkable output of its film industry was acknowledged by western audiences. This changed in the 1950s: Whereas Chinese cinema was restricted by censorship after 1930 and politically instrumentalized from the early 1950s onwards, Japanese productions which largely depended on US-American standards found their way into Western cinemas. During the 1960s, the dependency on western cultural standards began to loosen, and a self-confident media industry began to deliver an astonishingly independent output with regard to form and content all over Asia. Since the 1990s, South Korea has entered the stage with an ever growing and lively film industry that gained international acclaim.
Nowadays, the film industry is a vibrant element of East Asian popular culture that has become increasingly important on a global level in the last decades. Japanese, and recently South Korean and Chinese films or TV series have a growing and worldwide audience not least because of easier access through streaming services. The many film productions provide a multifaceted arena of
highly diverse content that spans nearly all aspects of the cultural developments in the countries. Religion has always played a major role in these contexts in various ways and in accordance with the highly diversified religious landscape of East Asia. This issue of JRFM will explore aspects of this multifaceted relationship between religion and movies or tv series.
Contributions might include questions such as:
- How religion and religious traditions are portrayed in East Asian films.
- In what way characters in the films and their plots are guided by religious patterns and traditions.
- How religious iconography is used or referred to in the films.
- How films mirror recent changes in the religious landscape of East Asia.
We invite contributions from scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, including – but not limited to – religious studies, theology, media studies, sociology, digital anthropology, film studies and cultural studies.
The title of this call, “Here be Dragons” has two facets: Firstly, old maps sometimes marked their “white spots” of unexplored territory with this phrase. Secondly, the mythical creature “dragon” is said to be vastly powerful and the current situation shows remarkable power in the creativity, innovation, and, sometimes, unpredictability of the East Asian media scene – not to speak of the immense importance dragons played in East Asian religious and cultural traditions.
The issue also includes an open section for articles on other topics linked to the profile of JRFM. The deadline for all submissions is 15 February 2023. Contributions of 6,000-8,000 words (including notes) should be submitted for double-blind peer review through the journal homepage www.jrfm.eu. We kindly ask authors to register and consider the instructions for submitting contributions, especially the stylesheet. Publication is scheduled for November 2023. For any questions about the issue or possible contributions, please contact the issue editors: Prof. Christian Wessely (firstname.lastname@example.org), Prof. Franz Winter (email@example.com) or Prof. Yoshida Yukihiko ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
JRFM 10/1 (May 2024), Deadline: June 30th, 2023
The Handmaid’s Tale. Connecting Literature, Film, Politics, and Religion
"I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have a control over the ending." (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale)
In 1985, Canadian author Margaret Atwood published a dystopian novel written in fragments. It contains a scary vision, a disturbing compilation of every thinkable evil humankind may be capable of. Offred, the main charac-ter and narrator, explains the world she lives in: Gilead, a theonomic state with a totalitarian structure that is ruled by a male military elite. Atwood’s novel points out how religious and political fanaticism fuel social inequal-ity, censorship, and the limitation of individual rights. The Handmaid’s Tale challenges conventions and expectations and enthrals the reader who reconnects all the pieces of this shocking story.
The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted for TV, film, radio, stage, and opera. There is also a graphic novel.
Furthermore, it has inspired women fighting for their rights against conservative forces in many countries around the world. Eventually, in 2019, Atwood published a second novel, The Testaments, in which new female perspectives on Gilead and its decline are elaborated.The Handmaid’s Tale has become a frame for articulating and discussing controversial aspects of contemporary society such as gender relationships, power and political structures, ecology and catastrophe, reproduction and family, love and loyalty, domination and subversion, and the role of science. Religion plays a crucial yet still ambivalent role: it offers the main legitimation for the oppressive power of the cruel theocracy and at the same time it is a source of hope and motivation for subverting the whole system. The Bible is also used in controversial ways, as a means of subjugation and as a text that enables resistance.
The editors of JRFM invite contributions for the May 2024 issue that address the multifaceted and controversial roles of religion in The Handmaid’s Tale in and beyond the novel of 1985. Consideration of the various ramifica-tions of this narrative in different media and decades and of its impact on politics and social debates are welcome, as is in-depth analysis of The Handmaid’s Tale that focusses on the role and significance of religion, references to the history of religions, and ethical and philosophical aspects as well as its social criticism.
Different approaches can be taken and a variety of questions asked, such as:
- How is religion represented and which aspects of religion are addressed in Margaret Atwood’s novels from 1985 and 2019? What is the religious background of Gilead? Whose interests does it serve?
- Can we identify a change in how religion is represented in the novel’s ad-aptations for different media, including audio-visual versions, the graphic novel, and performed iterations? Why?
- What is the hermeneutical dimension of the Bible in The Handmaid’s Tale?
- Which contemporary dimensions of religion and society are challenged by the narrative universe of The Handmaid’s Tale?
- What could be the role of dystopian narrative in staging religion today?
We hope for an innovative scholarly discussion across a broad spectrum of case studies that includes the different adaptations and further works inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel. Scholars of literature, cinema and media studies, theology, and the study of religion, as well as of sociology or political sciences and other disciplines are invited to contribute to this issue.The issue also includes an open section for articles on other topics in keep-ing with the profile of JRFM. The deadline for all submissions is 30 June 2023. Contributions of 5,000 to 7,000 words (including notes) should be submitted for double-blind peer review through the journal homepage at www.jrfm.eu.We kindly ask authors to register and to consider the instructions for sub-mitting contributions, especially the style guide. Publication is scheduled for May 2024. For questions regarding this call for papers or the submission and publication process, please contact the editors of the issue, Natalie Fritz (email@example.com) and Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati (firstname.lastname@example.org).