American Haunted

Serendipity, although rare, still occurs in university life. As an adjunct instructor whose livelihood revolves around the number of courses that may be squeezed into a limited number of days, I have been considering online courses. As an avid watcher of horror movies—excellent preparation for adjunct life these days—I have attempted to sample the genre widely. It is therapeutic to see people in fictional situations worse than my own. While attending a training course on constructing online courses earlier this week I was surprised to find out my instructor was Brent Monahan, a versatile and talented individual of whose presence at Rutgers I was unaware. Most famously Dr. Monahan wrote the novel and screenplay for An American Haunting, a movie I had written a post on back in January.

Compulsive in my desire to be on time, I generally show up to all appointments early. For this particular session I was the first person present, so, not recognizing my teacher, we struck up a conversation about my field of studies. (He asked; I try not to lead with my chin.) He was nonplussed about the fact that I am affiliated with the religious studies department—in general this is a conversation stopper since, along with politics, it is a forbidden topic in polite company. Before I realized who he was he suggested that perhaps people go into this field because of their internal struggle with good and evil. It was a perceptive statement and it made sense when it came out that he was a writer of horror films and novels.

Since I’ve been exploring the nexus between religion and horror I have wondered what the deeper connection might be. Clearly fear of the unknown, the overly powerful, and the randomness of life in an uncaring universe play into it, but perhaps it is also the struggle of good and evil. Horror films often present the “what if” scenario: what if the side of evil were allowed free reign? Often the fount of that evil, in horror films, is religion gone awry. Certainly in An American Haunting a pious man is driven by inner demons to the abuse of his own child. That he is a religious man is made plain from the near-constant presence of a clergyman in his house once the haunting starts. While the exact relationship remains to be parsed, it is clear that fear and religion reside very near one another in our brains, perhaps as near as good resides to evil.

2 thoughts on “American Haunted

  1. If you offer an online course, will anyone be able to take it, or just those at the University that you teach? I live out in Texas, but would love to take one of your courses. Also do you have a page to submit interesting stuff to you? I found this article http://www.thelocal.se/34370/20110615/ about how only 15% of Swedish church members believe in Jesus. Which I found interesting because in the US we debate so much about prayer in school and what not, but what happens when it becomes apart of everyone’s lifestyle (no separation of church and state)? It seems to me that it might lose its meaning, of course it would take a few years, but eventually it would be counter-productive to the cause. Also the comments are worth reading as the debates are rather interesting.

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    • Hi Alice,

      If the online course flies it will be open to anyone with the necessary internet connections and the funding (I don’t know what Rutgers charges for online courses, but it should be on the Rutgers University webpage.) The course would be Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.

      I don’t have any separate websites, but feel free to submit interesting things in your comments. I will take a look at anything that gets sent, and I sometimes write a post on them, if there is anything I might add!

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