Call for Abstracts: Theology and Westworld

Call for Abstracts – Theology and Westworld

Edited by Juli Gittinger and Shayna Sheinfeld

The television series Westworld has garnered significant interest from academics as well as from wide audiences. While many of its themes and plot motifs represent longstanding focuses in science fiction, the treatment of them has stood out as especially creative in a number of ways. While the creation of life using advanced technology is arguably one of the oldest tropes in sci-fi, Westworld has not only asked whether robots can be human, nor even whether they can be free, but whether they can perhaps be freer than we are. The loops and prepared lines they deliver turn out not to set them apart from their creators as much as might be assumed. Where much science fiction asks whether our creations can ever truly equal us, Westworld asks whether they can be superior to us – and if so, what that might mean.  And as William says in one episode, “I think there’s an answer here to a question no one has ever dreamed of asking.” Themes of sin, evil, redemption, judgment, immortality, slavery, personhood, justice, and liberation run through the show prominently, and diverse characters give voice to a range of viewpoints, making the show’s narrative itself a profound conversation about serious issues related to theology and religion. Some of those issues include:

  • Free Will
  • Ethics/morality  (Do ethics matter in an VR world?)
  • Good and Evil
  • Ideas of the Divine (in the Self, “playing God”, etc)
  • Nature of consciousness
  • Biblical themes
  • Eschatologies (“the Valley Beyond” etc)
  • Immortality
  • The bicameral mind and the psychology of religion

Following the model of the series, we would also distribute a call for abstracts between 300-700 words with CVs by Jan 31, 2019, with a submission deadline for drafts (6000-10,000 words) of accepted papers by August 15, 2019, and a completed volume submission by January 2020.  Submissions should be sent to juli.gittinger@gcsu.edu.

About the editors:

Dr. Juli Gittinger received her PhD from McGill University and is a Lecturer at Georgia College. Her official area of expertise is modern Hinduism, with particular attention to media and politics (see  Hinduism and Hindu Nationalism Online, Routledge 2018). A subject of personal interest, however, is religion in popular culture, especially science fiction. She is presently working on a new book which will engage philosophical and religious ideas in science fiction.

Dr. Shayna Sheinfeld received her PhD from McGill University and is Visiting Scholar at the University of Kentucky. Her main area of research are communities and leadership in ancient Judaism and Christianity, especially through the lens of the end times/apocalypse. Dr. Sheinfeld has taught and published on biblical material and popular culture, especially on books, television, and movies that relate to the end of the world and dystopian futures.

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