Extended Call for Papers: Theology, Religion, and Wes Craven

Call for Proposals

Title:                          Theology and Wes Craven  

Editor:                        David K. Goodin, McGill University

Wesley Earl Craven (1939-2015), popularly known as simply Wes Craven, redefined the horror genre with such landmark and notorious films as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991), and Scream (1996).  And those are just a few—his impressive filmography numbers well over thirty titles.  Truly, Wes Craven dominates the genre, and his legacy continues to thrill and horrify new generations of fans once they learn that, thanks to him, Freddy Krueger is eternal, and is waiting for them to fall asleep. 

Intriguingly, Wes Craven was raised a strict Evangelical Christian, and even attended an Evangelical school, Wheaton College in Illinois.  Yet, as he has later admitted in interviews, he struggled with his faith all through this time.  This all came to a crisis when, as editor of the university’s literary journal Kodon, he published two essays: “A New Home” by Marti Bihlmeier, about an unwed mother; and “The Other Side of the Wall” by Carolyn Burry, which featured an interracial couple.  It caused a scandal for the ultra-conservative college town.  In response, the President of Wheaton College, Dr. V. Raymond Edman, publicly shamed young Wes by name during a religious service at the campus chapel for dereliction of his duty as editor, saying he failed to uphold the moral standards of the college.  The college President then stopped the publication of the college journal for the first time in its history. 

This left Wes humiliated—and also enraged at the hypocrisy of professed Christian love for one’s neighbor somehow being scandalized by a story of an interracial couple and an unwed mother.  It is not a coincidence that his most famous movie villain, Freddy Krueger, terrorizes Elm Street.  This is an actual neighborhood in the Wheaten college town, complete with idyllic upper-middle class houses just like in the movies.  Krueger is also a bastard child, the very manifestation of Evangelical fears of moral and cultural degeneracy—and in true biblical vengeance, Freddy revisits the sins of the parents on their innocent children.

The biblical themes certainly do not end there, or even in that film series.  Wes Craven’s rage and disillusionment with Christian hypocrisy is a subtext for many of his films—a subject that this volume proposes to explore in depth with essays from myself and other academics in fields ranging from biblical studies, feminist critiques, disability perspectives, theologies of violence and social power, and cultural / historical explorations of his movies, books, and other works.    

This book will be part of the Theology and Pop Culture Series, aimed at a wide, popular readership, especially those with an interest in the horror genre, as well as those academics interested in cultural studies in social power, violence, race, disability, queerness, and gender. 

Possible Chapter Topics:

The Queering of Freddy: Homoerotic and homophobic themes in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Catholic and Haitian Voodoo Representation in The Serpent and the Rainbow

Disfigurement and Disability: Challenging the Grotesque in Craven’s Body Horror

Deconstructing the Male Gaze for the Final Girl motif in Craven’s Horror

Depravity in Craven’s Filmography as revealed by Calvin and Augustine

Sins of the Fathers: Intergenerational Retributive Justice in the Hebrew Bible and Craven’s Theological Imagination

The Death of Innocents and Innocence in The Hills Have Eyes

Violence, the Vietnam War, and the Image of God as represented in The Last House on the Left

Theological reflections on class warfare and capitalism in The People Under the Stairs

“It’s Super Freddy!”  Transgressive Violence to Children in the Krueger Dreamworlds  

Individual theological character studies: Nancy Thompson, Amanda Krueger, Roland Kincaid, Billy Loomis, Papa Jupiter and family, or others

Note: proposals for other topics are welcome, but the focus needs to be on theological reflection for the Wes Craven filmography, characters, and writings


Please send a 500-word abstract, accompanied by a current CV, to david.goodin@mail.mcgill.ca by February 28, 2022.  Acceptance notifications will be sent out no later than March 15, 2022. Essays are due by the June 1, 2022; final essays with revisions by July 1, 2022. 


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