Jan. 7, 2009
Professor's book explores role of occult in cinema
Lehigh University Press and Associated University Presses have announced the publication of "Cinema of the Occult: New Age, Satanism, Wicca, and Spiritualism in Film," a new book by Dr. Carrol Fry, a professor emeritus of English who taught at Northwest from 1972 until his retirement in 2003.
Fry said he first became interested in occult religions when he produced a five-part documentary, " Creeds in Conflict," for KXCV-FM, the University's public radio station.
A film buff since his boyhood in north Missouri, when he watched as many as five movies a week in small-town theaters near his hometown of New Hampton, Fry said his interest in the occult was a natural outgrowth of his passion for cinema.
The book contains general information on each of the occult religions listed in the title then demonstrates how screenwriters adapted elements from each. Fry also analyzes such films as "Sixth Sense," "What Dreams May Come," "Star Wars," "Nell," "The Exorcist," "The Omen," "The Craft" and "Practical Magic." A concluding chapter discusses other occult paths and related movies, including Voodoo ("I Walked with a Zombie," "The Serpent and the Rainbow") and space cults ("Star Man," "The Day the Earth Stood Still").
While researching the book, a process that began shortly after his retirement, Fry said he viewed more than 100 films and traveled extensively to conduct interviews with practitioners and initiates of occult religions.
"The growth of occult religions offers a powerful testimony to the spiritual groping of a time when the findings of science have led many to find comfort outside the orthodox Judeo/Christian fold," Fry states in the book's introduction. "… Film is a reflection of the hopes, fears and aspirations of the audience that views them … and we can learn much about our culture by studying those films with stories of enduring appeal."
In addition to "Cinema of the Occult," Dr. Fry published two scholarly articles in 2008: "Caliban upon the Demiurge: Gnosticism on the Island," which deals with Robert Browning's "Caliban upon Setebos" ("Victorian Newsletter") and "The Hunger of the Imagination: the Discordia Concors in Emma" ("Persuasions," the journal of the Jane Austen Society).
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