Horror and the Religious Imagination: Grief, Mothers, and the Babadook

I’m back from the Convivium literary festival and a whole weekend in Pittsburgh, one of my favorite places on earth, where I got to see some of my favorite people on earth and spend hours talking about art and religion and community. Check out my Instagram (@jmesgriff) for lots of great pics of St Paul’s Cathedral, Homewood Cemetery, the Andy Warhol Museum, and my literary partners, The George Sandinistas (Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Joanna Penn Cooper).

The George Sandinistas at St Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh

I delivered the keynote address on Caryll Houselander and why the church needs weirdos and artists, and I participated in a reading loosely organized around the idea of “claiming your inheritance.” I talked about how my inheritance is certainly Southern Gothic–as a native of southeastern Louisiana. I also introduced my essay, “The Babadook and the Faith Healer,” by talking about how important horror movies have been to the formation of my literary and religious imagination, maybe because of the ways they articulate and give shape to our unseen fears and griefs. I’m hoping, one day, to expand this essay into a much more extensive piece (maybe a book?!) about horror and motherhood:

Grief is what The Babadook is really about, and why I found it not so much terrifying as honest and recognizable and even, at times, darkly beautiful. We see Grief as the demonic, nightmare presence that it is. We see that it can’t be completely evicted or exorcised or gotten over, but that it must somehow be confronted and … tamed. Read the whole thing at Sick Pilgrim.

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