Entertaining Judgment   -     By: Greg Garrett
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Entertaining Judgment

Oxford University Press / Hardcover

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Product Description

Nowadays, references to the afterlife---angels strumming harps, demons brandishing pitchforks, God enthroned in heavenly clouds---are more often encountered in New Yorker cartoons than in serious theological reflection. Savvy culture critic Garrett helps us to distinguish between popular caricatures and the teaching of Scripture. 224 pages, hardcover. Oxford University.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 224
Vendor: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0199335907
ISBN-13: 9780199335909

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Publisher's Description

Nowadays references to the afterlife-angels strumming harps, demons brandishing pitchforks, God enthroned on heavenly clouds-are more often encountered in New Yorker cartoons than in serious Christian theological reflection. Speculation about death and its sequel seems to embarrass many theologians; however, as Greg Garrett shows in Entertaining Judgment, popular culture in the U.S. has found rich ground for creative expression in the search for answers to the question: What lies in store for us after we die?

The lyrics of Madonna, Los Lonely Boys, and Sean Combs; the plotlines of TV's Lost, South Park, and The Walking Dead; the implied theology in films such as The Dark Knight, Ghost, and Field of Dreams; the heavenly half-light of Thomas Kinkade's popular paintings; the ghosts, shades, and after-life way-stations in Harry Potter; and the characters, situations, and locations in the Hunger Games saga all speak to our hopes and fears about what comes next. In a rich survey of literature and popular media, Garrett compares cultural accounts of death and the afterlife with those found in scripture. Denizens of the imagined afterlife, whether in heaven, hell, on earth, or in purgatory, speak to what awaits us, at once shaping and reflecting our deeply held-if often somewhat nebulous-beliefs. They show us what rewards and punishments we might expect, offer us divine assistance, and even diabolically attack us.

Ultimately, we are drawn to these stories of heaven, hell, and purgatory--and to stories about death and the undead--not only because they entertain us, but because they help us to create meaning and to learn about ourselves, our world, and, perhaps, the next world. Garrett's deft analysis sheds new light on what popular culture can tell us about the startlingly sharp divide between what modern people profess to believe and what they truly hope and expect to find after death--and how they use those stories to help them understand this life.

Author Bio


Greg Garrett is 2013 Centennial Professor at Baylor University, where he teaches classes in fiction and screenwriting, literature, film and popular culture, and theology. The author or co-author of three dozen short stories, a dozen scholarly articles, and twenty books of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, Dr. Garrett is also Residential Scholar at Gladstone's Library in Wales and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

Editorial Reviews


"A strikingly thorough inventory...A useful guide to popular culture and a handy starting place for conversations about the topics it covers."--Christianity Today


"[A] wide-ranging, accessible and lively study."--New Statesmen


"An entertaining and highly readable addition to the field of popular culture studies.."--Publishers Weekly


"A highly engaging journey."--Network Review


"A fun and informative romp."--Theology


"Greg Garrett has given us a scintillating-and deeply informed-portrait of the many (and often surprising) ways the afterlife figures in popular American culture. The result is a convincing and revealing diagnosis of the beliefs and longings that animate twenty-first-century Americans, both Christian and post-Christian." --Carol Zaleski, Professor of World Religions, Smith College


"Our popular culture is utterly absorbed with the afterlife, and in Greg Garrett's book, we are offered incisive and imaginative insights into how to read and understand this emerging cultural turn. There can be few scholars with Garrett's intellectual gifts, who can grasp the themes in contemporary culture so clearly-through movies, novels, TV, radio, music, poetry, art, architecture, graphic novels, computer games, and drama-and emerge with such a prescient understanding of our persistent absorption with the afterlife. Garrett has set a course for future studies in this vital area of scholarly enterprise." --The Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford


"In Entertaining Judgment Greg Garrett skillfully leads his readers through a wide range of portrayals of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, showing how they continue to populate contemporary imaginings. Going beyond well-known routes, this voyage of discovery includes popular films and television series, novels and comics, pop music and biblical stories. Fresh perspectives are brought to light on the journey, through discussions of various imaginative landscapes related to the afterlife. Garrett offers attentive descriptions, thoughtful interpretations and nuanced insights. The result is an engaging expedition that will enrich debates about understandings of life and what may or may not lie beyond."
--Jolyon Mitchell, Director, Center for Theological and Public Issues, and Academic Director, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at The University of Edinburgh


"Entertaining Judgement's stronger insights relate to our imaginations of the malevolent afterlife, and how they act as flexible metaphors for whatever most frightens up at any given time. What we fear most is usually the future--the life to come, in one form or another." -- Resurgence and Ecologist


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