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November 3, 2009

Religious Scholar Robert Segal Will Discuss ‘Hollywood Stars as Gods’ Nov. 11

His research focuses on the changing conceptions of myth

Robert Segal, professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, will speak on “Hollywood Stars as Gods: Bringing Myth Back to the World” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, in Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104.

Free and open to the public, the event is sponsored by the religious studies department under the auspices of the Lyman Coleman Fund. Segal also will meet with students in the course Religion, Myth, and Fantasy, taught by Eric Ziolkowski, Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies.

The lecture will trace the changing conceptions of myth over the past few centuries. According to Segal, “Myth used to be assumed to be the ‘primitive’ counterpart to science, which was taken to be exclusively modern. Where our forbears explained the physical world mythically, we now explain the physical world scientifically. But then a shift occurred, and myth came to be seen as almost anything but the counterpart to science. Either myth was no longer about the physical world, or the function of myth was no longer explanatory. Myth was largely removed from the physical world altogether. Having presented these opposing conceptions of myth, this lecture will take the case of Hollywood stars to argue that they are mythic figures and figures with the power to change the physical world.”

Segal is the author or editor of more than a dozen books including Myth: A Very Short Introduction (2004), Theorizing about Myth (1999), Explaining and Interpreting Religion: Essays on the Issue (1992), Religion and the Social Sciences: Essays on the Confrontation (1989), Joseph Campbell: An Introduction (1987), and The Poimandres as Myth: Scholarly Theory and Gnostic Meaning (1986).

He served as editor of the international scholarly journal Religion and serves on the editorial boards of Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Scottish Journal of Religious Studies, and Annals of Scholarship. He has received research grants and fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the National Humanities Center.

Segal holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from Princeton University and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.

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