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Escape into the Future

Cultural Pessimism and Its Religious Dimension in Contemporary American Popular Culture

John M. Stroup and Glenn W. Shuck

Publication Year: 2007

Escape into the Future analyzes the power of pessimism, showing links between present-day religious pessimism and the nihilism of popular culture. Stroup and Shuck rummage through an interesting and eclectic body of pop culture, from Fight Club to X-Files to the Left Behind series, pointing out the presence of pessimistic themes throughout. This volume identifies and illuminates the religious language used in these works to articulate America's need to escape from its present cultural path and, ultimately, provide hope that it might do so.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Front Matter

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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii


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pp. xiii

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pp. xv-xx

This project began deep in the Clinton years, approximately the spring of 1998. The question facing the authors was why there were so many notices of discontent among American popular culture productions, even while the...

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Chapter 1 Secret Agents: Visions of Escape, Glimpses of Hope

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pp. 1-24

The year is 2099, and the vast majority of what were once thought of as humans have ceased to exist in their original forms. Cybernetic intelligence has advanced to the extent that organic bodies are a hindrance; the soul, or...

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Chapter 2 Do We Still Want to Believe? The X-Files and the American Struggle with Progressive Action

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pp. 25-50

The X-Files television serial dominated the conspiracy-oriented viewership of the FOX network during the 1990s, further developing the themes of imprisonment, confusion, rage, and ironic escape noted earlier. But there was another dimension: although the protagonists knew they were being hybridized...

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Chapter 3 Perhaps Today: The Dialectic of Despair and Activism in Popular Evangelical Literature

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pp. 51-86

Evangelical prophecy believers sense acutely the diminished sense of selfhood that cyberpunk authors and the writers of The X-Files also articulate. Yet they add an additional dimension that grows out of their own condemnation of the direction modern society and its elite cultures have taken. Even though...

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Chapter 4 God's Unwanted: Fight Club and the Myth of "Total Revolution"

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pp. 87-114

Many Americans do not fit into any of the ironic categories thus far described. Instead, an ironic rage fills them that has neither official rhyme nor corporate reason. It seeks the destruction of the given order, perhaps with the ghost...

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Chapter 5 Relocating the American Dream: The Challenges and Ambiguities of Contemporary Cultural Pessimism

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pp. 115-142

This chapter and the remaining ones reexamine the themes of the previous chapters, placing the negative images in popular culture in the setting of wider views of the underlying issues by contemporary thinkers dealing...

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Chapter 6 The Quest for Real-World Correlates: Sightings of Cultural Pessimism in the Domains of Scholarship and Journalism

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pp. 143-180

While New Age theoreticians, Right-wing dispensationalist resistance heroes in fiction, and Tyler Durden may differ on exactly where to put the accent marks, they all want to accentuate the negative. Economics gone bad for...

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Chapter 7 The Question of Real-World Correlates to Fantasy Processes of Decline: The Deep Structure of Decay, or, Descent into the Engine Room of the Titanic

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pp. 181-214

Previously we pointed to the classic image of the Titanic as an established icon of decline and pessimism, known for not quite a century as the emblem of Western civilization colliding with catastrophe, its rational promises and...

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Epilogue: Into the Great Wide Open

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pp. 215-218

We are indeed, as the words of singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg indicate, rebels without a clue. As we witness the indictment the President hands down to number forty-eight in The Prisoner, we rebel against something we cannot adequately...

Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 219-244


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pp. 245-304


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pp. 305-313

E-ISBN-13: 9781602580879
E-ISBN-10: 1602580871
Print-ISBN-13: 9781932792522
Print-ISBN-10: 193279252X

Page Count: 375
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1st

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Popular culture -- Religious aspects.
  • Religion and culture -- United States.
  • United States -- Religion -- 1960-.
  • Popular culture -- United States.
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