Aesthetics, Symbols, Metal: Religion and Defilement in a Post-Secular Age

  • Author / Creator
    Unger, Matthew P.
  • This dissertation relies on the wager that we live in an age in which seemingly archaic religious symbols contribute to how people orient themselves, respond to, and explain things in the world. Drawing from Paul Ricoeur’s early texts on religion, symbolism, evil, and defilement, I analyze three predominant interpretations of the return of religion, or the post-secular. I examine how these three interpretations, which I label regression, authenticity, and contingency, in fact rely upon each other and their mediation allows a theory of symbolic aesthetics that reflects the contingent coalescence of the political, the moral, and the juridical. The empirical portion of my study—the analysis of the musical subgenre and subculture of heavy metal, extreme metal—reinforces the idea that even deeply irreligious, transgressive, and grotesque art forms exemplify the unique manner of religion’s significance in the post-secular moment. Contrary to the idea that religion functions as a semi-autonomous social sphere, I argue that the symbols of defilement, authenticity, and purity signify that religion, social discourses, and phenomenological experience co-create and co-constrain each other. A close examination of this interaction within popular culture exemplifies the evocative nature and deep historical import of these symbols. My fieldwork and discourse analysis of extreme metal reflects this confluence and coalescence of the psychological, the social, the juridical, and the political.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2013
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Barbour, Charles (Sociology)
    • Shields, Rob (Sociology)
    • Savage, Roger (Ethnomusicology)
    • Mos, Leendert P. (Psychology)