Jim Morrison

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I preface this paper by a consideration of why Jim Morrison can be discussed within the discourse of religious studies. I suggest four possibilities. The first is the place of religion in late modernity; that is, as individualized, subjectivated and deinstitutionalized. These factors contribute to the circumstances under which Morrison may be understood in religious terms because of the conditions they create. Religion may be deinstitutionalized (Luckmann 1967; Bibby 1990), but people are still religious (Chaves 1994). This enables religion to exist in other ways; one way is through dead celebrity. In an article entitled “Is Elvis a God? Cult, Culture, Questions of Method,” John Frow (1998, 208-209), after discussing the apparent failure of the secularization thesis,1 remarks, “ . . . religious sentiment . . . has migrated into many strange and unexpected places, from New Age trinketry to manga movies to the cult of the famous dead . . . we need to take religion seriously in all its dimensions because of its centrality in the modern world.” Further, religion as individualized and subjectivated (Hervieu-Léger 2000) allows people to create their own systems of meaning and transcendence. Dead celebrity, using Morrison as an exemplar, is one system. The second possibility follows from the first. Regarding the changing nature of religion in the 1960s, religious studies scholar, Gail Hamner (2003, 447), wrote that “popular culture became subject to deification or at least spiritualization.” Although this paper does not intend to provide an account of the process by which some celebrities were sacralized in the twentieth century, it should be noted that literature on the subject does exist. A seminal work, in this regard, is The Work o... ... middle of paper ... ... supplemented by relevant scholarly literature and popular biographies of Morrison. It is with these four possibilities, religion in late modernity, scholarship on religion and celebrity, the way we think of, and define religion, and Riddell (2008), that I consider Jim Morrison and religion. There is a paucity of academic literature on Jim Morrison, yet a reasonable amount of popular literature, which I am engaging in my evaluation. Scholarship on dead celebrity fandom has progressed in the last decade; however, in 1998, John Frow (1998, 200) claimed that “we lack almost completely the tools to make sense of [the process by which dead celebrities are sacralized].” My hope is that by outlining the role of Morrison in self-propagating his own myth, combined with a posthumous documentation of this process, I will contribute to literature on dead celebrity fandom.

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