Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Richard Brent Turner
First Committee Member
Richard B Turner
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Fifth Committee Member
This dissertation will argue that, rather than simply reflecting the religious worldviews of his creators and readers, the presentations of Superman that span more than 75 years in a variety of mass media, have produced a mythology, iconography, ethical code, and set of practices that reflects a dynamic relationship with the complex religious systems in the United States. Obviously, the presentation of Superman by his creators and the reception of Superman by his readers are heavily influenced by Christianity, Judaism, and American civil religion (he does, after all, represent “truth, justice, and the American way”) along with many other religious worldviews. It explores the dynamic and complex interactions between Superman and his fans and show that the figure of Superman is utilized by his fans to understand theological and ethical issues, while, at the same time, their understanding of Superman shapes those theological and ethical opinions and ideas. American religious traditions influence the popular images and representations of Superman, but Superman also influences the understanding religious traditions across a breadth of historical and cultural contexts.
Superman’s state of multiple expressions of permanent liminality allows the character and his stories to be useful sites for people to perform the religious work of constructing, strengthening, and/or negotiating boundaries between categories, such as the human and the divine or the secular and the religious. It is through these boundaries that people define and interpret their religious worldviews.
American religion, Comics, Popular Culture, Religion, Superhero, Superman
viii, 155 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 145-155).
Copyright 2016 Brandon O'Neal Dean
Dean, Brandon O'Neal. ""Look up in the sky:" Superman as lived religion in contemporary American culture." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2016.