Imagining Mary Magdalene
The Discourse of Hidden Wisdom in American Popular Culture
Keywords:Mary Magdalene, Bible, popular culture, North America
In this article I analyze how Americans draw upon the authority of both ancient, so-called “hidden” texts and the authority of scholarly discourse, even overtly fictional scholarly discourse, in their imaginings of the “re-discovered” figure of Mary Magdalene. Reading recent treatments of Mary Magdalene provides me with an entrance onto three topics: how Americans see and use the past, how Americans understand knowledge itself, and how Americans construct “religion” and “spirituality.” I do so through close studies of contemporary websites of communities that focus on Mary Magdalene, as well as examinations of relevant books, historical novels, reader reviews, and comic books. Focusing on Mary Magdalene alongside tropes of wisdom also uncovers the gendered dynamics at play in constructions of antiquity, knowledge, and religious accessibility.
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