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Lecture | Symposium

Stories of the Supernatural: Encounters with the Other Side in Literary and Everyday Narratives (7th Leiden Symposium on New Religiosity)

Monday 30 April 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


19.30    Welcome
19.35    Bas van Rijn: Divine Help from Above: Narratives of Angelic Signs and Interventions
20.10    Discussion
20.35    Break
21.00    Evert Jan van Leeuwen: Haunted Houses: Paranormal Vehicles for Personality Growth
21.35    Discussion
22.00   The discussion continues in a nearby pub

Free entrance. No registration needed.


The symposium is hosted by the Leiden Centre for the Study of Religion (LUCSoR). It is part of the courses New Religions and Fiction, Parody and Play in New Religions within the BA programme Religious Studies (Religie­wetenschappen), but open to all.

More information

Contact Markus A. Davidsen (m.davidsen@hum.leidenuniv.nl) for more information.


Bas van Rijn

Divine Help from Above: Narratives of Angelic Signs and Interventions

Abstract. Angels are iconic characters, not only within Christianity but also in Western popular culture. What is more, a substantial group of our contemporaries believe that angels really exist and that they help and support humans – and even save lives – every day. This presentation advances the thesis that angel narratives, i.e. narratives about angelic signs and interventions in everyday life, play a crucial role in promoting belief in angels in the modern world. For example, narratives of angel encounters help sustain angel beliefs also for people who have not encountered angels themselves, and elaborate accounts of apparitions and communications with angels, written by authoritative angel mediums, offer templates that more ordinary angel believers can use to interpret and relay their own experiences. Besides discussing contemporary angel narratives in detail, the presentation will also touch on what we can learn from this case about the religious functions of narratives in general.

Bio. Bas van Rijn obtained his Masters degree in Religious Studies at Leiden University in 2017. As research trainee on the project Religious Narratives as Plausibility Structures, he researched contemporary Dutch angel belief. At the moment he is trying to map the scope of divinatory practices such as astrology, tarot, and mediumship within the Netherlands.

Photographer: Shane Gorski

Dr. Evert Jan van Leeuwen

Haunted Houses: Paranormal Vehicles for Personality Growth

Abstract. Ever since Poe’s “House of Usher” fell into the black tarn, haunted house narratives have been associated with the destruction of aristocratic lineages, modern nuclear families, and individual psyches. In my research I have found, however, that modern haunted house narratives can also function as vehicles for personality growth, rather than disintegration. In such stories, the haunted house still functions as an allegorical space, a representation of the many chambers of the protagonist’s mind. However, the paranormal forces at work in the house are no longer destructive forces but triggers for numinous experiences that lead the protagonists out of the existential void in which they find themselves at the beginning of the narrative, making possible further personality growth.

Bio. Evert van Leeuwen is a University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for Arts and Society, where he teaches English-language literature and culture, specialising in the history and development of gothic, horror, and science fiction. He has published on writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Godwin, but also on popular culture phenomena such graveyard poetry, gothic spaghetti westerns, and Stephen King. His book on Roger Corman’s cult film The House of Usher is forthcoming with Auteur Press.

Previous Leiden symposia on New Religiosity

2012: Hekserij in Holland
2013: Identity and Tradition in Contemporary Paganism
2014: New Forms of Sacrality in the Netherlands
2015: Playing with Religion
2016: Elves, Spirits, and Aliens: Superhuman Entities in New Religions
2017: What Coins and Cards Reveal: Divinatory Techniques in the Netherlands

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