Golems, Superman, and Social Theory? ... Connecting Dialectical Myth to Popular Fiction

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Adam BELTON, University of Alberta, Canada
Social theory is as readable as a popular novel or comic book. This is a hard sell to many people until they learn that there are numerous commonalities between social theory and popular fiction. The Golem myth emerged from pre-Enlightenment Jewish mythology to deeply encode its dialectical three-part structure in early sociological theories, especially on the work of Karl Marx. The importance of the Golem’s mythic structure surpassed Enlightenment rationality and became embedded in Marx’s critique of capitalism as much as in Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein (which Marx most certainly read). The idea of an Übermensch expressed by Nietzsche (and popularized today in the comic book character Superman) is a recasting of the Golem as a hero in the last stage of the mythic structure. Christopher Knowles (2007) recognizes Nietzsche’s superman is where Superman creator Jerry Siegel most likely encountered the name. So get comfortable while we explore the connections between social theory and popular fiction.