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Of Gods and Monsters Conference

Welcome to Of Gods and Monsters, a conference happening at Texas State University

April 4th -6th, 2019.

We’re excited to welcome you to San Marcos, Texas, and to talk about monsters!

Judith Halberstam famously claimed that monsters are “meaning machines” that can be used to represent a variety of ideas, including morality, gender, race, and nationalism (to name only a few). Monsters are always part of the project of making sense of the world and our place in it. As a tool through which human beings create worlds in which to meaningfully dwell, monsters are tightly bound with many other systems of meaning-making like religion, culture, literature, and politics. Of Gods and Monsters will provide focused space to explore the definition of “monster,” the categorization of monsters as a basis of comparison across cultures, and the relationship of monsters to various systems of meaning-making with the goal of understanding how humans have used and continued to use these “meaning machines.”

Through this conference, we hope to explore the complex intersections of monsters and meaning-making from a variety of theoretical, academic, and intellectual angles. Because “monsters” are a category that appears across time and cultural milieus, this conference will foster conversations between scholars working in very different areas and is not limited in terms of cultural region, historical time, or religious tradition. As part of fostering this dialogue, Douglas E. Cowan will serve as this event’s keynote speaker, while archival researcher and cryptid expert Lyle Blackburn will offer a second plenary address. Both talks are open to the public, and please see the schedule page for further details.

If any questions should arise, please contact conference organizers, Natasha Mikles or Joseph Laycock.

Keynote Speakers

Lyle Blackburn

Lyle Blackburn

Doug Cowan

Doug Cowan


We have secured a special Texas State University rate of $99 a night at the Marriott Courtyard in San Marcos. To secure that rate reservations must visit the Marriot Booking Page. The hotel is five miles away from the university, but we will offer a shuttle in the morning and evening to the conference events.

There are numerous other hotels around the university area and in the city of San Marcos, which participants may book if they so desire. The only hotel in walking distance of the University is the Crystal River Inn.

San Marcos Events

While our conference schedule is jam-packed, we encourage guests to take some time before or after the conference to explore San Marcos. Information on events and activities can be found by visiting Touring San Marcos. Joe and Natasha are happy to provide advice on restaurants and other activities in the area.

of Gods and Monsters Conference Schedule

All events are open to the public, though daily lunch and coffee breaks are limited to registered participants only.


Thursday, April 4th

3:15 - 4:00 PM: Conference Registration (Comal Lobby)

       Conference Registration will be available throughout the conference in Comal Lobby

4 – 5:30 PM: Keynote: “America’s Dark Theologian: The Religious Imagination of Stephen King,” Doug Cowan (Flowers 230)

5:30 – 6:30 PM: Reception (Flowers Lobby)

Participants are encouraged to organize dinner on their own or explore local restaurants, but Natasha and Joe will lead interested parties to local restaurants.


Friday, April 5th

9 -10:30 AM: Panel #1: Strange Creatures from World Mythology (Comal 116)

10:30 – 11 AM: Coffee / tea break (Comal Lobby)

11 AM – 1 PM: Panel #2: Monsters of the Himalayas (Comal 116)

                         Panel #3: Monsters of the Ancient Near East (Comal 103)

1  – 2 PM: Lunch break (Comal Lobby)

   Lunch will be provided for registered conference participants and observers.

2 – 3:30 PM: Keynote: “Monsters of Texas: History, Legends, and Modern Sightings,” Lyle Blackburn  (Flowers 341)

3:30 – 6:30 PM: Screening and Panel Discussion of God Told Me To (1976) (Comal 116)

(in conjunction with REL 2321)

Panel discussion with Eric Harrelson of Blood over Texas, Blake Smith of MonsterTalk, and Doug Cowan of Waterloo University


Saturday, April 6th

9-10:30 AM: Panel #4: Monstrous Popular Culture I (Comal 116)

10:30 – 11AM: Coffee / tea break

11 AM – 12:30 PM: Panel #5: Bigfoot and American Cryptozoology (Comal 103)

                                Panel #6: Monstrous Popular Culture II (Comal 116)

12:30 PM – 2 PM: Lunch break (Comal Lobby)

   Lunch will be provided for registered conference participants and observers.

2-3:30 PM: Panel #7: The Monstrous Other (Comal 116)

3:30-5 PM: Free time to network or explore downtown San Marcos

4 PM: Glass Bottom Boat Tour

(Departure from Salt Grass Dock near the Saltgrass Steak House on East Sessom Drive;

No parking is available on site, but Natasha and Joe will lead a group to walk over from Comal building at 3:40 PM)

5 PM – 7 PM: Banquet at Root Cellar Café, 215 N LBJ Drive.

7 PM: Pub crawl to area breweries and bars led by Natasha and Joe

All locations will have ample non-alcoholic beverages and mocktails for those who

do not wish to drink.     



Schedule and Description of Gods & Monsters Panels


Panel # 1: Strange Creatures from World Mythology


The Idea of Evil and Messianic Deliverance in the Satpanth Ismaili Tradition of South Asia

Wafi Momin

The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London


Shapeshifters and Goddesses: Monstrosity and Otherness in the  
mysticism of Gloria Anzaldúa

Stefan Sanchez

Rice University


The Powers Controlling the Voice over the Uncompleted Death Throughout Tokugawa Japan (1603-1838)

Frank Chu

The University of Edinburgh



Panel # 2: Monsters of the Himalayas


Of Monsters & Invisible Villages: Nags myi rgod Tales of the Tibetans of Gyalthang

Eric D. Mortensen

Guilford College


Monstrous Beings of the Chöd Ritual

Victor Gabriel

University of the West


The Scent of a Monster: Fumigation Rituals during the Buddhist New Year in Ladakh

Rohit Singh

Middle Tennessee State University


Medicine, Magic, and the Yeti

Lee Weiss

Temple University


Panel # 3: Monsters of the Ancient Near East


The Monsters Within: Rape and Revenge in Genesis 34

Leland Merritt

Claremont School of Theology


The Mesopotamian Demon Lamashtu and the Monstrosity of Gender Transgression: Textual and Iconographic Explorations

Madadh Richey

University of Chicago


“The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House!”: The Israelite Woman as Monstrous Abject in Pentateuchal Legal Texts

Brandon Grafius
Ecumenical Theological Seminary

Moderator: Rebecca Raphael, Texas State University


Panel #4: Monstrous Popular Culture I


Monster Outbreak: an Examination of Patterns Typical to a Monster Flap

Blake Smith

MonsterTalk podcast


To Eat or To Be Eaten: CHEW and the Problem of Monstrosity

Elena Pasquini

University of Glasgow


Monsters Among Us: The Cathartic Carnage of American Horror Story

Heidi Ippolito

University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology


Panel # 5: Bigfoot and American Cryptozoology


Thomas Jefferson: Monster Hunter! – Cryptozoology and National Identity 

Justin Mullis

University of North Carolina at Charlotte


Bigfoot and American Monster Culture

Timothy Grieve-Carlson

Rice University


The Religious Dimensions of Bigfoot

Joshua A. Paddison

Texas State University



Panel # 6: Monstrous Popular Culture II


“But forth he came, this shivering crasy cold”: The Monsters of Early Modern Meteorology

Christopher Gilson
Northwestern State University of Louisiana


Revulsion, Reverence, and Romance: Exploring the Uncanny in N.A. Sulway’s Rupetta

Christopher L. Porter

Our Lady of the Lake University


The Apocalyptic Framing of Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West from John’s Book of Revelation

Sky Hawkes

Our Lady of the Lake University


The Odd One Out: Images of Monsters in Tahar ben Jelloun's "La petite à la burqa rouge"

Lavinia Horner

Kansas State University


Panel # 7: The Monstrous Other


Topophilic Perversions: Fetishizing Sites of Monstrosity in American Dark Tourism

Whitney May

Texas State University


Will the Real Monster Please Stand?

Crystal Silva-McCormick

Texas Lutheran University and St. Edward’s University


Creepy Nsima: Horrific Quotidian Monsters as a Study on Mozambican Public Life

Joel Christian Reed

The Demographic and Health Surveys Program




The registration fee for participants will be $60, while student observers from Texas State University may pay a rate of $10 a day to register for lunch and a name badge. The registration portal is below.

Beyond the conference, we have organized two optional events that we hope everyone will attend!

On Saturday afternoon, we have organized a group excursion to a glass-bottom boat tour. The tour takes you to see the Aquarena Springs, once home to Ralph the Swimming Pig and the filming location for the horror movie Piranha and several movies in the Tarzan franchise. With crystal-clear, blue water that lets you see over 60 feet down, we will have the opportunity to observe the springs bubble up from the ground beneath our feet, as well as glide over innumerable flora and fauna.

Saturday evening will feature our conference banquet, where we will adjourn to local brewery and restaurant Root Cellar Café for food, companionship, and merriment. Appetizers, delicious meals, dessert, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided in the banquet fee. After our banquet ends, Joe and Natasha will lead interested parties on a small pub crawl in San Marcos.