Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2009 Volume 5 :: Article 6
2009 Volume 5, Article 6
The Folk Piety of William Peter Blatty: "The Exorcist" in the Context of Secularization

Author: Joseph Laycock (Boston University)

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ABSTRACT

William Peter Blatty‘s novel "The Exorcist" has been linked to changes in lived religion in the United States and to a popular revival of demonology and exorcism ministries. This article considers the historical context in which the novel was written and suggests that "The Exorcist" presents an early critique of the secularization narrative by referencing the folk piety of the American life-world. Peter Williams has described American religion as a dialectic between ecclesiastical religion and popular religion. With this in mind, I argue that "The Exorcist" represents a cultural moment in which the perceived decline of supernaturalism inspired a resurgence of folk piety. To audiences in the early 1970s, the medley of Catholic demonology, popular occultism, and parapsychology in "The Exorcist" came as an appealing antidote to rationalized religion and a secular social order.

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