Midland Professor Signs Publishing Deal for Second Book

Midland Professor Signs Publishing Deal for Second Book

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dr. Courtney Wilder, Professor of Religion at Midland University, has signed a publishing deal with Baylor University Press for her second book: This Is My Body? Disability, Christianity, and Popular Culture. The book, which she is currently researching and writing, will dive into the depictions of disability in Christianity and popular culture.

“[The book] is on the intersection of Christianity and disability in popular culture,” Wilder explained. “The basic argument of the book is that people draw their understanding about disability, of people with and without disabilities, in large part from popular culture. So, that is an influential source of religious reflection on disability. Sometimes that can be positive and constructive, and sometimes it can be really damaging.”

Wilder, who has taught at Midland for more than a decade, will draw on professional expertise as a religious scholar to examine the understanding of disability within contemporary society. In addition to holding a Ph.D. in Theology and a Master’s in Divinity, she has written several articles and academic papers on religion and published her first book, Disability, Faith, and the Church: Inclusion and Accommodation in Contemporary Congregations, in 2016.

Still, she expects This Is My Body? Disability, Christianity, and Popular Culture to reach beyond traditional academic research. Although it will use academia to inform the analysis of culture, the subjects of modern Christianity and popular culture will provide a modern look at movies, television, music, and the everyday aspects of society driving the public’s understanding of disability. Wilder says the subjects have made the research process, so far, quite fun.

“I was joking with my daughter that it’s the best kind of research because you get to sit and watch TV and take a very careful look,” she said. “So, it’s not traditional academic research in that I won’t be strictly sticking to the scholars in the field, books that are in the canon, or interpreting scripture but really working to analyze popular culture with the tools of the critical approach to literature, and music and television and so on.”

Although portions of her new book will play off of conference papers and work she has done previously, much of the research and analysis will be brand new and is currently in the works. By analyzing disability within popular culture and contemporary trends, she also hopes the book will spark new conversations, empower individuals, and promote learning.

“I would like to give people with disabilities, and particularly college and university students with disabilities, the opportunity to engage in conversation with their classmates in a fresh way,” she noted.

Wilder’s aspirations for the book parallel her reputation as a student-centered leader at Midland. During her time as a professor, Wilder has become known for her ability to engage students and promote critical thinking in fresh, nuanced ways. She has taught a wide range of religion and philosophy classes at Midland, is Chair of the Academic Core Experience Task Force, serves on the Honors Program Committee, and has been a four-time nominee for Midland’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

“I have found that teaching students about religion from the concepts of popular culture turns out to be really a pleasure,” she said. “The work I’ve done in that field really emerges from a desire to provide and teach classes to students.”

Although she holds an extensive academic background, she suspects the book will serve as an especially appealing resource for people interested in everyday pop culture and students – who she says often don’t realize their own expertise in decoding popular culture.

“Students often don’t think of themselves as super skilled at interpretation of a complicated text, for instance, but they all know much more than they think they do when it comes to how to interpret popular culture,” she explained. “So, part of what I enjoy about doing this research and about looking at disability in Christianity through this lens of popular culture is my students are already right there with me.”

Dr. Courtney Wilder is the author of Disability, Faith, and the Church: Inclusion and Accommodation in Contemporary Congregations and her writings have appeared in a range of publications, including The Lutheran, Sightings, Religions, and Religious Freedom in America: A Reference Handbook. This Is My Body? Disability, Christianity, and Popular Culture is expected to be released in 2020.