As part of his Comprehensive Exams, third year RCID candidate Stephen Lind invited students, faculty, and friends to experience a slice of the vast Peanuts franchise at an exhibit (shown below) held September 30th in Clemson’s Brooks Center. With Vince Guaraldi’s jazz music for Peanuts played live by Clemson University pianist Lori Gourdin, guests were treated to refreshments, including glass-bottled Coca~Cola (the original sponsor of the 1965 classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas), and were shown a variety of Schulz’s works through hands-on access to collectibles and rarities accompanied by informative placards. For Lind, the items on display of particular interest were the religiously themed merchandise products, such as the high-end nativity scene from Lenox and the religious greeting cards from Hallmark and its subsidiary DaySpring.
Lind’s dissertation, titled “Schulz’s Religion: Exploring Faith in the Mainstream Media through the Peanuts Franchise” makes use of a transdisciplinary set of mixed-methods to examine the multifaceted Peanuts franchise as a rich case study in the portrayals of religion within the entertainment media. In his Oral Exam presentation following the exhibit, Lind made the case that overt religion has become a rarity in the American “religio-secular public sphere,” citing legal battles over religion in public schools and media studies data indicating that religious affiliation is often nearly invisible on mainstream broadcast television. Peanuts, according to Lind, stands out as one unique example of nuanced religious reference in a successful mainstream franchise. Using historical, rhetorical, and social-scientific methods in his dissertation, Lind will engage questions surrounding religious portrayals in public media by analyzing the nuanced references to religion across various components of the Peanuts properties – comic strips, animated specials, and product merchandising.
Part of Lind’s dissertation will also include a treatment of the complex theological aspects of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s biography. In 2010, Lind met with Schulz’s widow Jean Schulz (pictured below) who has been graciously supportive of the project. Lind will return to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, CA, later this year to continue his archival research and to conduct a number of interviews with Schulz’s family and friends.