Spirit and Sport
In Spirit and Sport: Religion and the Fragile Athletic Body in Popular Culture , Sean O'Neil studies the intersectionality of religion and disability as it exists within contemporary sports. To do so, he calls to the forefront various contemporary stories about trauma and disability-some fictional, others biographical-and examines how we tell and interpret these stories within the frameworks of athletic activity, competition, failure, and success. O'Neil studies a wide range of perspectives, from John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany and the big-screen's Signs to the experiences of real-life athletes like Tim Tebow, Muhammad Ali, and Bethany Hamilton. Woven throughout his examination of each is a consideration of religious belief and practice, especially within Christianity, as it relates to athletic ability-the lighthearted stories of victory and overcoming, the inspiring triumph over fragility and limitation so often couched in religious terms. O'Neil's study draws upon his experiences as a hospital chaplain and his own battle with skin cancer. By blending personal experience with sociological observation, O'Neil argues that the intersection of religion, sports, and disability in popular culture is a revealing site of cultural struggle over competing myths, identities, and values related to the body-both the physical bodies we inhabit as well as the broader social bodies to which we subscribe. Spirit and Sport is a study with broad appeal: from O'Neil's autoethnographic storytelling to the wide range of narrative media he examines, religious scholars, sports historians, and general audiences alike are sure to find it a thought-provoking and engaging read.
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