The second annual Fresno State Talks kicked off Thursday night with Dr. TwoTrees’, or Matthew Haar Farris’ lecture on “Esoterica, the Paranormal and Superhumanity: Secular-Religious Mythology in Contemporary Culture” at the Satellite Student Union.
Fresno State Talks lecture series aims to highlight the university’s values of discovery, diversity, and distinction. The student-selected professors are given the opportunity to share their expertise and interests with an audience.
Last year’s event featured lectures on self-discovery, hip-hop culture, and principles of talent development.
During the nomination process, students were asked one question: “What professor inspires you?”
Farris said he was humbled by the nomination.
“I was awed by it, truly, and humbled,” Farris said. “It was just phenomenal to have that kind of acknowledgment. My students mean so much to me, and the classroom is sort of a sacred space for me. And to be even nominated for something like this, that’s the sort of thing I live for.”
After nomination, professors are required to submit a topic of interest. Farris said that for him, the topic had to revolve around an area that fired him up, and that was the way people viewed superheroes in comic books.
“These kinds of comic books with these amazing, powerful, religious and philosophical themes in them,” Farris said. “We’re looking at superheroes these days as kind of our fantastic gods in a way.”
The idea that comic books represent a variety of ideas concerning the human condition was analyzed by using a Justice League comic. In the comic, a conflict between the Justice League and invading aliens represented the ideas of colonization and what it means to be a leader in society.
Farris explained that comic books are a medium through which people can explore what is possible and that people have the ability to save the day with their mortal traits of love, compassion, and forgiveness.
Farris hopes the presentation influences people to analyze comic books, movies, and television, since these pop culture mediums present a variety of meaning.
“The theme is discovery,” Farris said. “The main thing that I’d like people to get from this presentation is to treat reality as if it had a surplus of meaning, and that to be human is to be an interpreter of that amazing meaning.”
Daniel Townsend, a music major at Fresno State, was intrigued by the approach that Farris took in analyzing philosophy and religion.
“I thought it was very interesting that he brought the facet of comic books and made that into a whole discussion about philosophy and religion,” Townsend said.
Farris said Fresno State Talks is an opportunity to build an environment that promotes thought-provoking discussions on vital issues of our day.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for faculty to be able to create thought-stimulating environments,” Farris said. “They’re not just presentations, but really to give a free opportunity to address the most important issues of our day.”
Fresno State Talks resumes Feb. 19 with Rosemary W. Diaz’s talk on “Building Bridges between the Deaf-World and Hearing Allies,” and closes Feb. 26 with Dr. Jenelle N. Gilbert’s talk on “The Psychological UNIFORM: A Blueprint for Peak Performance.”