Lucinda Murphy Christmas Special

Episode 183,   Nov 30, 2023, 06:58 PM

This week’s episode is a Christmas special as I am joined by someone else who has made Christmas their research project in recent years. Lucinda Murphy and I had never met before we recorded this interview in London in October 2023, and there are many parallels and synergies which make this a really compelling discussion around the ‘meaning’ of Christmas.

Lucinda began her doctorate at Durham on Christmas in 2016 at just the time that my own Christmas as Religion was published. Lucinda talks about how the impetus for her work was that so little has been written on contemporary views of Christmas and she discusses why people don’t always think it is a subject worthy of study.

Lucinda reflects on whether the study of Christmas was going to ruin Christmas for her personally and how it feels to live for so long in such a liminal period of time. She discusses also how Covid impacted on her research vis-à-vis the tropes of celebration and crisis and she talks about the notion of emotional dissonance.

Lucinda uses the metaphor of a mirror to talk about Christmas and on how nostalgia was a way into Christmas for her (I made the reverse journey) and we both identify ourselves as introverted extroverts. We find out too about her previous research interviewing ex-choristers at Durham Cathedral.

Lucinda talks about how Christmas holds up a mirror to key transitions in our life and questions of wellbeing, her fear of the ivory tower, and how this has led to her doing mentoring work in a special needs school.

We talk about how we can’t escape Christmas and how people can be alienated because bad things (including, for some of her participants, divorces and miscarriages) have happened to them at this time of year.

Lucinda reflects on the two types of anticlimax bound up with Christmas, and how people often think that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost, irrespective of whether one subscribes to the Christan faith or not, and how the ‘Christmas lament’ is an integral part of the reflection bound up with Christmas.

Lucinda draws on the analogy of Disney, discusses Christmas as a paradox, and reflects on whether the Christmas spirit is something spiritual.

Then, towards the end of the interview, we find out about Gelf the Elf, Lucinda’s research assistant, who enabled her to tell the underside of the story of Christmas, and how she subverted the difference between subject and object.

Then, at the very end, we find out what is Lucinda’s favourite Christmas film and song.