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Module
V83266


Theology
through
Film


Thursdays
1:00pm­3:00pm,
Trent
B40

Lecturer:
Mr.
Anthony
Paul
Smith
(anthonypaul.smith@gmail.com)

Module
Convenor:
Mr.
E
Ball


Aims



The
module
will
introduce
students
to
the
dialogue
between
theology
and
film.
This
will

mean
 considering
 both
 the
 compatibility
 of
 film
 with
 theology,
 the
 challenge
 of
 film
 to

theology,
 and
 vice
 versa.
 In
 the
 process,
 students
 will
 need
 to
 consider
 their
 own

working
 definitions
 of
 “religion”
 and
 “theology”
 and
 revise
 them
 or
 apply
 them
 in
 the

face
of
film’s
challenge.



Learning
Outcomes



a. Knowledge
 and
 understanding:
 Knowledge
 of
 the
 work
 of
 selected
 theorists
 and

practitioners
in
the
field
of
theology/religion
and
film;
understanding
of
the
stated

or
 implied
 theories
 of
 religion
 operating
 in
 theorists’
 work;
 knowledge
 and

understanding
of
religious
motifs
and
themes
evident
in
and
through
Western
film.


b. Intellectual
skills:
Ability
to
read
films,
film
analyses
and
theoretical
texts
critically;

ability
 to
 locate
 discussion
 of
 film
 and
 of
 the
 practice
 of
 film‐watching
 within

discussion
of
contemporary
social
practices.


c. Professional
practical
skills:
Active
participation
in
seminar‐
and
group
exercise‐
based
module,
through
individual
preparation
and
group
discussion
skills;
ability
to

research
a
topic
through
investigation
of
paper
and
electronic
resources.


d. Transferable
(key)
skills:
Ability
to
write
a
critical
review
of
a
work
of
popular
art;

ability
to
research
and
construct
a
critical
essay
on
a
relevant
and
clearly‐focussed

topic.


Summary
of
content


This
module
will
provide
an
introduction
to
the
recent
discussion
of
the
religious
and

theological
significance
of
film.
Though
the
orientation
will
largely
be
that
of

contemporary
Western
culture,
students
are
encouraged
to
engage
with
other
cultures

using
the
critical
tools
developed
through
the
module.
The
module
aims
to
be

experiential
and
so
it
will
consider
films
alongside
readings
of
primary
sources
from

theology
and
religious
studies.
In
this
way
the
module
will
not
only
consider
theological


1


and
religious
themes
in
film,
but
will
allow
the
films
themselves
to
challenge
or

complement
written
theology.
Thus,
not
all
films
will
be
explicitly
religious
or

theological
in
content,
but
the
implicit
religious
and
theological
content
will
be
given

attention
through
the
practice
of
film‐watching
and
film
criticism.
Considerable

attention
is
given
to
fragmentary
nature
of
film’s
relationship
with
theology,
though
this

is
explored
alongside
specific
questions
in
theology.
Through
the
analysis
of
film
and
the

practice
of
film‐watching
alongside
readings
of
theology
participants
will
be
required
to

create
their
own
positions
and
assessments
on
the
challenge
of
film
to
theology
and
the

practice
of
doing
theology
through
film.


Teaching
Pattern


2‐hour
sessions,
comprising
lecture‐input,
group
exercises
(mainly
film
watching)
and

discussion.



Thursdays
1:00pm–3:00pm



Individual
tutorial
help
is
available
by
appointment.
Contact
me
at

anthonypaul.smith@gmail.com
to
set
up
a
date
and
time.



Programme:


Note
that
all
readings
are
provided
in
the
course
reader
and
organized
in
order
of
when

they
are
to
be
read.
Readings
listed
are
to
be
read
for
that
class
period.
If
the
reading
is

listed
for
Feburary
12th,
it
is
to
be
read
prior
to
the
Feburary
12th
session
of
class.
It’s

expected
that
you
will
watch
one
of
the
recommended
films
per
week
as
listed.


Date
 
 Content


January
29th
 
 
 Introduction
to
Theology
through
Film



 
 
 
 In
class
screening:
Jesus
of
Montreal
(first
half)


February
5th
 
 
 Surveying
the
Literature
and
Setting
the
Scene



 
 
 
 In
class
screening:
Jesus
of
Montreal
(second
half)


Recommended
reading:
Browne,
9‐19;
Marsh,
21‐34;

Graham,
35‐43;
Jasper,
235‐244;
Marsh
and
Ortiz,
245‐
255


February
12th
 Christ
and
Culture:
The
Paradigms



 Recommended
reading:
Neibuhr,
1‐11,
45‐55,
76‐82,
101‐

 115,
120‐141,
190‐206



Recommended
films:
Sunshine,
Dogma,
Saved,
Contact


February
19th
 Cinema
and
Religious
Experience



Recommended
reading:
Lyden,
36‐55;
Loughlin,
35‐63;

Atkin,
et.
al.,
312‐330;



2


Recommended
films:
The
Exorcist,
The
Passion
of
the

Christ,
Magnolia,
American
Beauty


February
26th
 Film
and
Christology
I:
Can
film
do
Christology
or

only
cast
Christ­figures?



 Recommended
reading:
Chalcedon,
1‐3;
Bulgakov,
51‐88;

Moltmann,
227‐235



 Recommend
films:
The
Greatest
Story
Ever
Told,
The
Life

of
Brian,
The
Last
Temptation
of
Christ,
300,
Matrix,
The

Big
Lebowski,
Cool
Hand
Luke


March
5th
 
 
 Film
and
the
Death
of
God


Recommended
reading:
Nietzsche,
167,
181‐182,
279‐
280;
Goodchild,
17‐42;
Moltmann
200‐207



 
 
 
 In
class
screening:
No
Country
for
Old
Men
(first
half)


Recommended
films:
Waking
the
Dead,
Schindler’s
List,

The
Seventh
Continent,
The
Time
of
the
Wolf,
Fight
Club,

2001:
A
Space
Odyssey,
A
Clockwork
Orange


March
12th
 
 
 Film
and
Faith,
Hope,
and
Doubt


In
class
screening:
No
Country
for
Old
Men
(second
half)


Recommended
reading:
Kierkegaard,
5‐53;
Marsh,
83‐
104


Recommended
films:
The
Seventh
Seal,
Signs,
Breaking
the

Waves,
AI:
Artificial
Intelligence,
Blue


March
19th
 
 
 Christology
II:
What
is
not
assumed
is
not
saved


Recommended
reading:
Gregory
of
Nazianzus,
1‐4;

Oduyoye,
151‐170;
Linzey,
67‐72;
Baugh,
185‐204



Recommended
films:

Au
Hasard
Balthasar,
Soylent
Green,

Blade
Runner,
Babette’s
Feast


Spring
Holiday:
No
Class
March
26th
–
April
16th



April
23rd


 
 
 Film
and
Political
Theology



 
 
 
 In
class
screening:
Pan’s
Labyrinth
(first
half)


Recommended
reading:
Cone,
138‐163,
183‐194;
Bell,

189‐195


Recommended
films:
The
Mission
(highly
recommend),

Hidden
(French
title:
Caché),
Romero,
The
Gospel

According
to
Saint
Matthew,
Children
of
Men


April
30th
 Conclusion:
A
Jump
Shot
Dialogue
–
Does
film

challenge
theology?



 
 
 
 

3



 
 
 
 In
class
screening:
Pan’s
Labyrinth
(second
half)



Texts
referred
to
in
teaching
programme
above:


Atkin,
Tom,
et.
al.,
‘Table
Talk:
Reflections
on
The
Passion
of
the
Christ
(Mel
Gibson,

2004)’
in
Cinéma
Divinité:
Religion,
Theology
and
the
Bible
in
Film,
eds.
William

Telford,
et.
al.
(Canterbury:
SCM
Press,
2005):
312‐330.


Baugh,
Lloyd,
Imaging
the
Divine:
Jesus
and
Christ­Figures
in
Film
(Kansas
City:
Sheed

and
Ward,
1997).


Bell,
Jr.,
Daniel
M.,
Liberation
Theology
After
the
End
of
History:
The
Refusal
to
Cease

Suffering
(London:
Routledge,
2001).


Browne,
David,
‘Film,
Movies,
Meaning’
in
Explorations
in
Theology
and
Film:
Movies
and

Meaning
(Oxford:
Blackwell,
1997):
9‐19.


Bulgakov,
Sergius,
The
Lamb
of
God,
trans.
Boris
Jakim
(Grand
Rapids,
MI:
Eerdmans,

2008).


Cone,
James,
God
of
the
Oppressed
(San
Francisco:
HarpersCollins,
1975).


Goodchild,
Philip,
Capitalism
and
Religion:
The
Price
of
Piety
(London:
Routledge,
2002).


Graham,
David
John,
‘The
Uses
of
Film
in
Theology’
in
Explorations
in
Theology
and
Film:

Movies
and
Meaning
(Oxford:
Blackwell,
1997):
35‐43.


Jasper,
David,
‘On
Systematizing
the
Unsystematic:
A
Response’
in
Explorations
in

Theology
and
Film:
Movies
and
Meaning
(Oxford:
Blackwell,
1997):
235‐244.


Kirkegaard,
Søren,
Fear
and
Trembling,
trans.
Edna
H.
and
Howard
V.
Hong
(Princeton:

Princeton
UP,
1983).


Linzey,
Andrew,
Animal
Theology
(London:
SCM
Press,
1994).


Loughlin,
Gerard,
Alien
Sex:
The
Body
and
Desire
in
Cinema
and
Theology
(Oxford:

Blackwell,
2003).


Lyden,
John
C.,
Film
as
Religion:
Myths,
Morals,
Rituals
(New
York:
New
York
UP,
2003).


Marsh,
Clive
and
Gaye
Ortiz,
‘Theology
Beyond
the
Modern
and
the
Postmodern:
A

Future
Agenda
for
Theology
and
Film’
in
Explorations
in
Theology
and
Film:

Movies
and
Meaning
(Oxford:
Blackwell,
1997):
245‐255.


Marsh,
Clive,
‘Film
and
Theologies
of
Culture’
in
Explorations
in
Theology
and
Film:

Movies
and
Meaning
(Oxford:
Blackwell,
1997):
21‐34.


Marsh,
Clive,
Cinema
and
Sentiment:
Film’s
Challenge
to
Theology
(Milton
Keynes:

Paternoster
Press,
2004).


Moltmann,
Jürgen,
The
Crucified
God:
The
Cross
of
Christ
as
the
Foundation
and
Criticism

of
Christian
Theology,
trans.
R.A.
Wilson
and
John
Bowden
(Minneapolis:

Fortress
Press,
1993).


Neibuhr,
H.
Richard,
Christ
and
Culture
(San
Francisco:
HarperCollins,
2001).


4


Nietzsche,
Friedrich,
The
Gay
Science,
trans.
Walter
Kaufmann
(New
York:
Vintage

Books,
1974).


Oduyoye,
Mercy
Amba,
‘Jesus
Christ’
in
The
Cambridge
Companion
to
Feminist
Theology,

ed.
Susan
Frank
Parsons
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
UP,
2002):
151‐170.



Assessment
Requirements

1. One
1500‐word
film
review
(40%):
Write
a
critical,
theological
review
of
any
one

of
the
recommended
films
above.
In
your
review
you
are
expected
to
show
how
the

film
works
theologically.
Therefore
develop
a
reading
of
the
film,
either
through
its

narrative
meaning
or
its
performance,
that
engages
with
at
least
one
theological
or

religious
theme
(Christology,
Soteriology,
death
of
God,
political
theology,
etc.).

Consult
other
philosophical
and
theological
readings
of
films
for
models
of
a
critical

review.


2. One
2500‐word
essay
(60%)


I
will
be
providing
a
detailed
bibliography
by
the
third
class
session
that
will
help
you

to
organize
your
research.
Also
be
aware
that
you
are
welcome
and
encouraged
to

contact
me
when
you
feel
lost
or
if
you
would
like
extra
resources
for
a
specific

problem.
As
this
is
a
third­year
module
I
encourage
you
to
display
creativity
alongside

solid
research.
Your
mark
will
largely
depend
on
your
use
of
your
own
critical
skills

developed
in
the
course
of
the
module,
rather
than
your
ability
to
summarize
the
work

of
others.
The
titles
have
been
given
to
provide
you
with
an
orientation,
but
there
is
no

pre­determined
answer
and
assessment
will
be
made
based
on
the
creativity
presented,

the
strength
of
your
argument,
and
the
quality
of
your
research.


a. “Theology
and
Film
as
a
case‐study
in
the
Christ
and
Culture
debate.”

For
this
essay
you
are
asked
to
consider
the
Christ
and
Culture
debate
as
it

applies
to
specific
films
of
your
choosing.
You
are
invited
to
take
whatever

approach
you
wish
and
these
could
include
Christian
theology
as
the
fulfilment

of
film
or
an
investigation
of
death
of
God
theology/philosophy
in
relation
to
a

series
of
specific
films
(again,
of
your
choosing).

For
the
essay
it
would
be
best

not
to
limit
yourself
to
just
one
film,
but
also
beware
of
slipping
into
incoherence

by
trying
to
discuss
too
many.
I
would
suggest
you
limit
yourself
to
two
or
three

films.
Please
seek
advice
if
you
are
unsure
of
a
film
and
would
like
suggestions.



b. “Film
watching
as
theological/religious
practice.”

For
this
essay
you
are
asked
to
consider
the
practice
of
film‐watching
in
terms
of

either
its
theological
or
religious
significance.
There
are
at
least
two
approaches

to
this
topic
and
you
should
choose
one
(though,
please
note,
the
two

approaches
are
not
completely
distinct
from
one
another).
The
first
is

predominately
theological
and
should
consider
the
ways
in
which
theological

reflection
happens
or
is
changed
through
the
watching
of
film.
The
second
is

predominately
a
religious
studies
orientation
and
should
consider
the

sociological
and
anthropological
connections
between
religious
practices
and

film‐watching
as
well
as
the
way
films
are
used
by
religion
and
vice
versa.
From

the
theological
perspective,
for
example,
you
may
wish
to
consider
the
way
we

consider
the
person
of
Christ
in
theological
writing
differs
or
is
complemented

by
Jesus‐figure
and/or
Christ‐story
films.
From
the
religious
studies
orientation

you
may
want
to
consider
a
particular
religious
practice,
like
attending
Church

services
or
the
creation
of
moral
codes,
in
relation
to
the
practice
of
film

5


watching.
You
are
invited
to
consider
other
approaches
to
this
question
but

required
to
contact
me
regarding
them
first.


c. “Theological
doctrine
and
the
challenge
of
film.”

For
this
essay
you
are
asked
to
develop
your
own
theology
(on
a
particular

doctrine,
dogma,
or
issue)
through
a
specific
film
or
set
of
films.
This
means

considering
a
particular
theological
doctrine
of
your
choosing,
the
way
the

experience
of
watching
particular
films
(also
of
your
choosing)
requires
us
to

think
about
that
doctrine,
and
developing
a
religious
or
theological
account
of

that
doctrine
alongside
film.
Examples
of
this
practice
are
provided
in
the

bibliography
and
if
you
choose
this
title
you
are
encouraged
to
speak
with
me

about
both
the
doctrine
you’ve
chosen
and
the
films
you
want
to
consider.



Regarding
due
dates
students
have
four
set
dates
by
which
essays
may
be
submitted

(please
note
that
the
film
review
and
the
essay
must
be
turned
in
on
different
days):

Thursday
26
February,
Thursday
19
March,
Thursday
30
April,
and
Thursday
7
May.

Essays
may
be
submitted,
using
the
date‐stamping
machine
and
collection
box
in
the

Department
reception
area,
at
any
time
up
to
4.45
p.m.
on
each
of
these
days.
(They
can,

of
course,
be
submitted
in
advance,
for
any
of
these
dates.)
Details
about
essay

submission
may
be
found
in
Information
for
Students
2008/09,
section
8.1.3.
No
essay

will
be
accepted
without
a
fully
completed
cover
sheet,
including
the
signature
on
the

plagiarism
declaration.



6


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