Fall 2009
Fully Enrolled

SOCS 638
Religion in Film

Gottschalk,Peter S.

09/05/2009 - 09/20/2009
Note: Special Schedule 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 104

Special Schedule: Saturday-Monday, September 5-7; Saturday & Sunday, September 19-20

This course examines how films, like religious texts and practices, carry and shape political ideologies and forge and express cultural mythologies. It investigates how films, like religion itself, construct, perpetuate, and sometimes disrupt and destabilize social structures, gender and social identities, religious beliefs, and cultural values. We will pay particular attention to the concept of myth and the differences between myth and history. In addition, we will explore how the depiction of non-western religions in Hollywood movies reflects American cultural assumptions. The range of films considered includes popular and independent productions, some of which consciously depict religious cultures, while others implicitly communicate religious themes.

Films include The Last Temptation of Christ, Star Wars, Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Passion of the Christ, The Apostle, The Message, Not without My Daughter, Seven Years in Tibet, and Kundun. Readings include John Lyden's Film as Religion, Jaroslav Pelikan's Jesus Through the Centuries, J. Shawn Landres and Michael Berenbaum's After the Passion is Gone, and a reader of materials drawn from diverse scholars of religion, myth, and film. Students will be responsible for renting a number of films to watch outside of class.

The course is designed as a seminar; regular attendance and participation in classroom discussion are expected and will make up part of the grade. Assignments include two papers and one in-class presentation.

Course tuition: $2022.

This course is not open to auditors.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Peter Gottschalk (BA College of the Holy Cross; MA University of Wisconsin-Madison; PHD University of Chicago) is professor of religion at Wesleyan University. His research and teaching concentrate on the confluence of religious cultures in South Asia, with a particular focus on Muslims and Hindus in contemporary rural India. His work investigates issues of identity, social memory, modernity, and epistemology. Among other works, he has written Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives from Village India (2000), co-written Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy (2007), and co-designed the interactive website "A Virtual Village" (2001). Click here for more information about Peter Gottschalk and click here for more information about his work.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 16

Texts to purchase for this course:
Philip Dick, DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? (Oxford University Press), Paperback

Edward Larson, SUMMER FOR THE GODS (Basic Books), Paperback

Chaim Potok, IN THE BEGINNING (Ballantine Books), Paper

Please Note: A course reader is also required for this course and is available through Pip Printing, Main Street, Middletown. Readers must be ordered online before obtaining it from the store. Order online here.


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Contact glsinquire@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. 
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459