Teaching Religion and Film

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In a culture increasingly focused on visual media, students have learned not only to embrace multimedia presentations in the classroom, but to expect them. Such expectations are perhaps more prevalent in a field as dynamic and cross-disciplinary as religious studies, but the practice nevertheless poses some difficult educational issues — the use of movies in academic coursework has far outpaced the scholarship on teaching religion and film. What does it mean to utilize film in religious studies, and what are the best ways to do it?

In Teaching Religion and Film, an interdisciplinary team of scholars thinks about the theoretical and pedagogical concerns involved with the intersection of film and religion in the classroom. They examine the use of film to teach specific religious traditions, religious theories, and perspectives on fundamental human values. Some instructors already teach some version of a film-and-religion course, and many have integrated film as an ancillary to achieving central course goals. This collection of essays helps them understand the field better and draws the sharp distinction between merely "watching movies" in the classroom and comprehending film in an informed and critical way.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is a gold mine for faculty who teach religion and film. Full of theoretical and practical resources for effective teaching, it opens exciting avenues for exploration. These thoughtful essays provide wonderful questions and suggestions for expediting discussion of the inevitably complex knots of race, gender, class, values, and ethnicities raised so forcefully by movies. Teaching Religion and Film contributes greatly to refining a relatively new and exciting field." —Margaret R. Miles, author of Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies

"There is currently no other guide that offers such challenging and important approaches to understanding pedagogical concerns for teaching religion and film. This compilation of works from ground-breaking authors in the field analyzes the distinctiveness of film and its religious dimensions, not only from a theological approach to religion, but from other cultural frames of reference which manifest themselves in movies. Timely and comprehensive, this book offers a much needed, authoritative, and wide-ranging set of pedagogical tools not just for the teacher but for anyone who wishes to understand the complex characteristics of film and religion." —Rubina Ramji, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, and Film Review Editor for the Journal of Religion and Film

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195335989
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/2008
  • Series: American Academy of Religion Book Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Greg Watkins is Lecturer in the Program in Structured Liberal Education, Stanford University and Co-Director of Virtual Mandala, a project of the Stanford Humanities Lab. He is also a filmmaker, with an MFA in Film Production from UCLA.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Teaching Religion and Film Gregory J. Watkins Watkins, Gregory J. 3

Pt. I Establishing Shot: Viewing the Field of Religion and Film

1 What Are We Teaching When We Teach "Religion and Film"? William L. Blizek Blizek, William L. Michele Desmarais Desmarais, Michele 17

2 Teaching Religion and Film: A Fourth Approach Conrad Ostwalt Ostwalt, Conrad 35

Pt. II Film and the Teaching of Religious Traditions

3 Teaching Biblical Tourism: How Sword-and-Sandal Films Clouded My Vision Alice Bach Bach, Alice 57

4 Designing a Course on Religion and Cinema in India Gayatri Chatterjee Chatterjee, Gayatri 77

5 Buddhism, Film, and Religious Knowing: Challenging the Literary Approach to Film Francisca Cho Cho, Francisca 117

6 The Pedagogical Challenges of Finding Christ Figures in Film Christopher Deacy Deacy, Christopher 129

7 Film and the Introduction to Islam Course Amir Hussain Hussain, Amir 141

8 Is It All about Love Actually? Sentimentality as Problem and Opportunity in the Use of Film for Teaching Theology and Religion Clive Marsh Marsh, Clive 155

9 Women, Theology, and Film: Approaching the Challenge of Interdisciplinary Teaching Gaye Williams Ortiz Ortiz, Gaye Williams 165

Pt. III The Religious Studies Approach

10 Seeing Is Believing, but Touching's the Truth: Religion, Film, and the Anthropology of the Senses Richard M. Carp Carp, Richard M. 177

11 There Is No Spoon? Teaching The Matrix, Postperennialism, and the Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism Gregory Grieve Grieve, Gregory 189

12 Teaching Film as Religion John C. Lyden Lyden, John C. 209

13 Filmmaking and World Making: Re-Creating Time and Space in Myth and Film S. BrentPlate Plate, S. Brent 219

14 Introducing Theories of Religion through Film: A Sample Syllabus Gregory J. Watkins Watkins, Gregory J. 233

Pt. IV The Values Approach

15 Touching Evil, Touching Good Irena S. M. Makarnshka Makarnshka, Irena S. M. 253

16 Teaching Ethics with Film: A Course on the Moral Agency of Women Ellen Ott Marshall Marshall, Ellen Ott 265

17 Searching for Peace in Films about Genocide Jolyon Mitchell Mitchell, Jolyon 283

Index 295

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2011

    Great resource for professors of Religious Studies

    This edited volume explores the creative possibilities for teaching courses on religion and film, and it was generated partly as a response to students' openness to - even expectation of - multimedia approaches to course material. It discusses some of the pedagogical challenges of using films in Religious Studies classrooms and also examines the range of theoretical approaches one might take in constructing a course that uses religion to consider film or vice versa. Several of the volume's contributors note that previous approaches to religion and film have largely focused on narrative, using techniques from textual criticism to analyze religious elements in film or how film presents a critique of religion, but one might also consider the uniqueness of film: its ability to play upon the senses (especially visual and auditory) that distinguish it from literature. They suggest ways we might better equip our students with the skills to analyze the visual media that they are increasingly exposed to, enhancing their critical thinking so that they can question what they see and not simply consume these kinds of media.

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