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COURSE TITLE: The Gospel According to Hollywood: Religion and Popular Culture
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Using case studies taken from film, television, music, and other media, this course will examine the presentation of religion and religious topics in popular culture as well as how popular cultural texts and practices have influenced the beliefs, structures, and practices of religious groups. In addition, the economics and ethics of popular culture will receive some attention.

Prerequisites: THEO 250

This course does not fulfill theology foundations requirements.
  • Gordon Lynch, Understanding Theology and Popular Culture (Blackwell, 2005)
  •  Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture (Baker, 2003)
  •  William T. Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire (Eerdmans, 2008).
  •  Robert H. Woods and Paul D. Patton, Prophetically Incorrect: A Christian Introduction to Media Criticism (Brazos, 2010).
Attendance & Participation 10%
Commodity Study Paper and Poster 20%
Artefact Analysis (2) 30%
Class Presentation 10%
Weekly Reading Notes & Reflections 30%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: At the successful completion of this course the student should have:
  • a familiarity with a variety of theories and methods used in the study of religion and popular culture;
  • the ability to recognize the way in which popular culture expresses traditional religious symbols and ideas (religion in popular culture);
  • an awareness of the way in which popular cultural texts and practices have shaped the beliefs, structures, and practices of religious groups (popular culture in religion);
  • a recognition of how popular culture may serve religious functions in contemporary society (popular culture as religion); 
  • the ability to interact and analyse different elements within popular culture from your own religious tradition (popular culture and religion in dialogue); and
  • the ability to articulate an approach to popular culture and religion that is multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary.
  • Introduction to the Class
  • Defining “Religion” and “Popular Culture”
  • Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Popular Culture
  • Shopping for Jesus: The Commodification of Religion
  • Religion, Retailing and Material Culture: Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch
  • Popular Culture and Mass Media: “The Merchants of Cool”
  • Religion, Gender, and Popular Culture
  • Religion and Film
  • Religion on Film: Biblical Epics
  • Religion on Film: Jesus Films
  • Religion on Film: Gibson's The Passion of the Christ
  • Religion in Film:  Judeo-Christian Images in Film
  • Religion in Film:  The Portrayal of Non-Christian Religions in Film
  • Religion in Film: The Myth of Redemptive Violence in Film
  • Religion & Television
  • Religion & Television: The Portrayal of Non-Christian Religions on TV
  • Religion & Popular Music
  • Religion & Popular Music: “The Gospel According to U2”
  • Religion & Popular “Christian” Music
  • Witness: “The Disciples: The Making of Evangelical Pop Stars”
  • Popular Culture as Religion
  • Religion and the New Media
  • Approaching Religion and Popular Culture: Synthesis

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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