AMST 229
Reel Jesus: Reading the Christian Bible and Film in the U.S.A. Spring 2017
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed AMST 229 / REL 229
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In this course we examine some of the ways that Christian biblical narratives have appeared in late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century Hollywood movies, looking in particular at films such as The Matrix (1999),The Passion of the Christ(2004),Jesus Christ Superstar(1973),The Shawshank Redemption(1994),The Omen (1976),Children of Men (2006), and The Book of Eli (2010). What are the overt and subtle ways that these films seek to interpret and employ biblical texts? Why do they draw upon the texts they do and read them as they read them? What can cinematic interpretations of biblical texts reveal to us about how these texts are used in broader U.S. culture, especially to crystallize and reflect certain political, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual, and social parameters of U.S. cultures? How does an awareness of this scriptural dimension in a work of “popular culture” affect our interpretation of both the film and the scriptural text’s meanings? How do varying interpretations of biblical texts help us to understand cinematic meaning? By assuming that we can read both biblical texts and films in multiple and contradictory ways, this class can use film as the occasion for interpreting, analyzing, and debating the meanings, cultural functions, and affective responses generated by biblical narratives in film. Finally, this course asks us to analyze the implications of ways in which we read texts and films. For this interdisciplinary course we will read selected biblical and extra-canonical texts, including selections from canonical and non-canonical gospels, the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation, but our focus will be on the way that movies (and the people who make them and watch them) make meaning out of these biblical texts.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 19
Expected: 12
Class#: 3370
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation based on participation, short writing exercises (1-pg response papers), one 3-pg analytical essay that will also be revised, a 6-pg synthetic midterm essay, and a final 10-pg review essay
Prerequisites: none
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 229 Division II REL 229 Division II
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
AMST Comp Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Diaspora
FMST Core Courses

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