Teaching Hub

Film Course Studies Religion in Popular Culture

Instructor: Matthew Bagger
Course: REL 360: Popular Culture/Cultural Humanities
Audience: Undergraduates

Offered each semester, this one-credit hour course requires students to attend four monthly films along with either the Day Lecture or the Aronov Lecture, and then to write a small number of brief commentaries on these events/issues, some of which appear on the department’s blog.

The fall 2015 theme was “Selling Religion: Religion and Entrepreneurial Practice,” and students viewed Spirited Away, Elmer GantryKumaré, and the video discussed in this year’s Day Lecture.

What are the goals of REL 360?

The goals of REL 360 include encouraging the students to apply the skills of critical analysis to products of pop culture, particularly films. It also asks them to hone their abilities to convey their ideas in a non-traditional public medium, the blog.

What makes this course different from the others you teach?

The focus on films that do not necessarily present themselves as “religious” rather than texts that identify themselves as “religious” (or comparable culturally specific terms) is unique among the classes I teach. The department faculty collaborate when their expertise is relevant, so there’s more occasion for faculty interaction than in most courses.

What are your key teaching strategies?

We discuss the films and lectures. The students write response papers, one of which they revise to appear on the religious studies department’s blog.

Since students can take REL 360 more than once, how do you keep the material fresh?

The films selected are keyed to the topic of the department’s guest lectures, the Day Lecture and the Aronov Lecture, so the films and the theme of the course are different every time it is offered.

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