Christian Themes and Popular Film (Fall)
Even in our increasingly secular and post–Christian culture, popular media is nevertheless still very much continuously drawing from, and in dialogue with, the historical Christian tradition. This class will be an exploration of how popular film has engaged in all sorts of ways (both friendly and hostile) with Christianity, at times even without the filmmakers being aware of it. Each week, as homework, we will view a separate popular movie or group of movies; then we will come together to discuss the Christian (or anti–Christian!)themes of the movie in class.
This class will prepare and encourage students to engage thoughtfully and critically with modern pop culture, especially in a way that does not require them to set aside their Orthodox Christian values and worldview. Some possible questions are: What is this film trying to convey to us about the nature of life, the world, and human purpose? Are these themes compatible with historical Christian teachings? Why or why not? If this film portrays Christians or Christianity explicitly, how does it do so? What might the filmmakers have intended in their portrayal? Did they succeed in fulfilling their intention? Is this film saying anything implicit about Christian doctrine or practice? Is this film implicitly relying on, or rejecting, a Christian worldview? Does it accept some part of it, but reject another?
This class is intended for emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually mature Orthodox Christian high school students who are able and willing to engage in rewarding, but occasionally challenging conversations.
1. Star Wars: Original Trilogy (1977–1983): PG
2. The Last Unicorn (1982): G
3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996): G
4. Contact (1997): PG–13
5. The Matrix (1999): R
6. Serenity (2005): PG–13
7. Batman Begins (2005): PG–13
8. The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012): PG–13
9. The Secret of Kells (2009): NR
10. True Grit (2010): PG–13
11. Gravity (2013): PG–13
12. The Song of the Sea (2014): PG
13. Interstellar (2014): PG–13
14. Doctor Strange (2016): PG–13
15. Wolfwalkers (2020): PG
16. Encanto (2021): PG
*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.
Dr. Alexander Titus is a learner, educator, translator, and Church historian, specializing in the Byzantine and medieval Western periods. He holds a BA (2011) in Classics from the University of Oregon, an MA (2015) and ThM (2016) from St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, and a PhD (2022) in Church History from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he wrote his dissertation on St. Gregory Palamas. His English translation of Palamas’ Triads is also forthcoming from St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (2023). Dr. Titus has come to believe strongly in the salvific value of classical education, not only for the soul of the individual Christian, but for the building up of the whole Church.
Dr. Titus currently lives in Springfield, Oregon, with his wife and two sons. His other interests include cooking, literature, visual arts (e.g., film, animation, games), volunteering in his local Orthodox community, and attempting, sometimes fruitlessly, to maintain a large rural property. He loves spending time with children and teaches part-time at his local Orthodox homeschooling resource center. email@example.com
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do NOT recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
WebCam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer.
WebCam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class.
Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
To download Zoom:
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
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