Religion and Film

Representation, Experience, Meaning


Is cinema evil, or sacramental? Can films make theological contributions? Can film-viewing be a religious practice? How do films, values and power interact? The study of film and religion engages a range of diverse questions through different approaches and methods. In this contribution, I distinguish three complementary approaches. In the first part, I discuss those that focus on the film as text, the representation of religion in film, and how theology happens in film. The next section will broaden this perspective by taking into consideration how films affect audiences, and how the relationship between film and audience might have religious dimensions or serve religious functions. In the third part, attention to the text and the audience are combined with the consideration of both film and religion as agents in cultural processes in order to think about how film and religion are shaped by and shape value systems and ideologies. In the last section I will begin to tackle the difficult question of theory and method. I consciously postpone this part until the end because, in many cases, methodologies and theoretical frameworks are implied in and emerge from concrete case studies rather than being consciously reflected upon. This final section has two goals: it will make explicit some of these underlying assumptions to serve as a starting point for a more sustained reflection on the theories and methodologies of the field, and it will highlight some of the pitfalls we encounter if we are not methodologically and theoretically precise in our work.

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Stefanie Knauss, Th.D., is Associate Professor of Theology at Villanova University (USA). Her research and publications focus on religion/theology and film, visuality, gender and queer studies, sexuality and embodiment.

Religion and Film: Representation, Experience, Meaning
Stefanie Knauss

 1 Representations of Religion(s) in Film: The Study of Film as Text
 2 Religious Films: It’s in the Eyes of the Beholder
 3 The Quest for Meaning: Religion and Film as Agents in Cultural Processes
 4 Why and How Do We Do What We Do? The Question of Theory and Method
 Conclusion and New Horizons
Graduate students and scholars in theology, religious studies, cultural studies and associated disciplines interested in theories and methodologies of the study of film and religion, the current state of the field, and possibilities for future development.