Theory of religion through film

Since my research pertains to theoretical problems in the study of religion, I was thrilled to design a class using film to introduce Columbia’s arts-oriented students to the theory of religion. The class as I am teaching it uses feature films to open discussions of central categories in the study of religion (‘myth,’ ‘ritual,’ ‘sacrality,’ ‘charisma,’ etc.) We then look at documentary film and texts drawn from a variety of traditions in order to use the theoretical categories to interpret religious phenomena. The class culminates in a project where each student uses one of the theoretical texts we have read to analyze a religious phenomenon of his choice.