Reel-World Religions Syllabus (with Interfaith Themes)
This syllabus utilizes film to study modern and historical encounters between religiously and philosophically diverse groups.
In 2014, Dr. Nancy Klancher participated in a Teaching Interfaith Understanding faculty development
seminar, run in partnership between the Council of Independent Colleges and Interfaith America, and
generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. For information on future seminars, and to access
more resources created by seminar alumni, visit The Council of Independent Colleges.
The contemporary films in this course represent a range of world religions. With plots and characters precariously balanced between religious traditions, religious pluralism, shifting nationalities, race, class, and gender, these films depict encounters, intersections, peacemaking, curiosity, resentment, and hostility between Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Native Americans. That is, these films explore how members of different religious (or anti-religious) traditions interact with and understand each other within the context of historical, political, existential, and intercultural crises and evolutions. A central question of the course will be how and to what degree the possibility for understanding or engagement across difference is affirmed or denied in each film.
The objective of this course is to teach students 1) how to think, discuss, and write critically about film as a cultural and religious medium 2) to do so informed by core concepts within the field of Religious Studies, 3) to understand more broadly the term “religious” and thus realize its significant role in film plot, narrative, and imagery, and 3) to gain insight into unfamiliar religious perspectives through careful examination of one’s responses to depictions of different religions in films.