Dr. Christine A. James

PHIL 4810 A Philosophy, Religion, and Pop Culture CRN 84093 REL 4710 A Philosophy, Religion, and Pop Culture CRN 84094 Thursdays 5pm-6:15pm in Ashley Hall 1212

This syllabus is available online in Blazeview, and may be updated,


Office: 1203 Ashley Hall

Office Hours: MWTR 2:00-3:15pm, and after classes and by appointment as needed or requested.

Telephone: 259-7609

Mailbox: Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, Ashley Hall North Side First Floor

Fax: 259-5011

E-mail address: It is always helpful to mention which class you are in when you email.

Course content: This course provides a study of the way various religious traditions and philosophical schools of thought are portrayed in pop culture and film. This is a reading and viewing intensive course, so it will require you to read, think about, and write about a considerable amount of material.

Requirements: Class participation and attendance, two short exams, two papers, various Blazeview assignments and discussions. Pop Reading Quizzes may also be given during the semester.


In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication."

The Learning Outcomes for PHIL 4810 REL 4710 are:

  1. To understand the distinctions among the various sub-fields of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics as comprising basic branches of the discipline.

  2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to individual reflection on the meaning of life.

  3. To become conversant with the history of philosophy. The course emphasizes Western philosophy in particular, including such significant developments as empiricism, materialism, idealism, rationalism, pragmatism, and existentialism.

  4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

  5. To demonstrate the ability to discuss, in both oral and written discourse, the philosophical issues explored in the course.

  6. To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.

These course-specific learning outcomes also contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major:

  1. Explain and analyze central issues, topics, and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.

  2. Write and speak critically and logically, applying various theories to specific cases and examples.

  3. Explain their own value system, evaluating their values in the context of a diverse range of ideas that inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.

  4. Create independent philosophical research, synthesizing a variety of sources, including traditional primary philosophical texts and secondary source


  5. Demonstrate a working familiarity with current research methods, citation styles, and presentation techniques.

All learning outcomes will be evaluated via formative and summative assessments, including research papers, formal presentations in class including verbal expression and Powerpoint presentations, and written work in Blazeview including Discussion postings, Assignment attachments of Word .doc or .docx format, and Assessment quizzes.

Required Texts:

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, John Lyden, editor, Routledge; 1 edition (June 11, 2009) Approximately $24 to rent, $35 to purchase new. Religion-Film-Companions/dp/0415601878

Other readings linked in Blazeview.

For the first two weeks of class, I provided links in Blazeview and your syllabus schedule below for the readings that are available online, just in case you might be waiting for a financial aid overage check deposit to be able to buy your books. Be sure to buy or rent the book as soon as you can.

Please do the reading before the class for which it is assigned. Please bring the book(s) and/or article(s) with you to class, along with a designated notebook and some pens.

(In addition, Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty encourage you to use the St. Martin’s Handbook, a style guide with a custom VSU edition, which is required in ENGL 1101 and 1102 courses. These books are available for purchase at the VSU Bookstore. The St. Martin’s Handbook is usually shelved in the bookstore near the books for ENGL 1101 and 1102.)

How grades will be calculated:


= 100 - 90%

Class participation, attendance = 15%


= 89 - 80%

First Discussion, Quiz, and Dropbox = 5%


= 79 - 70%

2 Short Exams at 20% each = 40%


= 69 - 60%

2 Papers at 20% each = 40%


= 59 - 0%

Total = 100%

Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow “make up” work after the date an assignment or exam or paper is completed by the other members of the class. When you have extenuating circumstances, you should talk with me about it ahead of time.

I also make no promises about extra credit items, although I will routinely announce events on campus that can result in some extra credit points for you.

Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams. Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences. These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook. Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades. The papers involve more creative and independent thinking. The papers should be no less than five pages long, double

spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times/ Times New Roman. Expect to use the text and cite it with a consistent citation scheme (refer to the St. Martin’s Handbook you use in your English classes). “Use direct quotes!” with full citation information, at least from our class textbook. Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine. The ability to write and edit well-constructed academic essays is an important skill that will come in handy throughout your college career and beyond. Again, these papers must be typed, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times) with one-inch margins at the top and bottom of each page and 1.25-inch margins on either side (the default settings in Microsoft Word). More specific topics are given out as we do the readings, and I always mention things that would make a good paper topic during our class meetings and discussions.

If you haven’t written many papers before, this link might help:

Here are some extra links, if you would like to use outside sources and secondary source material:

In completing your research papers, you may find that the databases of peer-reviewed journal articles will be especially helpful. The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete) is (Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box.)

If you are accessing the library website from an off-campus computer, please use the Anywhere Access to log in to our library’s resources:

Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly. VSU policy states that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”. Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences. You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty. 10% of our 30 class meetings is 3. On absence number 4, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 6, you will automatically fail the

course. Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on. Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence. Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.

Access Statement: Students with disabilities who are experiencing barriers in this course may contact the Access Office for assistance in determining and implementing reasonable accommodations. The Access Office is located in Farbar Hall. The phone numbers are 229-245-2498 (V), 229-375-5871 (VP) and 229-219-1348 (TTY). For more information, please visit VSU’s Access Office or


Campus Carry: For information regarding HB 280, please see or

Title IX Statement: Valdosta State University (VSU) is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive work and learning environment free from discrimination and harassment. VSU is dedicated to creating an environment where all campus community members feel valued, respected, and included. Valdosta State University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including pregnancy status, sexual harassment and sexual violence), sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national origin, disability, genetic information, or veteran status, in the University's programs and activities as required by applicable laws and regulations such as Title IX. The individual designated with responsibility for coordination of compliance efforts and receipt of inquiries concerning nondiscrimination policies is the University's Title IX Coordinator: Maggie Viverette, Director of the Office of Social Equity,, 1208 N. Patterson St., Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia 31608, 229-333-5463.

Participate! Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.

Pop Reading Quizzes: If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make- up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero. These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.

Online Discussions: During certain weeks of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using Blazeview. Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.

To use Blazeview, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications, like allowing pop-ups and updating Java. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Blazeview, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. Sometimes if you have a lot of work to do, your wireless internet connection can be cut off if your computer or iPad goes into sleep mode – the library computers will have more reliable “wired” connection. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at

To log in to Blazeview and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on My VSU. Your username and password are probably the same as for your e-mail account.

When posting in an online Discussion board, like those in the Discussion area of Blazeview, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.) Normally, in Blazeview, you should respond to my topic first, and then come back and reply to at least two other students. Try not to simply repeat what others have said already, and remember that citing the text is important.

When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the

“Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” people will be seeing what you posted!

Blazeview allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted, like a set of statistics on a scoreboard. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.

Academic Honesty: Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based. In addition, VSU has a new Academic Honesty Policy. Here is a link to the Academic Honesty Policies and Procedures:


VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the Blazeview Mail tool. Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.

Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.


Content Item


Assigned Reading

Work Due

R 8/22

Introductions; First Week Work in Blazeview

Historical Films

The Agony and The Ecstasy; Stealing Heaven

Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, pp 1-12, 52-72


The Transformation of the Pope StealingHeavenReviewNYT ChurchHistoryAbelardandHeloise.pdf

Assignment upload test document, first discussion, first practice quiz due by



8/25 at 11:59pm


R 8/29

Historical Films II: Recent Protestant

The Shack

RCRF Recent Protestant pp 72-88 GodChristTheSpiritinTheShack.pdf

R 9/5

Depictions of and by Practitioners

A Life Apart; A Stranger Among Us

RCRF Judaism 89-108

What’s in a Name? The Dilemma of Title and Geography for Contemporary Hasidism

R 9/12

Cesar Chavez

RCRF Christianity 109-130


R 9/19

Arranged; When the Moors Ruled in Europe; Cities of Light

RCRF Islam 131-140

Architectural Languages

R 9/26

Srinivasa Kalyanam: The Marriage of Srinivasa

RCRF Hinduism 141-161

Indian Religious Concepts on Sexuality and Marriage

Exam 1 Due in Blazeview Quizzes by Sunday 9/29 by midnight 11:59pm

R 10/3

Groundhog Day

RCRF Buddhism 162-177

GroundhogDayBuddhismUChicago.docx GroundhogDayPhilosophy.docx

R 10/10

The Whale Rider

RCRF Postcolonial 178-193

Death and Rebirth: An Analysis of The Whale Rider

Whale Rider: The Re-enactment of Myth and the Empowerment of Women

R 10/17

Academic Approaches


RCRF Feminism 235-254 DrumhellerDogmaJofCommandRel.pdf DogmaInDogma.docx

1st Paper/Draft upload to Blazeview Assignments Thursday 10/17 before 11:59pm

R 10/24


RCRF Psychoanalysis 292-309

CinematicGeneticsGATTACA.pdf GattacaandFreeWillSoftDeterm.docx

R 10/31


In My Country

RCRF Redemption 351-367

InMyCountry.docx InMyCountryRestorativeJustice…

R 11/7


RCRF Apocalyptic 368-383


R 11/14

Frankenstein (Robert DeNiro)/Stigmata

RCRF Horror and the Demonic 403-419 FrankensteinSlate.docx

Exam 2 Due in Blazeview Quizzes by Sunday 11/17 by midnight 11:59pm

R 11/21

Life of Brian/Dead Like Me

RCRF Sacrifice 465-481 LifeofBrianLifeofJesus LifeofBrianTelegraph

To Each Their own Heaven: Dead Like Me

R 11/28

No Class T-Day Break

R 12/5

Thank You For Smoking

RCRF Ethics 482-500


Tuesday 12/10


Final Paper due

Upload to Blazeview Assignment Tool

The last official class meeting day for all Fall Semester classes is Monday, December 9.

FINAL EXAM: Since our class meets Thurdays at 5pm, we will have our final paper due on our assigned final time: Tuesday 12/10 at 5pm.

Fundamentals of Philosophy Short Summary of Graded Items


Grade Item

Percentage of Final Grade

In Class or Online

If Online, Location in Blazeview

By Sunday 8/25 at 11:59pm

First Introduction Discussion, Dropbox and Practice Quiz in Blazeview



Discussions Dropbox



Participation in Class Each Week, in online discussion as needed




By Sunday 9/29

First Exam on opening readings (Remember that Blazeview will go down for maintenance on Friday nights)




By Thursday at 10/17 at 11:59pm

First Paper

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


By Sunday 11/17 at


Second Exam

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


By Tuesday 12/10 at 5pm

Final Paper




Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott:

  1. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.

  2. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.

  3. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.

  4. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.

  5. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by- section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?

  6. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!

  7. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.

  8. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.

  9. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.

  10. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.

  11. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.

  12. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.

  13. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!

  14. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.

Tips about writing in Philosophy and Religious Studies courses:

  1. A really great website for students about how to write academic papers is maintained by the Dartmouth Writing Program:

    In addition to lots of helpful general information, it has special pages on "Writing the Religion Paper" and "Writing the Philosophy Paper."

  2. A great website that explains the importance of critically evaluating web resources -- always a problem area for students – is maintained by Robert Harris:

  3. I strongly encourage everyone in our class buy a copy of the St. Martin's Handbook, VSU Edition. This is the writing manual used in ENGL 1101 and 1102, which all VSU students are required to take. In other words, you should all already own a copy. It explains all the basics -- e.g., how to cite sources, etc. By recommending students own a copy, I'm hoping to emphasize the continuity between your writing courses and the rest of your education, in the hope that you don't just sell the book back and forget the basics.