Assignments and movie prompts

Analytical Papers

Final exam — Available only in Blackboard

Movie prompts

  • A Serious Man — I have attached a  to a film review of A Serious Man, by A. O. Scott in the New York Times.  Scott interprets Larry as asking who God is, and what He wants.  Scott also asks whether the Coen brothers  “make the case for atheism or look at the world from a divine point of view. Are the Coens mocking God, playing God or taking his side in a rigged cosmic game?”Is the God that Scott, the Coens, and Larry are thinking about the God of theism?  Why or why not?Are the Coens making the case for atheism?  Why or why not?  Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due January 23.
  • Melancholia — I thought you might enjoy one more review from A. O. Scott (2) in the New York Times.He says the following: “There is a grim vindication — and also an obvious, effective existential joke — in Justine’s discovery that her hyperbolic despair may turn out to be rooted in an accurate and objective assessment of the state of the universe.” Is this a secular naturalist interpretation of the movie?  Does it get at the heart of the movie?  What do you think is going on in Melancholia. Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due January 30.
  • Little Buddha — Please write three one paragraph “reviews” of Little Buddha, one from the perspective of a religious exclusivist, one from the perspective of a secular naturalist, and one from the perspective of a religious pluralist.  Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due February 6.
  • The Invention of Lying — The Invention of Lying is obviously a satire.  Relationships, advertising, and lots of other aspects of modern society are poked fun at.  Religion, however, is the prime target of the movie maker’s attention.
    Do you think that the movie is a flat out attack on religion, or simply one more aspect of society that is fair game for satire? Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due February 13.
  • A Brief History of Time — I wanted the class to see and think about this movie in terms of “the big bang” and different accounts of this in terms of the three world views.For this week’s paper, however, I’d like you to reflect on Stephen Hawking.  Do you think he was able to accomplish such great things in theoretical physics in spite of his disabling illness, or because of it?  Please justify your answer. Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due February 13 (we are now to one week after the time in the calendar when the movie was shown).
  • Chocolat — What do you think about the depiction of religion in Chocolat? Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due February 20.
  • The Third Miracle — Hume famously argued that our evidence for a miracle would always come from a source who claimed to have witnessed it.  He concluded that since a miracle was, by definition, something that violated the laws of nature, the odds that the source was lying or simply mistaken would always be higher than the odds of the genuine miracle. Could we ever have good evidence that a genuine miracle has occurred? Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due February 27.
  • Whale Rider — The Maori culture is obviously very different from ours.  And their religious beliefs, to the degree we saw them in Whale Rider are very different as well.  That being said, their culture and religion seemed very sexist.  What do you think about our culture, and particularly Western religions?  Is there a gender bias in religion as an institution?  Why, or why not? Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due March 6.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind — Several years ago when I decided to incorporate film in my Philosophy of Religion course I did a quick Google search to find out what other colleagues were using in their courses.  I discovered that many were using Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Why do you think that was?  Is there religious significance in the movie? Given my analysis of “religion,” does the movie count as religious?  Why or why not? Your paper should be 400 to 800 words and is due March 13.