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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the development of religion and film studies, tracking its growth from early biblically-themed shorts prior to World War I to today’s expansive theological/religious conversation with world cinema and Hollywood blockbusters. Historically, such studies centered in Christianity. Theological strategies through the decades have included “avoidance,” “caution,” “dialogue,” “appropriation,” and “divine encounter,” significant scholarship from each being noted. Today, religion and film studies are burgeoning in popularity for several reasons: (1) movies provide people their common myths and stories in our image-based culture; (2) viewer-oriented criticism has uncovered profound experiences of transcendence at the deepest recesses of the human spirit; while (3) theology and film criticism has provided focus on the work of the Holy Spirit outside the believing community and its Scripture. New developments in the field include the discussion of world cinema and other religious traditions, and a stronger focus upon music and image, not just word.

Keywords: film studies and religion, theology and film criticism, world cinema, transcendence, image-based culture, viewer-oriented criticism, Holy Spirit, film music, film images

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