Faith, Film and Philosophy
October 8th & October 9th, 2010 at Gonzaga and Whitworth Universities
“Surrogates, Avatars, and Zombies:
Film, Faith, & The Human Prospect”
Gonzaga University’s Faith and Reason Institute and Whitworth
University’s Weyerhaeuser Center for Faith and Learning are pleased to
announce their Fourth Annual Seminar on Faith, Film and Philosophy,
entitled “Surrogates, Avatars, and Zombies: Film, Faith, & The Human
Prospect.” This year’s seminar theme takes its inspiration from the
spate of recent films that offer visions of the human future. A list
of these films from just the year 2009 would include such obvious
choices as Surrogates, Avatar, Zombieland, Gamer, Star Trek, Knowing,
Terminator Salvation, 9, Moon, 2012, District 9 and even Ponyo.
But films that address the human prospect are not limited to those
dealing with future apocalypses, utopias or dystopias. There are films
that explore the permanent possibilities of human nature and thereby
explore the strengths and weaknesses that we bring to the future. In
this sense, films such as Up, The Wrestler, The Hurt Locker, Up In the
Air, and The Hangover have just as much to tell us about the human
prospect as does any film that openly attempts to address the human
future as such.
Thus, any film, insofar as it gives us a way of thinking about our
future as individuals, as members of a particular society, or as a
species, addresses itself to the human prospect.
We do ask that writers plan to deal with popular films from the last
20 years, although the committee will consider exceptions to this 20-
Seminar sessions will take place on Friday (October 8th) and Saturday
(October 9th). Public lectures associated with the seminar will be
given on the evenings of 6-8 October 2010.
Possible topics for seminar papers include the following, though
proposals on other topics or questions concerning human transformation
are certainly welcome and encouraged.
• What does film tell us about the significance of our urge (fantasy?)
to become something other than human?
• What is the significance of our anxieties about the future?
• What are the prospects for successful transformation of human
prospects through political action.
• How technologically driven life-styles alter or foreclose or
encourage human development.
• How does knowledge of our real pasts impinge on our prospects for
• Can we know the necessary and/or sufficient conditions for
successful human prospects?
• What are those conditions? (The Book of Eli, e.g.)
• Almost all of the above in the light of faith.
• Are “surrogates” persons? Why or why not?
• Many apocalyptic films end positively. What does this tell us? Is
this plausible? Why or why not?
• Compare current popular apocalyptic films with ancient apocalyptic
• Role of the apocalyptic prophet in current films (Eli, once again,
e.g., as also Knowing).
• Limits of science and/or technology for enhancing the human
• Power of science and/or technology for enhancing the human prospect.
• Is religion, considered very broadly, generally likely to enhance or
degrade the human prospect?
• Aliens, angels, God, providence, etc., in future-oriented utopias
• The human capacity for violence and our love of it (Hurt Locker,
• The human capacity for cooperation and its role in enhancing the
Proposals not longer than one page (double-spaced), and in Word
format, should be submitted electronically to the attention of
Margaret Rankin at email@example.com no later than 16 July
2010 [extended], and should include title, author(s), institutional association
(if any), mailing address, email address, and the text of proposal.
The seminar organizers will send acceptances by 15 July 2010.
The seminar and its associated public lectures are part of a series of
jointly-sponsored programs focused on “Faith, Reason and Popular
Culture.” The conviction behind these programs is that if Christian
institutions of higher learning are to respond properly to their
charge to be places where faith seeks understanding, then they must
engage contemporary popular culture. Film is among the most powerful
and important forms of popular culture. Thus, the seminar organizers
seek scholars who will engage in two days of discussion investigating
issues of faith and philosophical import raised by contemporary
popular film. Presenters need not have any formal academic
For further information: Margaret Rankin, Program Coordinator, Gonzaga
University Faith and Reason Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Dr. Brian Clayton, Director, Gonzaga University Faith and Reason
Institute at email@example.com.
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