Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Star Trek and Religion

Thursday the 2nd:

Tomorrow is our final Film Response day, on two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager:

"Emanations," Season 1, Episode 8 (Netflix)
"Blink of An Eye," Season 6, Episode 12 (Netflix)

As Pearson described in our first ST reading, Voyager comes later in the Star Trek cannon, after Rodenberry's death.  As you watch, think about the show's attitude towards religion and how it has changed since the Original Series.

As always, come tomorrow with your Film Response paper (700 words) and notes from the episode.  No blog comments are required.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Wednesday the 1st:

Tomorrow is our third film response day, on the documentary Trekkies.  Take notes as you watch, and try to view the film with a religious studies scholar's eyes.  Look for the strange familiar, and don't be afraid to laugh. 

Bring your 700 + word paper to class tomorrow. For previous film responses I have encouraged free reign over any theme, scene, or character, but for Trekkies I'd like for you to focus specifically on the religiosity of this group.  Here are some optional questions, to get you thinking: Do any persons or practices strike you as particularly religious?  Are conventions pilgrimage sites?  What kind of worldview does Star Trek offer, and why does it appeal to these Trekkies?

No blog comments required.  I'm looking forward to hearing your responses!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Religious Fandom

Tuesday the 31st

For Tuesday we'll read about religious fandom, with two articles that will set us up for Trekkies.  They are:

Jindra, "Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon" and

Porter, "To Boldly Go: Star Trek Convention Attendance as Pilgrimage"

The Jindra article may seem a bit dated since he's writing about the internet as a new phenomenon, but stick with it.  He has a lot of great data and some wonderful examples of the sheer scale of Star Trek Fandom. 

Have fun with the Porter and pay attention to how she applies Victor Turner's model of pilgrimage onto ST conventions.  If you are running out of time, skip Porter's last section, "Negotiating the Sacred" (260-267) but do read the conclusion afterwards.

Looking forward to your comments!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Star Trek and Post-Nationalism

Monday the 30th:

Lozanda, "Star Trekking in China," in Religion and Science Fiction
   In what might be the strongest essay in our textbook, Eriberto Lozanda compares science fiction in America and China.  His look at Chinese culture and sci-fi puts our own values into some relief, especially our assumptions about the future of the nation state.  Read this essay slowly- it will be worth your careful attention. 

"The Chase," TNG: Season 6, Episode 20 (Netflix)
   "The Chase" is Star Trek's origin story, explaining how it is that aliens across the universe all have human-like forms.  It plays into the ancient aliens hypothesis a bit, but also tells a morality tale about why human(oids) shouldn't let petty differences get between them.

RP4b Due
   If you didn't write a paper for Friday, this will be your very last response paper!  Here's the prompt:

What are "scientism" and "nationalism," and how do these themes tie into Chinese history, culture, and science fiction?  How does this compare to the American sci-fi we have explored so far?

Looking forward to your comments!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Star Trek and Secular Humanism

Friday the 27th:

Tomorrow begins our Star Trek unit, and we'll start with an overview of ST's depiction of religion.

Pearson, "From Thwarted Gods to Reclaimed Mystery?" in Star Trek and Sacred Ground
    Pearson offers a nice overview of religious themes in Star Trek, from the Original Series through Voyager.  Pay close attention to the views of Gene Roddenberry, but also take note of how religion changes from series to series.

Two Episodes
    We'll also discuss two episodes that offer similar critiques of religion, and illustrate the secular humanist values of Star Trek.  They are:

"The Apple," TOS: Season 2, Episode 5 (Netflix)

"Who Watches the Watchers," TNG: Season 3, Episode 4 (Netflix)*

RP4a Due
   You have the option to turn in a response paper tomorrow or on Monday.  Option A is on the following prompt:

What were Gene Roddenberry's views on religion and humanity when he started Star Trek, and how did ST's treatment of religion change over time?  Describe and compare the place of religion in two ST series, and tell me which of those two you find more interesting and why.

*Note: This week I'll refer to Star Trek series according to these canonical abbreviations:
TOS = The Original Series
TNG = The Next Generation
DS9 = Deep Space Nine
VOY = Voyager

Looking forward to your comments!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ancient Aliens

Thursday the 26th

Tomorrow is our second film response day!  Bring your 700 word responses on "The Evidence," Episode One of the first season of Ancient Aliens.  As before, take notes throughout the episode and mark down timestamps.  Treat the Ancient Alien hypothesis as we did Apocalypic AI- where do these ideas come from, and what assumptions do they make about religion and human identity? Here's a Netflix link to the episode.

Also, tomorrow Daniel will open with a summary of a recent New Yorker article about aliens in science fiction.  Here's a link if you're interested.

No comments required for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Wednesday the 25th:

Robertson, “Sorcerers and Supermen,” in Religion and Science Fiction
   Read this essay first, and pay close attention to Robertson's claims.  Do you think it is useful to think about superheroes as modern equivalents of mythological gods?  What about robots and aliens?

Thor (2011)
   Of all the recent superhero movies, Thor best illustrates Robertson's thesis, since it is literally about gods who descend to earth in the midst of an epic battle.  As you watch, take notes on key moments and important dialogue.  Pay attention to the way that "science" and "magic" are discussed throughout the film.  Be sure to bring your notes to class.  Thor is available on Netflix- here's the link.

*Note: if you are low on time, fast forward through the gratuitous and formulaic fight scenes.  They are awful.

Looking forward to your comments below!