Monday, September 17, 2012

Modern Gospels

As I envision it, my spring course on Jesus and the Gospels will have two (rather traditional) components and a third contemporary component.  The first part will be on methods, using the historical Jesus as sort of a coda.  (I've noticed the suggested readings for my previous post tend to be more on issues surrounding the historical Jesus.  These are important, but I would like to hear other types of gospel approaches that people have found successful in a classroom setting).  Then I want to go through different gospels, whether canonical or extra-canonical, to discuss differing portrayals of Jesus (varying Christologies) as a means to discuss the diversity of emergent Christianity.  Finally, I wanted to apply this idea (basically, Jesus as the ultimate Rorschach test) and apply it to modern portrayals of Jesus:  that is, the rewriting of the Gospels or the portrayal of Jesus in modern culture.  This could be in any medium, really:  literature, film, material culture, etc.

Some ideas I have had have been the following:

Jesus and the Modern Novel:
José Saramago's The Gospel according to Jesus Christ, though that might be a little over the top.
Kazantzakis's Last Temptation of Christ, though I personally find the novel to be a bit tedious.
Norman Mailer's The Gospel according to the Son, which I have not read but has the benefit of being short.
Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which is one of my favorite novels of all time (if not my absolute favorite).  There the Christology is a bit more subtle, but the novel alternates between the devil making havoc in 20th century Moscow and Jesus before Pilate in 1st century Judea.

Jesus in Film:
Here there are so many possibilities and so many films: King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Gospel of Matthew (Italian), Last Temptation of Christ, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Life of Brian, etc.

Jesus in Pop Culture:
I was thinking of Stephen Prothero's book, American Jesus.

For more general discussions, there is also the collection of essays in Burns, Jesus in Twentieth Century Literature, Art, and Movies.

Of course, I will only have time to touch on one or two of these things, but for my own background reading it is only a start.

In what ways do you see Jesus portrayed in the modern period--in what genres, media, etc., and specific titles or sources in those respective media?  What Christologies do we see coming out of these portrayals?  How have these portrayals reflected the interests of those doing the portraying? 

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