Literature and film provide valuable sources for studying American culture.  The ways authors and directors portray religious life or deal with themes and issues in religious history are important for studying popular culture. 


NOVELS: Fiction can be a rich source for understanding religious themes in American culture. Learn enough about the life and views of the author to comment on his/her place in American life. to place the novel into context, comment on the significance of  its publication date.

Willia Cather, Death Comes to the Archbishop
Harold Frederick, The Damnation of Theron Ware
Norman Fruchter, Coat Upon a Stick
Gene Horowitz, Home is Where You Start From
Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry
Romulus Linney, Heathen Valley
Edwin O'Connor, Edge of Sadness
Walker Percy, Love Among the Ruins
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
J.F. Powers, Morte D'Urban
Reynolds Price, A Long and Happy Life
Conrad Richter, A Simple and Memorable Man
Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger


FILMS: Not all these films are about religious themes, but those that are not (like the mysteries) have religious backdrops. It is interesting to see how the religious figures and communities are portrayed. Here, too, try to learn something about the director or writers and pay attention to when the film was made.

"Elmer Gantry" -- on revivalism [This is based on the novel by Sincalir Lewis.]

"Contact" -- on faith vs. science

"Witness" -- on community and cult (in a self-contained Amish community)

"A Stranger Among Us" -- on community, cult and creed (in a self-contained Hasidic community)

"Footloose" -- on religious principles taken to right-wing extremes in legislative arenas

"Agnes of God" -- jurisdictional disputes between faith and law

"The Jazz Singer" -- on clashes between religious duty and secular desires

"Mass Appeal" -- on the nature and practice of priesthood