MA Theology, Imagination & Culture Modules

Both the core modules in the MA in Theology, Imagination and Culture run every year with optional modules running every other year in rotation.

Forthcoming modules in the MA in Theology, Imagination and Culture

Please note: Course dates are being updated in the calendar during March 2021. 

Core Modules

Theology and Human Culture

This module will introduce students to the relationship between theology and culture, as we consider how culture impacts theology, and how theological ideas and themes can be found in culture (for instance in works of visual art). Students will become familiar with the different ways in which this relationship between theology and culture is studied; we will investigate sociological, philosophical, and theological approaches to this relationship. Students will learn about influential theologians and questions that have sparked debate within this area, and will also have the opportunity to explore how theological themes have been explored in the creative arts.

Text, Interpretation and Imagination

In this module, students have the opportunity to examine the role that stories and images from the Bible play in our Western cultural imagination. We consider how our own, and other people’s, cultural presuppositions play into how we read biblical texts, as well as thinking about how the texts themselves challenge these presuppositions. Students will compare biblical texts with other types of text to ask questions like ‘what makes a text sacred?’, as well as being encouraged to creatively and critically interpret the biblical texts themselves.

Optional Modules

Theology, Imagination and the Arts

In this module, students will explore the relationships between theology, arts, and imagination. We will consider questions like ‘How might we think differently about God after having seen this film, or this play?’ and ‘How do concepts of beauty influence how we imagine God?’ Students will have the opportunity to learn about historical and cultural developments in the field of theological aesthetics, and how Christian doctrine has been shaped by art throughout history. We will reflect theologically together on works of art (including visual art, performance art, music, and son on), and will also consider theological accounts of the imagination. Some of the guest lecturers will be practitioners of or experts in the creative arts.

Theology & Film

In this module students will explore how theology engages with film and television. This is a rapidly growing field of research in academic theology. We will look at the history of cinema and television, and the language that has evolved alongisde these art forms, and will investigate how new ways of creating and communicating meaning have emerged through film and television. We will explore how theological themes have been addressed in films, and how Christians and Christian organisations have responded to these portrayals. Students will have the opportunity to learn about key ideas and methods in film criticism and interpretation, and will consider the claim that films and television are now taking the place of religion in many people’s lives in our cultural context.

The Bible: Cultural Critique and Transformation

In this modules students get the chance to explore the relationship between reality as depicted in biblical texts and reality as we experience it in our current cultural context. Instead of focusing on questions of historical veracity and credibility of the biblical texts, students will consider how the Bible critiques certain cultural norms, and how these critiques might be voiced today. We focus on questions of public theology and the role theology and biblical hermeneutics can play in the public square. This module focuses on ways of reading the Bible that challenge prevailing cultural norms today.

Theology, Church and Society

In this module students will consider the life and work of the church in today’s culture. We will explore the idea that the church is a diverse expression of human culture, and will consider how doctrines are shaped by different cultural contexts. This module allows students to think about how ministry, worship and mission might best respond to the cultural landscape we see in 21st Century Britain, as well as considering other cultural contexts, both historical and geographical.

Texts and the Christian Tradition

This module will focus on a deep exploration of a particular text as it relates to the Christian Tradition. The text will be either a particular biblical text(s) (e.g. The Gospel of Mark, The Sermon on the Mount, or the Genesis matriarchal narratives) and/or a classic text from the Christian spiritual tradition (e.g. The Rule of St Benedict, The Interior Castle, The Cloud of Unknowing), with a different text chosen for each iteration of the module. The module will allow students to critically engage with the text using particular lenses with enable deeper consideration of its meaning, significance, impact and longevity for the Christian spiritual tradition, its adherents, and/or the wider cultural context.

Relocating Religion: Cultural and Spiritual Re-Alignments

This module is primarily concerned with equivocations and uncertainties that surround the concepts and practices of religion in the modern period, including contemporary and popularly expressed preferences for ‘spirituality’. As regards ‘religion’, this module will draw upon previous historiographical and philosophical discussions but will focus mainly on how religion can be conceived and understood within the fields of theological and cultural anthropology. As regards the ‘relocations’ of religion drawn attention to in the title, the module will examine the different modalities in which religious practices have migrated or relocated – wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly – in contemporary western society

Mass Culture: Theological Engagement and Spiritual Practice

The module considers the phenomena of mass consumer technological culture and new media as the backdrop to contemporary reflections on and engagements with spirituality and theology. Students will explore and analyse current habits of work, leisure, and communication, and lifestyle in distinction to traditional conceptions and explore the scale of the impact of current technologies and emerging norms on religious belief and practice. The module will examine the potential for leisure and lifestyle activities to mimic and replace religious modes of knowledge and identity production, examining the writings of sociologists, social anthropologists, social critics and theologians that address and/or interpret this phenomenon. The module will trace the emergence of the phenomena of popular culture, mass communication, and digital media—exploring how they have been conceptualised and critiqued—and students will be encouraged to develop critical responses to these technologies from the perspectives of theology and Christian spirituality.

The Eucharist: Theological Perspectives, Spiritual Practices and Artistic Representations.

This module offers opportunity for students to examine the development of the Eucharist with reference to theological discourse, Eucharistic practice, and artistic engagement with the Eucharist. Students will critically analyse the central place of the Eucharist in the Christian spiritual tradition. The module gives scope to critically engage with a wide range of artistic engagements with the Eucharist including visual art, poetry, prose, and film. The module will examine the contemporary context of Eucharist including current debates surrounding the Eucharist and its relationship to issues of justice, peace, and ethics.

Inspiration and Imaginations: Creative Expressions of the Spiritual Life

This module will enable students to understand the relationship between Christian Theology & Spirituality and art. This relationship will be placed in historical, cultural, and theological perspective, and the students will be encouraged to develop their own aesthetic and spiritual awareness alongside the possibilities for developing their own creative practice. This module will also enable students to critically engage with the place of art in Christian worship and the life of the Church.