Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Torn Between Boundaries: Bodies-in-Pain, Christianity and Feature Film

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posted on 2021-11-09, 20:13 authored by Hill, Shona F

The central argument of this dissertation, contrary to the secularisation thesis which predicts the decline of Christianity, is that Christian-inspired values tacitly influence embodied experience. Crossing disciplinary boundaries, various theoretical perspectives and empirical studies, the case of bodies-in-pain is used as the focus for empirical analysis. This study draws heavily on Mellor and Shilling's (1997) ideal-type analysis of Medieval Catholic and early Modern Protestant forms of embodied sociality and knowledge to produce an original model of bodies-in-pain. This model is then used as a comparative heuristic tool to assess to what extent bodies-in-pain can be identified as communicating meaning in the 'reel world' of fiction films. Three films that on the surface do not appear to have explicit Christian motivation are chosen for detailed examination. These are: Se7en (1995), Minority Report (2002) and Cape Fear (1991). The final chapter relates the bodies-in-pain models to a pre-existing audience response study focused on Cronenberg's film Crash (1996) to indicate what it is about the body that allows it to be depicted and constructed in certain ways. Overall this dissertation departs from the idea that Christianity must be at odds with secular society, instead, secularisation is reframed as a catalyst for social change that does not mean the end of Christian influence in society. In light of this, I claim Christianity remains socially and institutionally significant for contemporary Western people and the way in which they make sense of the body.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Lloyd, Mike; Bulbulia, Joseph