Lecture analyzes spirituality quests in Shyamalan films

If you’ve got a sixth sense for movies and an unbreakable interest in spirituality, then signs say this lecture is for you.

“Wide Awake: Spiritual Quests in the Films of M. Night Shyamalan” by Dr. Thomas S. Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and distinguished professor of ethics and culture, will start at 7 p.m. today in the Alexander Reading Room in Alexander Residence Hall.

[[If anyone that reads this went and recorded it can send us an MP3, please do!]]

The first lecture of the 2006-2007 Honors College Living-Learning Center series mixes pop culture with the quest for spirituality.

“Out of all the mainstream directors, Shyamalan is the only one to focus on spiritual or religious quests, and he does it in such a way as to reach a very popular, contemporary audience,” Hibbs said.

Shyamalan is the director of popular movies such as Signs, Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, The Village, and his latest movie, Lady in the Water.

Hibbs plans to focus on the plots and characters of the movies, as well as how Shyamalan creatively reinvents subgenres in films.

“In Signs, for example, he borders on the subgenre of the alien film, but the aliens only make a very limited, explicit appearance in the film,” Hibbs said.

Greer, S.C., graduate student Kyle Babb said he enjoys the spiritual elements included in Shyamalan’s movies, especially in Signs.

Shyamalan also builds off the comic book superhero in Unbreakable, but in a very different way than Superman, Spiderman or X-Men, Hibbs said.

Hibbs said his goal is to “explore why Shyamalan is so successful at working these genres and how he manages to introduce this theme of spiritual quest into these other genres.”

Hibbs said he believes students will be interested in his lecture because most are familiar with Shyamalan’s movies and have been moved by them.

“I enjoy the fact that Shyamalan uses unrealistic elements in a realistic way,” Babb said.

Hibbs said he hopes that after hearing his lecture, students will be “more thoughtful about their own movie watching and learn to appreciate film-making as an artistic medium.”

The lecture also is included as a chapter in Hibbs’ upcoming book, Arts of Darkness: American Noir and the Lost Code of Redemption. He has written movie reviews for The Dallas Morning News and has had articles published in several national magazines, including Books and Culture.

This is the third year for the Honors College and Campus Living and Learning to join together for the lecture series.

Their goal is to provide space and opportunity for students to intersect their academic and personal lives, said Dustin Stewart, program director of the lectures.

The lecture series this year is going to cover topics outside the classroom but show students how they can relate them back to their studies, Stewart said.

“We’re hoping to take the stuffy academic thing and make it more enjoyable by moving it to the evening,” he said.

Even though students in the Honors College are encouraged to attend, Stewart said everyone is invited.

Light refreshments will be provided after the lecture.


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