As popular myth would have it, professional scholars are people who necessarily live in isolation, self-condemned to the exclusive company of books and scholarly journals, lurking the dark and dusty corridors of library stacks, the terror of all in the reading room who might even whisper to one another and proudly boasting of their latest electronic weapons on the battlefield of data-basing and word-processing. Clearly they are poor souls and to be pitied.
My experience of professional scholarship -- I admit to be a relatively recent arrival in that camp and it is up to the reader to determine my standing therein -- obliges me at this point to do a bit of demythologizing. To begin with the last point, my grasp of the esoteric intricacies of Word Perfect 6.1 and Windows 3.1 (I have not yet been initiated into the sanctum sanctorum of Windows 95.) is limited to the most basic of rituals and at least once a day I have to rush to our computer center for a session of crisis management. Though I admit to being somewhat sensitive to whispers in the reading room and to the car alarms in the street outside, I am allergic to dust and so do little lurking in the stacks. I live (and I daresay "thrive") in an international and intercultural community of one hundred and twenty Jesuits, in which the daily contacts and conversations are a rich humanizing experience. I am fortunate that, since my field of work -- both writing and teaching -- is film studies and theology, I am able to justify spending at least some of my research time (and funds) for evenings at the cinema. And finally, I have been abundantly blessed with many good colleagues and friends in whose company the liberating work of the Spirit goes on in me. It is this humanizing-divinizing community of colleagues, confreres and friends that I would like now to acknowledge with gratitude.
This book finds its most immediate origins in a theology course I teach at the Pontifical Gregorian University: "Images of Jesus in Film." And so, a first expression of gratitude goes to Giuseppe Pittau, Rector of the University, to Robert White, my Department Chair and to Jared Wicks, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, for their support of this interdisciplinary course, for their ongoing advice and encouragement, and more immediately, for having allowed me a lighter teaching load this past year, thus affording me the time and energy to complete this book.
An expression of profound gratitude goes also to the students who have participated in this course, and in other parallel courses and seminars of mine,