This dissertation examines the significance of hope in American prison films and the use of cinematic literacy in education. Hope has not been given the consideration that the other two theological virtues have received; thus it is often underestimated or confused. Nonetheless since we are created in hope, it is our task to learn how to hope.
A multifaceted perspective on hope is found through an interdisciplinary approach including Education, Philosophy, Theology, English, Communication, and Fine Arts. The definition that prompted this study is Kierkegaard's formulation of hope as "passion for the possible." Christian hope is always related to the possibilities of faith and love, mutually empowering and embodying our relation to God. The virtue of hope is a habit "infused" by God as an invitation to the relational life of the Trinity and the unfolding realization of eternal love.
Viktor Frankl provides a triadic framework for learning how to hope: creativity, personal encounter, and perseverance in suffering. These three schools of hope lead to an emergent definition of and pedagogy for the virtue of hope: Creative relatedness in adversity. Whether examining the "themes," "schools," or "perspectives" concerning hope, in matters of "passion for the possible," the creative relatedness in adversity constitutes hope itself.
Frankl's triad provides a method to examine cinematic representations of hope within the prison genre (1994-1999), a setting affirming the intrinsic need for hope. The research design of this critical analysis of four films uncovers the transformative power of hope in the lives of prisoners caught in the seeming dead-end of incarceration.
The Shawshank Redemption and The Hurricane exemplify hope's creative relatedness in adversity as the gateway to liberation for new life. Dead Man Walking and American History X, on the other hand, portray a hope that transcends death itself.
Integrating "Media, Value, and Culture" to analyze recent cinematic treatments of the human quest for meaning and possibility is a key to understanding our culture. It is a strategic tool in educating contemporary youth. Film can serve as an educational ally in challenging cultural preoccupations with despairing and nihilistic themes and in discovering new hope through the imagery of and experience of solidarity, creativity, and healing.