Right, this is the outline of my dissertation as it stands at the moment (just about ten weeks left until submission date) ...
Introduction 800 words
Outline of dissertation and of methodology used
i.e. how do you study popular culture theologically?
Chapter 1 2000 words
Description of the show
i.e. the characters & the ship, key storylines, the fans and Joss Whedon
Chapters 2 & 3 3700 words
Exploration of some of the spiritual themes that can be identified in the show
i.e. is the fact that there are no aliens (i.e. nothing supernatural) in Firefly, symbolic of a world in which there is no God? The nature of faith/belief and doubt as illustrated in the show. Darkness and silence in the 'verse. Brokenness and ways of trying to fix it.
Chapter 4 1700 words
The writing of a fanfic
Chapter 5 1700 words
How does this exercise challenge the Church in 2009?
I will explore this through the question: is Shepherd Book a missional character? From an emerging church/missional point of view how does he inspire/challenge/disappoint?
Chapter 6 1600 words
Reflection upon the usefulness of the above exercise
Conclusion 500 words
I've got about 20,000 words of notes and quotes. I'm still doing a lot of reading - alternating books about Firefly with theological/emerging church/spirituality texts which is proving very inspiring.
For instance I find myself reading about the 'dark dwelling place of God' in Rollins, P, How (Not) to Speak of God, (London: SPCK, 2006) p.82 and then coming across this statement about the episode 'Bushwacked' - 'What River sees when she gazes into the blackness of space is not the harsh emptiness of Mal, the psychotic insanity of the Reavers, or the absent God the (the) Book, but instead the divine Nothing of the mystics, a recognition of a void, an emptiness that is not good or bad, right or wrong, sacred or profane, upside down or right side up, but a possibility for creation, a tentative wandering path for the future.’ Erickson, G, ‘Humanity in a “Place of Nothin’” in Firefly’ in Wilcox, RV & Cochran, TR (editors), Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2008) p.179