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HSY3045 - Decoding 'The Da Vinci Code': histories behind the story

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr Peter Howard


Clayton First semester 2007 (Day)


As for HSY2045


Students successfully completing this unit will have:

  1. developed a critical understanding of the historical construction of religious cultures;
  2. acquired an understanding of the historical roots of Christianity in the context of gnosticism and other Ancient Near Eastern religions;
  3. acquired an understanding of the historical matrix of texts (including the Hag Hammadi collection) out of which emerged the codification of the Christian bible;
  4. explored the complex history of the traditions surrounding Mary Magdalene and the function of these traditions in different historical contexts;
  5. reflected on the role of "the quest", especially the quest for the Holy Grail, in Christianity;
  6. explored the role of secret societies, for example the Knights Templar and Opus Dei, in Catholic Christianity;
  7. examined the impact of apocalyptic, hermetic and neo-platonic texts in the circle of Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli in Renaissance Florence, and later in the life of Isaac Newton, will be explored in relation to the textual, architectural and artistic representations, including Da Vinci's famous "Last Supper".
  8. examined the role of women, and theologies of womanhood, in Catholicism;
  9. developed an understanding of the role of myth and symbol in religion, and of the romantic resurgence of myth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries;
  10. reflected on reasons underpinning the success of The Da Vinci Code in the context of contemporary culture;
  11. acquired the capacity to critique contemporary representations of historical material, particularly the Da Vinci Code but also other examples like Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ;
  12. had opportunities to work effectively with others and to express ideas verbally in group situations;
  13. developed skills in bibliographic research, analysis, and written expression.
  14. be capable of independently devising and executing an advanced research project in the above areas of study, based predominantly on primary sources.


Preliminary research task for weeks 1-2 (400 words) 5%;
Monograph review (600 words) 15%; Research presentation and essay (2000 words) 40%; Two in-class tests (total 1.5 hrs) (1500 words) 40%

Contact hours

One 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week.