Writing our Biology Assignment #1: Where Have All the Muscular Christians Gone?

Since our class discussions have made you an authority on the philosophy of muscular Christianity and how it influenced popular fiction of the 19th century, The Guardian’s Sport editors have asked you to write an article exploring how traces of the ideas of muscular Christianity still show up in our culture today.  Use Chariots of Fire to argue how (not simply whether) the philosophy of muscular Christianity does or does not remain an influence on depictions of health in contemporary sports narratives.

Audience:  The readers of The Guardian.  In keeping with their style, your essay should be thoughtful as well as engaging.

Format: 4-5 pages, MLA style

Advice: Remember this isn’t a film review.  You will need to give some information on the movie to illustrate your points, but the body of your paper should focus on making your argument.  The best essays will not just demonstrate that one of the characters is or is not a Christian with or without muscles, but will thoughtfully consider how the film depicts his religion in relation to his athleticism.  They will also draw on our class readings and discussions about muscular Christianity in the 19th century.


Type: Analyze a single primary source to support an arguable thesis.

Rationale: This assignment asks students to develop an argument about historical change, analyzing contemporary texts in light of an historical concept.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Review Putney’s excerpt together with Mark Gaipa’s “8 Strategies for Critically Engaging Secondary Sources” and identify how Putney uses sources in his writing.
  2. Review Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay” and together with class select several elements to analyze in peer review of drafts of Assignment 1.
  3. Have students select a sports movie set in recent times and, during an in-class writing assignment, consider traces of muscular Christianity in this movie.  Then have students share their movie choices and rationale with the class.
  4. After viewing Chariots of Fire in class, post 300 words that evening on Blackboard recording your impressions of the film.
  5. Understanding Characterization (based on pre-draft assignment sheet to be handed out in class).
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