Ethics through Fiction & Film: The Chosen

Past event
Oxford, UK

Trinity Term: Chaim Potok’s The Chosen (1967) and 1981 film adaptation


Ethics through Fiction and Film is returning in Trinity term to discuss Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen (1967) and its 1981 film adaptation. This is the story of a friendship between two teenagers from different Jewish communities in 1950s New York, as they try to live up to their fathers’ examples and expectations, and navigate family, faith, and calling. Postgraduates and researchers are invited to join us (online or in person) to discuss this powerful and vividly observed novel and its prize-winning adaptation, as part of a groundbreaking research project into the effect of moral exemplars on character formation.

As usual, participants will read the novel in their own time with film-viewing and discussions taking place midway through Trinity term. Exact times, dates and locations will be confirmed with input from participants and this will be a hybrid (online & in-person) seminar.

Ethics through Fiction and Film (EFF) is a discussion group that asks you to read a book, watch the film adaptation, and talk about it with others. The Oxford Character Project has been offering EFF seminars for the past six years. This year, we’re partnering with researchers at the University of Northampton to look at how characters in fiction shape our moral thinking, our imagination, and even our actions.

EFF seminar participants meet to discuss books and films that prompt moral reflection and raise complex ethical questions. We ask questions like: ‘What can great books and films teach us about moral complexity and the human experience?’ ‘How do creative genres engage, provoke, or challenge our values or vision in ways that abstract philosophical analysis cannot?’ ‘What can we learn from each other by reading books and watching films together?’

If you’re a postgraduate in Oxford, we’d love for you to get involved. Please email to receive further details and/or express interest in participating. And please feel free to forward this message to other Oxford postgraduate students who you think might be interested.

Note: Our partners at the University of Northampton are part of a network grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation. This project, ‘The role of exemplar narratives in cultivating character’, examines exemplar narratives (stories focusing on the admirable qualities of moral exemplars) and their role in character development. Our focus group discussions of novels and films will be recorded and transcribed and the resulting data will be analysed to identify elements of exemplar narratives that help kindle participants’ moral imagination and cultivate character. (Further details of the research will be shared upon application to participate in EFF.)