Spring 2014

Cinema and the Avant-Garde

Listed in: English, as ENGL-379  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-380


Andrew R. Johnston (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 379 and FAMS 380.)  Throughout its history artists and filmmakers have experimented radically with cinema, exploring the limits of the medium.  This course traces the history of experimentation and its relation to broader avant-garde movements in the arts, such as Symbolism, Dada, Constructivism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and Minimalism.  Many of the filmmakers and movements we will study set about creating a new type of film, as well as a new kind of film language, in an attempt to re-orient how individuals engage with art in their everyday lives.  We will interrogate broad theoretical questions, such as:  What is the avant-garde?  What is the relation between cinema and different art movements?  How are different revolutionary aesthetic practices tied to political projects?  How are mainstream and avant-garde cinemas related?  What can cinema do beyond providing representations and narratives?  Besides theoretical and critical texts by Peter Bürger, Renato Poggioli, Annette Michelson and Michael Fried, we will examine manifestos and documents from the various movements, as well as historical studies.  We will view films by artists such as Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter, Jean Epstein, Luis Buñuel, Maya Deren, Andy Warhol, Tony Conrad, and Stan Brakhage.  Two class meetings and one required screening per week.

Limited to 30 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Johnston.

If Overenrolled: Over-enrollment will be handled by considering year (prioritizing seniors) and past experience in film and media studies courses.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014