Fall 2015

The Documentary Impulse

Listed in: English, as ENGL-377  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-383


Pooja G. Rangan (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383.)  This course focuses on the documentary impulse–that is, the desire for an encounter with the “real”–as a way of understanding the different philosophies and ideologies that have shaped the history and practice of documentary. We will approach canonical studies of the modes of documentary (e.g., expository, observational, poetic, reflexive), placing pressure on concepts whose resonance or antagonism has shaped the notion of documentary, such as spectacle, authenticity, reality, mimesis, art, fiction, and performance. In addition to encountering canonical documentary films and major debates, we will analyze documentary as a complex discourse that has been shaped by multiple media forms (such as photography, television, and new media) and exhibition contexts (the art gallery, the cinema, the smartphone). Assignments will include group presentations, analytical exercises, and a final research paper. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Recommended requisite: A prior introductory film course.  Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 35 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Rangan.

If Overenrolled: When 300 level courses have limited enrollment, faculty members try to ensure that students bring a diverse range of ideas and expertise to the class–majors and non-majors, upper and lower classes, and so forth.


Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Community Based Learning


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019