Fall 2020

Introduction to Film Studies: The History of American Cinema, 1895-1960

Listed in: English, as ENGL-287  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-212

Moodle site: Course


Lise Shapiro Sanders (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 212) This course is designed to introduce students to key issues in film studies, focusing on the history of American cinema from 1895 to 1960. We will pay particular attention to the “golden age” of Hollywood, with forays into other national cinemas by way of comparison and critique. Screenings will range from actualities and trick films, to the early narrative features of D. W. Griffith, to the development of genres including film noir (Double Indemnity), the woman’s film of the 1940s (Now, Voyager), the western (Stagecoach) and the suspense film (Rear Window). Reading and writing assignments and in-class discussions will address how to interpret film on the formal/stylistic level (sequence analysis, close reading, visual language) as well as in the context of major trends and figures in film history. A weekly viewing journal will be expected, as a record of students’ critical responses to the films. In addition, three formal essays are required: a 3-5 page sequence analysis; a 6-8 page critical explication of a piece of film criticism (a scholarly article or book chapter) not already assigned for the course; and a final research paper (8-10 pages), to be revised in conjunction with a peer review workshop. By the end of the semester, students can expect to gain the following: a familiarity with key terms in film language and film analysis; an ability to think and write critically about film, its aesthetics, historical development, technology, and cultural context; an overview of some key films in American cinema history from the silent era to 1960; an appreciation of different film genres, their structure, iconic language, and ideological/cultural meanings; and confidence in reading critical/theoretical essays in film criticism and history.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sanders.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to ENGL and FAMS majors.


Attention to Research, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2020, Fall 2021