Spring 2023

Representing Reality

Listed in: English, as ENGL-251  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-251


Pooja G. Rangan (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 251 and FAMS 251) How – or when – do we know if a film is a documentary? How does this knowledge, unreliable as it may be, shift our attitude toward the film, the people in it, and the world that it depicts? Documentary, perhaps most famously defined by the Scottish filmmaker John Grierson as β€œthe creative representation of reality,” is as old as cinema itself, and to this day, debates rage on regarding the definition of documentary, and what, if anything, makes documentary films distinct from their fictional counterparts. This course will offer a historical survey of these debates to understand how the cinematic practice of representing reality has given rise to distinct formal conventions, film movements, ethical problems, political commitments, institutional frameworks, and communities of practitioners and spectators. Students will watch a dazzling array of difficult-to-find films from around the world, hear lectures on different methods and perspectives on studying documentary, and produce regular reading responses, textual analyses, and argument-driven essays.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

How to handle overenrollment: If overenrolled, preference given to English and FAMS majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: weekly readings and screenings; in-class activities (lectures, close readings of films, discussions, and debates); regular writing assignments (reading responses, textual analysis, argument-driven essays).

ENGL 251 - LEC

Section 01
M 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM CHAP 205
W 2:00 PM - 3:20 PM CHAP 205
Su 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM KECC 008


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023