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Film and Media Studies



110 Film and Writing

(Offered as ENGL 180 and FAMS 110.)  A first course in reading films and writing about them. A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing. Frequent short papers. Two 80-minute class meetings and two screenings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester:  Visiting Professor Johnston.  Spring semester:  Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

210 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210.)  An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion.  The terms for discussion will include, among others:  the cinematic image, mise en scène, montage and editing, narration in cinema, genre, authorship.  Frequent critical writing required.

Limited to 35 students.  Fall semester:  Professor Cameron.  Spring semester:  Visiting Professor Johnston.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

215 Topics in Film Study: Knowing Television

(Offered as ENGL 387 and FAMS 215.)  The topic changes each time the course is taught.  In fall 2010 the topic was “Knowing Television.”  For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge.  This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions--looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it.  By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required.  Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 30 students.  Omitted 2011-12.  Professor Hastie.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016, Fall 2019

220 Foundations and Integrations: Film and Media Studies

(Offered as ENGL 281, FAMS 220, and ARHA 272.)  “Foundations and Integrations” will be an annual team-taught course between a Critical Studies scholar and moving-image artist.  A requirement of the Film and Media Studies major, it will build on critical analysis of moving images and introductory production work to develop an integrated critical and creative practice.  Focused in particular around themes and concepts, students will develop ideas in both written and visual form.  The theme for spring 2012 will be “Film and Inner Life.”

Requisites:   A foundations course in Critical Studies of Film and Media (such as “Coming to Terms:  Cinema”) and an introductory film/video production workshop. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Hastie and Visiting Lecturer Chris Mason Johnson.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

222 Production Workshop in the Moving Image

(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 222.)  The topic changes each time the course is taught.  In spring 2011 the topic was “Narrative Cinema in a Global Context.”  The course introduces students to a diverse range of approaches to narrative filmmaking.  Students gain skills in videomaking and criticism through project assignments, readings and analysis of critical discourses that ground issues of production.  The course includes workshops in cinematography, sound recording, lighting and editing.  Screenings will include works by Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, Charles Burnett, and Lucrecia Martel.  Students complete three video projects.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 12 students.  Please complete the questionnaire at  Omitted 2010-11.  Five College Professor Hillman.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

228 Introduction to Super 8 Film and Digital Video

(Offered as ENGL 287 and FAMS 228.)  This course will introduce students to basic Super 8 film and digital video techniques.  The course will include workshops in shooting for film and video, Super 8 film editing, Final Cut Pro video editing, lighting, stop motion animation, sound recording and mixing.  Students will learn to think about and look critically at the moving and still image.  Students will complete three moving image projects, including one Super 8 film, one video project, and one mixed media project.  Weekly screenings will introduce students to a wide range of approaches to editing, writing, and directing in experimental, documentary, narrative, and hybrid cinematic forms.  Screenings include works by Martha Rosler, Bill Viola, the Yes Men, Jennifer Reeves, Mona Hatoum, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Dziga Vertov, D.A. Pennebaker, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Cécile Fontaine, and Johanna Vaude.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 13 students.  Please complete the questionnaire at  Spring semester.  Five College Professor Hillman.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2020

310 Global Sound

(Offered as MUSI 124 and FAMS 310.)  This course explores the global scale of much music-making and musical consumption today. Migration, diaspora, war, tourism, postsocialist and postcolonial change, commerce, and digital technology have all profoundly reshaped the way musics are created, circulated, and consumed. These forces have also illuminated important ethical, legal, and aesthetic issues concerning intellectual property rights and the nature of musical authorship, the appropriation of "traditional" musics by elites in the global North, and local musical responses to transnational music industries, for instance. Through a series of case studies that will include performances and workshops by visiting musicians, Global Sound will examine how musics animate processes of globalization and how globalization affects musics by establishing new social, cultural, and economic formations. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students.  Omitted 2011-12. Professor Engelhardt.



2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2013

312 Pioneer Valley Soundscapes

(Offered as MUSI 238 and FAMS 312.)  This course is about exploring, participating in, and documenting the musical communities and acoustic terrain of the Pioneer Valley. The first part of the course will focus on local histories and music scenes, ethnographic methods and technologies, and different techniques of representation. The second part of the course will involve intensive, sustained engagement with musicians and sounds in the Pioneer Valley. Course participants will give weekly updates about their fieldwork projects and are expected to become well-versed in the musics they are studying. There will be a significant amount of work and travel outside of class meetings. The course will culminate in contributions to a web-based documentary archive of Pioneer Valley soundscapes. We will also benefit from visits and interaction with local musicians. Two class meetings per week.

Requisite: MUSI 111, 112, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Robinson.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2018

313 The Soviet Experience

(Offered as RUSS 234 and FAMS 313.)  With the dissolution of theSoviet Union, the great utopian experiment of the 20th century–a radical attempt to reorganize society in accordance with rational principles–came to an end.  This course explores the dramatic history of that experiment from the perspective of those whose lives were deeply affected by the social upheavals it brought about.  We begin by examining the early visions of the new social order and attempts to restructure the living practices of the Soviet citizens by reshaping the concepts of time, space, family, and, ultimately, redefining the meaning of being human.  We then look at how “the new human being” of the 1920s is transformed into the “new Soviet person” of the Stalinist society, focusing on the central cultural and ideological myths of Stalinism and their place in everyday life, especially as they relate to the experience of state terror and war.  Finally, we investigate the notion of “life after Stalin,” and consider the role of already familiar utopian motifs in the development of post-Stalinist and post-Soviet ways of imagining self, culture, and society.  The course uses a variety of materials–from primary documents, public or official (architectural and theatrical designs, political propaganda, transcripts of trials, government meetings, and interrogations) and intimate (diaries and letters), to works of art (novels, films, stage productions, paintings), documentary accounts (on film and in print), and contemporary scholarship (from the fields of literary and cultural studies, history and anthropology).  Course assignments emphasize careful writing and experiential learning; students will have an opportunity to work on projects involving multimedia production and community-based research.  No previous knowledge of Soviet or Russian history or culture is required; course conducted in English, and all readings are in translation.  Students who read Russian will be given special assignments.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12.  Professor Wolfson.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2013, Fall 2018

314 Representing Slavery

[before 1800]  (Offered as ENGL 466, BLST 435 [US], and FAMS 314.)  Mining a variety of archives in search of captivity narratives created by American slaves and their progeny, this class will use its materials to consider larger questions regarding the overlapping roles of voice, testimony, trauma, and narrative in cultural and historical understanding.  Work for this semester will culminate in the production of a multimedia research project, but no previous familiarity with media production is required.

Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Parham.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

315 The Immigrant City

(Offered as HIST 457 [US] and FAMS 315.)A research seminar, this course will enroll eight students from Amherst College and eight from Holyoke Community College, and will be taught on alternate weeks at both colleges.  The city of Holyoke will be the focus of individual and collective research. Students will form research teams (one Amherst, one HCC student in each) and choose a topic for research. Each student will write a research paper based on primary sources, but the results of that research will also go into a collective data base and an ARIS historical simulation project. The latter will allow students (and, eventually, anyone who wishes to access the program) to create visual and narrative simulations about Holyoke history. For example, a research team might generate a “typical” Irish immigrant family story, recounting migration, settlement, work experience, marriage and family growth, political and union affiliations, etc.  Another might investigate the anti-immigrant or anti-Catholic movement, perhaps by generating a “typical” Yankee family story; still another might look into the building of the canals and the growth of factory economy, or the architectural evolution of the city, any of which might make use of the GPS and other visual capacities of the ARIS system.  Technical support will be available to assist in these efforts. Much of the first half of the course will be devoted to intensive readings and discussions about immigration, urban development, industrialization, etc.  However, from the start, students will be expected to become familiar with the ARIS program and to begin to generate ideas for research. Most of the latter weeks of the course will be devoted to research, writing, and oral reports to the class.  One three-hour class meeting per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 Amherst juniors and seniors. Spring semester.  Professors Couvares and Clinton (Holyoke Community College).

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2018, Spring 2020

316 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316.) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European--primarily German--culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will be also screened.  Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2011-2012.  Professor Gilpin.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

320 Japan on Screen

(Offered as ASLC 234 [J] and FAMS 320.)  Is the concept of national cinema useful in the age of globalization?  Given the international nature of cinema at its inception, was it ever a valid concept?  In this course, we will consider how the nation is represented on screen as we survey the history of film culture in Japan, from the very first film footage shot in the country in 1897, through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to important independent filmmakers working today. While testing different theories of national, local, and world cinema, we will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic and social contexts.  This course includes the major genres of Japanese film and influential schools and movements.  Students will also learn and get extensive practice using the vocabulary of the discipline of film studies.  This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all films have English subtitles.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Van Compernolle.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020

321 Russian and Soviet Film

(Offered as RUSS 241 and FAMS 321.)  Lenin declared “For us, cinema is the most important art,” and the young Bolshevik regime threw its support behind a brilliant group of film pioneers (Eisenstein, Vertov, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko) who worked out the fundamentals of film language. Under Stalin, historical epics and musical comedies, not unlike those produced in 1930s Hollywood, became the favored genres. The innovative Soviet directors of the 1960s and 1970s (Tarkovsky, Parajanov, Abuladze, Muratova) moved away from politics and even narrative toward “film poetry.” Post-Soviet Russian cinema has struggled to define a new identity, and may finally be succeeding. This course will introduce the student to the great Russian and Soviet film tradition. Conducted in English. Two class meetings and one or two required screenings a week.

Omitted 2011-12.  Professor Wolfson.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2016

322 South Asian Feminist Cinema

(Offered as WAGS 469, ASLC  452 [SA], and FAMS 322.)  How do we define the word “feminism”? Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world? In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory--the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias--through a range of South Asian cinematic texts. Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films. Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham. Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Shandilya.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2019

323 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323.)  This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama  (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Spring semester. Professor Rogowski.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

327 Toward the New Wave

(Offered as FREN  365 and FAMS 327.)  This course will study films from the French New Wave (1959-63), as well as earlier French films that influenced many New Wave directors.  These films will include:  Jean-Luc Godard's A bout de souffle, Vivre sa vie, and Le Mépris; Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour and L'annee dernière à Marienbad; Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduite and L'Atalante; Jean Renoir's Boudu sauvé des eaux, La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu; Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur; and Robert Bresson's Un condamné à mort s'est échappé.  This course will also provide basic training in the analysis of films.  Conducted in French.

Requisite:  One of the following--FREN 207, 208, 311, 312 or equivalent.  Fall semester.  Professor Caplan.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2014

331 Readings in Media Theory and History

(Offered as ENGL 391 and FAMS 331.)  What is a medium?  Why has the term acquired its current theoretical prominence?  How does it differ from discourse, genre, mode, format, and other such terms?  This course surveys accounts of mediation from the ancient world to the present, focusing on key figures and historically-important texts (among them, Plato’s Republic, Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” and “The Origin of the Work of Art,” and Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) before turning attention to our contemporary mediascape and some recent attempts to take its theoretical measure.

Not open to first-year students.  Fall semester.  Professor Parker.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011

341 Video Production: Bodies in Motion

(Offered as THDA 250 and FAMS 341.)  This studio production class will focus on multiple ways of tracking, viewing, and capturing bodies in motion. The course will emphasize working with the camera as an extension of the body to explore radically different points of view and senses of focus. We will experiment with different techniques and different kinds of bodies (human, animal, and object) to bring a heightened awareness of kinesthetic involvement, animation and emotional immediacy to the bodies on screen and behind the camera. In addition, we will interject and follow bodies into different perceptions of time, progression, place and relationship. In the process, we will express various experiences and theories of embodiment and question what constitutes a body. Depending on student interests, final projects can range from choreographies for the camera to fictional narratives to documentary studies. The class will alternate between camera sessions, both in the studio and on location, and sessions in the editing suite working with Final Cut Pro.

Requisite: Previous experience in composition. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2017

345 Performance Studio

An advanced course in the techniques of creating performance. Each student will create and rehearse a performance piece that develops and incorporates original choreography, text, music, sound and/or video. Experimental and collaborative structures and approaches among and within different media will be stressed. The final performance pieces and events will be presented in the Holden Theater. Can be taken more than once for credit.

Requisite: THDA 252 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Woodson.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

354 The Non-Fiction Film

(Offered as ENGL 380 and FAMS 354.)  The study of a range of non-fiction films, including (but not limited to) the “documentary,” ethnographic film, autobiographical film, the film essay. Will include the work of Eisenstein, Vertov, Ivens, Franju, Ophüls, Leacock, Kopple, Gardner, Herzog, Chopra, Citron, Wiseman, Blank, Apted, Marker, Morris, Joslin, Riggs, McElwee. Two film programs weekly. Readings will focus on issues of representation, of “truth” in documentary, and the ethical issues raised by the films.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011


(Offered as GERM 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 368.) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; from architectural, art, and film theory and history; from performance studies and performance theory; and from theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

For spring 2012, we will focus on the river as the generative and dynamic concept that will guide our explorations of space and of different kinds of spaces, in conjunction with the European Union/Five College project on Riverscaping/Alles am Fluss: Rethinking art, environment and community/Kunst--Umwelt--Nachbarschaft neu denken. Students will pursue research projects concerning the visual arts, history, literature, environment, ecology, visibility/interactivity, conditions and movements of the river (specific rivers including the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany and the Connecticut River here in the Pioneer Valley), and explore the visions, challenges, and possibilities of creating spaces in which art can happen and in which creative processes can transform communities. Students will have the opportunity to present their final research projects at the European Union/Five Colleges Riverscaping conference on Europe Day, May 9, 2012. One three-hour meeting per week.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English.  German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German.

Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting.  Spring semester.  Professor Gilpin.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

370 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370.) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, television reportage, newspaper documentation, performance, online, and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11 and other recent international events. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2011-12. Professor Gilpin.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

371 Film, Myth, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 352 and FAMS 371-01.)  (Analytic Seminar) The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions. This course will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons). Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence? We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film. Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law. Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven. Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.

Requisite: LJST 101 or 110 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sarat.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Fall 2016

374 Borderlands and Barrios: Latino/a Representation in Film and Television

(Offered as SOCI 335 and FAMS 374.)  This course uses a two-pronged sociological approach to examine Latino/a culture in the United States through the mediums of film and television. We begin with discussion of how to critically analyze films and television relative to race and ethnicity, and a review of the history of representation of Latinos/as in media. We then examine the content of the Latino/a experience as depicted in film and television and the accuracy of that content in describing the diversity and truth of the Latino/a experience in the United States, particularly in regard to race, class, and gender.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Basler.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013

375 Jazz Film: Improvisation, Narrativity, and Representation

(Offered as MUSI 225 and FAMS 375.)  Jazz occupies a special role in the development of American film. From The Jazz Singer (1927), the first American film that included synchronized sound, to the sprawling Jazz: A Documentary by Ken Burns (2001), filmic representations of jazz speak to fundamental ways that Americans negotiate difference and imagine national identity. This course examines the relationship between jazz and American culture through three modalities: improvisation, narrativity, and representation. How might jazz improvisation influence the construction of film? Is there an "improvised film"? Moreover, jazz musicians often speak about "telling stories" through their music. How might this influence narrative structure in film and inform the ways that stories about jazz musicians are constructed in film? And how might these stories about jazz musicians reflect larger debates about race, gender, sexuality and nationality? Assignments will include guided viewing of several important jazz films, required reading, and a series of essays.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester. Professor Robinson.

2020-21: Offered in January 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2019, January 2021

380 Cinema and the Avant-Garde

(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.  Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Johnston.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014

442 Cine-Eye

(Offered as ARHA 314 and FAMS 442.)  How can cinema become a tool for reflection and inquiry? How do we express thought in cinema?

For filmmaker Dziga Vertov, the camera is a “Cine-Eye,” capturing, deciphering and reflecting on found reality to create its own cine-truths, apart from preceding art forms and beyond the stale conventions of traditional narrative and socially constructed realism.  In his 1948 article “The birth of a new avant-garde: La caméra-stylo,” Alexandre Astruc envisions the camera as a pen to express abstract thought. Quite recently, in Terrence Malick’s fictionalized, autobiographical film, The Tree of Life, a brother’s death triggers a series of questions about the human condition that form the core of a wide-ranging, expansive film-poem with a narrative structure akin to a philosophical essay.

This advanced production seminar proposes a cinema of thought and investigation in which each filmmaker will engage the world with a reflexive eye. We will look closely at a group of films from genres that foreground inquiry and experimentation: the film essay, the political film, the diary, the notebook, the travelogue, the memoir and other hybrid forms.  We will consider content, formal structure (mise-en scene, decoupage) and the content embedded within form, to understand how these films generate a cohesive cinematic/philosophical statement. Readings by filmmakers, theorists and critics will serve as a springboard and counterpoint for our own film projects. 

In addition to short group and individual projects, each student will conceptualize, develop and produce a non-fiction film during the semester.  Each week, students will present their work-in-progress for class and individual discussion and critique. Prior film production experience is required.

Recommended coursework: ARHA 102 or 111.  Limited to 8 students.  Fall semester. Visiting Artist Rivera-Moret.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011

451 Ghosts in Shells? Virtuality and Embodiment from Passing to the Posthuman

(Offered as ENGL 456, BLST 441 [US], and FAMS 451.)  This class begins with narratives about individuals who pass–that is, who come to be recognized as someone different from whom they were sexually or racially “born as.”  Such stories suggest that one’s identity depends minimally on the body into which one is born, and is more attached to the supplementation and presentation of that body in support of whichever cultural story the body is desired to tell.  Drawing on familiar liberal humanist claims, which centralize human identity in the mind, these narratives also respond to the growing sophistication of human experience with virtual worlds–from acts of reading to immersions in computer simulation.  But what kinds of tensions emerge when bodies nonetheless signify beyond an individual’s self-imagination?  As technology expands the possibilities of the virtual, for instance surrogacy, cloning, and cybernetics, what pressures are brought to bear on the physical human body and its processes to signify authentic humanness?  Rather than ask whether identity is natural or cultural, our discussions will project these questions into a not-so-distant future:  What would it mean to take “human” as only one identity, as a category amongst many others, each also acknowledged as equally subject to the same social and biological matrices of desire, creation, and recognition?  We will approach these questions through works of literature, philosophy, media history, and contemporary science writing.

Junior/Senior seminar. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Parham.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2015

482 Cinephilia

(Offered as ENGL 482 and FAMS 482.)  This course focuses on cinephilia–a passionate, affective engagement with cinema–as a means of seeing both the movies themselves and our critical, historical understanding of them.  While focusing on cinephilic figures (the archivist, the filmmaker, the critic, the theorist, the historian, the collector, the teacher, the student), we will also look at particular historical junctures in which cinephilia has arisen in earnest (the photogenie movement in 1910s and 1920s France; post-war French criticism and auteurist production; late twentieth-century enthrallment with international new wave movements).  Through experiments with reading, writing, and viewing habits, we will inject theoretical work with experiential practices, ultimately asking how (and if) cinephilia might be mobilized today.  One class meeting and one screening per week.

Prior film course recommended. Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Hastie.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012

484 Animating Cinema and New Media

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 484.)  This seminar will explore theories of animation and new media in moving image culture.  While animation is many times considered children’s entertainment, this course situates it as the technical coincidence of life and movement while examining its relation to the nature of cinema and other media.  Cinema is a privileged type of animation in the class, but one that exists in a long history of moving images that we will interrogate along with the roles different techniques and technologies play in that history’s formation.  We will begin with an examination of nineteenth-century optical devices like zoetropes and phenakistoscopes and then study handmade and industrial animation practices, finally working our way to digital special effects technology, machinima, and algorithmic cinema.  Particular attention will be paid to the role of motion in the aesthetics of cinema and the sense of vitality objects and figures take on in film.  How is life attributed to this illusion of movement?  How is the threshold between the animate and inanimate used to define our understandings of media and mediation?  To answer these questions we will read theoretical and historical texts by Donald Crafton, Sergei Eisenstein, Tom Gunning, Esther Leslie, and Lev Manovich and view films by artists such as Emile Cohl, Lotte Reiniger, Mary Ellen Bute, Chuck Jones, the Quay Brothers, Lewis Klahr, Cory Arcangel, Marjane Satrapi, and Takeshi Murata.  One three-hour class meeting and one required screening per week.

Requisite: Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Johnston.

2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses.

Fall and spring semesters.  The Department.


2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

498, 499 Senior Honors

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Fall semester.

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020