(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: Visiting Lecturer Pritchett.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
(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
(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 2013 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 Johnson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 289 and FAMS 222.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2013 the topic will be “Production Foundations: Image and Sound.” What is the relationship between image and sound in video? How does listening affect what we see and imagine? This class will cover the technical and aesthetic fundamentals of video production including composition, framing, camera movement, lighting, audio recording, and digital editing using Final Cut Pro. Sonic expression will play a leading role in our exploration of video production and interpretation. The art of audio and the function of sound for the screen will be considered through hands-on exercises, screenings, readings, and discussion. Students will create non-fiction and narrative videos with dynamic employments of sound as we develop a critical vocabulary of the audiovisual medium. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Please complete the questionnaire at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/major/course_applications. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer EE Miller.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
(Offered as ARHA 225 and FAMS 225.) This course is a hands-on, in-depth exploration of the formal elements of moving images and sound. We will begin with a study of the camera, and, through in-class projects and individual assignments, we will explore framing and composition; light, color and texture; camera movement and rhythm; editing and relationships between image and sound. We will approach set-up and documentary situations from a variety of formal and conceptual perspectives. We will consider all equipment not simply as technology, but as creative tools to be explored and manipulated. Our goal is to make the camera an extension of our eyes and minds, to learn to see and think about the world around us through moving images and sound. An individual final video project will give students the opportunity to bring the concepts explored throughout the term into a work with an expressive, cohesive cinematic language. In Scenario du Film Passion, Jean-Luc Godard expresses his desire to turn a camera movement into a prayer. It is this profound engagement with the world and intense, thoughtful consideration of the medium that we seek to achieve.
Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Rivera-Moret.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 388 and FAMS 240.) A first workshop in narrative screenwriting. Through frequent exercises, readings, and screenings we will explore the fundamentals of scene and story shape as they’re practiced in mainstream commercial filmmaking, while taking a broader look at what a screenplay might be outside of that world. In the process, we’ll juxtapose two modes of writing that are not mutually exclusive but are often at odds with each other, both historically (within the industry) and aesthetically: the well-established craft of three-act screenwriting, on the one hand, and the more elastic possibilities of the audio-visual medium as exemplified by the art film, on the other. One class meeting per week.
Requisites: Two classes from any of the following categories in any combination: critical studies of film and media; film/video production; creative writing workshops (fiction or non-fiction); playwriting; photography or drawing courses. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Preference will be given to English, Film and Media Studies, and Art majors.
Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Johnson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as FAMS 242 and THDA 155.) We “act” everyday. We play roles as students, as friends, as city-people, country-people, cosmopolitans. But what does it mean to present oneself publicly, either as “oneself” or in a role of another? The goal of this course is to demystify the acting process, to imagine together how we might “act naturally” in a world that is overwhelmed by technological forms of communication that both enable exchange with one another and that hamper it.
We will read a range of texts, from Erving Goffman’s Self and Everyday Life, to poetry and drama, and we will watch a series of films. Our attention to these works will be to understand the choices we can make as actors, and what choices directors make in their work with actors. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to understand human behavior itself.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Croxton Lecturer Howard.2020-21: Not offered
(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. Spring semester. Professor Engelhardt.2020-21: Not offered
(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. Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
(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.
Fall semester. Professor Wolfson.2020-21: Not offered
(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. Omitted 2012-13. Professor Shandilya.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
(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.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Rogowski.2020-21: Not offered
From Fritz Lang’s thrilling detective mysteries to Tom Tykwer’s hip postmodern romp Run Lola Run, from Ernst Lubitsch’s satirical wit to the gender-bending comedies of Katja von Garnier, this course explores the rich legacy of popular and genre films in the German-speaking countries. Topics to be covered include adventure films, comedies, and costume dramas of the silent period, including Fritz Lang’s Spiders (1919) and Joe May’s The Indian Tomb (1920); the musical comedies of the Weimar Republic and the “dream couple” Lilian Harvey and Willy Fritsch; Nazi movie stars and the “non-political” entertainment films of the Third Reich, such as Josef von Baky’s blockbuster Münchhausen (1943); the resurgence of genre films in the 1950s (“Heimatfilme,” romantic comedies, melodramas, etc.); the Cold War Westerns in the West (based on the novels by Karl May) and in the East (starring Gojko Mitic); the efforts to produce audience-oriented films in the politicized climate of the 1960s and 1970s; the big budget quasi-Hollywood productions by Wolfgang Petersen; and the recent spate of relationship comedies. We will discuss the work of, among others, actors and performers Karl Valentin, Heinz Rühmann, Zarah Leander, Hans Albers, Heinz Erhardt, Romy Schneider, Loriot, and Otto, and directors including Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Joe May, Wilhelm Thiele, May Spils, Katja von Garnier, Detlev Buck, Tom Tykwer, and Doris Dörrie. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Omitted 2012-13. Professor Rogowski.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ASLC 235 [C] and FAMS 326.) In the last fifteen years, Chinese films have regularly won important awards in international film festivals. Who are the major filmmakers, actors and producers in the People’s Republic of China today? How can the recent success be traced to the Chinese film industry that has thrived since 1905? This course introduces the world of contemporary cinematic representations and discourses in the People’s Republic of China in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a focus on how social, political and cultural changes of modern and contemporary China find their expressions in films.
By focusing on the work of directors like Zhang Yimou and Jiang Wen, Jia Zhangke and Cui zi’en, as well as Xu Jinglei and Du Haibin, we will discuss millennial utopias and dystopias, gender and transgender, modernity and cultural identity, history and memory, urban culture, relocation and social migration. Students will learn to develop a critical understanding of Chinese society and culture through film, as well as to use and analyze film language.
No previous knowledge of Chinese cinema and culture is required. Fall semester. Professor Zamperini.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as SPAN 236, EUST 232 and FAMS 328.) Once severely constrained by dictator Francisco Franco’s censorship laws and rarely exported beyond the country’s borders, Spanish film has been transformed into an internationally-known cinema in the last decades. This course offers a critical overview of Spanish film from 1950 to the present, examining how Spain’s culture and society are imagined onscreen by directors such as Berlanga, Erice, Bollaín, and Almodóvar. Students will analyze works of Spanish cinema alongside theoretical and critical texts, exploring such topics as gendered roles in contemporary society, immigration, globalization, censorship, and experiences of war and violence. We will also track the sociological, cultural, and political forces inside Spain that have inspired such cinematic representations. This course provides an introduction to visual analysis and critical writing about film and will be conducted in English. Students are expected to attend weekly screenings where films will be shown in Spanish with English subtitles. Spanish majors who wish to count this course toward fulfillment of requirements will be asked to write papers in Spanish.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Brenneis.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
(Offered as THDA 352, FAMS 342 and MUSI 352.) The focus of this studio course will be to create performances, events, happenings and installations in multiple locations both on and off campus. This course is especially designed for students in dance, theater, film/video, art, music and creative writing who want to explore the challenges and potentials in creating performances outside of traditional "frames" or venues (e.g., the theater, the gallery, the lecture hall, etc.). At the center of our inquiry will be questions of space, place and community. In the first few weeks of the semester we will tour different sites and research multiple historical and contemporary examples of site-specific performances and artists across media. We will then select different sites--based on student interest and location access--and spend the rest of the semester creating events/performances on site. Students will work in collaborative teams to create these performances for these places. Interaction with communities at these sites will also be explored, connecting the artistic work to community engagement and raising awareness of the issues and ethics involved in site-specific performance. These projects will be performed in process and at the end of the semester in a three-day festival. Different guest artists in dance, theater, art, sound and political activism will join the class and work with designated groups.
Class meeting Fridays 1-4; outside rehearsal/lab sessions TBA
Requisite: Previous experience in improvisation and/or composition in dance, theater, performance, film/video, music/sound, installation, creative writing, and/or design is required. Spring semester. Professor Woodson with Guest Artists.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345.) 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
(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351.) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 374, BLST 330 [US], and FAMS 358.) In offering extended formal considerations of Spike Lee’s cinematic oeuvre–in particular his uses of light, sound, and color–this course is interested in how shifting through various modes of critical inquiry can enable or broaden different kinds of cultural, political, or historical engagement with a film. This semester we will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a particular cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation.
Spring semester. Professor Parham and Visiting Professor Drabinski.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 373.) 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.
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
(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 20 students. Omitted 2012-2013.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ANTH 241 and FAMS 378.) This course will explore and evaluate various visual genres, including photography, ethnographic film and museum presentation as modes of anthropological analysis--as media of communication facilitating cross-cultural understanding. Among the topics to be examined are the ethics of observation, the politics of artifact collection and display, the dilemma of representing non-Western “others” through Western media, and the challenge of interpreting indigenously produced visual depictions of “self” and “other.”
Requisite: ANTH 110. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Gewertz.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 483, FAMS 426, and WAGS 483.) This seminar will be devoted to the study of feminism and film, considering the ways feminism has shaped both film theory and film practice. Though focusing in large part on post-1968 writings, which largely ushered in semiotic, psychoanalytic, and feminist theory to film studies, we will also consider early writings by women from the 1910s-1950s in a range of venues–from fan magazines to film journals–that developed points of view regarding women’s practices as both artists and audience members. We will also consider a range of films, from Hollywood melodrama (also known as “the women’s picture”) of the 1940s to contemporary action films, and from avant-garde feminist works to current independent and international films directed by women. Informed by feminist film theorist Claire Johnston, we will explore how and when “women’s cinema”–whether theory or practice–constitutes or shapes “counter-cinema.” One three-hour class meeting per week.
Requisite: As an advanced seminar in film theory, some previous work with film and media studies is required. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 315 and FAMS 443.) What constitutes cinematic narrative, distinct from other forms of storytelling? How do we engage film form to tell a story? Can the camera be a narrator? How can we alter a traditional narrative structure, and, what are the implications of these transformations? How can we use color to construct the subjective space of a character, or use sound to manipulate the temporal order of the story, creating flashbacks, ellipses or flash-forwards?
In this advanced production workshop we will explore cinematic narrative first by closely studying how a group of classical, experimental, and contemporary filmmakers have engaged narrative through filmic form. We will then formulate our own new cinematic narratives. Cinema is no longer restricted to the theater or the gallery. Moving images surround us--online, on our phones and screens, in the streets, and in stores, taxis, and train stations. We will consider the formal parameters of these new cinematic spaces and their possibilities. Coursework consists of film viewing, analysis and discussion, and the production of several short narrative films.
Requisite: Prior film production experience; Recommended requisite: ARHA 102 or 111. Limited to 8 students. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Rivera-Moret.
2020-21: Not offered
(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
(Offered as ENGL 486 and FAMS 456.) How can we write histories of media? How are media written about, used, designed, preserved and sometimes discarded? Where are the relics of past media stored and what do these alternative paths not taken and now forgotten futures of media say about different historical moments and the present? This seminar will explore theories and practices of media archaeology and historiography by both examining different scholarly responses to the above questions while also learning about forms of media preservation at various archives throughout the semester. We will move through different historical periods, from the magic lantern performances and phantasmagoria of the eighteenth century through film and the phonograph, and then on to recent digital media and magnetic storage technologies like the floppy disk, hard drive, and personal computer. Throughout the seminar we will continue to ask how media landscapes of the past provide a context for our contemporary engagements with media and also emphasize how the histories we will explore point not only to technological experimentation and change but also to how these media were to engage with the senses of the body. We will read theoretical and historical texts by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Jonathan Crary, Lisa Gitelman, Tom Gunning, Katherine Hayles, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Friedrich Kittler, Vivian Sobchack, Paolo Cherchi Usai and Siegfried Zielinski. One three-hour class meeting and one required screening per week.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 485 and FAMS 485.) How do words and images bring each other to life? How have different graphic and material instantiations articulated their separation or union? This seminar will explore the relationship between word and image across different media forms and historical periods, continually asking how they mutually animate, constrain, and give shape to one another. Studying works such as illustrated and graphic novels, theatrical performances, films, and digital works we will attend at once to the intersection between material form and aesthetic experience. Over the course of this seminar we will engage with key concepts and topics including ekphrasis, adaptation, remediation, and synaesthesia while reading theoretical and historical texts by classical and Renaissance authors as well as contemporary critics from Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Katherine Hayles. Primary texts may include works by Shakespeare, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Dziga Vertov, W.G. Sebald, William Gibson, and Miranda July. One three-hour class meeting per week.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman and Visiting Professor Johnston.2020-21: Not offered
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall and spring semester. The Department.
2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020, Spring 2021
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020