Amherst College Film and Media Studies for 2013-14
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: Visiting Lecturer Pritchett.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
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
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. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
215 Knowing Television
(Offered as ENGL 282 and FAMS 215.) 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. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013
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 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.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
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 2013 the topic was “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. Omitted 2013-14.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2011, Spring 2013
225 Image, Movement, Sound
(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. Omitted 2013-14.
2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Fall 2012
227 The Film Portrait
This introductory production workshop focuses on the history and practice of film and video portraiture. The class will begin by considering the portrait’s origins in figurative art and still photography before identifying the ways in which the film portrait uses strategies unique to the moving image to convey character and meaning. We will then trace the development of the genre while also considering its intersections with narrative, documentary and experimental film.
The aim of the course is both analytic and creative. We will be looking at a variety of approaches and issues related to portraiture in an attempt to develop both common and contested definitions that can be applied to our own filmmaking practice. Each student will complete in-class exercises and individual video projects that seek to reveal the nature of people, places and objects through sound and image. The class will also cover the fundamentals of cinematography, lighting, audio recording and editing and discuss how these technological considerations influence the portrayal of a subject.
Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Levine.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014
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 https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/major/course_applications. Fall semester. Five College Professor Hillman.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2015
(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. Preference will be given to English, Film and Media Studies, and Art majors. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Johnson.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
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 2013-14. Professor Engelhardt.2015-16: 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 Engelhardt.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014
313 The Soviet Experience
(Offered as RUSS 234 and FAMS 313.) With the dissolution of the Soviet 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). 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. Fall semester. Professor Wolfson.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2013
(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 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.
Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014
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.
Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014
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 2013-14. Professor Wolfson.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2012
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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Shandilya.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2014
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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Rogowski.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015
324 Gender and Nationhood in South Asian Cinema
This course will examine the interplay of gender and national identity in post-colonial South Asian cinema. We will begin by tracing the development of the film industry in the region with reference to the historical and political context. We will look at the different streams of South Asian cinema, from mainstream "Bollywood" movies to regional/national cinema to parallel and diasporic film. Within this framework, we will examine the shifting feminine and masculine representations of nationhood, and the way they intersect with religious identity. Specific topics include a critical analysis of the portrayal of women in the films of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, the mother-goddess construct of Indian nationalism in mainstream cinema, thematic treatments of the relationship between machismo and Hindu/Muslim revivalism, and gender and Muslim identity in the cinema of Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Spring semester. Visiting Professor Masud.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014
326 An Introduction to Contemporary Chinese Cinema
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Zamperini.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012
328 Representation and Reality in Spanish Cinema
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Brenneis.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2013
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. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2014
342 Performance in Place: Site Specific
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Woodson with Guest Artists.
2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013
343 Lost and Found: Appropriated, Recycled and Reclaimed Images
(Offered as ARHA 231 and FAMS 343) From the found-footage experiments of the avant-garde to the digital remixes of the networked age, artists have used pre-existing material to question the ideologies of dominant media, explore technological possibilities or play situationist pranks. With the advent of file-sharing platforms, streaming video and cheap DVDs, we live in an era dominated by what Hito Steyerl calls “the poor image” – low resolution, second- or third-generation images whose quality has been sacrificed for accessibility. The availability of this material has allowed artists to work with economy, speed and to borrow the aesthetics of cinema and television for their own purposes, but it also foregrounds many problematic questions of authorship and ownership.
This course is a hands-on investigation into the practice of recycling, recontextualizing and remixing moving images. We will screen found-footage work, collage films, and remakes in addition to discussing readings by filmmakers, artists, and theorists that will provide ideas and models for our own production. The class will also review the fundamentals of editing and cinematography as we re-edit found images and combine them with our own footage.
Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Levine.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2015
345 Performance Studio
(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.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014
351 Cinema and Everyday Life
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hastie.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013
353 A Decade Under the Influence: U.S. Film of the 1970s
(Offered as ENGL 373 and FAMS 353.) U.S. film in the 1970s was evident of tremendous aesthetic and economic innovation. Rife with but not limited to conspiracy, disaster, love and war, 1970s popular films range from the counter-cultural to the commercial, the independent to the industrial. Thus, while American cinema of the first half of the decade is known as the work of groundbreaking independent “auteurs,” the second half of the decade witnessed an industrial transformation through the emergence of the giant blockbuster hit. With a focus on cultural and historical factors shaping filmmaking and film-going practices and with close attention to film form, this course will explore thematic threads, directors, stars, and genres that emerged and developed during the decade. While the course will largely focus on mainstream film, we will set this work in some relation to other movements of the era: blaxploitation, comic parodies, documentary, and New American Cinema. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2014
356 Modernism and Classical Hollywood Cinema
(Offered as FAMS 356 and ENGL 375.) Film flourished in the U.S. as a popular form amidst the rise of modernity. Born of the industrialization and urbanization that defined the twentieth century, it was at once “high” and “low,” an autonomous art and popular cultural form. Given this historical and aesthetic basis, to claim it also as “classical” seems inherently contradictory. Using a variety of critical and theoretical texts, the primary objective of this course is to negotiate the many ambiguities of understanding “classical” cinema as an artistic practice that represents the experience of modernity. This course will develop an understanding of what traditionally has been called Classical Hollywood Cinema – the period from roughly 1930-1960 – through looking at canonical films (from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times to John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln to Hitchcock’s Rear Window) and readings in film and aesthetic studies. We will utilize small group discussion and writing assignments to help us to articulate the relationship between this coherent tradition of filmmaking and the complexities of modernist aesthetics.
Limited to 25 students. Class meeting twice weekly with mandatory film screenings once weekly. Fall semester. Five College Fellow Cornett.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013
358 Spike Lee’s Joints
(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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professors Parham and Drabinski.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Gilpin.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015
371 Film, Myth, and the Law
(Offered as LJST 225 and FAMS 371.) 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 30 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Umphrey.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2015
374 Reading Popular Culture: Girl Power
(Offered as ENGL 271, BLST 332 [US], FAMS 374, and WAGS 271.) Girl Power is the pop-culture term for what some commentators have also dubbed “postfeminism.” The 1990s saw a dramatic transformation in cultural representations of women’s relationships to their own sense of power. But did this still rising phenomenon of “women who kick ass” come at a cost? Might such representations signify genuine reassessments of some of the intersections between gender, power, and the individual? Or are they, at best, superficial appropriations of what had otherwise been historically construed as male power? With such questions in mind, this class will teach students to use theoretical and primary texts to research, assess, and critique contemporary popular culture. Each student will also be trained to produce a critical multimedia project. One class meeting per week, which includes a 135-minute seminar and a 60-minute workshop and lab.
Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013
376 Introduction to Music and Film
(Offered as MUSI 122 and FAMS 376) Introduction to Music and Film acquaints students with the primary concepts and methods used in contemporary scholarship on film music. Through a combination of readings, in-class discussion, and outside film screenings, students will gain skill in the analysis and interpretation of films with special focus on the contributions of sound to the cinematic experience. In addition, the selection of films for study will familiarize students with a broad range of film genres and styles. The course is designed to be welcoming to non-majors, and knowledge of musical notation and technical vocabulary in music or film is not required to enroll.
Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Valentine Professor Morris.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013
378 Visual Anthropology
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Gewertz.2015-16: Offered in Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2013
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. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014
426 Feminism and Film: A Study of Practice and Theory
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Hastie.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012
429 Women Filmmakers of South Asia
This course will provide an overview of the major South Asian women filmmakers in the region and the diaspora: their cinematic language and vision, the feminist dimension of their work, and their place within the spectrum of global cinematic trends. Specific topics to be addressed include the challenges women face in the industry, a comparative view of their representations of gender, same sex desire, religious extremism, social conservatism and women's experience. We will examine the work of Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Nandita Das, Aparna Sen, Sabiha Sumar, and Gurinder Chadha among others. We have invited some of the filmmakers to lecture after the screenings of their respective films. There will be required film screenings in addition to the regular course meetings.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Masud.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014
443 Experiments in Narrative
(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. Omitted 2013-14.
2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012
445 Cinema Experiments
This advanced production course explores the outer limits of cinematic form and expression. We will consider the material possibilities and limitations of both digital and analog imagery, shooting on High Definition video, Super 8, and making cameraless films by scratching, painting and drawing directly onto celluloid. In addition, we will discuss other non-narrative strategies including radical structures, text/image combinations, performance, and experiments with sound, music or silence. While remaining aware of camera and editing choices, we will invite chance into our process and risk failure, as every experiment inevitably must.
Through group shoots, screenings and assigned readings, we will explore the work of artist-filmmakers and conclude with a discussion of exhibition and distribution strategies for artists’ film and video. Students will each complete two individual projects (one midterm and one final) that they will present and discuss in class.
Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Levine.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015
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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Parham.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013
456 Media Archaeology and Historiography
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013
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. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013
485 Word / Life / Image
(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. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Bosman and Visiting Professor Johnston.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012
489 Paris and the Banlieues: The City and Cinematography in French and Francophone Cinema
(Offered as ENGL 489 and FAMS 489.) This course in film production and film history will address changing cinematic representations of the architecture and urban space of Paris and the surrounding suburbs. The course will include workshops in cinematography, lighting, editing, and sound recording. We will consider shifting representations of the city and the body of the performer in the films of Feuillade, Vigo, Rivette, Prévert, Cantet, Denis, Kechiche, and Volta. We will analyze performances of identities, emphasizing the body as the primary site of a daily negotiation of language and culture. Students will be encouraged to question how performative languages of movement, architecture, and speech function as aesthetic systems that reflect the ways in which the body is coded. The course will include a study of articles from Présence Africaine, Trafic, Cahiers du Cinéma, and Bref, as well as works by Petrine Archer-Straw, Carrie Tarr, Raphaël Bassan, and Nicole Brenez. Students will complete two film or video projects. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.
Recommended prior coursework: ENGL 287/FAMS 228, Introduction to Super 8 Film and Digital Video, or other introductory course in film and video, photography, or painting. Preference given to FAMS majors. 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. Five College Professor Hillman.2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014
490 Special Topics
Independent Reading Courses.
Fall and spring semester. The Department.
2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
498, 499 Senior Honors
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester.2015-16: Offered in Fall 2015
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014