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Film and Media Studies



108 True Crime: Unlearning Media

(Offered as ENGL and FAMS) Unlearning Media is a module of introductory film and media courses that seek to learn new ways of understanding or making media by unlearning everything we believe we know about them. Focusing on a range of contemporary media phenomena, and taught by FAMS instructors specializing in critical studies, creative practices, or both, Unlearning Media courses delve deep into our relationships with media forms, devices, or practices that we secretly love, openly resent, or have simply stopped noticing. By turning things sideways and pausing on unexpected details, or taking the time to explore hidden alleyways and histories, we will discover how media get under our skin and shape what we believe to be true—and how they might yet unlock our imagination of what could be. In Fall 2022, Unlearning Media will be taught by Professor Rangan and the topic will be True Crime. Focusing on the recent boom in true crime documentary films, series, and podcasts, we will look to the past and future of the true crime genre to understand what drives the audience appetite for crime stories, and what narratives are missing that can help us understand why the world feels like a scary place—and point to ways to fix it.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

110, 180 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 class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Twelve seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester: Professor Hastie. Spring semester: Visiting Professor L. Shapiro Sanders.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in 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, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

210, 280 Coming to Terms: Cinema

(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of key critical terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American, popular and avant-garde) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion may include, among others: modernity, montage, realism, visual pleasure, ethnography, choreography, streaming, and consumption. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2022

221 Foundations in Video Production

(Offered as ARHA 221 and FAMS 221) This introductory course is designed for students with no prior experience in video production. The aim is both technical and creative. We will begin with the literal foundation of the moving image—the frame—before moving through shot and scene construction, lighting, sound-image concepts, and final edit. In addition to instruction in production equipment and facilities, the course will also explore cinematic form and structure through weekly readings, screenings and discussion. Each student will work on a series of production exercises and a final video assignment.

Limited to 12 students with instructor's permission. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Emily Drummer.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2022

230 Race and Migration in German Cinema

(Offered as GERM 230, EUST 239 and FAMS 270) How to talk about “race” in a culture where the concept is taboo? The “racial state” of the Third Reich has discredited the concept in public discourse, yet racialized assumptions continue to permeate German culture. What is the impact of historically and culturally determined preconceptions on the challenges posed by an increasingly demographically diverse society? Who defines who does and who doesn’t belong to the “national community,” and on what basis?  If German identity is implicitly associated with “whiteness,” for instance, where does this leave people perceived as “non-white"? Our course explores how German filmmakers, both those with and without what is now called a “migration background,” tackle questions of belonging, assimilation, inclusion and exclusion in feature films. Works by filmmakers such as Thomas Arslan, Fatih Akin, Mo Asumang, Pepe Danquart, Doris Dörrie, R. W. Fassbinder, M. W. Kimmich, Angelina Maccarone, Branwen Okpako, Burhan Qurbani, Jan Schuette, R. A. Stemmle, and Simon Verhoeven will be discussed in a variety of historical and social contexts. Screenings will be supplemented by readings on questions of non-white German national identity from scholars and writers such as Tina Campt, Fatima El-Tayeb, Ika Hügel-Marshall, Hans Massaquoi, Katharina Oguntoye, Damani Partridge, and Alexander Weheliye.

Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Sophomores will have priority. Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013

232 Bollywood Cinema

(Offered as ASLC 232 and FAMS 319) India’s popular cinema is commonly known as Bollywood and includes films that are dismissed for predictable stories, fantastical visual spectacle, and distracting dance numbers. In this course, we will take the “excesses” of Indian films seriously, and examine how they critique our cultural assumptions. A selection of feature films from different times will lead us to a historically-grounded understanding of the material and technical aspects of Indian film. Scholarly essays will help us treat film as a “cultural production” of importance not only for India but also our understanding of world cinema. We will learn to formulate interdisciplinary approaches to film through collaborative projects and debates, practice visual and narrative analysis in class, write critical responses and position papers, and provoke each other to assess our own pleasures in this visual and narrative medium.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sinha.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

232, 315, 328 Representation and Reality in Spanish Cinema

(Offered as SPAN 315, EUST 232, FAMS 328, and SWAG 315) From Pedro Almodóvar to Penélope Cruz, Spanish directors and actors are now international stars. But the origins of Spain’s cinema are rooted in censorship and patriarchy. This course offers an overview of Spanish film from 1950 to the present along with an introduction to film studies. Through weekly streaming films and discussions, students will follow how Spain’s culture, history and society have been imagined onscreen, as well as how Spanish filmmakers interact with the rest of Europe and Latin America. We will pay particular attention to issues surrounding gender and sexuality as well as contemporary social justice movements. No prior experience with film analysis is needed. Conducted in Spanish.

Requisite: SPAN 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall Semester. Professor Brenneis

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

234, 320 Japan on Screen

(Offered as ASLC 234 and FAMS 320) This course places equal emphasis on the two key terms of its title, “Japan” and “screen.”  Is the concept of national cinema useful in the age of globalization?  What is the place of cinema in a history of screen culture in Japan?  This course aspires to rethink the idea of Japanese cinema while surveying the history of cinema in Japan, from early efforts to disentangle it from fairground spectacles and the theater at the turn of the last century, through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to the place of film in the contemporary media ecology. This course will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic, social, and even political contexts.  This course includes the major genres of Japanese film, influential schools and movements, and major directors.  Additionally, students will learn and get extensive practice using the vocabulary of the discipline of film studies.

Fall semester. Professor Van Compernolle.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

238, 239, 312 Soundscapes of the Connecticut River Valley

(Offered as MUSI 238, ANTH 239 and FAMS 312) This course is about exploring, participating in, and documenting the musical communities and acoustic terrain of the Connecticut River Valley. The first part of the course will focus on local histories and music scenes, ethnographic methods and technologies, and different techniques of documentary representation. The second part of the course will involve intensive, sustained engagement with musicians and sounds in the Amherst vicinity (and beyond). 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 soundscapes projects. We will also benefit from visits and interaction with local musicians. Two class meetings per week. Visit for more information.

Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Engelhardt.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2018

245 Identity and Ideology: The Cinema of Moscow, Berlin, and Hollywood

(Offered as RUSS 245, EUST 245 and FAMS 245). Are our screens really windows through which we glimpse other worlds? Or just mirrors reflecting our own preconceptions? Are they doors through which we enter new experiences? Or cheap frames for prepackaged content? The power of visual media to emancipate its users – or trap them – was first recognized in the cinema, from the earliest silents to the flourishing of classical sound film. Film has always been the great art of exile, produced by immigrants and cosmopolitans facilitating the circulation of images, identities and ideologies. Yet it was also the battleground of competing visions of modernity, from Hollywood’s exported Americanism to Soviet political and artistic utopias, to Nazi promises of national renewal. In this course we focus on the interactions between Soviet, German, and American cinemas in the first half of the twentieth century as a way of understanding visual media’s power to shape identity and circulate ideology. We will look not only at questions of propaganda and censorship, but also at mediation, circulation, and exchange, as well as the crucial skills of (self-)translation and adaptation. Key figures include Grigory Alexandrov, Boris Barnet, Bertolt Brecht, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Sergei Eisenstein, Greta Garbo, Piel Jutzi, Lev Kuleshov, Fedor Otsep, G.W. Pabst, Anna Sten, and Josef von Sternberg. No previous background or language knowledge required – all films with English subtitles. 

Professor Parker

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

251 Representing Reality

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

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

254, 264, 332 Impulse/Imagination/Invention: Experiments Across Media

This studio course is designed as an interactive laboratory for students interested in imaginative experimentation to discover and access multiple ways to generate material in different media (dance, theater, visual /digital art, text and/or sound). The course emphasizes a practice of rigorous play and a dedicated interest in process and invention. Also, the course will be informed by a view that anything and everything is possible material for creative and spontaneous response and production. Working individually and in collaborative groups, students will construct original material in various media and delve into multiple ways to craft interesting exchanges and dialogues between different modes of expression. A range of structures and inspirations will be given by the instructor but students will also develop their own "playlists" for inspiring creative experimentation and production. We will have a series of informal studio showings in different media throughout the semester. A final portfolio of creative material generated over the course of the semester will be required. This studio seminar requires instructor permission; interested students need to contact the instructor before registering.

Limited to 15 students. Spring Semester. Professor Woodson. The course will also incorporate instruction from guest artists.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

260, 334 Listening to Podcasts

(Offered as ENGL 260 and FAMS 334) The word “podcast” was coined in 2004 as a portmanteau of “broadcast” and “iPod.” As the name implies, podcasts were born when an old mode of audio transmission (radio broadcast) met a new technology (portable mp3 players like Apple’s iPod, or rather RSS feeds adapted to handle audio files). But even back then, “podcasts” were more than just time-delayed radio programs you could carry around in your pocket. They also included a wide range of born-podcast formats: free-flowing talk shows, scripted audio-essays, anthologies of audio-journalism, etc.

In this course, we will study the historical origins and contemporary range of podcasts as a medium for writing and performance. We will consider how this medium has absorbed genres from other media (memoir, essay, drama, documentary, fiction, etc.) and combined them in innovative ways. We will also explore genres made possible for the first time by podcasts—whether by their ability for on-demand playback, by their low cost of distribution, or by their openness to audio-experimentation.

The primary skills taught by this course are careful listening and analytic writing. This is not a course in podcast production. It will, however, require you to analyze podcasts by “quoting” them in audio-essays of your own devising. As such, this course will teach you some basic script-writing and audio-editing skills.

No limit. Fall semester. Professor Grobe.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

283 Television Narratives

(Offered as ENGL 283 and FAMS 234) What stories does television tell? And how does it tell them? This course will approach television’s narratives through a focus on both form and content. We will take into account issues of production, distribution, and exhibition, with attention both to historical developments and contemporary transformations to the medium. In this way, we will explore how shifts in programming, platforms, and viewing habits alter both televisual narration and consumption. By considering television’s specific form–whether commercial networks, cable TV, or subscription platforms like Netflix and Hulu–we will query how this specific media format enables or limits the ways it tells stories and what stories it tells. Each iteration of this course will focus on particular forms of narrative programming, through an emphasis on genre, format, historical eras, or cultural facets. Readings will include key critical works in Television Studies, essays on particular television series, and other works that situate television texts in a broader cultural framework and history. The goal of the course is to think through narrative form, representational systems, authorship, exhibition, and reception habits in order to define not just what television narrative is but also what it can be.

The focus of the course for Fall 2022 will be on “seriality.” We will begin by grounding our study in examples from the broadcast era. We will then shift to an exploration of contemporary serials, particularly in the context of digital platforms and the experience of streaming. 

Limited to 45 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Fall 2022

316, 360 Performance

(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, race, 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 also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

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

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

330, 332, 338 Latin American Cinema

(Offered as SPAN 330, SWAG 332, LLAS 330 and FAMS 338) How have Latin Americans represented themselves on the big screen? In this course we will explore this question through close readings of representative films from each of the following major periods: silent cinema (1890s–1930s), studio cinema (1930s–1950s), Neorealism/Art Cinema (1950s), the New Latin American Cinema (1960s–1980s), and contemporary cinema (1990s to today). Throughout the course we will examine evolving representations of modernity and pay special attention to how these representations are linked to different constructions of gender, race, sexuality, and nationality. We will conclude the course with a collective screening of video essays created by students in the course. The course is conducted in Spanish.

Requisite: SPAN 301 or consent of instructor. Spring Semester. Professor Schroeder Rodríguez.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

337 Movie Censorship in American History

(Offered as AMST-337, FAMS-337, and HIST-337)  Almost from their very first days, even as they provoked a sense of wonderment, movies also provoked alarm and became targets of censorship. This course traces that set of reactions from the campaign to shut down the 1915 racist epic, “Birth of a Nation;” through the campaigns against sexual display and ethnic insult in the 1920s; to the Production Code era in the 1930s, with its “fallen women,” gangsters, and “screwballs"; through the end of the studio system and the rise of political censorship in the Cold War era. Frequent film viewing and intensive reading will be required, as also will be several smaller and at least one larger writing assignment.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Couvares

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

345 Performance Studio

(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345) This is an advanced course in making performance in dance, theater, video and/or hybrid forms. Each student will create, rehearse and produce an original performance piece in his/her/their preferred medium. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, these pieces will be shared on digital platforms as ongoing works in progress (with students in the class) and as final projects with a wider audience at the end of the semester. Different strategies, tools and philosophies will be given and explored with an emphasis on taking creative advantage of found spaces and available resources. Improvisational and interactive structures and approaches among and within media will be investigated.  

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week and rehearsal/production sessions as required.   

Requisite: An intermediate departmental course in performance-making and consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students. Spring semester. Professor Woodson.

2022-23: Not offered
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, Fall 2021

369 Cinematic Worlds

(Offered as ENGL 369 and FAMS 369)

In the last decade, a wave of discourse on “world-making” has spread through diverse registers of contemporary culture, including popular media, activism, critical theory, and art criticism. In this course, we will survey a range of film scholarship that examines what it means to speak of “cinematic worlds,” and why cinema is so closely associated with world-making practices. Yet we will also ask whether cinema’s status as a world-making technology is a good thing, and whether we—as worldly inhabitants—should be working to preserve, reconstruct, or dismantle the world itself. We will explore these issues through weekly screenings of films from various genres (such as science-fiction, animation, experimental cinema, fantasy, and documentary). And we will also read and discuss critical texts from related fields that often feature in analyses of cinema’s worldliness (such as queer theory, Black studies, ecocriticism, and political theory), asking what lessons such disciplines hold for makers and viewers of film. Readings may include: Jennifer Fay, Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (Oxford UP, 2018); Jennifer L. Feeley and Sarah Ann Wells, eds., Simultaneous Worlds: Global Science Fiction Cinema (U. Minnesota, 2015); Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, Queer Cinema in the World (Duke UP, 2016); Tiffany Lethabo King, et al., Otherwise Worlds: Against Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness (Duke UP, 2020); and others.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021

388 Screenwriting

(Offered as ENGL 388 and FAMS 240.)

How do screenplays function? What are the elements that combine to engage audiences and convey a compelling story to readers? This course is designed to provide students with the skills necessary to analyze and create narrative feature film scripts, series, and shorts, with attention to mechanics and elegant design. Close readings of screenplays and films will seek to reveal how writers are able to grip an audience’s attention by building narrative questions, how plots are structured both within scenes and across an entire work, how resonant dialogue can effectively impart information and create subtext, and how characters relate to plot. Classes will combine textual analysis, writing instruction, and peer review. Students will complete several short scripts in preparation for a longer final screenplay (no more than ten pages), with extensive revision throughout the semester.

Preference will be given to FAMS majors and English majors concentrating in creative writing; seniors, then juniors, then sophomores. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor E. Sanders.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015

413, 432 Filming the Non-Actor (Advanced Workshop)

(Offered as ARHA 413 and FAMS 432) Students in this fieldwork-intensive course will produce socially-engaged artworks that emerge out of collaborations with a local community. We will think expansively about the practice of using non-actors to interrogate the idea of representation and the illusion of “the real” in audiovisual art making, as well as the hazy space between fiction and documentary. The artists we will consider include Peggy Ahwesh, Basma Alsharif, Jonathanas de Andrade, Yael Bartana, Lizzie Borden, Pedro Costa, Kazuo Hara, Adam Khalil, Alison Kobayashi, Laida Lertxundi,Sharon Lockhart, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Otolith Group, Jean Rouche, and Leslie Thornton.

Two 80-minute class meetings per week and a screening.

Fall semester: Visiting Professor Drummer.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

414 Art Under Surveillance (Integrated Practices)

(Offered as ARHA 414 and FAMS 414)

In this studio-seminar course, we will investigate the history of video surveillance -- from hand-held 8mm cameras in the 1930s, closed-circuit television in the 40s, life-casting cam girls in the late 90s, to present-day police body cams, eye tracking, and facial recognition technology -- as a means to produce our own research-based artworks. Focused primarily on film and video (but open to those working across media), readings, screenings, and discussion will be interwoven with hands-on workshops in which we will creatively misuse various technologies of surveillance and violence. Screenings will include Rebecca Baron’s How Little We Know of Our Neighbors, Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Alex Johnson’s Evidence of the Evidence, Meredith Lackey’s Cable Street, Walid Raad’s I Only WishThat I Could Weep, Deborah Stratman’s In Order Not to Be Here, Sharif Waked’s Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints and works by the Forensic Architecture group. Texts will include Jacques Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music, Italo Calvino’s The King Listens, William Davies’ Nervous States, Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, among others.

Two 80 minute classes per week and one screening. 

Spring 2023 semester.  Visiting Professor Emily J. Drummer

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

415, 488 Disability, Media, and the Art of Access

(Offered as ENGL 488 and FAMS 415) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of human capacities and disabilities. This course will acquaint you with historical and contemporary interventions by disabled scholars, makers, and activists that reframe access as a fundamental principle of an inclusive media ecology, as well as an aesthetic, narrative, and formal challenge for media makers. Through reading, making, and doing, we will study the intersection of disability and media from a variety of perspectives and topics, including common disability tropes and metaphors; prosthetics and assistive technologies; audiovisual access features like captions and audio description; disability maker cultures; inclusive interface design; and crip modes of spectatorship and listenership. A persistent theme of our conversations and activities will be access, understood as a practical dilemma, a legal standard, and a political horizon. If we approach access as a guiding principle rather than an inconvenient afterthought or retrofit (think: captions added after a film has been completed, or a ramp added to an inaccessible building), how might that change the way we create, exhibit, distribute, and interpret moving image media?

Requisite: A 200-level Foundations Course in ENGL or FAMS; prior video production course highly recommended.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015

424, 484 “It was the ’70s”: US Film, History, and the Cultural Imagination

(Offered as ENGL 484 and FAMS 424) Sometimes referred to as the “silver era” of US film production, the 1970s were a period of aesthetic, technological, and cultural transformation. New “auteurs” emerged as both mavericks and commercial success stories. Independence reigned supreme for some, while others helped to usher in the contemporary blockbuster. At the same time, scholarly study of film was steadily increasing, experimenting with new disciplinary methods, waging debates, and often distancing itself from popular critical writings. All told, such narratives of the era have meant that the 1970s looms large in our cultural imagination of film production. This course will trace film history to consider how narratives of the era have been written and how, in recent years, they have been written anew.

The first half of the course will explore several canonical works, while the second half of the course will consider films that have been recently excavated and/or remade. By intermixing popular critical writings (including reviews, interviews, and essays), academic writings of the era, and recent historical studies, we will consider historical and historiographical methods of film studies scholarship. Moreover, in our discussion of newly excavated or historically underrepresented cases–including works directed by women, examples of Blaxploitation cinema, and independent drama–we will explore how canons are both designed and remade, functioning as emblems of the time of their own critical production. Students will work with primary archival materials along with contemporaneous critical or theoretical models in order to develop their own historical narratives of 1970s film.

Requisite: Prior FAMS coursework or, alternatively, prior 200-level courses in ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013

430 Ozu Crossing Borders

(Offered as ASLC-430 and FAMS-430)
Ozu Yasujiro (1903-1963) was almost completely unknown outside Japan until the early 1970s but is now considered among the most important artists in cinema history. He spent his entire career in a major Japanese studio, where he developed a signature style that some have called an “anti-cinema.” Ozu’s career began in 1929 with comedies inspired by Hollywood slapstick and ended in the high-growth era with the contemplative films for which he is best known. This course will use this remarkable body of work to tell an Ozu-centered history of the cinema. Weekly screenings of select films spanning the late silent era to his final film in 1962 will acquaint students with Ozu’s oeuvre. A variety of readings will help us position these films within broad aesthetic, cultural, and historical contexts. Students will work in small groups to help trace the lines of influence that reached Ozu in the beginning of his career and the lines that reach outward after his death, crossing borders to the rest of the world. Coursework includes a final project.

Requisite: A prior course in FAMS or consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

462 Curating Film and Video

(Offered as ENGL 462 and FAMS 462.) In this integrated seminar, students will gain facility with key issues and debates in curatorial studies as well as hands-on experience with the process of curating a film and video program. In film and media studies, the term “curating” is often used to designate the activity of organizing film and video works for public exhibitions, whether these take shape as film festivals, shorts programs, gallery exhibitions, or screenings of other kinds. This course introduces students to the history, theory, and practice of this activity, examining scholarly discourse on the origins, aesthetics, and politics of film and video curating, and guiding students through the process of producing public screenings of audio-visual media. In the first half of the semester, students will conduct readings, view examples of curated film and video programs, discuss course material, and compose critical essays. In the second half, class time will be devoted to practical workshops in which students will conceive, plan, and produce curated programs of short films and videos for public exhibition.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2022

477 The Confession: Theory and Practice

(Offered as ENGL 477 and FAMS 455)

Confession is arguably central to expressions of postmodern selfhood in TV talk shows, YouTube videos, tweets, and Facebook updates. It also informs the evidentiary logic of our civil apparatuses (legal, medical, humanitarian) and infuses the fabric of our diplomatic, familial, and intimate relations. Indeed, we might say that the confession is the preeminent practice through which we understand the “truth” of our selves.This course investigates the many meanings and itineraries of the confession. We will focus on the various institutional sites that have shaped confessional regimes of truth (such as the church, the school, the clinic, the prison, the courtroom), as well as the role of media forms (from autobiographical video to cinematic melodrama and reality television) in consolidating and challenging these regimes. Readings and assignments emphasize a twinned engagement with media and cultural theory. Topics include: narratives on coming-out, truth and reconciliation, hysteria, torture, the female orgasm, insanity defenses, and racial passing. 

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS or equivalent introductory film course, plus any one course in cultural studies/literary theory/gender studies/race and ethnicity studies. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2022

489 Melodrama and Film Noir

(Offered as ENGL 489 and FAMS 470) This course examines classical Hollywood cinema of the 1930s-1950s, focusing on the parallel genres of melodrama and film noir. These genres shared a production context (the Hollywood studio system at its height), an emphasis on gender (for melodrama in the form of the “weepie” or woman’s film, and for film noir in its depiction of hard-boiled masculinity and the femme fatale), and an engagement with the pressing social and political issues of the era. In this course we will ask why these genres flourished during this period, how they resonated with contemporary audiences, and whether they transformed over time. Films to be screened will include All About Eve, Imitation of Life, Letter from an Unknown Woman, Kiss Me Deadly, The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, and Sunset Boulevard, alongside contemporary examples of modern melodrama and neo-noir and accompanied by readings in film history, theory, and criticism. Several short essays and a longer research project will be required.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor L. Sanders.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Fall 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in 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, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022

498, 499 Senior Honors

Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022