(Offered as ENGL 01-05 and FAMS 10.) 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. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
(Offered as ENGL 16 and FAMS 20.) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms together with a selection of various films (historical and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will include, among others: the moving image, montage, mise en scène, sound, genre, authorship, the gaze.
Fall semester. Professor Cameron.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 24 and FAMS 25.) This course is a first workshop in narrative screenwriting. Through frequent exercises, readings, and in-class screenings, we will analyze the fundamentals of scene and story shape as they’re practiced within the commercial world of filmmaking in the U.S. We’ll also take a broader look at what a “screenplay” might be outside of that world. In the process, we’ll examine both the well-established craft of cinematic storytelling (plot structure, character, conflict, action, dialogue, etc.), and the more elastic possibilities of the audio-visual medium itself. Previous film, theater, or writing courses are recommended but not required. Please consult the Creative Writing Center web site for information on admission to this course. One three-hour seminar per week.
Limited to 15 students. Preregistration is not allowed. Interested students should attend the first class. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Johnson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as WAGS 66, ASLC 51, and FAMS 30-01.) Do you often wonder why some countries are referred to as the “motherland” and others as the “fatherland”? What and who decides how we refer to a country? In this course, we will examine seismic changes over time in gendered imaginings of the Indian subcontinent. As women stepped out of the domestic sphere to participate in the nationalist struggle of the late 19th century, the idea of the nation swayed dramatically between the nation as wife and the nation as mother in the Indian popular imagination. Readings will include novels such as Rabindranath Tagore’s Home and the World and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. We will also study a range of cinematic texts from the classic Mother India to the recent feminist film Silent Waters.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Shandilya.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ASLC 34 [J] and FAMS 32.) Is the concept of national cinema useful in the age of globalization? Given the international nature of cinema at its inception, was it ever a valid concept? In this course, we will consider how the nation is represented on screen as we survey the history of film culture in Japan, from the very first film footage shot in the country in 1897, through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to important independent filmmakers working today. While testing different theories of national, local, and world cinema, we will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic and social contexts. This course includes the major genres of Japanese film and influential schools and movements. Students will also learn and get extensive practice using the vocabulary of the discipline of film studies. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all films have English subtitles.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
(Offered as SPAN 34 and FAMS 34.) This course studies the films of Spanish director and screenwriter Pedro Almodóvar. Although he began as European cinema's favorite bad boy, Almodóvar has since restyled himself and his "art" in accordance with traditional authorial discourse and has become one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the world. This process of evolution roughly coincides with--and must be studied in relation to--Spain's period of rapid political and cultural transformation since the death of right-wing military dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. The course also addresses the ways Almodóvar's work addresses broader issues such as consumerism, ontology, gender, and film authorship itself. This course requires once-per-week film screenings at a time to be determined. Conducted in Spanish.
Requisite: Spanish 07 or consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Crumbaugh.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 29 and FAMS 39.) 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.
Spring semester. Professor Wolfson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 82 and FAMS 40.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In spring 2011 the topic will be “Narrative Cinema in a Global Context.” This course will introduce students to a diverse range of approaches to narrative filmmaking. Students will gain skills in videomaking and criticism through project assignments, readings and analysis of critical discourses that ground issues of production. The course will include workshops in cinematography, sound recording, lighting and editing. Screenings will include works by Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, Charles Burnett, and Lucrecia Martel. Students will complete three video projects.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Please complete the questionnaire at https://cms.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/english/events/questionnaire. Spring semester. Five College Professor Hillman.2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
(Offered as MUSI 19 and FAMS 42.) 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: Music 11, 12, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Engelhardt.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 92-02 and FAMS 45.) How does the physical weight of a video camera influence the emotional weight of the captured image? What can we uncover as we explore a space through the broad, sensuous perspective of a stereo microphone or through the stark directionality of a shotgun microphone? Conversely, what remains of a space that is slowly going out of focus? What meanings are generated when a hand-held camera gesture crashes, through editing, against the stillness of an image captured on a tripod? How can we generate ideas through film form? Can we talk about the ethics of a tracking shot? What cinematic stories can we tell? This course is a hands-on, in-depth exploration of the expressive, narrative possibilities of moving image and sound. We will work with video cameras to take advantage of the accessibility of this medium, always bearing in mind the differences with the filmic image. We will begin with a study of the camera, and, through in-class projects and individual assignments, with an emphasis on inquiry, experimentation and discovery, 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 powerful creative tools to be explored and manipulated, incorporating other equipment (tripods, lenses, filters, lighting kit, and sound recording equipment) as they relate to the topics explored. At every step, we will consider the narrative potential of the formal elements studied: narrative understood in a broad sense that goes beyond formulas or standard storytelling modes to include the abstract, the fragment, the open-ended structure and the small gesture. During the semester, students will create a video diary, a motion-picture sketchbook. With entries on a daily basis, the diary will be a moving, changing record of formal reflections and intellectual, emotional and physical engagement with the environment. The goal is to make the camera an extension of our eyes and minds, to learn to see and think the world around us through moving images and sound. As source and counterpoint to our studio work, we will examine, from a maker's point of view, the films and writings of international filmmakers from the classical period, underground and avant-garde cinema, the New Waves of the 1960s and 70s, and contemporary filmmakers. An individual final video project will give students the opportunity to bring their approach to image, movement and sound explored throughout the term into a work with a expressive, cohesive cinematic language. In rio 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. Spring semester. Artist-in-Residence Rivera-Moret.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 84 and FAMS 50.) The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2010 the topic will be “Knowing Television.” For better or worse, U.S. broadcast television is a cultural form that is not commonly associated with knowledge. This course will take what might seem a radical counter-position to such assumptions--looking at the ways television teaches us what it is and even trains us in potential critical practices for investigating it. By considering its formal structure, its textual definitions, and the means through which we see it, we will map out how it is that we come to know television.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as LJST 52 and FAMS 51.) (Analytic Seminar) The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions. This course will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons). Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence? We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film. Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law. Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven. Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.
Requisite: LJST 01 or 10 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professors Sarat and Umphrey.2020-21: Not offered
The topic changes each time the course is taught. In fall 2010 the topic will be “The Romance.” The romance, and the generic forms it has taken, in Hollywood and elsewhere: classical romance, melodrama, screwball comedy, romantic comedy, the musical. How has the screen romance variously reflected and/or shaped our own attitudes? We will look at examples representing a range of cultures and historical eras, from a range of critical positions. Two screenings per week.
Fall semester. Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 63, EUST 63, and FAMS 53.) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, television reportage, newspaper documentation, performance, online, and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11 and other recent international events. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Fall semester. Professor Gilpin.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as MUSI 04 and FAMS 54.) 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. Fall semester. Professor Engelhardt.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 69, BLST 17 [US], and FAMS 57.) Is identity natural or cultural? This question has persisted through centuries of American writing, and many of the most interesting meditations on this question arise from books and films that deal with passing. Texts about passing, about people who can successfully pass themselves off as something different from what they were “born as,” form an important subgenre of American culture because they force us to question some strangely consistent inconsistencies in how we define identity. If race, for example, signifies a real and material difference, how could there be such a thing as racial passing? But, at the same time, if race is “only” a social construction, then why is racial passing so often characterized as a crime against nature? Stories about passing often illustrate a fundamental ambivalence on the personal meaningfulness of biopower in America, and also reveal the nascent virtuality of worldly experiences more generally. That in mind, this course explores a broad range of literary and cultural texts, including novels by Charles Chesnutt, Percival Everett, and Danzy Senna, and film and televisual texts like Gattaca, Avatar, Sirk’s Imitation of Life, and Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me.”
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Parham.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as WAGS 69, ASLC 52 [SA], and FAMS 58.) How do we define the word “feminism”? Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world? In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory--the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias--through a range of South Asian cinematic texts. Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films. Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham. Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Shandilya.
2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 26 and FAMS 62.) 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). Course assignments emphasize careful writing and experiential learning; students will have an opportunity to work on projects involving multimedia production and community-based research. No previous knowledge of Soviet or Russian history or culture is required; course conducted in English, and all readings are in translation. Students who read Russian will be given special assignments.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Wolfson.2020-21: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 95-03 and FAMS 70.) As an upper-division seminar in film theory, this course will offer an in-depth examination of historically significant writings that analyze film form and its social functions and effects. Our particular focus will be on the production of film theory in a collective setting: the film/media journal. Thus the course will be organized by five units, each centering on a particular journal in generally chronological order: Close Up, Cahiers du Cinéma, Film Culture, Screen, and Camera Obscura. Through this structure, we will consider how ideas have developed and transformed, often in dialogue with one another and on an international stage. Our purpose will be threefold: to understand the context for the production and development of film theories; to comprehend a wide range of changing theoretical notions and methodologies; and to create our own dialogue with these works, considering especially their impact on their own contemporaneous film viewers and on viewing positions today. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.
Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is strongly recommended. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2020-21: Not offered