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Amherst College Film and Media Studies for 2018-19

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 class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 25 students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

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: mise-en-scène, montage, realism, visual pleasure, and the avant-garde. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

213 Knowing Cinema

Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov claimed that the movie camera is different from, even superior to, human vision and thus allows us to see in new ways. Many others have echoed this idea about cinema’s powerful impact on our ways of seeing and knowing the world. As an introduction to the study of cinema, this course cultivates in students what Vertov called “the Kino-eye.” Our emphasis will be on narrative film, but with some attention paid to experimental, documentary, and animated works as well. This course treats cinema as an international art form: we will examine a wide range of films from many countries over the past century and more. Through exposure to the great variety of filmmaking and writing about film around the world, from the silent era to the digital revolution, students will receive a comprehensive introduction to the key formal features of film and to the major debates that inform film studies.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2018-19.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2017

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 45 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2016

216 Coming to Terms: Media

(Offered as ENGL 284 and FAMS 216) Media are not just audiovisual texts but also technological infrastructures, economic enterprises, ideological apparatuses, and artistic practices. This course provides an introduction to the analysis of modern media forms through a consideration of significant critical and analytical terms, together with a selection of media texts (ranging across print, photography, cinema, television, and digital media) for illustration and discussion.  The key terms for discussion will reflect the complexity of how we define “media.” Topics may include: mass reproduction, authenticity and aura; print, time, and national consciousness; advertising, glamor, and myth; photography, indifference, and atrocity; cinema, race, gender, and spectatorship; television, liveness, and celebrity; digital media, buffering, and virality.  Classes will combine lecture and conversation, and assignments will include several short critical essays and a midterm and final exam.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Rangan.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

218 Introduction to Film Theory

(Offered as ENGL 288 and FAMS 218) How does film invite us to see? And how does it invite us to think, to feel, to communicate, to gather together? Or, as twentieth-century French film critic André Bazin asked, “What is cinema?” From nearly its inception as an aesthetic and cultural form, film has incited such ongoing debates about its definition as a medium and a cultural phenomenon. This course will offer a historical survey of these debates from a range of methods and perspectives that attempt to understand what makes film film. Drawing on formalist, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, ideological, cultural, experiential, and other approaches, we will attempt to answer not only what cinema is but also why we continue to be drawn to it as an expressive form. The course will include lectures on particular schools of thought and discussions about debates within and between those schools. Students will produce regular reading summaries, textual analyses, and two formal essays.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019

220 Foundations and Integrations: Film and Media Studies

(Offered as ENGL 281, FAMS 220, and ARHA 272)  “Foundations and Integrations” will be an annual team-taught course between a Critical Studies scholar and moving-image artist. A requirement of the Film and Media Studies major, it will build on critical analysis of moving images and introductory production work to develop an integrated critical and creative practice.  Focused in particular around themes and concepts, students will develop ideas in both written and visual form. The theme for spring 2017 was “The Voice.”

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. Professors Levine and Rangan.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

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. Fall semester. Professor Mellis.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

226 Video Production: Bodies in Motion

(Offered as THDA 250 and FAMS 226) 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. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Woodson.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2017

238 Latin American Cinema

(Offered as SPAN 238 and FAMS 238) 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 211 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Schroeder Rodríguez.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016

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. Visit for more information.

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

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2017

316 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, 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 18 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Gilpin.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017

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.

Fall semester. Professor Van Compernolle.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2016

321 Bollywood:  A Cinema of Interruptions

(Offered as ARHA 288, ASLC 288(SA) and FAMS 321) Overblown cinematic spectacles, meandering storylines, and distracting dance numbers commonly characterize Indian commercial cinema known as Bollywood. The course is organized to study Bollywood as what scholar Lalitha Gopalan has called a “constellation of interruptions” and proposes that these features contribute to a consistent narrative structure developed within a distinctive visual and cinematic tradition. We will analyze a selection of feature-length films closely, debate scholarly articles, write guided assignments, and pursue independent research papers. We will develop provocative historical and theoretical perspectives that locate Indian films in a critical relation to other traditions of world cinema. Two 80 minute classes and one 180 minute screening.

Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Sinha.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018

322 South Asian Feminist Cinema

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

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Shandilya.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015

326 Popular Cinema

(Offered as GERM 344 and FAMS 326) From Fritz Lang’s thrilling detective mysteries to Tom Tykwer’s hip postmodern romp Run Lola Run, from Ernst Lubitsch’s satirical wit to the gender-bending comedies of Katja von Garnier, this course explores the rich legacy of popular and genre films in the German-speaking countries.

Topics to be covered include adventure films, comedies, and costume dramas of the silent period, including Fritz Lang’s Spiders (1919) and Joe May’s The Indian Tomb (1920); the musical comedies of the Weimar Republic and the “dream couple” Lilian Harvey and Willy Fritsch; Nazi movie stars and the “non-political” entertainment films of the Third Reich, such as Josef von Baky’s blockbuster Münchhausen (1943); the resurgence of genre films in the 1950s (“Heimatfilme,” romantic comedies, melodramas, etc.); the Cold War Westerns in the West (based on the novels by Karl May) and in the East (starring Gojko Mitic); the efforts to produce audience-oriented films in the politicized climate of the 1960s and 1970s; the big budget quasi-Hollywood productions by Wolfgang Petersen; and the recent spate of relationship comedies.

We will discuss the work of, among others, actors and performers Karl Valentin, Heinz Rühmann, Zarah Leander, Hans Albers, Heinz Erhardt, Romy Schneider, Loriot, and Otto, and directors including Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Joe May, Wilhelm Thiele, May Spils, Katja von Garnier, Detlev Buck, Tom Tykwer, and Doris Dörrie. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German. Two class meetings of 80 minutes plus screenings.

Omitted 2018-19. Professor Rogowski.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2017

329 Russian and Soviet Film

(Offered as RUSS 241 and FAMS 329) Lenin proclaimed, famously, that cinema was "the most important art of all" for the new Soviet republic. This course explores the dramatic rise of Russian film to state-sanctioned prominence and the complex role it came to play in modern Russia's cultural history. We examine the radical experiments of visionary filmmakers who invented the language of film art (Bauer, Kuleshov, Eisenstein, Vertov, Dovzhenko); the self-conscious masterpieces of auteurs who probed the limits of that language (Tarkovsky, Paradzhanov, Sokurov); and the surprising ways in which films ostensibly designed to enact cultural and social myths of power, history, and national identity in the end reshaped their makers, their audiences, and the myths themselves. No familiarity with of Russian history or culture expected.

Omitted 2018-19. Professor Wolfson.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2016

333 Videogames and the Boundaries of Narrative

(Offered as ENGL 277 and FAMS 333) In this course we will engage in a comprehensive approach to narrative video gaming–-play, interpretation, and design–to explore how video gaming helps us to conceptualize the boundaries between our experiences of the world and our representations thereof. We will ask how play and interactivity change how we think about the work of narrative. What would it mean to think about video games alongside texts focused on similar subjects but in different media? How, for instance, does Assassin’s Creed: Freedom’s Cry change how we understand C.L.R. James, Susan Buck-Morss, Isabel Allende, or others’ discussions of the Haitian Revolution? And how do video games help us to reconceptualize the limits of other media forms, particularly around questions of what it means to represent differences in race, gender, physical ability? Finally, how might we more self-consciously capitalize on gaming’s potential to transform the work of other fields, for instance education and community development?      

In this course, students will play and analyze video games while engaging texts from a variety of other critical and creative disciplines. Assignments for this course will be scaled by experience-level. No experience with video games or familiarity with computer coding is required for this course, as the success of this method will require that students come from a wide variety of skill levels.

Omitted 2018-19. Professor Parham.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2018

335 Experiments in 16mm Film

(Offered as ARHA 335 and FAMS 335) This intermediate production course surveys the outer limits of cinematic expression and provides an overview of creative 16mm film production. We will begin by making cameraless projects through drawing, painting and scratching directly onto the film strip before further exploring the fundamentals of 16mm technology, including cameras, editing and hand-processing. While remaining aware of our creative choices, we will invite chance into our process and risk failure, as every experiment inevitably must.

Through screenings of original film prints, assigned readings and discussion, the course will consider a number of experimental filmmakers and then conclude with a review of exhibition and distribution strategies for moving image art. All students will complete a number of short assignments on film and one final project on either film or video, each of which is to be presented for class critique. One three-hour class and one film screening per week.

Requisite: One 200-level production course or relevant experience (to be discussed with the instructor in advance of the first class). Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Levine.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017

345 Performance Studio

(Offered as THDA 353 and FAMS 345) In this 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, sounds and/or video. Improvisational and collaborative structures and approaches among and within different media will be investigated. The final performance pieces will be presented in the Holden Theater. 

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week. There will be weekly mandatory showings. These showings are a working document of the important and  necessary vicissitudes within a creative process.   

Requisite: THDA 252 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor. Limited to 8 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Woodson.

2018-19: 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

352 Russia and the Representation of Race

(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 292 [D] and FAMS 352) This course focuses on the modes by which race has been represented in Russian and Soviet culture. We approach this topic in two ways: first, we examine how Russian and Soviet culture grappled with questions of race, focusing on episodes in the representation of minority peoples throughout the empire and the Soviet Union; secondly, we consider how Russian and Soviet culture served as a mirror in which minorities from other countries saw their experiences partially reflected or as a source from which they found models to articulate their own experience of race. These two concerns guide us through the course as we study such works as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as it enters into dialogue with Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden Baden; the representation of Central Asia by such figures as Langston Hughes and Andrei Platonov; the appeal of the Soviet Union to Western intellectuals, in particular African-American thinkers and writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois, Hughes, and Claude McKay; Alexander Pushkin and the question of his “blackness” and universality; the cinematic representation of minorities in the films of Dziga Vertov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. We will draw our critical theoretical models from Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Patricia Hall Collins, Johannes Fabian, Stuart Hall, and Mary Louise Pratt, among others.

Omitted 2018-19. Professor Kunichika.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

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.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2017

357 Sergei Eisenstein's Cinema and Thought

(Offered as RUSS 245 and FAMS 357) This course focuses on Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), whose seminal works in the history and theory of cinema are the subject of our sustained examination. As Eisenstein postulated in 1939, “the method of cinema, when fully comprehended, will enable us to reveal an understanding of the method of art in general.” In our effort to comprehend his work and enduring relevance, we will consider Eisenstein’s stylistics through attentive viewing of his key films: Strike, Battleship Potemkin, October, Old and New, the never completed ¡Que Viva México!, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible. Along with examining their formal features and rich historical and ideological contexts, we will also consider Eisenstein’s theoretical texts on cinema and culture, attending in particular to his theories of montage, method, and his writings on the histories of literature and art. The course aims to situate his work within the broad aesthetic, philosophical, and political currents of his time, which he reflected upon in his work, and to which he, a quintessential modernist, made his distinctive and influential contributions. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected.  All readings in English.

Spring Semester. Professor Kunichika.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019

359 Andy Warhol, Filmmaker

(Offered as ENGL 386 and FAMS 359) This course examines the expansive body of films created by Andy Warhol between 1963 and the mid-1970s and considers the privileged place that cinema occupied in his artistic practice during this period. In addition to viewing key examples of the films that Warhol directed and produced (such as Kiss, The Chelsea Girls, and Flesh for Frankenstein), we will read a wide range of critical writings about Warhol from the disciplines of film studies, art history, cultural studies, and critical theory, while also sampling Warhol’s own literary output (POPism, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, etc.). Through weekly screenings and seminar discussions, we will work to contextualize Warhol’s films within broader cultural developments of the 1960s, and to assess the aesthetic, theoretical, and political parameters of his engagement with the filmic medium. Please note: attendance at course screenings is required.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018

360 Intimate Film Cultures

(Offered as ENGL 383 and FAMS 360) What’s intimate about cinema? Since its invention, cinema has spurred pronouncements on the emotional, affective, and even spiritual impact of the filmic image, as well as deeper examinations of the specific devices through which films produce intimate experience (the close-up, the kiss, etc.). For classical film theorists, such devices were often invested with redemptive potential, though more recent cultural theorists have issued strong rejoinders to such claims. Isn’t intimacy crucial to the workings of modern power? Doesn’t cinema structure intimate relations in accordance with normative ideologies? Examining such issues, this course considers how matters of intimacy have organized critical discourse on a range of intimate film cultures, from surrealism to the melodrama, underground film, queer independent cinema, and contemporary diasporic cinema. Examining film theory alongside diverse contributions to the emerging field of intimacy studies, we will ask how recent inquiries into the politics of intimacy force us to rethink the problems and potential of cinema.

Requisite: One 200-level FAMS or ENGL course, or consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19.  Professor Guilford.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018


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

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. Part of the Global Classroom Project. The Global Classroom Project uses videoconferencing technology to connect Amherst classes with courses/students outside the United States.

Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Gilpin.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

370 Traumatic Events 

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, television reportage, newspaper documentation, and 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.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014

375 Jazz Film: Improvisation, Narrativity, and Representation

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

Spring semester. Professor Robinson.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011

377 Women, Gender and Popular Culture

(Offered as SWAG 105 and FAMS 377) In this course, students will interrogate the precarious relationship between political and popular culture. As we study how politics has successfully deployed popular culture as an ideological tool, we will also consider how politics has overburdened popular culture as a vehicle of change. These broad issues will serve as our framework for analyzing black femininity, womanhood, and the efficacy of the word “feminism” in the post-Civil Rights era. We will think critically about the construction of gender, race, sexuality, and class identity as well as the historical and sociopolitical context for cultural icons and phenomena. Students will read cultural theory, essays, fiction as well as listen to, and watch various forms of media. Expectations include three writing/visual projects as well as a group presentation.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Henderson.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

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.”

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Gewertz.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

379 Black Feminist Literary Traditions

(Offered as SWAG 208, BLST 345 [US], ENGL 276, and FAMS 379) Through a close reading of texts by African American authors, we will critically examine the characterization of female protagonists, with a specific focus on how writers negotiate literary forms alongside race, gender, sexuality, and class in their work. Coupled with our explication of poems, short stories, novels, and literary criticism, we will explore the stakes of adaptation in visual culture. Students will analyze the film and television adaptations of The Color Purple (1985), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), and Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005). Authors will include Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Gloria Naylor. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 18 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Henderson.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016

382 Television and Experience

(Offered as ENGL 384 and FAMS 382) As one of our most dominant, even omnipresent media forms, television is something most of us experience every day. But Television Studies scholarship does not always take on the question of “experience” as a central part of its analysis. This course will take experience as the central component of our study. The first unit of the course will consider phenomenological approaches to television criticism, centering on those elements of televisual form that delineate an experience different from other media. Our second unit will focus on historical experience, with an emphasis on Civil Rights era television, African-American productions and/or stars, and African-American audiences. Our third and final unit will consider the platforms and devices through which we experience television in order to query how “television experience” changes over time and what elements of it have remained constant. The course will blend lecture and discussion. Readings will be both theoretical and historical. Students will produce regular reading summaries, two formal essays, and a digital final project.

Some previous coursework in FAMS may be useful. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017

383 The Documentary Impulse

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383.) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017

421 Inventing Film Theory

(Offered as ENGL 486 and FAMS 421)  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 consist of several units, each centering on a particular journal in generally chronological order (such as the Modernist Close Up; two phases of the French Cahiers du Cinéma, which has set foundations for both studies of authorship and semiotic-ideological analysis; the U.S. journal focusing on experimental and independent film, Film Culture; and the leading feminist journal of media studies, 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, writing styles, and critical 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. The final project, which we will develop through the semester, will be a web-based journal of film studies, which will put into practice the ideas and conversations of the course. One three-hour class meeting and one film screening per week.

Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students.  Omitted 2018-19. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017

422 Apocalypse Japan

(Offered as ASLC 436 and FAMS 422) This course is an introduction to contemporary Japanese popular culture through focused study of a particular theme. This semester we will concentrate on the apocalypse, among the most prominent themes in postwar Japan. Many would trace its origins to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for Japan is the only country in history to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, but we will examine a broader cultural matrix in this course, which will allow us to address questions of technology, human agency, utopia, dystopia, and spectacle, among other topics. Through reading and discussion of theories of mediation, we will also seek connections between works of popular culture and larger issues, such as globalization, politics, and discourses on cultural uniqueness. Finally, because many contemporary works utilize the apocalyptic theme as a way to explore the replacement of older media by newer technologies—such as the replacement of VHS by DVD or the displacement of traditional film by digital technology—we will also pursue issues of media specificity. This will entail learning the disciplinary terminology of film, anime, and manga studies.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Van Compernolle.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2017

423 The Film Essay

(Offered as ENGL 480 and FAMS 423) The “essay” derives its meaning from the original French essayer: to try or attempt. In its attempts to work through and experiment with new ideas, the essay form becomes a manifestation of observation, experience, and transformation. Originally developed through the written form, the essay has also taken shape in visual work–photographic, installation, and, of course, cinematic. The “essay film” is exploratory, digressive, subjective; the “video essay” is similarly personal and simultaneously transformative. The “film essay” has the capacity to be all of these things, though in the past few decades this form has become arguably schematic. Working against the conventions of the “academic” or college essay and inspired by visual experimentation, this course will explore film through a variety of manifestations of the written essay. After all, since film comes in multiple forms and offers multiple experiences, it demands multiple possibilities of rhetorical exploration.

The models for writing in this class will come from both visual and written works. Course readings will be collected from a range of historical periods and will run a gamut of approaches to film: theoretical and experiential, critical and poetic, autobiographical and historical. Class screenings will similarly come from a variety of historical eras, genres, and national spaces. Because writing assignments will often explore the cultural experience of the movies, we will visit a variety of screening venues, including a film festival, “archival” and repertory houses, art cinemas, and commercial theaters. Though it will include some lectures to contextualize readings, this course will primarily be discussion-oriented, with attentive writing workshops. Thus experimenting with method and form, students will produce weekly writings, two extended essays, and a collaboratively-produced project.

Requisite: a 200-level foundations course in ENGL or FAMS. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018

424 Foucault and Media

(Offered as ENGL 476 and FAMS 424) The French philosopher Michel Foucault is known for his challenges to conventional understandings of modern cultural practices and social institutions. In the field of media studies, Foucault’s analysis of the “panopticon,” Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth-century diagram for a prison designed on the principles of visibility and observation, is perhaps the philosopher’s best-known piece of writing, and has been adopted widely in discussions of media and surveillance. But Foucault’s other writings–from his studies of institutions like the asylum (e.g. Madness and Civilization) to his treatises on power (e.g. Discipline and Punish, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1), and his lectures on state power, biopolitics, and governmentality (e.g. “Society Must Be Defended” and “Security, Territory, Population”)–contain equally valuable resources and models for the analysis of contemporary media.

This course will explore the value of Foucault’s work, and Foucauldian analyses, for media studies, asking: what types of questions, what scales of analysis, and what modes of reading and interpretation does a close engagement with Foucault’s methods permit us to bring to the analysis of media texts? Topics will include reality television, cell phone videos, viral media campaigns, personal media devices and interfaces, on-demand cinema, and netporn.

Requisite: ENGL 280/FAMS 210, ENGL 284/FAMS 216, or equivalent introductory film/media course, plus any one course in cultural studies/literary theory/gender studies/race and ethnicity studies. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.

2018-19: Offered in Spring 2019

441 Documentary Production

(Offered as ARHA 441 and FAMS 441)  Intended for advanced film/video production students, this course will explore creative documentary practice through readings, weekly screenings and production assignments. Each student will complete a series of projects working both as a single maker and in collaboration with other members of the class. Topics may include: shooting the interview; scripting, performance and reenactment; history and narrativity; place and space; ethnography and the “embedded” filmmaker. We will also host visiting filmmakers and, where possible, visit a cultural institution which supports and screens cutting-edge documentary work.

The course will be taught annually but will focus on a set of revolving themes and issues that inform contemporary documentary filmmaking and the critical discourse that  surrounds it. The theme for fall 2016 was “Places and Spaces.”  One 3-hour class (some of which will include field shooting and research trips) and one evening screening each week.

Requisite: A prior 200-level production course or relevant experience (to be discussed with the instructor in advance of the first class). Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Montague.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018

443 Fictional Narrative Video Production

(Offered as ARHA 330 and FAMS 443) Intended for advanced film/video production students, this course will explore fictional narrative filmmaking through readings, weekly screenings and production. Within a script-to-screen process, emphasis will be placed on organization and the translation of the script into a visual narrative. Rotating in small crews between cinematographer, gaffer, sound producer, production designer and director, each student will write, shoot and edit one short film, not to exceed 8 minutes in length (including credits). One 3-hour class (which will include reading discussions, labs/workshops, script readings, and rough cut critiques) and one afternoon screening each week. Most production will be completed in groups outside of class.

Requisite: A prior 200-level production course or relevant experience (to be discussed with the instructor in advance of the first class). Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Montague.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018

462 Film and Video Curation

(Offered as ENGL 462, ARHA 462, and FAMS 462) In recent years, curating has taken on an increasingly central role in the production of contemporary media cultures. As the practice of selecting, organizing, and presenting cultural artifacts for public exhibition, curating often determines the sorts of media forms audiences have access to and the frameworks through which those media forms are interpreted. Curating requires a facility with a wide variety of skills, from historical research to critical analysis, communication, administration, and creative thinking. Yet it also entails an attentiveness to the complex socio-political issues that subtend all approaches to cultural representation.

This course introduces students to the history, theory, and practice of film and video curation, paying special attention to the curation of experimental media. Students will learn about curating in both theoretical and practical ways, analyzing a variety of conceptual issues and debates that have emerged from historical and contemporary approaches to experimental film and video exhibition, while also embarking on creative assignments designed to allow them to begin developing their own curatorial perspectives. Through weekly screenings, readings, and discussion seminars, as well as visits to off-campus arts venues and cultural institutions, we will examine the different registers of film and video exhibitions that are regularly shaped by curators (program, sequence, exhibition space, text, and formats, etc.), as well as the broader social and political stakes of media curation. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS or ARHA. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Guilford.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017

478 “Having a Voice”: Theories of Voice and Documentary

(Offered as ENGL 478 and FAMS 478) Documentary’s difference from fiction is frequently understood in terms of its emphasis on the spoken word. In documentary studies, voice, rather than point of view, is the standard parlance for describing the unique social perspective of a documentary film. Voice is also the metaphor of documentary’s social mission: some of the most influential histories of documentary are narrated as a history of giving—and having, or appropriating—the right to speak. Rather than approaching the voice as a pre-existing social fact or content, this course will ask how discourses of documentary mediate our understandings of voice. Readings will include classic texts on the cinematic voice alongside contemporary and historical theories and counter-histories of voice from a variety of critical and disciplinary contexts, including philosophy, sound, music, disability, race, gender, and sexuality studies. Screenings will draw widely from documentary and experimental film. We will ask: how are Western philosophical discourses of voice unacknowledged influences on the formal expressions of the spoken word in documentary? And conversely, how do the conventional documentary expressions of speech, such as voice-over, interview, testimony, and conversation cultivate normative and counter-normative modes of listening?

This is an advanced discussion seminar that places a heavy emphasis on speaking in class. The course also includes a final research paper.

Requisite: ENGL 280/FAMS 210, or equivalent introductory film course, plus any one course in cultural studies/literary theory/gender studies/race and ethnicity studies. Special consideration will be given to students who have taken a documentary course (whether theory or production). Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Rangan.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2018

481 Conversations with Experimental Filmmakers

(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) This seminar explores different ways of entering into conversations with experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary artists, and rigorous examinations of artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical texts, we will seek to develop critical and creative vocabularies through which to interact with an array of experimental films and videos. We will ask: What sorts of aesthetic, conceptual, and political keywords do contemporary filmmakers draw on to frame their artistic practices? How do these terms/frameworks challenge established approaches to film analysis? And how might we elaborate new ways of thinking and speaking about film in an effort to respond to this critical challenge? Topics examined in this course may include: expanded cinema, modularity, and performance; artist-run labs and the new materialism; experimental ethnography, locality, and cultural representation; landscape films and the Anthropocene; the politics of intimacy in the diary film; and abstraction, representation, and gender.

Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS or ARHA, or consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2018-19. Professor Guilford.

2018-19: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semester. The Department.

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

498, 499 Senior Honors

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

2018-19: Offered in Fall 2018
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017