(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. In the Fall semester, 12 seats reserved for first-year students. Open to first-year and sophomore students. Fall semester. Professor Hastie. Spring semester: Professor Guilford.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
(Offered as ENGL 280 and FAMS 210) An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms, together with a selection of various films (classic and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion. The terms for discussion will include, among others: mise-en-scène, montage, realism, visual pleasure, and the avant-garde. Two class meetings and one screening per week.
Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Guilford.2019-20: Not offered
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 2019-20.2019-20: Not offered
(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. Fall semester. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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. Spring semester. Professor Rangan.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Not offered
(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. Spring semester: Professor Levine.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
(Offered as SPAN 330 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 English.
Omitted 2019-2020. Professor Schroeder Rodríguez.2019-20: Not offered
(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 http://www.pioneervalleysoundscapes.org/ for more information.
Requisite: MUSI 111, 112, or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Engelhardt.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2019-20. Professor Gilpin.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ASLC 234 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.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Van Compernolle.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 288, ASLC 288 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. Omitted 2019-20. Visiting Professor Sinha.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as SWAG 469, ASLC 452, and FAMS 322) How do we define the word “feminism”? Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world? In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory—the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias—through a range of South Asian cinematic texts. Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films. Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham. Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Shandilya.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Spring semester. Professor Rogowski.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
Offered as SPAN 240 and FAMS 324) Latin American documentary filmmaking in the twenty-first century has been enjoying a renaissance marked by a shift away from the highly political social documentaries of the second half of the twentieth century towards more reflexive modes of representation that explore the relationship between filmmakers and their subjects in ways that profoundly alter both. In this course, we will first discuss several canonical social documentaries of the 1960s and 1970s, and then proceed to discuss documentaries of the twenty-first century from Argentina (Andrés di Tella, Albertina Carri, María Inés Roque, Mario Oesterheld, and Jorge Prelorán), Brazil (Eduardo Coutinho, João Moreira Salles, Eryk Rocha, and Gabriel Mascaro), Mexico (Roberto Hernández), Colombia (the collective Mujeres al borde), Chile (Patricio Guzmán), and Guatemala (Ana Lucía Cuevas). As part of the class students will have the opportunity to create their own reflexive documentaries using the techniques we will have studied and discussed in class. Conducted in Spanish.
Requisite: SPAN 211 or consent of instructor. Omitted 2019-2020. Professor Schroeder Rodríguez.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2019-20. Professor Parham.2019-20: Not offered
(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. Fall semester. Professor Levine.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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 2019-20. Professor Woodson.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 381 and FAMS 351) Film theorist Siegfried Kracauer declared that some of the first films showed “life at its least controllable and most unconscious moments, a jumble of transient, forever dissolving patterns accessible only to the camera.” This course will explore the ways contemporary narrative films aesthetically represent everyday life–capturing both its transience and our everyday ruminations. We will further consider the ways we incorporate film into our everyday lives through various modes of viewings (the arthouse, the multiplex, the DVD, the mp3), our means of perception, and in the kinds of souvenirs we keep. We will look at films by Chantal Akerman, Robert Altman, Marleen Gorris, Hirokazu Koreeda, Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Tsai Ming-liang, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Andy Warhol. Readings will include work by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Marlene Dietrich, Sigmund Freud, and various works in film and media studies. Three hours of lectures and three hours of film screening per week.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 392 [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.
Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as THDA 354, FAMS 354 and MUSI 354) Building on the concepts learned in THDA 254/MUSI 254, this studio course further develops the student’s work in sound design through an intensive focus on hands-on practice. Students will participate as sound designers in the Amherst Theater & Dance production program, the Five-College production program, and in other collaborative sound design and compositional opportunities with filmmakers, visual artists, installation artists, game designers, and podcasters. Throughout the term, students will expand and deepen their relationship to the toolkit introduced in Sound Design I, while we examine strategies for developing an efficient, real-world approach to the creative and technical rehearsal processes in various modes of live performance and art making. Limited to twelve students.
Requisite: THDA 254/MUSI 254 or consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Meginsky.
(Offered as ENGL 376 and FAMS 355) Moving image and audiovisual media frequently assume a fully able subject despite the infinite variety of our embodied capacities and debilitations. This course will explore how this assumption has shaped the design, narrative forms, audiovisual poetics, exhibition contexts, and modes of spectatorship and engagement of a range of media forms, from cinema to digital interfaces. We will examine how critical, experimental, and therapeutic approaches to media, the uses of media by people with disabilities, and media made in collaboration with disabled makers and protagonists enable us to fundamentally rethink what media can be and do. Readings will draw from disability studies and film and media studies as well as philosophy, science and technology studies, performance studies, sound studies, and other areas. Topics may include: disability tropes and rehabilitation narratives in film and TV; prostheses and “assistive” technologies; subtitles, captions, and the politics of accessibility; inclusive product and interface design; staring as spectatorial mode; sound art and polymodal listening.
Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS is recommended but not required. Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Kunichika.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as BLST 230 [D] and FAMS 358) In offering extended formal considerations of Spike Lee’s cinematic oeuvre – in particular his uses of light, sound, and color – this course is interested in how shifting through various modes of critical inquiry can enable or broaden different kinds of cultural, political, or historical engagement with a film. We will also pay special attention to the question of what it means to encapsulate a specific cultural moment, particularly vis-à-vis the often differing demands of fictional and non-fictional representation. As well, Lee’s aesthetic techniques, cultural politics, and wide-ranging critique of the American racial caste system will help us think about the role of film in ongoing struggles for racial justice.
Spring semester. Professor Drabinski.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Guilford.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2019-20. Professor Guilford.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2019-20. Professor Gilpin.2019-20: Not offered
(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.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Gilpin.2019-20: Not offered
(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 inform the ways that stories about jazz musicians are constructed in film? 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.
Omitted 2019-20. Professor Robinson.2019-20: Not offered
(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 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Henderson.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(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 2019-20. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Not offered
(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. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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 2019-20. Professor Van Compernolle.2019-20: Not offered
(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 course 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. Spring semester. Professor Hastie.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as ASLC 437 and FAMS 437) Japanese animation (popularly known as anime) is ubiquitous in today’s world. This seminar traces the history of animation in Japan, from the earliest known work in 1907, stenciled directly onto a strip of celluloid, to the media convergence of the present. Animation allows us access to a larger history of media in Japan, including cinema, television, and today’s hybrid “contents industry.” Animation is also shaped by these many media forms. Topics include the relationship between animation and the state during wartime, the rise of a commercial industry, the analog revolution of the multi-plane camera, the digital revolution of the computer, and the stream of experimental animation across the twentieth century, among others. Course materials include films, television shows, computer entertainments, technical readings, and theoretical essays. Assignments, centered on a final research paper, are designed to cultivate research skills that can be applied to popular culture texts.
Limited to 25 students. Fall Semester. Professor Van Compernolle.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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 2019 will be “Place and Space". 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. Fall semester. Professor Levine.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
(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. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Montague.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ARHA 444 and FAMS 444) Essay filmmaking is a dynamic form with many commonly cited attributes—the presence of an authorial voice, an emphasis on broad themes, an eclectic approach to genre, and the tendency to digress or draw unexpected connections. Yet, true to its nature, the precise definition of the essay film is in constant flux. It can be both personal and political, individual and collective, noble and mischievous. Essay filmmakers themselves are equally diverse, ranging from established film auteurs to Third Cinema activists and contemporary video artists.
If we entertain the notion that the processes of cinema closely resemble the mechanics of human thought, then the essay film may be the medium’s purest expression. To watch or make such a film, we must give ourselves over to a compulsive, restless energy that delights in chasing a subject down any number of rabbit holes and blind alleys, often stopping to admire the scenery on the way. As with thought, there is no end product, no clear boundaries, no goal but the activity itself.
The term "essay" finds its origins in the French essayer, meaning “to attempt” or to try.” In this advanced production workshop, we will read, screen and discuss examples of the essayistic mode in literature and cinema while making several such attempts of our own. Students will complete a series of writing assignments and video projects informed by class materials and group discussion.
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.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
In this course, we will take the skills and insights gained in introductory production courses and develop them over the length of the semester through the creation of one short project, ten minutes long. Students may work individually or in pairs. We will learn by making work as well as by researching, reading, and watching films related to our projects. We may take this opportunity to delve into and learn the conventions of our chosen form, or we may decide that our content demands formal experimentation and risk-taking. The course will be structured by the projects each student brings to it. We will begin the semester with brainstorming, research, script/documentary proposal writing, and pre-production. Each student will develop a script or in-depth proposal to begin with. As we move into production, we will review and deepen our knowledge of camera, lighting (available & set), sound (location & studio), and editing principles and techniques. We will move between production and post-production in the second half of the semester, first developing sequences, then rough assemblies, rough cuts, and fine cuts, before ultimately completing our final cut.
Requisites: Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have completed at least one previous course in video production and preferably two previous courses, one at the 200-level and one at the 300-level. Limited to 10 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor Mellis.2019-20: Offered in Spring 2020
(Offered as ENGL 477 and FAMS 455) Confession is arguably central to expressions of postmodern selfhood. It informs the evidentiary logic of our civil apparatuses (legal, medical, humanitarian) and infuses the fabric of our diplomatic, intimate, and public 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 relationship between speech, truth, and power through the many meanings and itineraries of the confession. We will focus on various institutions that have shaped confessional regimes of truth (such as the Catholic confessional, psychoanalysis, and torture), as well as the role of media forms (from autobiographical literature to true crime documentary and reality television) in consolidating and challenging these regimes. Assignments include in-class presentation, a midterm essay, and a final research essay.
Requisite: Prior coursework in ENGL or FAMS strongly recommended. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Rangan.2019-20: Not offered
(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 2019-20. Professor Guilford.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 475 and FAMS 471) This is a course about the kinds of knowledge held by different material spaces, and the kinds of racialized and gendered experiences of memory made available by a given space. It is also a course about media, and how experiences of identity are made more possible or impossible by media forms. What, like the earth, might a medium hold? Why do so many scholars and artists want us to think about the earth itself as a recording device? What does that analogy reveal about conceptions of the environment and of technology? As an engagement with scholarship at the intersection of literary, ethnic, and ecological media studies, this course will offer a variety of opportunities to conceptualize different kinds of recording. With such concerns in mind, we will look specifically at texts that ask us to understand both media and ecological materialities through three foundational North American and Caribbean experiences–enslavement, migration, and displacement. Artists and scholars we will look at this semester include Bessie Smith, Ellen Gallagher, Ana Mendieta, Joy Kogawa, Jamaica Kincaid, Linda Hogan, Edwidge Danticat, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. Over the course of the semester students will also be asked to integrate their investigations into media with their own forays into literary and cultural analysis.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Parham.2019-20: Not offered
(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 18 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professor Rangan.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 479, FAMS 479, and ARHA 479) The filmmaker John Grierson broadly defined documentary as “the creative treatment of actuality.” How then, do documentary filmmakers responsibly balance the creative license of fiction with a respect for facts and material realities? Similarly, how do we as viewers agree upon a set of terms or rules for judging the success of a documentary film? “Problems in Documentary” explores the complications of the documentary form, which is neither fictional invention nor factual reproduction. This course will involve both creative and critical practice. It is designed for students with prior experience in both studying and making audiovisual media.
Students will read, watch, and discuss material that considers key problems in documentary filmmaking (negotiating power and textual authority; intervening in versus observing events; representing traumatic events; obtaining consent; recreating the past; representing social actors; finding the right form for a subject; filming and editing ethically; navigating institutional protocols) before developing a series of individual documentary video assignments. Subsequent discussions and critique, both in-class and in writing, will focus on evaluating these projects in terms of how they respond to the challenges raised by documentary critics and makers encountered in class.
Requisites: A 200-level Foundations in Critical Media Studies course (“Coming to Terms: Cinema,” “Coming to Terms: Media,” “Knowing Cinema,” “Knowing Television,” or “Introduction to Film Theory”) and an introductory film/video production course. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2019-20. Professors Levine and Rangan.2019-20: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 481, ARHA 481, and FAMS 481) Experimental film is a vital area of contemporary media culture where artists engage the moving image from a wide range of creative approaches, exploring film as an aesthetic, poetic, or political medium, rather than a commercial enterprise. By departing from the conventions of mainstream film, experimental filmmakers present their audience with a stimulating challenge, asking viewers to develop new critical frameworks through which to assess films that often resist classification and traditional interpretive approaches.
In this seminar, students will take up this challenge by exploring different ways of entering into conversation with the work of experimental filmmakers. Through weekly screenings, in-class visits by contemporary filmmakers, and group discussions of course readings (such as artists’ writings, interviews, and related theoretical material), we will develop critical and creative vocabularies that help us to analyze and respond to an array of experimental films and videos. Along with completing writing assignments and in-class presentations, students will plan and execute a final project that can assume a number of critical or creative forms, such as an interview with a filmmaker, a short video, or an analytical essay.
Requisite: At least one foundational course in FAMS, ARHA, or ENGL. Open to juniors and seniors, and to sophomores with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Guilford.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019
Independent reading course.
Fall and spring semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020
Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. The Department.2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019