Film and Media Studies


Art 374 - New Media/Old Media—Experiments in Optical Media and Computation

Full course for one semester. The course will examine and experiment with various forms of old and analog media combined with new and speculative twenty-first-century media technology to see if they can be productively remade and integrated into contemporary art practices. Our goal is to defamiliarize photography and new/digital media by finding alternative uses, or by revisiting a time when they had not separated themselves into distinct and different discourses looking at historical devices, methods, and tools that shared common aspirations and limitations. Technical, aesthetic, and conceptual possibilities are explored through studio workshops, projects, readings, slide presentations, lab work, and critiques. Students must be highly self-motivated and will be expected to design independent projects. Prerequisite: two 200-level studio art courses; or two of Art 190, 195, or 196; or one of Art 291, 292, 293, or 294. Enrollment limited to 16. Studio.

Chinese 347 - Modern Sinophone Fiction & Film

Full course for one semester. This course examines the rich corpus of modern Sinophone literary and cinematic works produced within and beyond China proper, highlighting the historical and cultural contexts of the literature and such issues as multiculturalism, complex identities, and global perspectives. Throughout this course, students will examine Sinophone literature and films of varied historical and geographical backgrounds and construct a critical understanding of the diverse Sinophone culture. An additional session of guided readings in the original text will be offered for students taking the course for Chinese credit. Prerequisite for Chinese credit: sophomore standing and Chinese 210 or equivalent. Prerequisite for literature credit: sophomore standing. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 347.

English 261 - Film Noir

Full course for one semester. This course will focus on film noir in American cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, examining its plotlines and narrative methods as well as its distinctive visual style. Students will be introduced to the language of film analysis and trace the genre’s sources in “hard-boiled” detective fiction, German expressionism, and the cultural climate of the United States in the decades in which the films were produced. Questions about visual framing, narrative structure, and genre will inform readings and discussions, as will the films’ representations of tensions in postwar social roles. The course will conclude with a consideration of one or two more recent examples of “neo-noir.” Required readings on film and narrative theory; directors will include Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, Jacques Tourneur, Fritz Lang, Howard Hawks, and Michael Curtiz. Prerequisite: Humanities 110 or sophomore standing. Conference.

French 392 - French Connections: The Intertwined Histories of French and American Cinema

Full course for one semester. This course explores the deep connections between French and American cinema, which stem from over a century of reciprocal influences disseminated through powerful images and intersecting discourses on film as an autonomous language and art form. Structured around exchanges among cinephilic filmmakers, actors, camera operators, composers, and defiant critics from both sides of the Atlantic, it offers an introduction to the parallel histories of two major filmic traditions, while also questioning the very notion of national cinema. As we move in time from the contested origins of moving images and the development of national cinemas to the emergence of successive “new waves” to the transnational film industry of today, we will examine how the dialogue between French and American artists contributed to shaping significant periods in film history (silent film, surrealism, poetic realism, the French New Wave, New American Cinema), distinctive genres (the film noir, thriller, teen pic, musical, comedy of manners, road movie), and common themes (alienation, precarity, urban violence, police brutality, exile) in both commercial and independent films. Filmmakers discussed include Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Germaine Dulac, Maya Deren, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, Julien Duvivier, John Huston, Nicholas Ray, Roger Vadim, Jean-Luc Godard, John Cassavetes, Robert Bresson, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, Jacques Demy, Eric Rohmer, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Mathieu Kassovitz, Agnès Varda, Kelly Reichardt, and Mati Diop. Conducted in English. No previous experience with film analysis is required. Students taking the course for French literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for French credit: French 210 or demonstration of equivalent ability by placement exam. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 392.

German 346 - Introduction to Media Studies

Full course for one semester. Since Marshall McLuhan’s pronouncement that “the medium is the message,” scholars have studied the ways in which media technologies—from the printing press and the postal service to electric lighting and WiFi—support and transform our lives. This course offers and introduction to major theorists and debates in media studies through close analyses of films, literature, and theoretical texts. In keeping with McLuhan’s dictum, our focus will be not so much on understanding individual media, but on understanding from the perspective of media. Questions that will concern us include: What is (and isn’t) a medium? What do media do? To what extent do we create media, and to what extent do media create us? Readings from Plato, McLuhan, Kittler, Benjamin, Adorno, Heidegger, and Donna Haraway; art by Antonioni, Lang, Kafka, Hitchcock, Hoffman, H.D., Gertrude Stein, and Spike Jonze. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 346 and Art 346.

German 349 - Cinema and Politics

Full course for one semester. This course offers an introduction to German cinema, focusing on the question: “What makes a film political?” From expressionist film to new wave cinema to the contemporary Berlin school, the German cinematic tradition includes numerous films with a political agenda. The “political” may take on the form of critique: of authorities and hierarchies, of racism and anti-Semitism, of the repression of the Nazi past, of capitalism and consumer society. Or it may aid the creation of inclusive communities by expanding our sense of who can talk and be heard, what can be seen and felt. We will watch groundbreaking films by German and other European directors, including Murnau, Lang, Eisenstein, Riefenstahl, Rossellini, Resnais, Kluge, Herzog, Fassbinder, Akerman, Ottinger, Akin, Petzold. Theoretical readings by Brecht, Benjamin, Adorno, Mulvey, Rancière, and others. Conducted in English. No previous experience with film analysis is required; students will be introduced to key skills and concepts. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or equivalent or consent of instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 349.

Literature 309 - Introduction to Film Theory

Full course for one semester. The goal of this course is to introduce students to the main ideas and debates on film theory and criticism, from the early days of silent film to the most recent approaches to digital cinema. The discussion will focus on the most significant movements and film schools in Europe, the United States, Latin America, and other parts of the world: realism, formalism, apparatus theory, psychoanalysis, feminism, auteurism, genre criticism, theories of spectatorship and reception, postmodernism, and third world and postcolonial cinema, among others. In addition to theoretical approaches, students will become familiar with cinematic language, including mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound. The course will explore the work of directors such as D.W. Griffith, Sergei M. Eisenstein, F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Vittorio De Sica, Jean-Luc Godard, Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Ousmane Sembene, Pedro Almodóvar, Agnès Varda, Wong Kar-wai, and Asghar Farhadi. Course includes weekly film screenings. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor.  Conference.

Russian 362 - Red Sci-Fi: Science Fiction in Soviet Literature and Film

Full course for one semester. Though working behind the Cold War “iron curtain,” post-World War II Soviet writers and filmmakers were preoccupied with the same ideas and questions as their Western and American counterparts, often working in parallel genres. One such genre was science fiction, which became enormously popular in the Soviet Union starting in the mid-1950s. Relying on the rich tradition of the 1920s, the postwar writers and filmmakers used science fiction to reflect on urgent societal and philosophical issues. In the presence of state censorship and official ideology, science fiction became the venue for veiled and subversive critique of the regime. In this course, through reading and watching major works of Russian sci-fi fiction and cinema, we will explore how they imagined artificial intelligence and time travel; space exploration and alien species and robots; the quest for immortality; and the nuclear apocalypse. We will situate these works in their immediate artistic and cultural contexts and the wider, primarily American, comparative context of postwar science fiction. Readings and screenings from the Strugatsky brothers, Alexander Beliaev, Alexei Tolstoy, Andrei Tarkovsky, Kir Bulychev, Sever Gansovsky, Klushantsev, and others. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 362.

Russian 363 - Film Adaptation: When Kurosawa Met Dostoevsky

Full course for one semester. Since the invention of cinema at the turn of the twentieth century, the relationship between literature and film has been one of the most central, contentious, and fruitful aspects of cinematic history, aesthetics, and production. What happens when a fictional text is adapted to screen? How important is the film’s faithfulness to the original literary work? Is cinema secondary to literature or can screen and page be on equal footing? Does adaptation constitute an interpretation or a betrayal of the primary source? These are some of the chief questions we will examine in this course through studying an array of cinematic adaptations produced in Europe, Asia, and the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We will watch and analyze films by such directors as Lina Wertmuller, Robert Bresson, Luchino Visconti, Orson Welles, Paul Mazursky, John Huston, Akira Kurosawa, Grigory Kozintsev, and based on the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, William Shakespeare, I. B. Singer, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, and Philip Roth, among others. We will study each film in its historical and cultural context and read the work on which it is based, scrutinizing the relationship between the two. Students will also be introduced to some of the key texts of adaptation theory which will frame the class discussions. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 363.

Russian 436 - Sergei Eisenstein’s Film Art: Decadence, Revolution, and the Mechanics of Ecstasy

Full course for one semester. This course explores the works of Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), a Soviet film director and theorist, widely considered one of the most influential creative artists of the twentieth century. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) revolutionized film as an art form, and his other cinematic works, such as Strike (1925), October (1927), The General Line (1929), ¡Que viva México! (1932), Alexander Nevsky (1938), and Ivan the Terrible (1944–45), made a great and deeply original contribution to the development of filmmaking and film aesthetics. As a theorist, Eisenstein formulated the principles of film editing (known as montage) and studied viewers’ and readers’ response to art. He authored provocative autobiographical writings as well as works of sexual theory, psychology, literary scholarship, and philosophy. Thousands of his drawings comment, ironically and often obscenely, on the mechanics of artistic, sexual, and religious ecstasy—which Eisenstein saw as a unity. We will study Eisenstein in a number of contexts: aesthetic (in connection to Decadence and avant-garde), political (Stalinism), and filmic (D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Dziga Vertov, Alexander Dovzhenko, et al.). The workload includes weekly film screenings and extensive reading and writing, as well as class presentations. Conducted in English. An additional weekly session will be scheduled for students taking the course for Russian credit. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 436.

Russian 445 - The Films of S. Kubrick and A. Tarkovsky

Full course for one semester. The figures of Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999) and Andrei Tarkovsky (1932–1986) loom large in the history of twentieth-century cinema and continue to exert a profound influence on contemporary filmmakers in their respective countries and worldwide. Ostensibly different in technique, style, and biography, they both developed distinct philosophies of cinema and share a number of remarkable similarities which invite a comparative examination of the two. Both Kubrick and Tarkovsky employed the same genres—noir, historical drama, science fiction, war—and turned to the same themes of the nature of art and the role of the artist, nuclear disaster, memory, and the legacy of World War II. In this course, we will watch all of Kubrick’s and Tarkovsky’s completed films and study them in the context of their respective cultural, cinematic, and literary contexts, Russian/Soviet, American, and European. We will also read the directors’ theoretical writings and reflections on cinema and from the extensive scholarship on them. The goal of the course is not only to provide an in-depth introduction to the two directors, but to train students in the fundamentals of cinematic analysis. Conducted in English. Prerequisite: students who wish to take the course for Russian credit must have completed Russian 220 or obtain the consent of the instructor. Lecture-conference. Cross-listed as Literature 445.

Spanish 372 - Documentary Resistance in Latin America and Spain

Full course for one semester. What makes a documentary a form of resistance? What defines this genre or mode? What elements and techniques characterize these documentary films? The course focuses on documentary films from Latin America and Spain that represent struggles for social justice and function as a cultural form of protest and resistance. By discussing the films in their historical and political contexts, the course examines the strategies, genres, and techniques that filmmakers use to address and participate in social change, as well as ethical and aesthetic questions about representation and production. We will watch and discuss films by Patricio Guzmán (Chile), Fernando Solanas (Argentina), Mario Handler (Uruguay), Lourdes Portillo (Mexico), Claudia Llosa (Peru), and Xapo Ortega and Xavier Artigas (Spain), among others. Prerequisite for Spanish credit: Spanish 321 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 372.