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Film and Theory

ENGL 291.401
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This course is designed as an introduction to film theory, ranging from the earliest discussions about the medium of cinema (and photography) to the most recent debates about the viability of this medium in a new, digital order of things. If cinema is, as many believe, the paradigmatic art form of the twentieth century, then perhaps our position on the brink of a new century can help us to shed some light on certain fundamental questions: What is cinema? What differentiates it from other art forms? How do we think about films without "reading" them and thereby reducing them to just another kind of text? How does cinema historically construct our world and ourselves (i.e., men and women)? Is it possible to historicize this fairly new art form like other arts, or do we need to begin to imagine the relationship of cinema and history differently? The first half of the class will draw on fairly classical works in film theory; we'll read Epstein, Eisenstein, Kracauer, and great deal of Bazin. The second half of the course will shift to more recent discussions about cinema, and we'll devote particular attention to historiographic debates that currently dominate film studies. In this vein, we'll read Hansen, Jameson, Andrew, and Deleuze (among many others). In addition, we will screen at least one film a week for which students will be responsible like any other reading. There will be a midterm, several small essays, and a longer final paper. Note: This course presumes that students have at least a basic familiarity with the vocabulary of film criticism (shot, pan, track, etc.).