Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Special Topics in Film

ENGL 292.920
instructor(s):
TR 5:30-8:10 Screenings: W 5-8

This course will revolve around the question of American, and predominantly Hollywood, film over the last thirty years. The post-classical period of American cinema is usually marked by the appearance of _Bonnie and Clyde_, the film that ushered in a new, vibrant, and often anti-institutional mode of narrative and representation. In this class we'll begin by investigating this "American Renaissance" in such films as _Easy Rider_, _Two Lane Blacktop_, and _Nashville_. Subsequently, we'll try to piece together the constituents of "New Hollywood," that is, of the logic of blockbusters, marketing, and action that has come to dominate American cinema over the last two decades. We'll move from the first blockbuster, Spielberg's _Jaws_, to more recent films such as _The Matrix_ and _Fight Club_. In particular, we'll consider the emergence of millenial, apocalyptic, and ultimately paranoid cinema as a means of repressing the complexity of postmodern life and the "warrior theater" (Daney) of the twentieth century. Are there other ways to depict that world in which we live, to express the anxieties of our age, or are we doomed to the Cabalistic promise that "the truth is out there"? Readings for the course will likely include Kolker's _A Cinema of Loneliness_, Lewis' _New American Cinema_, a brief foray into writings on chaos theory, and at least one novel.