Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

20th Century American Film: Alfred Hitchcock

ENGL 492.640
instructor(s):
M 5:30-8:10

This is an interdisciplinary course focusing on films by Alfred Hitchcock, likely including The Lodger, Blackmail, Rope, Rebecca, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Marnie, Psycho, and The Birds. The span, sophistication, and influence of Hitchcock's films will enable us to trace as well a history of 20th-century American film, including 19th-century technologies and attitudes on film formation, and the introduction of sound and color, and how various formal and historical transformations affected American film and its reception. We will examine films from various perspectives, as Hitchcock moves over the course of a few decades from a painterly expressionism to intentional schlock. Considering these films from the disciplinary perspectives of formalism, psychoanalysis, feminism, history, biography, and film theory, we'll be developing an understanding of Hitchcock's contributions to American culture as well as acquiring new ways of thinking and talking about film. Along with screenings and readings, students in this seminar will be asked to write a series of brief papers and a film review, as well as research, prepare, and present a project related to the course. An optional film screening will take place on Tuesdays from 6:30-9:10, but students may also rent the films to watch at home.