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Theories of Cinematic Spectacle

ENGL 591.401

From the first projection of moving pictures on a screen through the digitally mocapped Na'vi of Avatar’s Pandora, cinema has always been associated with spectacle – defined as an impressive, unusual, or disturbing phenomenon or event that is seen or witnessed. This course will explore the concept of “spectacle” by examining the very different ways that cinema has depended on sensationalist display throughout its history. New technologies have been mediated through cinematic spectacle; spectacle has been marshaled in the service of pedagogy and propaganda; the image of women in American film has been theorized as a form of spectacular excess. The course will also explore the function of spectacle in experimental cinema, as well as the deconstructions of spectacle by Godard and others in the wake of Guy Debord’s book, The Society of the Spectacle.

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