English 295: The Contemporary British Cinema
This class treats British cinema of the past twenty-five years, with particular emphasis on the changing social, political, and economic environments in which the British film industry has operated during that period. One of our aims in the course will be to identify some of the distinctive aspects of contemporary British cinema and its particular place in an increasingly regional and global media market. Toward that end, we will consider the differences between films that have succeeded for the most part domestically and those that have achieved widespread international (and especially North American) distribution and acclaim. We will screen some examples of the so-called Heritage Cinema (such as the Merchant-Ivory production Howard’s End) as well as films that run sharply counter to this tendency (such as Menalik Shabazz’s Burning an Illusion, the Kureishi/Frears collaboration Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and two films by Gurinda Chadha). We will pay particular attention to the docu-realist tradition in the British cinema and its new engagement with transnational and multicultural subjects; in this connection, we will view two films each by Ken Loach and Mike Leigh as well as recent documentary-inflected films by Paul Greengrass and Michael Winterbottom.
Each student will work on a single sustained piece of scholarly research throughout the semester, culminating in a 20-page essay. I will help you get started on your research, refine a thesis, and draft and revise your essay. This will be a chance for you to really learn a lot about a film or director or actor or other topic that you care about, and to produce a solid, finished piece of scholarship.
There will also be five or six unannounced exams, covering not only the films that have been screened but also the reading assignments and lectures.