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African-American Cinema, 1930-Present

ENGL 392.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective of the Standard Major

This course provides a survey of the history of African American representation in cinema. It begins with an examination of "race movies" of the 1930s including early Black cast westerns (Harlem Rides the Range, The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem on the Prairie). The course covers Black-cast musicals of the 30s and 40s (St. Louis Blues, Black and Tan, Hi De Ho, Sweethearts of Rhythm).  We will interrogate the changing configuration of race relations and how legislation, social protest and desegregation precipitated changes in American film. Political debate circulating around cross over stars (Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Harry Belafonte) is central to the course. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the seventies (Shaft, Coffy, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones) in an attempt to understand its impact on filmmakers and the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking.  The course covers "Los Angeles Rebellion" filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Charles Burnett and Haile Gerima. Realist cinema of the 80's and 90's (Do the Right Thing, Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society and Set It Off) is examined before the transition to Black romantic comedies, family films, and genre pictures (Love and Basketball, Bamboozled, Akeelah and the Bee, The Great Debaters).  The methodological approach to the material is interdisciplinary. The readings address film history, criticism and aesthetics. Course material is also taken from critical race theory, queer theory and cultural studies.  Readings, screenings and papers are required.