Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Cinema and Socialism

ENGL 310.401
crosslisted as: CIMS 310 (3100), ARTH 381 (3810), EALC 104, REES 3770
instructor(s):
Monday 12-3:00pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Films from socialist countries are often labeled and dismissed as “propaganda” in Western democratic societies. This course complicates this simplistic view, arguing for the value in understanding the ties between socialist governments, the cinematic arts, and everything in between. We will examine films from past and present socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Cuba, as well as films made with socialist aspirations. As this course will argue, the formal features of socialist films cannot be understood without reference to how cinema as an institution is situated: both in relation to socialism as ideology, and the lived experiences of socialism. We will consider topics such as socialist cultural theory, film exhibition, and reception, tracing over 100 years of film history: from 1917 to the present day. This course connects different global traditions of socialism, as well as disparate global regions, arguing for a transnational and transhistorical connection that cuts against the grain of most North American cultural discourse.