Film Studies Program

Film Studies Course Descriptions

ANTH 250 Visual Anthropology

In an increasingly visually-oriented world, this course focuses on the use of photographs and film to represent people from various cultures, as well as the use of film by indigenous groups to represent themselves. We learn about cultures through visual and narrative means, and critically analyze the filmmaking process, as well as other forms of visual media. (CW, SB)

ARTH/PHIL 389 Aesthetics and Contemporary Art

An introduction to aesthetics as a theoretical discipline in its own right, a discipline concerned with the nature of representation and thus with beauty and art. The course will focus in particular on issues of aesthetics and visual representation; the relationship between visual arts, literature and other art forms; the efficacy of aesthetic theory as a mode of reading and interpretation. We will explore these issues in relation to specific works of visual art, film, and literature. Texts by, among others, Kant, Hegel, Schlegel, Freud, Adorno, Kafka, Benjamin, Derrida, and Sontag. (LS, VA)

ENGF 269 Introduction to Film Studies

A basic introduction to the concepts and techniques of film analysis and criticism. Required for the Film Studies minor and highly recommend as a prerequisite for more advanced Film Studies courses. (LS, W1)

ENGF 275 Film and the Environment

Our daily lives happen within an environment. Like cinema, our lived environment has spatial and temporal contours; moreover, our daily environment—as remembered and projected—has been informed, imagined, predicted, and challenged by our experience of the world on a screen. Studying cinematic environment introduces new ways of talking about our world. How can the “change mummified” at the heart of cinema capture and reveal climate and environmental change? In this course, we will study the ways that 1) humans and environments interact within a film, 2) cinematography, editing, mise-en-scene, and sound produce and capture an environment as film, and 3) audiences and films interact within cinematic and lived environments. While “Film and the Environment” might bring to mind conventional nature documentaries featuring an authoritative voiceover describing intricate phenomena, this course instead considers how every film relates to the environment through the mechanical reproduction and mass production of space and time. Moreover, cinema—itself an art of ephemera—can slow, reveal, or accelerate changes in the environment. Including formalist, ecological, and phenomenological study of film, this course explores film’s revelatory capacity and creative production of the environment. Films likely include the following: Moonrise Kingdom, The Straight Story, There Will Be Blood, Sherlock, Jr., Days of Heaven, An Inconvenient Truth, Meek’s Cutoff, Children of Men, Grizzly Man, Princess Mononoke, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Microcosmos, Thelma and Louise, Jaws, To Be and To Have, Soylent Green.

ENGF 310 French New Wave

The French New Wave refers to a period of world film history (generally 1959-1964) in which artists feverishly directed their cinephilia toward the creation and criticism of a generically-hybrid, formally experimental, and highly allusive cinema. Impatient with films that merely adapted literary narratives or painterly aesthetics, French New Wave artists and critics self-reflexively called attention to cinematic techniques of making meaning and telling stories. This course explores the important films and writings by/about French New Wave artists such as Varda, Truffaut, Godard, Resnais, Chabrol, and Rohmer. Students will gain not only an expanded knowledge of film history but also an increased understanding of cinematic narratives and styles. Recommended prerequisite: ENGF 269 or ENGL 223. (LS)

ENGF 358 African Film

A study of feature films and documentaries made by African filmmakers, focusing on issues of globalization, education, gender, popular culture and environmental change in contemporary Africa. Recommended prerequisite: At least one previous course in African literature or African history. (LS)

ENGF 381 Film Theory

This course explores theories of how and why films make meaning, how and why spectators create and absorb these meanings, and the role of film within historical, cultural, psychological, and social contexts. We will begin with early film theories that attempt to make sense of cinema at its beginnings: what makes film different from the other arts? Are we attracted to narrative or to spectacle, and how has this attraction (as well as narrative and spectacle themselves) changed over the years? We will then chronologically move through the century of film theory: Formalist film theorists focus on the transformative potential of the medium itself, the degree to which close-ups, for example, can "defamiliarize" and thus "make new" an otherwise ordinary object. Proponents of realism advocate the camera’s transparent absorption of the world; they herald films that privilege an audience’s active participation in the diegesis (enabled by, for example, the long take and deep focus of Welles, for example). While structuralist theorists attempt to schematize film meaning by outlining film codes and conventions that govern our interpretations, psychoanalytic and feminist film theories claim that spectatorial relationships resemble the structure of the subconscious (in which desire, identification, and objectification affect meaning). From this focus on the individual spectator, we will consider how film creates and impacts audiences, more generally: What universal claims, if any, define our understanding of and relationship to film? Recommended Prerequisite: ENGF 269 or ENGL 223. (LS)

ENGF 382 Non-Fiction Film

This course examines non-fiction film in the context of ethical, ideological, socio-political, environmental, and aesthetic concerns. What can the art of film contribute to documenting a place, time, issue, or event? How have cinematic issues of ethics and aesthetics changed over time? How have spectators' expectations for cinematic truth changed over time? What responsibilities does an artist have to her world? What does non-fiction film contribute to the history of representing subjects such as war, death, beauty, pathos, happiness, memory, justice, friendship, or love? How do non-fiction films combine fictional and documentary conventions, and what distinguishes non-fiction film from writing or photography? To explore these questions, this course will examine a range of international films from a variety of historical periods. Recommended Prerequisite: ENGF 269 or ENGL 223. (LS)

ENGF 390 Topics in Film Studies

Intensive focus on a particular cinematic subject. Possible subjects include Film Comedy, Silent Cinema, Women and Film, Coming of Age in Cinema, Melodrama, Art Cinema, Film Noir, Cinephilia, Films of the 1950s (or other decades/years), Cinema and Landscape, Cinematic Time, Star Studies, and additional genres or national cinemas. Recommended Prerequisite: ENGF 269 or ENGL 223. (LS)

ENGF 490 Topics in Film Studies

Intensive study of a particular subject in Film Studies. This course will focus on a particular film genre, figure (e.g. director, star, theorist), national cinema, or school of theory or criticism. Prerequisites: any 300-level course in English. Open to seniors; open to other students by permission of the instructor. Recommended Prerequisites: ENGF 269, ENGL 223, or any 300-level ENGF course. (LS, W2)

ENGF 490 Topics in Film Studies: Cinematic Landscape and Atmosphere

This course explores landscape and atmosphere as what moves within a cinematic environment. How does atmosphere enliven landscape, and how might atmospheric dynamism (wind, rain, fog, snow, sunlight) lend movement to a landscape, much like a film camera activates a world? This course privileges atmospheric identification, a phenomenological way of studying film. Enabled by film’s affinity for and capacity to reveal the ephemeral, atmospheric identification allows us to imagine, for example, rain on our hands, sun on our face, snow sifting through the air before us; such sensitivity inspires us to appreciate a dynamic landscape as a source of meaning and attention. Though this course doesn’t have specific prerequisites, students would be better prepared for the course’s advanced rigour—weekly readings and screenings, sustained seminar discussion, regular writing assignments, seminar paper and presentation—with prior film experience. Texts include the following: Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space; Robert Bird, Elements of Tarkovsky; Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film; Annette Kuhn, Ratcatcher; Cinema and Landscape, eds. Graeme Harper and Jonathan Rayner. Films likely include Manhattan, The Mirror, I am Love, Heavenly Creatures, Tokyo Story, Red Desert, I Know Where I’m Going!, Badlands, Summer Hours, Ratcatcher, Climates, L’Atalante, The Day I Became a Woman, It Happened One Night, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Top of the Lake, Still Walking. 

ENGL 223 Literary and Cinematic Adaptations

According to biology, adaptation involves “the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment” (Oxford English Dictionary). To what extent does adaptation, with regard to image, sound, and narrative, similarly render a literary text “better suited to its environment”? In this course, we will explore whether or how films might offer a “better suited” expression of story worlds. Despite the fact that many people utter “the book was better because” as a judgment regarding a film version of a beloved novel, film adaptations continue to enjoy terrific popularity. This course has interest in not only why but also how. Instead of evaluating a film adaptation through criteria of fidelity to the novel, we will consider how cinematic techniques transform, translate, and engage with literary text. By the end of the course, students will have a much richer idea of what adaptation, of any sort, might entail. Texts/films may include the following: Alice Munro’s “Bear Came Over the Mountain” with Sarah Polley’s Away from Her, Vladimir Nabokov’s and Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, Jeffrey Eugenides’ and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Charlotte Brontë’s and Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, Susanna Moore’s and Jane Campion’s In the Cut, David Goodis’s and François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player. (LS, W1)

ENGL 248 The Holocaust in Literature, Theory, and Film

This course explores representations of and reflections on the Holocaust. Students will consider what it means to represent an extreme or limit experience—an experience felt by perpetrators and victims alike to be unrepresentable. Course texts will include novels, memoirs, graphic novels, films, and excerpts from an array of theoretical works. (LS, W1)

ENGL 270 The Theme of Woman's Vocation in Literature and Film

An examination of woman’s vocation as portrayed, prescribed, or challenged by literature and film. Readings and film viewings will address both classic masterworks and popular culture. Featured authors may include novelists and memoirists from the 18th through the late 20th centuries (such as Defoe, Ballard, Burney, Brontë, Eliot, Gissing, Woolf, Drabble, Lodge). Selected films will reflect women’s changing roles and aspirations from the 1940s through the present. (LS, W1)

FILM 210 Screenwriting

This course examines the practice of screenwriting. Students will be taught the components of screenwriting, view a variety of films that are thought to contain good examples of writing, and read texts devoted to the construction of story. Throughout the course, students will craft a script of their own. Prerequisite is one of the following courses: any ENGF or ENGL 200-level course, AFRI 358, ARTH 392, HIST 190, RELI 315, or TART 290.

FILM 392 Great Directors

A study of several important film directors (i.e. Carl Theodor Dreyer, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Peter Weir) that considers the artistic, conceptual, and ideological merits of their work.

FILM 399 Independent Study

An intensive tutorial with a Film Studies faculty member on an aspect of the discipline not otherwise covered in the curriculum. Prerequisite: ENGL 269 or permission of instructor.

HIST 180 Theatre and Film in Modern China

Many of the critical issues facing the Chinese people in the twentieth century are represented in theater and cinema. This seminar begins with a survey of Chinese theatrical traditions within a broad historical framework. Then the course will turn to exploring forms of popular performance and the development of Chinese cinema through script analysis, discussion of historical context, and viewings of performances and films. Particular attention is paid to how drama and film offers representations of history, contributes to identity formation, and foments political change in 20th century China. Writing will be a major component of the class. (HP, EA)

HIST 190 History and Film

This course subjects films on historical topics to discussion and analysis. It probes how filmmakers treat historical subjects and introduces students to the methods historians might use in evaluating the accuracy and impact of such films. (HP)

MUSI 180 Film Music

An overview of film music from the silent era to the present, covering important composers and discussing the various techniques and aesthetic approaches involved in combining music and film. Designed for all students. (EA)

SOCI 255 Gender in Film and Television

Gender is portrayed in and produced through film and television. The course will examine key concepts of gender by examining how masculinities and femininities are portrayed in film and television and shaped by categories of race/ethnicity, class, and sexuality. Students will be introduced to content analysis and use it to produce research about contemporary media trends. (CW, SB)

On Studying Film

 In what ways do photographs and films call us to a qualitative self-examination?  How and why do they spark ontological questions by raising for us conundrums of being, of our placement with respect to ourselves and the world?  In this manner, revisiting classical film theory today is also a way of revivifying a kind of questioning that explores our sensuous contact with images and recharacterizes their (visible and outward) perceptual density in a way that also leads us inward—a self-examination of our relation to time, memory, and history. (D.N. Rodowick, The Virtual Life of Film, 75)  

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