Writing about Film: Screen Martyrs: Why Die for One's Nation?
How can we understand a film from the perspective of culturally distinct audiences? How can we organize clear and cogent arguments when faced with complex human issues such as self-sacrifice? The primary goal of this writing course is to familiarize you with the basic terms and concepts of film analysis, approaches to writing analytical papers with both accuracy and poignancy, and essential procedures for peer-editing and essay revision.
Revolving around the contested concept of martyrdom, this course will also tease out specific topics in cinema studies, including nationalism, ideology construction, subject formation and gender politics. To shed light on these topics, we will alternate viewing and discussion of a few theoretical and analytical essays and major films from various cultural contexts, with discussions of strategies for writing about film. Readings will include some foundational theoretical works such as Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities and Louis Althusser's “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” Films will include recent Hollywood blockbusters (Flags of our Father, 2006 and Letters from Iwo Jima, 2006); European art cinema (Ivan‟s Childhood, 1962); East Asian cinema (The Assembly, 2007; Lust, Caution, 2007; and Yasukuni, 2008); and Middle Eastern cinema (Paradise Now, 2005).
The cinematic representation of martyrdom poses many questions. How is nationalism constituted in different cultural and historical contexts? How does the collective passion of sacrifice for one's nation sublimate the individual desire to sacrifice for one's lover or family? Can we clearly delineate the boundaries between martyrs (self-sacrifice) and scapegoats (those forced to sacrifice themselves)? Finally, what makes us take for granted the necessity of martyrs' voluntary self-sacrifice for the nation?
Coursework will include four papers (two short, two long), as well as two oral presentations for each student.