This course surveys the central concerns of film theory, tracing debates chronologically from the 1920s to the present day. Readings range from the classical theories of Jean Epstein, Walter Benjamin and André Bazin, through 1970s "gaze" theories borne from Marxism, psychoanalysis, and feminism, to post-modern debates over new formations of mass culture and the representational variables of digital technologies, television’s narrative formats, etc. It is expected that you have a fairly broad understanding of film aesthetics upon entering this class, as we will not spend class time learning the basics of film analysis—please come talk with me if you have any concerns regarding your preparation for this class.
The schedule includes two lecture/discussion days per week; two other days are scheduled for film screenings. The films will provide a point of departure for our discussion and readings. They will illustrate some of the important historical and conceptual issues raised in the course; but, if viewed closely and attentively, they will also compel us to rethink some of those same categories. Historical movements, film theories, and stylistic distinctions are always subject to revision; so, while you will be encouraged to engage with the ideas that together constitute the rich history of film and media studies, you should also engage intensely with the films themselves, with what you see and hear. The readings should allow you to see the films in a new way, and the films should allow you to challenge the readings and eventually begin to develop your own approach to this field of study.
Assignments include regular reading responses, several short formal writing exercises, a mid-term, and a final project.