Screening 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 explain the basic terms and concepts of film analysis, introduce the approaches to writing analytical papers with accuracy and poignancy, and provide essential procedures for peer-editing and essay revision.
To investigate different perspectives on martyrdom, the primary texts of the course (feature films) will cross various cultural contexts and genre boundary. Revolving around the contested concept of martyrdom in war film genre, this course will tease out specific topics in cinema studies, including genre theory, cinema and nationalism, ideology construction and gender politics. Besides the required textbook (Timothy Corrigan, A Short Guide to Writing about Film), we will read some analytical essays focusing on the cinematic representations of martyrdom in multiple layers. Key questions include: can we clearly delineate the boundary between the sacrificed subjects as martyrs (self-sacrifice) and as scapegoats (forced to sacrifice)? How do some films make us take for granted of martyrs’ voluntary sacrifice for the nation, whereas some other films explicitly (or implicitly) subvert this assumption? How do the representations of martyrdom differ thematically or stylistically among national cultures? How does the genre hybrid influence the representations of martyrdom when war film genre is mixed with the generic elements from action, comedy, melodrama, martial-arts, spy film, etc?
Films discussed in class will include recent Hollywood cinema (Flags of our Father; Tropic Thunder); European art cinema (Ivan's Childhood; The Carabineers); East Asian cinema (Hero; Lust, Caution; Patriotism); and Middle Eastern cinema (Paradise Now). There will be two in-class film screenings. Students are required to watch the rest films in the Media Center Reserves on their own.