Comparative Film Studies
This course offers an introduction to comparative film studies as a project and approach to film and media history, theory and aesthetics. The global circulation of cinema from its earliest days has sustained an interest in cinema's broad currency in diverse locations. We will survey these transnationally oriented discussions. We also wish to go further in this course. Do cinemas need to be connected through geography or history to be comparable? What about comparisons across vast stretches of time? Or across media and performance spaces? Comparative perspectives can prioritize similar causal processes; identify historical and social connections that may not have been readily apparent; discover contingencies and differences in ostensibly similar cases; and question ontological sureties about a medium.
Topic considered include:
- the staggered historical emergence of the cinema in various parts of the world, and its relevance for comparative film history.
- The encounters between various stylistic movements such as Italian neo-realism and the left cultural avant-garde in India; or the French New Wave and the New Waves of the cinemas of East Asia.
- The emergence of a Third Cinema across Latin America as an aesthetics of resistance.
- the transnational forces that shape conceptions of national cinema, such as piracy, or "art cinema" as a global commodity, or auteurism as a mode of film production.
- the functions of modes of representation and dramaturgy such as realism and melodrama in various locations.
We will read texts drawn from film studies (focusing for instance on film history, genre theory, national cinema paradigms, close textual analysis). Readings will also more generally be drawn from comparative history, globalization theory, literary theory and art history. Some familiarity with film vocabulary and analysis would be helpful but not essential. Students should expect to watch at least two movies a week. Films cover the gamut, from the popular cinemas of Hollywood and Bollywood to art cinemas to experimental and avant-garde impulses. Interdisciplinary engagement is welcome!
Assignments will include weekly reading summaries and a final research paper.