This course provides a comprehensive survey of cinema's silent era, a period delineated by the advent of moving-picture technologies such as the cinematographe and kinetoscope on the one hand and by the advent of the 'talkies' on the other. In order to examine how innovations in technology and technique—parallel editing, the close shot, framing devices, mobile cameras, etc—allow for increasingly longer and more complex narrative forms, you will be required to learn and employ close reading skills. We will, however, view these aesthetic changes in terms that not only acknowledge film's cultural function, but recognize the crucial role that cinema’s emergence played in shaping a modern culture’s fantasies and anxieties attending the social upheavals of a modern age. Special foci include the emergence of celebrity culture in the 1910s, early cinema's impact on a globalizing world, and a detailed consideration of international film styles, popular genres, and theories that flourish in the 1920s.
You will also learn to research primary historical materials, and your assignments throughout the quarter include both creative and critical work. The final class project includes two options from which you may choose: 1) a historically informed research paper or 2) a short, original “silent-era style” film that demonstrates your ability to communicate a story, whether fiction or non-fiction, visually.