course offers a survey of representative texts of contemporary film theory and
criticism illustrated by a selection of relevant films. Film historians
identify May 1968 (the student uprisings in Paris) as the beginning of the
contemporary period of film theory and criticism, that moment when film
criticism began to break from the naturalist assumptions of the realism and
formalism of film theory’s classical period and adopt the stance that all
languages or systems, such as film, are constructed and informed by ideology.
The beginning of the course will include a brief excursion into the assumptions
of the classical period and the theoretical backgrounds to the structuralist,
Marxist, and psychoanalytic models of the contemporary period. Contemporary
film theory arose with the encounter of Marxism and psychoanalysis within the
field of semiotics, and all three strands–semiotics, theories of ideology, and
theories of subjectivity–come together in film theory in the 1970s and 80s. In
these models, film is a language, an ideological construct with ruptures of
resistance, and a site that positions the spectator as subject whether as
passive or active, fixed or fluctuating. As such, these three models, either
separately or in combination, informed the investigations in film studies into narrative, genre, authorship (auteur theories),
spectatorship, gender, sexuality, and race.
part of the course would look at the present Foucauldian, poststructuralist and
postmodern environment, and the emphasis on plurality and the hybrid approach
to film investigations combining any number of theories and practices with
cultural and historical research into production and consumption.
Assignments would include at least one
oral report on assigned readings; two papers, one of medium length focusing on a theoretical discourse and its
practical application to a film through close analysis, and another longer
paper involving research into an issue or controversy within the field.
Required Texts: A packet of articles culled from Leo Braudy
& Marshall Cohen, eds., Film Theory
and Criticism, Seventh Edition (2009); Robert Stam & Toby Miller, eds. Film and Theory, An Anthology (2000); Kaplan, E. Ann, ed. Feminism and Film, Oxford Readings in
Feminism (2000); and other
Required Film Viewings (examples,
provisional): The Battle Ship Potemkin; Citizen
Kane; Casablanca; Persona; Annie Hall, Stella Dallas;
Desperately Seeking Susan; The Tango Lesson; Bound; Shadow of a Doubt; Vertigo; The Piano; In the Cut; The Birth of a
Nation; Bird of Paradise; The Battle of Algiers; All That Heaven Allows; Ali: Fear Eats the Soul; Caché, etc.