Why do we say that someone has “good character”? What does it mean to build character? Or to lack character? How is character mobilized and mediated on the page and screen?
In this course we will explore the phenomenon of stars and characters in film and fiction. Stars can help us to see the construction of “character” as public persona and screen image, while they also point to the “real” person behind the character/image. Throughout the course, we will analyze “star texts,” guided by both critical readings and film screenings, to better understand how character is written and visually constructed, with special attention to the “baggage” that stars bring with them to the screen. We will consider different aspects of “character building,” including speech, costuming, gesture, interiority, etc., and think through the ways that stars and characters are implicated in narratives about gender, race, sexuality, class, colonialism, and nation. In addition to undertaking analyses of star texts and characters, we will become familiar with the basic concepts, terminology, and writerly tools of narrative fiction. Finally, we will look to the stars as inspiration for our own creative work crafting compelling characters and stories in written and visual form. Assignments include freewrites, a star/character autopsy, a casting call, and a polished short story, script scene, or comic/visual presentation.
The class requires students to do a substantial amount of writing, and written assignments contribute significantly to each student’s course grade. By the end of the term you will have produced a minimum of 4,000 words, or about 16 pages, split between analytical and creative production.
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of the semester, you should be able to:
- Demonstrate an understanding and familiarity with a range of approaches to studying characters, stars, and narrative.
- Define a variety of character building and narrative techniques, and explain why those are important to you and your storytelling.
- Analyze both published and peer work, articulating how character building and narrative techniques function in those works and how the techniques used build a sense of story.
- Undertake disciplined revision of your own work, responding to feedback from your instructor and peers.
- Manage your ongoing development through regular self-assessment and reflection opportunities.
- Have fun composing, playing with, and coming to a deeper understanding of character and the modes of mobilizing character that most engage you, the writer, as well as your audience.
Course Format: This course has a hybrid format. We will meet in-person on Tuesdays, and asynchronously the rest of the week. All film screenings will happen asynchronously.
Required Course Materials:
All readings and films will be made available for free on Laulima.
Tentative Reading List:
Crying in H-Mart, Michelle Zauner
Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu
Tentative Film List:
The Cheat (1915)
The Imitation of Life (1959)
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)