English 162 - Fall, 2014

Film Theory & Criticism

Class Information

Instructor: Simmon, Scott
CRN: 63826
Time: TR 4:40-7:30
Location: Surge 1309


    Emotion, Excess, and the “Woman’s Picture”

    This quarter, our survey of sophisticated contemporary writing about film will circle primarily around the subjects of emotion, melodrama, and Hollywood’s “woman's film”--alongside expressions of passion and excess in other genres and national cinemas. We’ll read a range of the most vital critical approaches to film published since 1990, including Ben Singer’s cultural study of the origins of U.S. film in “blood and thunder” stage drama, Lea Jacobs’s historical analysis of Hays Code censorship on the 1930s “fallen woman film,” Paul Julian Smith’s auteurist look into Pedro Almod�var’s Spanish melodramas, Carol Clover’s testing of psychoanalytic and feminist theories of gendered spectatorship through the horror film, Adam Mars-Jones book-length pondering of the mysteries of Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring (1949), and Mark Harris’s close look at the collapse of the Hollywood studio system in the late 1960s alongside the birth of something new in American film. We will screen at least one full-length film and a number of excerpted sequences in the six class hours each week. Alongside such foundational Hollywood melodramas as "Applause" and "Blonde Venus," we’ll view independent and international films--by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Lars von Trier, Ra�l Ruiz, Todd Haynes, Wong Kar-wai and others--that experiment widely with form and emotion.


    A short essay (15%), a critical paper (25%), two quizzes (15% each), and a final (30%).


    Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film , Carol Clover
    Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood , Mark Harris
    The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942 , Lea Jacobs
    Noriko Smiling: or, It’s the Quiet Ones You Have to Watch , Adam Mars-Jones
    Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts , Ben Singer
    Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar (2014 edition), Paul Julian Smith