English 287 - Fall, 2014

Topics in Literature & Media

Class Information

Instructor: Simmon, Scott
CRN: 63841
Time: W 2:10-5; 6:10-9:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Focus: Genre, Interdiscipline, Method

Description

    “Melodrama, Modernism, Modernity, and the Movies: 1890-1950”

    In this seminar we will explore the first half-century of American filmmaking, silent and early sound, alongside a survey of the most vital criticism and theory about the period. Our particular focus will be on the intersection of film melodrama--especially the mode’s expression through female characters--with the social upheavals of early twentieth-century modernity.
    Although background in film study would be useful, this English graduate course will not assume or require previous study in film. Grounding in American culture and literature of the early twentieth century will be more essential. In addition to our subject focus, the course will incorporate two more general goals: an introduction to advanced film study and an introduction to ways of teaching film for students of literature interested in expanding their classroom range.
    We will read in the six works of criticism listed below (omitting some chapters), but our primary “texts” will be the films themselves--and excerpts from longer films--most of which we will see together in the extended evening seminar hours. Please note that in addition to the regular seminar hours on Wednesday afternoons, there are additional screening hours each Wednesday evening, after a dinner break (although typically we won’t go the full three scheduled hours in the evening).

Grading

    Short weekly reading responses, film presentations, illustrated lecture, seminar paper.

Texts

    Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, Stanley Cavell
    Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity, Edward Dimendberg
    Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film, Miriam Hansen
    The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942 , Lea Jacobs
    Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts , Ben Singer
    Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, Jacqueline Najuma Stewart