Media studies 144 history of cinema 2 1930-1970 fall 2012 queens college 144 syllabusf12(1)

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  • 1. Media Studies 144 Code 4306 Fall 2012 Fri. 10:15-2:05 History of Cinema 2: 1930-1970 Instructor: Prof. Amy Herzog Office: G-102C Email: Office Hours: Fridays 3-4pm; Mondays by Phone: 718-997-2956 appointment Class blog: Description: This course will provide a survey of film history from the 1930s through the 1960s, examining institutional and aesthetic shifts in the film industry, as well as significant movements and genres in world cinema (musicals, melodramas, film noir, Neorealism, the French New Wave, Direct Cinema). Readings and class discussions will consider the historical, political, aesthetic, and cultural contexts of these cinematic trends, and will present an overview of the development of film criticism and theory during this period. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the advent of sound technology, the rise (and fall) of the studio system in the U.S., the emergence of cinematic “new waves” in Europe and Asia, and the development of various international avant-garde and “counter-cinemas.” This course is designed to meet the goals and objectives of a PLAS course: we will look at the ways in which cinema, as an art form, creates various kinds of meanings, and how the aesthetics of films relate to shifting global environments. We will explore the ways in which film has transformed historically, and at the ways in which film theory and criticism have evolved as well. We will examine primary documents (films) and second readings (essays, interviews, and other critical analyses), and will pay careful attention to issues of political context, and to representations of race, gender, class, and ethnicity, in each period of study. Requirements: Participation & Professionalism: The success of this class (and your success IN this class) depend on your active participation. You are expected to attend and actively participate in each class. In addition, you will be asked to participate in an ongoing “virtual” class discussion online. Participation includes reading assigned material prior to class, asking questions, taking notes, and contributing to discussions (in class and online). Please arrive on time: two “lates” will count as an absence. Leaving class during the break or during a screening will count as an absence. STUDENTS WHO MISS MORE THAN 3 CLASSES WILL BE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED TO WITHDRAW. Because the syllabus may be modified, you are responsible for contacting the instructor should you miss a class. TURN OFF ALL CELLULAR DEVICES before class begins. Texting in class will have a negative impact on your participation grade. Due to persistent misuse, laptop computers cannot be used in class without first obtaining permission from the instructor. Permission will be limited to those students with documented disabilities restricting their ability to take notes by hand. In short: students who actively participate in class and are courteous and attentive during lectures and screenings will earn a high professionalism & participation grades. Students who repeatedly disrupt class by arriving late, talking, texting, and roaming in and out of the classroom during screenings will receive very poor professionalism & participation grades.
  • 2. Screenings: Attendance at screenings is mandatory. Disruptive behavior during screenings (including entering and leaving the classroom mid-film, talking, text messaging, checking Facebook, phone calls) will not be tolerated. Treat the films as seriously as you would the lectures: pay close attention and take careful notes. Those who interrupt film screenings will incur the wrath of their professor, and will be forever cursed by the muses of cinema! Film Analysis Assignments: You will be asked to conduct two detailed studies of scenes from films we have screened in class, one before the midterm, and one before the final. These analyses will require careful observation and note taking, and should be written with attention to grammar and style. The objective is to construct a clear argument regarding the way in which visual and sonic elements in this scene contribute to the larger thematic or cultural project of the film. Your analyses will be posted on your blog, and you will be asked to comment on the projects posted by other students in your groups. Details for these assignments will be discussed in class and posted online. Blog Discussion: Throughout the semester, you will be asked to post informal “journal” responses to the readings and screenings on your personal course blog. Rather than a formal paper, I am interested in your candid thoughts about the assigned material: what did you find engaging? What didn’t you understand? How do the author’s or director’s ideas expand your own understanding of the history of cinema? Detailed parameters for the course blog will be discussed in class and covered in handouts. Because our class is so large, and in-class discussions can be challenging, the goal for the blog is to foster an active and open dialogue amongst all participants. Your grade for blog participation is based primarily on your enthusiasm and your active engagement with your peers (rather than on content and style). The class blog is your forum for exchanging thoughts and ideas. Minimum blog participation: 4 substantial posts and 8 comments, to be divided between the first and second halves of the semester. Additional, exceptional participation can earn extra credit points toward your lowest exam or assignment grade. NOTE: these blog posts are IN ADDITION TO the Film Analysis Assignments that you will also publish on your blog sites. Plagiarism: Plagiarism is an EXTREMELY serious offense. All work submitted must be the original work of the student whose name appears on it. ANY text or idea taken from an outside source—including websites—MUST be carefully cited. Plagiarism and other acts of dishonesty will result in an automatic grade of zero for the assignment and notification of the department. Cases may incur further academic penalties, including a failing grade for the course and disciplinary action. Exams: Each exam will include fifty multiple-choice questions based on lectures, readings, and screenings. Study guides will be distributed. The exams are not cumulative (the midterm covers the first half of the course, the final covers the second half). Extra Credit Opportunities: Students can earn extra credit by attending screenings and analyzing films, and through extra blog participation. Details for earning credits are outlined on Blackboard and on our main blog site.
  • 3. Grading: 2 Analysis Assignments (posted on blog): 25% Midterm Exam: 30% Final Exam: 30% Blog participation: 10% Classroom participation and professionalism: 5% Textbook: Wheeler Winston Dixon & Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, A Short History of Film (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008). In the bookstore and on reserve in the library. Used copies and Kindle ebooks at An electronic version of the text is available to read FREE through the library website, on campus or off-campus using your id barcode ( ) Search for the book title in the library catalog [“Find Books and Media,” CUNY+], and click on the “view online” link associated with Queens College). You must activate your id card in the library to get off-campus access. Blackboard: Access via the CUNY portal ( using your CAMS ID. Syllabus: 8/31: INTRODUCTION / THE TRANSITION TO SOUND Screening: M (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1931) 9/7: THE GANGSTER FILM / THE STUDIO SYSTEM I • Dixon and Foster, chp. 5 and 4 (as much as you can) • Robert Warshow, “The Gangster as Tragic Hero” (on Blackboard) • William Wellman interview (on Blackboard) Screening: The Public Enemy (William Wellman, US, 1931) 9/14: MUSICALS AND SCREWBALL COMEDY / THE STUDIO SYSTEM II • Finish Dixon and Foster, chp. 4 & 5 • Martin Rubin, “Busby Berkeley and the Backstage Musical” • James Harvey, “Sturges: Genius at Work” (on Blackboard) Screening: Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, US, 1941), excerpts from Dames (Ray Enright/Busby Berkeley, US, 1934), Golddiggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, US, 1933) By this date, all students must have created a class blog, linked to our main course page 9/21: MAJOR FIGURES: ORSON WELLES • Robert L. Carringer, “Orson Welles and Gregg Toland: Their Collaboration on ‘Citizen Kane’” (on Blackboard) • Excerpts from Citizen Kane: A Casebook (on Blackboard) Screening: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, US, 1941) 9/28: FILM NOIR • Paul Schrader, “Notes on Film Noir” (on Blackboard) • Janey Place, “Women in Film Noir” (on Blackboard) • Billy Wilder interview (on Blackboard) Screening: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, US, 1944)
  • 4. 10/5: ITALIAN NEOREALISM • Dixon and Foster, chp. 6 • Vittorio De Sica interview (on Blackboard) • Andre Bazin, “An Aesthetic of Reality” (on Blackboard) Screening: Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1952) 10/12: MAJOR FIGURES: YASUJIRO OZU • Dixon and Foster, chp. 7 • Donald Richie, excerpt from A Hundred Years of Japanese Film • Nick Wrigley, “Yasujiro Ozu,” biography on Senses of Cinema ( Screening: Japanese post-war cinema: Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1951) Analysis #1 to be posted before 5pm on 10/12. Study guide for midterm distributed in class. 10/19: Midterm (10:15-noon) Screening (at 12pm): Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, US, 1956) At least 2 substantive blog posts and 4 comments must be posted by this date (in addition to your Analysis assignment). Posts that go up at the last minute or weeks after the films are screened will not have time to generate any real conversation, and thus will not receive full credit. Please plan ahead and give your classmates time to read and respond to your posts. 10/26: 1950s US CINEMA: COLD WAR PARANOIA / MELODRAMA • Tom Ryan, “Douglas Sirk,” biography on Senses of Cinema ( • Douglas Sirk interview (on Blackboard) • Fred Camper, “The Films of Douglas Sirk: The Epistemologist of Despair” (on Blackboard) Screening: Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, US, 1956) 11/2: MAJOR FIGURES: ALFRED HITCHCOCK • Hitchcock interview with Francois Truffaut (on Blackboard) • David Thompson, excerpts from The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder Screening: Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, US, 1960) 11/9: INDIAN CINEMA • Nasreen Munni Kabir, “Playback Time: A Brief History of Bollywood ‘Film Songs,’” (on Blackboard) • Teri Skillman, “The Bombay Hindi Film Song Genre” (on Blackboard) • Bert Cardullo, “Revisiting Satyajit Ray,” Bright Lights Film Journal, ( Screening: clips from Charulata (Satyajit Ray, in Bengali, 1964), Kaagaz Ke Phool (Guru Dutt, in Hindi, 1959), Mother India (Mehboob Khan, in Hindi, 1957), Apna Desh (Jambu, in Hindi, 1972) 11/16: THE FRENCH NEW WAVE • Dixon and Foster, chp. 8 • Jean-Luc Godard, “From Critic to Film-Maker” (excerpts from interview) (e- reserve & Blackboard) Screening: La Jetée (Chris Marker, France, 1962), Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1960) 11/23: NO CLASS, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
  • 5. 11/30: POLITICAL CINEMA FROM AFRICA & LATIN AMERICA / U.S. AVANT GARDE FILM • Jonas Mekas, “Independence for Independents” (on Blackboard) • Margot Kernan, “Cuban Cinema: Tomas Guiterrez Alea” (on Blackboard) • Ousmane Sembene interview (on Blackboard) [note: this interview took place early in Sembene’s career. He went on to create many films after this date] Screening: Borom Sarret (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 1963) Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba, 1968) (excerpts) Excerpts from shorts by Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and others TBA. 12/7: U.S. INDEPENDENT FILM OF THE 1960s • Matthew Bernstein, “Perfecting the New Gangster: Writing ‘Bonnie and Clyde’” (on Blackboard) • Timothy Corrigan, “Auteurs and the New Hollywood” (on Blackboard) Screening: excerpt from Shadows (John Cassavetes, US, 1959), Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, US, 1967) All Extra Credit Screening Essays due by class time on 12/7 Study guide for final distributed in class. Analysis #2 to be posted before 10am on Monday 12/10. By 10am on 12/14, you should have posted a total of 4 substantive blog posts and 8 comments, minimum (in addition to your Analyses assignments). Posts that go up at the last minute or weeks after the films are screened will not have time to generate any real conversation, and thus will not receive full credit. Please plan ahead and give your classmates time to read and respond to your posts. Final Exam: Date to be announced
  • 6. Resources: Sources for Video Rentals: If you love cinema, avoid Blockbuster! They edit films for content and don’t always indicate that they have done so. Netflix ( is a great resource for cinephiles. Look for independent video stores in your neighborhood, if you can find any. Jackson Heights is a fantastic neighborhood for finding Indian films on video. Important Film Venues in NY: • Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St., NY: • Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave. @ 36th St, Astoria: • Film Society at Lincoln Center, W. 65th Street near Broadway & Amsterdam: • Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., NY: • Anthology Film Archives, E. 2nd Street @ 2nd Ave, NY: • Brooklyn Academy of Music, Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn: Article Databases: Available in the library, or follow instructions for off campus access using the barcode on your id card ( • JSTOR • Project Muse • Academic Search Complete • Communications & Mass Media Complete • Lexis Nexis (for newspaper & magazine reviews) Web Resources: • All Movie Guide: • Internet Movie Database: • Senses of Cinema online journal: • New York Times—access to all reviews written since 1960, also box office data, news, features, etc.: • Jumpcut Magazine, with early issues available online: