Show The Graduate Center Menu


Fall 2018

FSCP 81000/ Film History II: Visual Historiography, [3 credits], Cross-listed with MALS 77300 and THEA 71600
Tuesday, 11:45am-3:45pm (C419)
Instructor: Michael Gillespie
This class engages with how cinema complicates, renders, and critiques the idea of history. In this way, this class will examine how cinema narrativizes or enacts a writing of history in the terms of ‘visual historiography.’ If historiography is the study of the writing of history, then this class will consider the cinematic writing of history with attention to narrativity, the purpose of historical narratives, and the significant values and meanings attributed to history. Furthermore, the class will focus on the emplotment of history by the visual and the significant epistemological questions about the shared impulse of narrativity between history and film as visual art. We will explore questions of truth and authenticity, temporality, the production of historical knowledge, memory and remembrance, trauma, and power. Our focus will take a critically disobedient approach in the sense that we will treat the films as historiographic interventions while also avoiding the fidelity concerns that most often shadow discussion of film and history. Thus, these films will be treated as distinct acts of visual historiography that consequentially confound and enliven our understanding of history and the critical capacities of visual art.
FSCP 81000/ Genre and Global Conflict, [3 credits], Cross-listed with THEA 81500
Wednesday, 4:15pm-8:15pm (C-419)
Instructor: Ria Banerjee

This course will examine the interaction between a film’s employment of genre and the conflicts it depicts, defined broadly and globally. We will begin with the opening premise that genre fundamentally affects subject matter, so any analysis of film involves attention to the interpellation of form and content. War, an enormity of violence, seems to ask for “serious” filmic forms such as the documentary or drama; what happens, then, when it appears in forms that appear on the surface to be less serious, frivolous even?
This redefinition of the parameters of a “war film” means that we will begin the course with a rigorous discussion of what the term means to us as a class using a classic of the genre such as Apocalypse Now. We will then consider the way that other genres have deployed conflicts: for instance, the American Civil War in the classic Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the fantasy thriller Pan’s Labyrinth set in Franco’s Spain. World War II will inevitably form a bulk of our investigations. We will range from documentary film with a turbulent reception history like Night and Fog, to the depiction of Vichy France in the romance Casablanca, and World War II intrigue in The Third Man. Class discussions will also cluster around the Partition of India in 1947, a displacement of fourteen million people that is considered one of the bloodiest recent upheavals. We will discuss the ways that it is invoked in big budget Bollywood musicals like Earth versus in Ritwick Ghatak’s low budget indie trilogy from the 1960s. Can comedy accommodate serious conflicts? We will approach this question by discussing the Crusades and holy war in light of the self conscious silly-serious medievalism of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Other genres we might consider include historical romances (Gladiator), horror/sci-fi (District 9), and animation (Waltz with Bashir), keeping an eye on the different conflicts they reference. Television has contributed its own powerful note to this question of genre; time permitting, we will consider treatments of conflict in The Twilight Zone and Prisoners of War (Hatufim), among others.
Since we will range widely in both genres we consider and the conflicts shown on film, students will be asked to present on one conflict of their choice from the syllabus; they will also contribute weekly to blog posts and class discussions. Final paper of 15-20 pages with view to publication in a suitable academic forum.
FSCP 81000/ Aesthetics of Film, [3 credits], Sponsored by MALS (MALS 77100)
Tuesdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm (C-419)
Instructor: Leah Anderst
Description forthcoming

Film Aesthetics provides students with the basic skills necessary to read and analyze the formal and stylistic components of film, both historical and contemporary. This course introduces the student to various genre of narrative cinema and categories of film (for example, silent comedy, melodrama, film noir, documentary, animation, and experimental, among others) produced in the United States and internationally. As students survey the work of important film theorists and apply it to films screened in class, they will master the fundamental vocabulary of film analysis and will learn to recognize the techniques and conventions that structure the cinematic experience – narrative systems, mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, sound, genre – in order to understand how these various components combine to yield film form and have developed over the history of the form.

Each student will lead discussion on one of our weekly readings and write two formal papers: a scene analysis essay due around the midterm point, and a longer seminar paper at the end of the semester on a topic of their choosing related to our course screenings, readings, or topics. This second paper will require a project proposal as well as an annotated bibliography of research sources. Readings for the course will be drawn heavily from Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson (11th edition) as well as additional articles provided. 

FSCP 81000/ Islam, Media, and Politics in the Middle East [3 credits], Sponsored by MAMES (MES 74900)
Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Room TBA
Instructor: Bilge Yesil

This course examines politics, religion and culture in the Middle East through the lens of media forms and practices. It analyzes how Middle Eastern media shape (and are shaped by) global cultural flows and national and inter-regional politics. Topics include but are not limited to political activism and democratization; consumerism and modernity; youth, media and civic participation; women, media use and female empowerment. Taking into consideration the heterogeneity of media and political systems across the region, the course pays special attention to the articulation of national identity, modernization and Islam in various countries. The course also covers Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, and examines its historical roots, its connections with colonialism and Orientalism, and media representations of Arabs and Muslims in Western media. Special attention is paid to September 11 and the War on Terror, and the “migrant crisis” in Europe and rise of right-wing nationalism. The course is based on mini lectures, class discussions and presentations, occasional guest speakers and screenings (documentaries, films, reality TV shows, music videos, etc.). Students do not need to have prior knowledge of media history, theories or methods.

Spring 2018

FSCP 81000/ Mediatized Performance: Movement and Dance in Film and Video, Wednesday, 4:15 pm-7:15 pm (C419)
Instructor: Edward Miller
This course is an introduction to mediatized dance performance. We address the following: how do choreography and cinematography correlate as modes of inscription and expression? Certainly the cinematic enterprise is concerned with how bodies repeat and refuse a rehearsed trajectory but in what ways do viewers experience how the camera is subjected to a charted course? How does delivery system, media platform, and venue impact reception? In order to share a common vocabulary in the aesthetics of film and video we read selections from Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (2015). We complement this with pertinent reading in media theory, including Guiliana Bruno’s Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (2016), WJT Mitchell’s Image Science: Iconology, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics (2015) and Carol Vernallis’s Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema (2013). This vocabulary allows us to analyze the aesthetics of heralded moments in dance/film history including the work of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Gene Kelly, the choreography of Agnes DeMille, Bob Fosse, and Jerome Robbins in the Hollywood Musical, the avant-garde dance films of Maya Deren, films by and about Pina Bausch and her company including those by Wim Wenders and Chantal Ackerman, the collaboration between Merce Cunningham and Charles Atlas, the filmed experiments by Judson pioneers such as Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, and the dance videos of Michael Jackson, Missy Elliot, and Beyoncé. In our discussions of dancefilms, we foreground the expressivity and performativity of gender, race, and sexuality and how this is enabled by media. Key texts in the exploration of film/video as movement are Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1: The Movement Image (1986) and Giorgio Agamben’s essay “Notes on Gesture” (1992); key texts in the examination of dance in film/video include Douglas Rosenberg’s Screendance: Inscribing the Ephemeral Image (2012) and Erin Branigan’s Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image (2011). We also read relevant texts by dance theorists/historians including Mark Franko, Tommy DeFrantz, and Sally Banes as well as “classic” texts in mediatized performance from Philip Auslander, Matthew Causey, and Steve Dixon. We complete the course by analyzing the social choreography of political resistance and explore how contemporary protest movements are devised, represented, and amplified via various forms of media.

FSCP 81000/ History of the Cinema II: 1930-present, Tuesday, 4:15 pm-8:15 pm (C419) Cross-listed with MALS 77300
Instructor: Elizabeth Alsop

This course will explore the international development of film as an art form, industry, and medium of communication from approximately 1930 to the present. That is to say, it will survey the evolution of film culture from the advent of sound, to an era in which modes of production and reception are once more undergoing transformation as a result of digital technologies, globalization, and media convergence.
Through weekly screenings and readings, students will gain familiarity with key traditions and trends in U.S. and global cinema. Subjects will include early sound film; French Poetic Realism; Italian Neorealism; postwar Japanese cinema; film noir and other classical Hollywood genres; the rise of international “new waves”; the impact of European art cinema; American independent film; emergent non-Western cinemas (including filmmakers from Latin America, Iran, and New Zealand); and the global blockbuster.
Several topics will recur throughout the semester: the trajectory of realism as a cinematic aesthetic; the persistence and global transformation of Hollywood genres; the historical contributions of female directors to world cinema; and the ways international filmmakers have responded to and challenged Hollywood modes of production. We will pay particular interest to the challenges of historiography, and discuss the ethics, politics, and logistics of “doing” film history, as well the role critics and scholars play in consolidating (or revising) dominant film historical narratives.
Students will be asked to engage in close analyses of individual films, while also examining the various contexts from which these films emerged. Films to be screened might include: M (Fritz Lang, 1931), The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939), To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsh, 1942), Paisà (Roberto Rossellini, 1946), Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950), Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960), Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966), Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966), Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, 1966), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974), Taxi Driver (Martin Scorcese, 1976), Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1988), Close Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990), The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaròn, 2006), and Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017). In-class screenings will be supplemented with clips and occasional at-home viewings.
Readings will be drawn from a number of sources and posted to our course site on the CUNY Academic Commons; in addition, students will also be asked to purchase Robert Sklar’s Movie-Made America. (David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s Film History (3e) is recommended, but not required.)
Students will complete a 15-page paper on a topic of their choosing, which engages with the concerns of the course; a formal proposal will be due midway through the semester. In addition, they are also expected to actively contribute to class discussions; to submit weekly blog posts in response to that week’s screening and reading/s; and to make at least one presentation.

FSCP 81000/ Film Theory, Monday, 2:00 pm-6:00 pm (C419) Cross-listed with THEA 81600
Instructor: Jerry W. Carlson
FSCP 81000 will offer an analytical survey of film theory from its classical period to its multiple voices in the 21st century. The course will explore the robust and never predictable conversation between film theory and film practice. Different film theories perform different functions. Each theoretical position will be examined in its historical context and for its own claims of purpose. To what degree are theories prescriptive, descriptive, practical, analytical, or some dynamic mixture of functions?  Theorists under consideration, among others, may include Arnheim, Balázs, Barthes, Bazin, Deleuze, Deren, Fanon, Eisenstein, Hall, Jameson, Kracauer, Metz, Mulvey, Naficy, Rich, Shohat, and Stam. In addition, each theoretical position will be examined next to a film from the period of the theory and a film from another historical moment. What do theories tell us about films? But, equally important, what do films tell us about theories? The repertoire of films will reach beyond Hollywood and Europe to the riches of global cinema. The key textbook will be Critical Visions of Film Theory: Classic & Contemporary Readings by Timothy Corrigan & Patricia White with Meta Mazaj.

Fall 2017

FSCP 81000/ Aesthetics of Film: Form and the Aesthetic Construction of Race, Tuesday, 4:15 pm-8:15 pm (C419)
Instructor: Racquel Gates
This course emphasizes a formal approach to viewing, interpreting, and critically engaging with film. We will organize the semester around a single provocation. How do the formal aspects of film (and media) make blackness comprehensible? In other words, how did audiences learn to recognize blackness, in a visual as well as in a thematic sense, beginning with early cinema? And, what are the formal elements that have since become synonymous with blackness on screen? In order to answer these questions, we will examine a wide array of film and media texts and analyze how mise-en-scene, narrative, cinematography, editing, sound, and genre invented the codes of cinematic blackness. We will also look at the ways that Black filmmakers and performers have used aesthetics to directly interrogate and challenge the limiting tropes typically associated with the black image on screen.
We will use the eleventh edition of David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s textbook, Film Art: An Introduction, as the primer for the course, and we will also read several other books that explicitly address the relationship between aesthetics and race. These include Richard Dyer’s White, Nicole Fleetwood’s Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness, Krista Thompson’s Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice, and Phillip Brian Harper’s Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture. Screenings will consist of a mix of classic and newer titles, films produced in Hollywood as well as those made by independent filmmakers. Some of these include Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915), Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1934), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967), Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1990), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (Spike Lee, 2014), and Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016).
Students will complete weekly reading reports and a final paper on the topic of their choice.
FSCP 81000/ The City and Film, Wednesday, 11:45 am-2:45 pm (C419)
Instructor: William Boddy
Since the invention of cinema in the late 19th century, filmmakers across the globe have turned to the modern city both as a narrative setting and dramatic subject for films in a variety of modes and genres.  This course examines a range of films from the beginnings of the silent era to the present, offering visions of urban life both utopian and horrific.  The course explores how filmmakers, artists, professional planners, governments, and corporations have used film and visual media to respond to changes in urban life shaped by technology, bureaucracy, and industrialization; immigration and national identity; race, class, gender, and economic inequality; politics, conformity, and urban anomie; and economic development, displacement, sprawl, and environmental degradation. The course assumes no previous experience in film studies and welcomes students from a variety of disciplines.