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Courses

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.