Show The Graduate Center Menu


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.