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FSCP 81000 – Aesthetics of Film,  Professor Edward Miller, Tuesday, 4:15-8:15pm, Room C-419, 3 credits  [30290] Cross listed with  THEA 71400, ART 79400 & MALS 77100

This course argues that a crucial aspect of the cinematic enterprise is the depiction of the filmmaking environment itself through the "meta-film." Using this emphasis as an entry into aesthetics, the course involves students in graduate-level film discourse by providing a thorough understanding of the concepts that are needed to perform a detailed formal analysis.

The course's primary text is the tenth edition of Bordwell and Thompson'S Film Arts (2012) and the book is used to examine such key topics as narrative and nonnarrative forms, mise-en-scene, composition, cinematography, camera movement, set design/location, color, duration, editing, and genre. As sound is a particular focus in this course—and arguably especially important to the meta-film--we supplement Film Arts with readings by Michel Chion, Amy Herzog, and Rick Altman. In order to understand the meta-film and its aesthetics we read key sections of Robert Stam's Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (1992), Christopher Ames' Movies about Movies: Hollywood Revisited (1997), Nöth & Bishara's Self-Reference in the Media (2007), John Thornton Caldwell's Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film & Television (2008), and Craig Hight’s Television Mockumentary: Reflexivity, Satire and a Call to Play (2011). We also read “classic” essays on metafiction by Patricia Waugh and Linda Hutcheon and reflexivity in video art by Rosalind Krauss in order to make distinctions between self-referentiality and reflexivity in film. We make full use of a database of media that depicts the production terrain itself.

We watch Thanhouser and Marston's Evidence of the Film (1913), Charlie Chaplin's The Masquerader (1914), Max Fleisher’s The Tantalizing Fly (1919), Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), Donen and Kelly's Singing in the Rain (1952), Chuck Jones’s Duck Amok (1953), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Federico Fellini's (1963), Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt (1963), François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), Richard Serra and Nancy Holt’s Boomerang (1974), Robert Altman's The Player (1991), David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001), Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007), Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (2008), Pedro Aldomovar’s Broken Embraces (2009), and David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars (2015). 

In the final sessions we examine the aesthetics of recent comedic meta-television in series such as The Comeback (2005 and 2014) and Extras (2005-07); we also make an attempt at tracing a genealogy by viewing The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-58) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976).

Course Requirements:

1. Weekly response paper: student responds to the film and the ideas presented in the reading and session.

2. Presentation of a week’ reading.

3. Paper proposal, due 10th week: written like an abstract for a conference paper, 500 words. Also presented in class. Sending out this abstract to a conference is strongly recommended.

4. Research paper: Due one week after final day of class, at least 12 pages. This paper is theoretically informed and reflects the content of the course, involving a close formal reading of a meta-film.

FSCP 81000 – Film Theory: French Cinema & French Thought in the Twentieth Century* [30288] Professor David Gerstner, Friday, 11:45am-3:45pm, Room C-419, 3 credits, Crosslisted with THEA 81500

To what extent did twentieth-century French intellectual discourse intersect with French-film theory, criticism, and filmmaking? By pairing the writings of specific and relevant philosophers with French film critics/filmmakers, the course explores the conceptual relationship between philosophy and cinema. Concerns over theories of language, ritual, phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, and ideology melded in complex ways with discussions focused on film form, content, and the cinema-as-apparatus. This intellectual and creative dynamic emerges during a critical historical period in which critics and artists rigorously worked through the broad implications of the cinema.

By studying the connections between these ideas (and, at times, their overlap) we will put into perspective the way ideas about cinema took hold in France. In doing so, we will screen films that put to the test a mix of philosophical discourse with film theory/making. Furthermore, by grounding these theories and film practices within a historical context (war, art movements, “Americanization,” political protest, colonization) we will consider the rapidly changing French culture that unfolded during the twentieth century and the cinema that recorded these transformations.

A preliminary list of readings include selections from: Bergson, Freud, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Lacan, Wittingstein, Lévi-Strauss, Fanon, Althusser, Cixous, Mulvey, Irigary, and Deleuze; film criticisms and theories include those by Delluc, Dulac, Epstein, Clair, Renoir, Moussinac, Bazin, Morin, Genet, Mitry, Truffaut, Godard, Metz, Aumont. 

Possible filmmakers include: Gance, Delluc, Dulac, Epstein, Clair, Renoir, Buñel, Carné, Grémillon, Rouch, Genet, Marker, Varda, Demy, Resnais, Godard, Pialat, Pontecorvo, Denis, Breillat, and Honoré.

Required texts include: Course Reader (selected readings), Alan Williams’ Republic of Images, and Richard Abel’s French Film Theory and Criticism, Volumes One and Two. These books will be available on library reserve.

Partial and general reading list available here:

Please note that Blackboard is now available with preliminary course instructions.This is the location for the class on BB.
Spring 2016 French Cinema&Thought 20th Cen FSCP 81000 30288 (Graduate Center)

*For one semester only, students will be able to receive credit for the Film Theory requirement by taking Film Theory: French Cinema & French Thought in the 20th Century

FSCP 81000 – Media Studies: Archives & Repertoires, Professor Mariam Ghani, Wednesday, 11:45am-2:45pm, Room C-419, 3 credits [30289] Crosslisted with THEA 81500

Archives & Repertoires is a graduate-level seminar about the structures, uses, and performances of archives. Topics under consideration will include, but are not limited to: the film as archive, the body as archive, and where those may intersect; repertoires, or embodied knowledge, and how they are transformed by documentation; the circulation of moving images, the particular metadata produced by that circulation, and the lives of copies apart from their originals; the paradoxes of preserving variable media; what happens to political films that outlive the movements that produced them; and the ethical questions around the use of video archives in human rights activism, ownership of testimony, re-use and re-mixing. We will likely take at least one trip to a working media archive to observe current practices in the field.

Students will be required to complete weekly readings, to lead and participate in classroom discussion of those readings, to produce one 5 page creative or critical text in response to readings and class presentations, and to produce one 15 page final paper based on independent archival research.

A final creative project of equal depth and commitment may be substituted for the paper with prior approval from the instructor. Students will be given wide latitude for independent exploration in their coursework, but will also be responsible for bringing a great deal of thought and preparation to the classroom each week. 

(Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer, filmmaker and teacher, currently teaching in the MFA program in Social Practice at Queens.)

During the semester, a “Mediating the Archive” seminar will be offered by the Center for the Humanities Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research, which should be of great interest to the students enrolled in this course.

FSCP 81000 – The Civil Rights Movement in Film, Professor Michele Wallace, Thursday, 4:15-8:15pm, Room C-419, 3 credits [30291] Crosslisted with THEA 81500  

In The Civil Rights Movement in Film we will screen the films together as a class, followed by discussion of the film in relationship to supportive readings. These readings would be directly supporting the historical narratives of the events portrayed. 

Ain’t Nothing But a Man I have researched extensively and can provide background. It recreates a scenario of a Southern town but, in fact, given the prominence of segregation at the time in the South, it would have been impossible to make the film on location, and so it was filmed instead, with an extraordinary cast, in Atlantic City, which is a fascinating story in, itself.  Selma represents cinematic history on many levels, but the three things that are most fascinating to me are: 1) it is directed by a black woman and she is positioned, at the moment, to sweep the awards; 2) this is the first feature film about the Civil Rights Movement that I have ever seen that was even a candidate for a discussion about historical truth (with the possible exception of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, which some might consider not to be about the Civil Rights Movement, although I do; and 3) the use of music in the film is absolutely stunning and unprecedented in its combination of strength and restraint. 

The list of films to show would be as follows: Eyes on the Prize (1954-1965), 6-one hour episodes, DVD (shown in three sessions); Ain’t Nothin’ But a Man, dir. Michael Roehmer (feature) 1961; Freedom Summer, dir. Stanley Nelson (documentary); Malcolm X, dir. Spike Lee (feature), 1992; Boycott (HBO feature), dir: Clark Johnson 2001; Four Little Girls, dir. Spike Lee (documentary), 1997; Ruby Bridges (Disney Feature), dir: Euzhan Palsy (feature); Selma, Lord, Selma, dir: Charles Burnett, 1999 (Feature); Lee Daniels' The Butler, dir. Lee Daniels, 2013 (Feature); Selma, dir. Ava Du Vernay, 2014 (Feature).

Assignments: Two oral reports concerning the readings as relates to aspects of the films. Of course, the films would also be made available to students for viewing at home or in the library. And a final paper on either one film, or one event in the Civil Rights Movement as represented by two or more of the films.


CL 85000 - Television Without Borders: Transnational Perspectives on Prestige Serial Drama, Professor Giancarlo Lombardi, Wednesday, 6:30-l0:00pm, Room C-419, 4 credits [30085]

Television has enjoyed a creative resurgence in the US, virtually depleting and replacing the once thriving independent film industry. At the same time, the advent of digital platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime has facilitated the local distribution of foreign serial drama, granting access to productions that were once imagined as strictly bound to a national target of viewers. In Europe, the recent merger of BSkyB, Sky Italia, and Sky Deutschland has led to the restructuring of a media conglomerate that promoted the simultaneous airing of prestige European serial drama across several countries, including the US. The launch of Netflix in 50 countries has not only led to increasing worldwide distribution of American serial drama, but also to the company’s growing investment in the creation of local original series, to be distributed simultaneously all over the world.

This course proposes a comparative approach to television drama, through the specific study of prestige serial drama, namely TV series usually connoted by high production values, naturalistic performance style, narrative complexity, stylistic integrity, and committed viewer engagement.  Our investigation will be guided by the narratological concerns raised by Jason Mittell in Complex Television, and inflected by the application of theoretical tenets until now largely associated with the study of comparative literature.

While maintaining its firm footing in the specific critical tools associated to the study of television, this course grafts onto the study of television questions raised in Pascale Casanova’s World Republic of Letters, investigating serial drama in its global positioning and in its nationalistic investments, identifying its national aesthetics and its political dependencies, its loci of assimilation and its forms of rebellion against dominant paradigms dictated by Hollywood. Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of power and capital in his study of sites of force(s) and struggle(s) in the field of cultural production, Benedict Anderson’s definition of imagined communities, and Arjun Appadurai’s investigation of imagination as social force in identity creation will all contribute to our reading of a diverse group of television series, analyzed through questions of genre, themes, and format. For the purpose of limiting what is already an incredibly vast field of inquiry, comedies will not be taken into consideration.

Series discussed in this course will include Generation War (Germany), The Bridge (Sweden-Denmark & US-Mexico), The Tunnel (France-UK), In Treatment (Israel, US, & Italy), Hatufim (Israel), Borgen (Denmark), Les Revenants (France), Ainsi-soient-ils (France), Gomorrah (Italy), Deutschland 83 (Germany-US), Jordskott (Sweden), Top of the Lake (New Zealand), Salamander (Belgium), Cordon (Belgium), Black Mirror (UK), Broadchurch (UK), Mad Men, Damages, House of Cards, Homeland, The Affair, The Good Wife, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Americans, True Detective, American Horror Story.

Guest lectures by Professors Ying Zhu and Paul Julian Smith will discuss Chinese and Latin-American serial drama.

CL 88300 - Italian Modernities: Film, Fashion, Nation, Professor Eugenia Paulicelli, Monday, 2:00-6:00pm, Room C-419, 4 credits, Monday, 2:00-6:00pm, Room C-419, 4 credits [30089]

Homi Bhabha has argued that nations, like narratives, are complex signifying machines that have emerged as a powerful historical idea in the west. Through close analysis of the variety of texts that make up the national fabric, the ambivalence and multiplicity of nationhood can be pinpointed. Several studies on nation and narration have appeared in Italy over the last few years (for example by Giulio Bollati, Serena Sapegno, Silvana Patriarca, among others). Going back further in time, Antonio Gramsci also wrote some of his most powerful pages on the cultural difficulties encountered by the Italian nation State as it was being formed.

Italian culture, in general, whether in film, literature or fashion, has also been deeply concerned with the problematic that is the Italian nation. The aim of the course is to investigate the role of film and fashion in Italian narratives of nationhood. The course will devote a great deal of attention to how the nation’s path to modernization brought with a new aesthetic style that took on concrete form in the cinema, literature and fashion of the nation.

Theoretical readings will also include texts by Benjamin, Kracauer, Pirandello, Pasolini, Casetti, Gunning and others. Films by Nino Oxilia, Gustavo Serena, Giovanni Pastrone, Carmine Gallone, Mario Camerini, Alessandro Blasetti, Corrado D’Errico, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Antonio Pietrangeli, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The course will be divided into three parts: Early Cinema with a special focus on the diva film (Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, Pina Menichelli); the fascist period; the post-war period and auteuresque cinema.

SPAN 85000 – The City in Contemporary Spanish Literature, Cinema and Visual Arts GC: Wednesday, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Smith, [30383] 

This course, which is taught in Spanish, examines the modern Spanish city in the media of novel (Martín Santos, Laforet, Goytisolo), film and TV (Almodóvar, Alex de la Iglesia, TVE’s Fortunata y Jacinta and La Regenta), and visual art (painter Antonio López, web artist Marisa González). Each class examines an urban theorist (eg Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, Manuel Castells), a work of criticism by a scholar of Spanish urbanism, and one or more creative works.  Grading is by written exam (25%), student oral participation, weekly web posting, and presentation (25%) and final paper (50%).

|A reader will be available. This course will be taught in Spanish.