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Spring 2020

FSCP 81000: Aesthetics of Film. [3 credits], Wednesdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm
Instructor: Jerry Carlson
The movies – that is, narrative feature films – have always been recognized as a powerful medium for storytelling. Indeed, a century of censorship attests to the fears provoked by film’s seductive spell. FSCP 81000 will explore how that spell is created by the many strategies and tactics of storytelling, some shared with other media, others unique to cinema. To do so, we will engage with the history of narrative theory (or, narratology, as Tzvetan Todorov coined it in 1969). What explanatory powers do different theories offer? Our survey will move from Aristotle’s foundational Poetics to pre-cinematic theories of fiction (for example, Henry James), from the Russian Formalists to French high theory (Barthes, Genette, et al.), and from Neo-Formalist explanations (Bordwell) to ideologically positioned interventions from Marxism, psychoanalysis, queer theory or other approaches. We will put each theory in conversation with a pertinent feature film. The range of screenings will be global and diverse in narrative forms. Filmmakers may include, among others, Buster Keaton, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Nicolas Roeg, Raul Ruiz, Chantal Akerman, Wong Kar-wai, and Tomas Gutierrez Alea. A number of questions will recur as we explore different theories. What is plot? How can the effects of plotting be explained? What are the options for cinematic narration? What is in common with other media? What is medium specific? How can narratology explain the nature of cinematic authorship? How does cinema create characters? How can it place them in social context or explore their subjectivity as they journey through the plot. The precision of our answers will help explain the spell of the movies in their social, cultural, historical, and emotional impact.

FSCP 81000: Film History I. [3 credits], Tuesdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm. Course sponsored by MALS
Instructor: Leah Anderst
Film History I is an intensive examination of film history before 1930 that introduces students to international silent cinema, to the scholarly literature on early cinema, and to the practices of researching and writing film history. Subjects covered will include the emergence of cinema, the cinema of attractions, the narrativization of cinema, theater and early film, sound, color, and the “silent” image, the industrialization of film production, national cinemas of the 1910s, the Hollywood mode of filmmaking, women and African-American filmmakers, and film movements of the 1920s. Students will study the work of such filmmakers as Lumière, Méliès, Porter, Paul, Bauer, Christensen, Feuillade, Weber, Micheaux, Murnau, Dulac, Eisenstein, and others while considering the ways that silent films were exhibited and received in diverse contexts.

FSCP 81000: Seminar in Film/Media Theory: Strategies of Resistance. [3 credits], Thursdays, 11:00am-2:00pm, Sponsored by Theatre
Instructor: Amy Herzog

This course will provide a survey of Film and Media Theory, with a particular focus on activist media and strategies of resistance.  The seminar will be organized historically, spanning Soviet revolutionary films, 1960s newsreel collectives, Third Cinema movements, labor organizing media, activist television, contemporary anti-gentrification media, and digital and social media production. Each session will juxtapose mainstream fictional and non-fictional representations with contemporaneous media produced by independent resistance groups, as well as studies of the labor conditions and economic structures that shape the media industries during that period. Each student will research their own “constellation” of historical media texts, and media-based creative projects will be encouraged.

Questions of intersectionality and power will be core to this course. What formal strategies have emerged at different historical moments, and toward what ends? How do industry structures, distribution networks, and exhibition contexts impact the meaning of media texts? Who performs what labor within the media technology industries, and how is access determined? What historical forces impact the evolution of film and media theories? How can spectatorship theorized in relation to diverse media audiences and transforming sites of consumption?

Readings and screenings will include readings and media works by Sergei Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Third World Newsreel, Chicana Por Mi Raza Media Collective, Racquel Gates, DIVA TV, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Mariame Kaba, Cardi B, and Lisa Nakamura.
Student research projects will culminate in a final paper and multimedia dossier. Project proposals and field notes will be shared via a course website, and findings will be presented in class.

FSCP 81000: Antonioni and Fellini. [3 credits], Thursdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm.  Sponsored by Comparative Literature.
Instructor: Giancarlo Lombardi

This course will juxtapose the rich and complex film production of two Italian auteurs, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. While Fellini and Antonioni’s films differ in style, narrative preference, and political orientation, they evidence a common self-reflexive concern for the relationship of cinematic images, sounds, and stories. Neorealism will serve as a starting point for an analysis of Fellini’s postmodern negotiation of autobiographical surrealism as well as Antonioni’s peculiar reframing of cinematic modernism.  This course will analyze Antonioni and Fellini’s most important films, placing their work in (film) historical contexts, and theorizing their interest in the aesthetics of cinematic representation and the politics of storytelling. Students will be asked to watch 2 movies a week, one in class and one at home, so that by the end of the course they will be familiar with the majority of these filmmakers’ work.  Films to be screened include:  Story of a Love Affair (Antonioni, 1950), La Signora Senza Camelie (Antonioni, 1953), The Vanquished (Antonioni, 1953), Love in the City (Antonioni/Fellini, 1953), Le Amiche (Antonioni, 1955), Il Grido (Antonioni, 1957), L’Avventura (Antonioni, 1960), La Notte (Antonioni, 1961), L’Eclisse (Antonioni, 1962), Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964), Blowup (Antonioni, 1966), Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, 1970), The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975), Beyond the Clouds (Antonioni, 1995), Eros (Antonioni, 2004), The White Sheik (Fellini, 1952), I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953), La Strada (Fellini, 1954), Il Bidone (Fellini, 1955), Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957), La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960), 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini, 1965), Satyricon (Fellini, 1969), Roma (Fellini, 1972), Amarcord (Fellini, 1973), Orchestra Rehearsal (Fellini, 1978), And the Ship Sails On (Fellini, 1983), Ginger and Fred (Fellini, 1986). The course will be conducted in English and all films will be screened with English subtitles.

FSCP 81000: Poem Encounters Film [3 credits], Tuesdays, 6:30PM-8:30PM. Sponsored by English.
Instructor: Wayne Koestenbaum

An experiment in placing poems (from the last 100 years) alongside short films and videos, to observe affinities of structure, method, rhetoric, syntax, sensibility, prosody, voice, design, and process between the two varieties of composition—poetic, filmic.  (For now, I’m using the word “film” to encompass video and film.)  The poems we read may make no direct reference to cinema;  the films we see may make no direct reference to poetry.  Some of the parallel modes we might observe include cut, gesture, close-up;  juxtaposition, assemblage, list;  speech, automatism, noise;  line, stanza, apostrophe;  symbol, synecdoche, allegory;  found language, found imagery;  mistake, correction, erasure;  reclamation, magnification, detritus;  quotation, summary, avoidance;  interruption, flow, edge;  music, shadow, echo;  elegy, colloquy, monologue;  artificiality, sincerity;  allusion, appropriation, homage;  rebellion, subordination, documentary.  Possible poets:  H.D., Max Jacob, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, Melvin B. Tolson, Lisa Robertson, Fred Moten, Barbara Guest, Sylvia Plath, José Lezama Lima, Renee Gladman, Nathaniel Mackey, Friederike Mayröcker, Frank O’Hara, Kevin Killian, Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Tonya M. Foster, Cathy Park Hong, Samuel Beckett, Aaron Kunin, Joan Murray, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Mónica de la Torre, Adrienne Rich, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Anne Carson, Nicanor Parra, Bertold Brecht.   Possible film-artists:  Man Ray, Maya Deren, Joseph Cornell, Rudy Burckhardt, Marie Menken, Bruce Baillie, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Clarke, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Sky Hopinka, Joyce Wieland, Helen Lee, Mary Lucier, Gunvor Nelson, Sandra Lahire, Lily Jue Sheng, Dziga Vertov Group, Lorna Simpson, Sadie Benning, Joan Jonas, Ximena Cuevas, Mary Reid Kelly, Janie Geiser, Stan VanDerBeek, Yoko Ono, Hito Steyerl, Anaïs Nin, Rea Tajiri, Germaine Dulac, Zeinabu irene Davis, Chick Strand, Lydia García Millán.  (The syllabus is not yet fixed;  I welcome further suggestions from students who plan to take the course.)  We will try not to force the issue of magical correspondences between poem and film.  But we will have the pleasure of juxtaposing some unusual instances of visual and verbal art.  Requirements:  oral presentation and a final project.  This project may be multi-genre and multi-media;  it may also be used as an occasion to compose some element of the Portfolio Exam.

Course of Interest: 

DATA 74200: Media Theory and History #61130, Tuesday, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, 3 Credits, Rm, TBA, Prof. Lev Manovich (

The topics course is designed to introduce students to many influential ideas and works by key modern and contemporary thinkers about media and technology. Because historically these ideas were developed in relation to particular technologies and media that came into prominence in different periods, we will also explore aspects of media history including photography, film, radio, television, Internet, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and data art. Some of the discussions will use as starting points Manovich's own selected articles and chapters from his books The Language of New Media, Software Takes Command, Instagram and Contemporary Image, and Cultural Analytics (forthcoming). all texts used in the class are freely available online.