Film StudiesWestern Arts and Humanities

Undergraduate Courses

First Year

Courses for the 2015-2016 Academic Year:

First Year

1022: Introduction to Film Studies
What is a blockbuster? What is a cult film? What is digital cinema? Discover the answers to these questions and others in a broad introduction to the study of cinema. Students will learn the basic vocabulary of film studies and gain an informed understanding of the different critical approaches to film analysis as these are informed by the historical, the psychosocial and the political. By viewing a wide range of film and video, students will learn to critically engage with these media and their contemporary derivations.

section 001 - Zoran Maric
section 002 - Barb Bruce

2100 Level

2153A: Special Topics: American Television and Culture (Wlodarz)
Despite its pivotal role in postwar America, television has rarely been viewed as a medium worthy of serious critical attention. Long tainted by its commercial ties and mass audience, television has only recently acquired a degree of cultural esteem through its widely acclaimed cable programming (The Sopranos; Mad Men). This course will provide an introduction to the historical development, forms, and reception of television in the U.S., paying particular attention to the social element of the medium. We will thus explore television’s diverse audiences and analyze the various ways in which American culture has both shaped and been shaped by TV. In addition to a focus on key moments in the medium’s history, we will examine the distinctive elements of the televisual form (flow, liveness, seriality, advertising), TV’s key genres (soap, sitcom, drama, news, reality), modes of reception (fandom, distraction, time-shifting), and television’s construction and conception of social difference in America (representation and narrowcasting strategies). Key topics of discussion will include: quality television and cultural hierarchies, HBO and the cable/satellite shift, teen TV, children’s TV, representing “reality,” the gendering of television, televisual immediacy, American television in the global sphere, and the flexibility of “television” in the digital era.

Potential screenings include: True Detective, Girls, Mad Men, The Big Bang Theory, Bob’s Burgers, Empire, The Sopranos, The Wire, iCarly, Louie, Arrested Development, The Biggest Loser, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, All in the Family, Dawson’s Creek, The Cosby Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hill Street Blues, 24, and more.


2191F: Special Topics: Ministry of Fear: Media and Propaganda in the Third Reich (Blankenship)
In this course we will study the history and techniques of German propaganda under National Socialism, focusing on major propaganda campaigns and the restructuring of mass media: film, radio, newsreel, and print. We will read key texts on Nazi ideology and examine cartoons and caricatures, Nazi feature film, newsreel and documentary, and the discourse on jazz and degenerate art. The final unit of the course also includes a contemporary novel on radio technology and the acoustics of the Third Reich.


2194B: Special Topics: The Horror Film (Wlodarz)
Although marked by a consistently disreputable status, horror has long been one of the most popular and enduring global genres in the history of film. With deep roots in mythology, fairy tales, Gothic literature, and Freudian psychoanalysis, horror cinema continues to shock and delight audiences through tales of vampires, ghosts, zombies, aliens, serial killers, and other monstrous icons. And yet the basic function of horror—to elicit unsettling emotions of fear, anxiety, and disgust—has also made the genre a frequent target of censorship and a convenient scapegoat for broader social crises and moral panics. Such controversies also speak to the crucial ways that horror cinema both explores and negotiates cultural tensions and anxieties about identity, technology, religion, difference/Otherness, and the environment. Providing an overview of the history of horror cinema, this team-taught course will introduce the key forms, styles, and thematic elements of both classic and contemporary horror films from around the world. It will also frame the analysis of major films such as Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922), Frankenstein (Whale, 1931), Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960), Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968), and Alien (Scott, 1979) in relation to their specific industrial and cultural contexts, paying close attention to both the perception and reception of horror audiences as well as the genre’s allegorical potential.

Key topics to be discussed include: fears and anxieties addressed by horror cinema; cultural traditions of horror; horror and repression/the unconscious; bodily horrors; motherhood and/as horror; supernatural vs. psychological horror; normality and monstrosity; gender and sexuality in horror cinema and spectatorship; horror and modernity/technology; fandom and the pleasures of horror.

Other potential screenings include: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene, 1920); Dracula (Browning, 1930); King Kong (Cooper, 1933); Cat People (Tourneur, 1942); Godzilla [Gojira] (Honda, 1954); Them! (Douglas, 1954); The Curse of Frankenstein (Fisher, 1957); The Innocents (Clayton, 1961); Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968); The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973); The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974); Carrie (DePalma, 1976); Suspiria (Argento, 1977); Halloween (Carpenter, 1978); A Nightmare on Elm Street (Craven, 1984); The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986); The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991); Candyman (Rose, 1992); Scream (Craven, 1996); Ringu (Nakata, 1998); The Blair Witch Project (Myrick/Sanchez, 1999); The Devil’s Backbone (del Toro, 2001); Saw (Wan, 2004); The Descent (Marshall, 2005); The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006); The Orphanage (Bayona, 2007); [REC] (Balaguero/Plaza, 2007); The Babadook (Kent, 2014); It Follows (Mitchell, 2014).

2197A: Special Topics: The Action Film (Raine)
Combining hero figures in conflict with exotic locations, innovative special effects, and spectacular stunts, Action cinema has proven irresistible to audiences. From its early roots in the 1920s and 1930s, Action cinema focused on performances of muscular, athletic bodies in motion. Films like The Terminator and Aliens in the 1980s, The Matrix in the 1990s, and Crank in the 2000s continue this tradition, developing the spectacle and adrenalin-inducing stunts of early Action cinema to generate huge box office returns. 

The course explores this popular form of filmed entertainment in the contexts of: multiple genres, gender/sexuality, sensation and embodiment, history, ideology, marketing, and popular and critical reception.

Questions addressed include:

Topics include:

The course may include the following films:


2200 Level

2200G: Film Theories, Criticisms, Histories (Falkowska)
The course will provide an introductory overview of some of the major theoretical trends and methods of analyzing film. We will examine a range of the most important approaches in film theory, criticism, and history focusing on key representative writings. Across the course, we will explore how these writings either set apart or engage with the broader social, political, historical, and (trans) national contexts of a film text. Specifically, we will learn how to engage in theoretical arguments in order to produce a stronger reading of films.  During six thematic sessions we will extensively cover the following topics: Film Language and Semiotics; Formalism - Soviet Film Theory; Psychoanalysis and Ideology; Feminist Criticism; Colonialism and Race; and, Digital Cinemas.

Film 2224F: Special Topics: Berlin to Hollywood (Nagl)
This course explores the transnational dialectics between German cinema and Hollywood, with a special focus on directors and actors who emigrated to the U.S., including Fritz Lang, Marlene Dietrich, F. W. Murnau, Peter Lorre, Billy Wilder, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Ernst Lubitsch. We will trace the influence of Weimar cinema on Hollywood productions of the 1930s and 1940s, taking into consideration diverse genres including melodrama, film noir, the anti-Nazi film, comedy, and horror. We will explore how the experience of displacement shaped the exiles’ sense of identity and film-making and we will examine the ways how German film-makers in Hollywood reacted to fascism and World War II.


Film 2230F: Critical Reading and Writing in Film Studies (Bruce)
This course will build on skills and knowledge acquired in Film 1022 to engage students in the critical practices involved in reading various genres of writing in Film Studies. In addition to writing their own film reviews, students will learn research skills that prepare them for writing critical essays on cinema. If you took Film 1022 as your introductory Film course, you must take Film 2230F before graduating. The department strongly encourages you to take this course in your second year of study.


Film 2242F: National Cinemas: Japanese New Wave Cinema (Raine)
This course deals Japanese cinema in the context of the 'new wave' cinemas that emerged around the world between 1955 and 1973. It pays particular attention to local contexts such as the studio-based 'cinema of high economic growth,' the turn to documentary and experimental film-making around 1960, and the rise of the Japanese student movement. The films we study are rhetorical interventions that often scandalized mainstream society with their unsettling juxtaposition of sex, violence, and politics. Students should be warned that many of these films still retain their power to disturb. By studying critical writing as well as the films themselves we will seek to understand the intellectual and material conditions that brought about the new wave. We will debate what the films tell us about Japan, and what they tell us about the global simultaneity and cultural permeability of cinema that is sometimes ignored in single-country film histories.

All readings on the course are in English; no Japanese is required.


Film 2243F: National Cinemas: Contemporary German Cinema (Blankenship)
This course introduces students to the history of Contemporary German Cinema after unification. Topics include the "Berlin School" and transnational film production, Ostalgie, European identity, migration, and historical memory. The relationship to the auteurism of post-war New German Cinema will also be examined. By the end of this course, you will be able to identify major trends and tendencies in Contemporary German Cinema and situate them in their historical, cultural and aesthetic contexts.


Film 2245G: National Cinemas: Japanese National Cinema (Raine)
This course surveys Japanese cinema from its prehistory to the work of contemporary transnational auteurs. We will focus on both Japan and the cinema: each week will present a specific historical context and a particular argument in film studies brought into focus by that week's films. For example, we will consider the relation between traditional aesthetics and Japanese cinema; the burgeoning mass culture of 1930s Japan and theories of 'vernacular modernism'; the war film and propaganda; genre theory and postwar melodrama; J-Horror; and Japanese animation. We will of course pay attention to geniuses of Japanese cinema such as Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa, and Miyazaki but we will also study the films in relation to broader economic and institutional contexts. In addition to critically appraising various films and theoretical approaches, we will study the connections between cinema and parallel institutions such as radio, television, and the record industry, as well as intermedia relations between cinema and theatre, literature, manga, and anime.

All readings on the course are in English; no Japanese is required.

Film 2246G: National Cinemas: Early German Cinema: Haunted Screen (Blankenship)
This course will focus on the sensational origins of cinema in Germany. We will examine cinema as part of a wider exhibition culture that includes phantasmagoria ghost projection, magic lanterns, and the “edutainement” of microscopes, X rays and stereoscopes. Our analysis of German cinema starts with the body madness of the “Boxing Kangaroo” (Max and Emil Skladanowsky’s 1895 Wintergarten film program) and ends with colonial cinema and German horror classics (Caligari, Genuine, Nosferatu). Rare glimpses into the Skladanowsky retrospective of the Third Reich and a screening of New German cinema representations of forgotten film pioneers also illuminate the act of creating a national film history and archive.

Film 2250G: European Movements (Falkowska)
The course “Movements in European Film” will provide a historical background, an ideological foundation and an in-depth analysis of crucial European film movements and “waves” such as Free British Cinema, French New Wave, New German Cinema, Czech New Wave, Polish School, Spanish Surrealism, Berlin School and Dogma Movement. One or two representative films for each movement will be studied for their aesthetics, narratives and ideology. Additionally, we will study the impact of these movements on world cinemas.

2251E: World Cinema (Burucua -Fall term, Raine - Winter term) 
The first half of the course aims to introduce students to issues and concepts in World Cinema and to the ongoing debates around this particular field study, while also relating these matters to circulating discourses about the Global. Such ideas will constantly inform our readings and understandings of a body of films from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Depending on each case study, the consecutive units will focus on different critical approaches, alternatively addressing questions concerning the representation of racial, ethnic and cultural identities, matters of gender and female authorship, and issues of genre and stardom. 

The second half of the course continues the study of issues and concepts in world cinema, referring to a body of films made in Africa, Asia, and Australasia. After first considering the legacy of Third Cinema in Africa, we will study the tension between art and commerce in Asian cinema, exploring the place of genre (musicals, melodramas, and gangster films) and cultural history, as well as the importance of film festivals. Finally, we will take Australia as a case study of national film policy, including the recent support for a Fourth Cinema of films that articulate an indigenous critique of national as well as international film culture.

syllabus fall term

2253E: American Cinema (Wlodarz) 
This yearlong course surveys the central industrial, technological, aesthetic, and ideological developments in the history of American cinema. Given the global prominence and influence of Hollywood cinema, much of the course will be focused on the establishment of the Hollywood studio system and its many transformations over the course of the 20th century. We will begin with an analysis of the origins of the medium and its place in American culture at the turn-of-the-century. We will then examine the development of narrative cinematic standards and the rise and consolidation of the Hollywood studio system, paying close attention to genre, stardom, marketing, and popular reception from the 1920s to the 1960s. In addition to key technological developments such as the coming of sound and the emergence of widescreen cinema, we will also explore social anxieties about cinema's effects, the institution of the Production Code, and the complex relationship of Hollywood film to key social crises (The Depression, WWII, McCarthyism, Civil Rights) of the period. 

The second term of the course will focus on the emergence of “post-classical” Hollywood and the parallel growth of American independent cinema. Here we will explore the economic, aesthetic, and ideological transformations in American film from the social upheavals of the '60s and '70s to the contemporary era of conglomeration, globalization, and digital media. Key topics will include: the politics of genre revision; the shifting parameters of the “New Hollywood”; the fall of the Production Code and the representation of sex and violence; independent cinemas and social identity; the emergence of the international blockbuster; and crises of security in post-9/11 cinema.


2256F: Avant-Garde Cinema (Nagl)
This course explores the history, politics and aesthetics of American and European avant-garde film practices. We will examine the development, major trends and techniques of experimental and non-narrative film-making in relation to key art movements and theoretical debates of the 20th century. Topics include formalism, surrealism, political modernism, the culture industry, pop art, and feminism.


2258G: Canadian Cinema: Documents, Storytelling, Experiments (Gittings) 
Beginning in the silent period and extending into the twenty-first century, this course seeks to answer historical, cultural, ideological and aesthetic questions about Canadian cinema. We will explore how cinema has reflected the complex and unstable notion of Canada as a nation, focusing upon issues of representation as well as problems of distribution and exhibition. Additionally, we will consider the transnational flows between the Canadian film industry, Hollywood, and other global film industries through co-production. Questions addressed include: What is the influence of the documentary tradition on Canadian cinema as a whole? Is there an innate division between Canadian “art” cinema and popular cinema? What are the relationships of First Nations, diasporic and queer cinemas to a Canadian national cinema? Does Canadian cinema embody two linguistic, cultural and industrial “solitudes” or are there in fact a variety of Canadian cinemas? What role does genre play in Canadian cinema?

2260G: Film Genre: Science Fiction (Nagl)
This course provides students with a survey of Science Fiction cinema, one of the most popular and enduring genres in the history of cinema. In this course we will engage with the question of what generic elements (narrative, mise-en-scène, philosophical content, etc.) are specific to the Science Fiction film, and will analyze them in relation to larger issues, such as modernity, the relationship between technology, society and the individual, and the history of utopian thought, science and reason. How have filmmakers used Science Fiction to reflect on the social and political questions of the present? Why is it easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than radical social change? When does technology on earth or on the screen serve an ideological function, when does it allow for new ways of thinking, feeling and being? How has Science Fiction cinema envisioned radical otherness and explored the limits of what it means to be “human”? What role has Science Fiction cinema played at key points in film history to advance new filmmaking technologies or marketing strategies? How does Science Fiction cinema relate to other genres with little critical/academic recognition, but huge fan cultures, such as horror or fantasy?

2270F: Film Aesthetics (De Souza)
This course will explore the narrative and artistic functions of basic film elements, e.g., composition, script, lightning, sound, music and editing. The main concepts will be illustrated with a wide range of audiovisual material: feature and short films, documentaries, TV series, Internet clips and developing new media. The course will also offer an introduction to the audiovisual production process.


2275G: Documentary Film (Burucua)
This course will examine the historical and theoretical development of documentary filmmaking as a non–fictional mode of representation. From the first actualités shot by the pioneers in the late 19th Century to the more contemporary expressions, documentary films question notions of objectivity, reality and verisimilitude, all of which will be under scrutiny throughout the course. Consequently, the selected audiovisual texts comprised in the corpus will be analyzed both as conscious aesthetic practices and as historical and cultural discourses either sustaining, criticizing or openly opposing the status quo, while inevitably bearing witness to the contexts from which they emerge, their values, beliefs and ideas.


3300 Level

3312F: Special Topics: Service Learning (Negus)
The objective of this course is to provide students with the opportunity of taking part in different community service experiences: their responsibility will be to create a visual record (e.g. short film) to communicate the experience.


3360G: Film Genres: Family Viewing: Melodrama (Gittings)
Students will interrogate the genre of the family melodrama through critical readings and the screening of films and television programs. For Louis Althusser, the Family along with the Church, works as an Ideological State Apparatus interpellating good subjects for the State. The family's work of forming subjectivities is visible in popular culture representations such as the Hollywood family melodrama genre. Genres will be considered, in part, as components of what Stephen Neale calls the mental machinery of cinema: "a machine for the regulation of the orders of subjectivity" (Neale 1980, 19). Tracing a trajectory of family representations across such divergent formations of melodrama as  Birth of a Nation (USA, DW Griffith, 1915), Mildred Pierce (USA, Michael Curtiz, 1945),  All That Heaven Allows (USA, Douglas Sirk, 1955),  Leave it to Beaver (USA, 1957-63),  Mad Men (USA, 2007-  ), Pleasantville (USA,Gary Ross 1998), Far From Heaven (USA, Todd Haynes, 2002),  Muriel’s Wedding  (Australia, P.J. Hogan, 1994), All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, 1999) and There Will be Blood (USA, Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007), students will investigate, through discussion, collaborative presentation and essay writing, the interrelationships of race, gender, class, sexuality and the nation as these concepts are performed through the family.

Thomas Elsaesser describes the family melodrama as a genre where plots revolve around the powerless, and their victimization by a corrupt social order as this is represented through family relationships (Elsaesser 1974, 514-15). A genre that tailors "ideological conflicts into emotionally charged family situations" (Elsaesser 1974, 516), the popular family melodrama "facilitates conflict and negotiation between cultural identities" (Gledhill 1987, 37). Family melodramas negotiate the space between the home and the community, and the family's classed, raced and gendered positions within these two spheres. Drawing on the work of Cook, Gledhill and Kleinhans, Hayward has suggested, in melodrama the family becomes the site of patriarchy and capitalism and therefore reproduces them (Hayward 1996, 200). With an emphasis on questions of genre, the course will pay close attention to cinematic and televisual constructions of the home, site of the family, as a symbolic structure of identity, its heimlich (canny, homely, familiar) and its unheimlich (uncanny, alien, unknown) properties. Relationships between the family, domestic space and the space of the nation will be a central focus of the course.

3370G: Advanced Film Aesthetics (TBA)
This course will be focused on the understanding of the process of making a film and the underlying aesthetic/ethic decisions involved in it, through the study of a selection of contemporary documentaries and short films. The students will be also provided with notions concerning the different stages of audiovisual production and basic production skills.

3371G: Film Theory (Nagl) 

This course offers a critical and historical overview of the key questions and problems discussed in Film Theory during the last century. In this class we will look at both “classical” film theories (from the silent era up to the mid-1960s) and “contemporary” film theory (since 1968). We will also engage, at the end of the course, with recent attempts to re-evaluate both paradigms. Issues discussed might include: the relationship between cinema and the other arts; notions of medium-specificity; film and mass culture; film and/as language; semiotics and the cinematic image; formalism, signification and narratology; ideology and ideology-critique; psychoanalysis and spectatorship; race, sexuality and gender; postmodernism and cultural studies; phenomenology, affect and “post-theory.” This is a reading-intensive course which focuses not so much on specific films and their contexts, but on a wide array of critical concepts, including their sometimes challenging methodological and philosophical underpinnings. Please plan your time accordingly.

3373F: Theories of National Cinemas (Burucua)
The course will provide students with a critical interrogation of the concept of ²national cinema². Informed by theories of nation developed within the social sciences by scholars such as Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm, among others, the course troubles notions of nation as an organic, homogeneous, unitary entity before shifting into a study of different case studies in terms of their cinematic representations of nation, and the political economies that facilitate the production of national cinemas. Readings of the ‘national’ will be underpinned by understandings of class, gender, race and sexuality. Films from different historical and geographical contexts will be examined in relation to debates about what constitutes a national cinema.


4400 Level

4409E: Undergraduate Thesis

Individual instruction in the selection of a topic, the preparation of materials, and the writing of a thesis. Students who wish to take this course must apply to the Chair of the Department. The course is restricted to students in fourth year of an Honors Specialization in Film Studies with a high "B" average.
Note: You cannot register for the course online. You will be registered in Film 4409E by the Department once your application form has been accepted.
Application form
Evaluation form

4490G: Seminar: Women Auteurs (Burucua)
This course will explore the notion of film authorship in relation to its utterances and implications when associated to the praxis of contemporary women film directors, from the early 1960s to the present. While troubling the notion of women’s cinema, its definition, limits and limitations, a wide range of case studies – films emerging from dissimilar contexts of production and reception – will be mostly read and discussed in the light of feminist approaches to questions about gender and representation. In this sense, the course will also offer a historical and critical overview of feminist scholarship within film studies and of the ongoing debates in this area of study.