Film StudiesWestern Arts and Humanities

Undergraduate Courses

First Year

Courses for the 2016-2017 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 - Maric
section 002 - Bruce

2100 Level

2153B: 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.

2194B: Special Topics: The Horror Film (Gittings)
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);  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).

2195B: Special Topics: Zombie Film (Bruce)
The zombie film has been enjoying unprecedented popularity in the past decade or more, but this horror subgenre has a much longer history. Analyzing representative films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this course will consider how the subgenre has developed over the past century, how the zombie as symbol has evolved, and why the zombie continues to resonate with filmmakers and filmgoers alike. We’ll examine such influences on the genre as German Expressionism and psychoanalytic theories, and explore the idea that such films reflect the cultural anxieties of their respective times and places in relation to such issues as gender, sexuality, race, youth, the hegemony, capitalism, technology, religion, and the environment.

2196A: Special Topics: Disney Dream Factory (Blankenship)
Benjamin Barber in The New York Times argued “whether Disney knows it or not, it is buying much more than our leisure time. It has a purchase on our values, on how we feel and think, and what we think about.” This course offers a closer look at Disney as one of America's most long-standing “dream factories,” examining the cultural narratives, industrial strategies, fantasies and ideologies that fuel Disney’s global impact in the 20th and 21st century. In addition to analyzing key Disney animated features, we will also look at the studio’s early cartoons, educational and advertising films, nature documentaries, live action films and propaganda shorts. We will study Disney’s relationship to art, politics and ecology and also examine the “invention” of childhood, notions of “family” entertainment and constructions of race, class and gender in Disney filmmaking. Films might include Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, Tron, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Song of the South, Steamboat Willy, Fantasia, The Lion King and Frozen.

2197B: Special Topics: Spaghetti Westerns: Origins, Legacy and Popular Cinema (Sangalli)
In this course we will examine the unique film style, genre history, ideological implications, and cultural anxieties expressed by a selection of different Italian Westerns. Come learn about the most successful Spaghetti Western subgenres while we trace their origins in the Hollywood Western, the Sword and Sandal Film, and the Samurai film, and as we explore their legacy, from Sam Peckinpah to Quentin Tarantino!

2198A: Special Topics: Animation/Anime (Raine)
This course explores the power of animation as a medium, with a particular emphasis on Japan. We will trace the intertwined history of film, television, video, and computer animation from short films in the 1930s to the present day media mix that incorporates comic books, light novels, video games, and toys. Japanese anime franchises will be examined from the side of production, as industrial products and artistic expressions, and from the side of reception, as texts and as objects through which consumers construct their social lives. We will also explore the further dissemination of those franchises in various kinds of fan fiction and academic discourse, and as an aspect of Japanese "soft power" in North American popular culture.

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

2200 Level

2224F: Special Topics: Berlin to Hollywood (Nagl) CANCELLED
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.

2228F: Special Topics: Art and Mass Media (Sprengler)
This course examines the various intersections between art and the mass media, particularly film, television, and advertising. In doing so, it explores a series of issues around the development of consumer culture and the formation cultural hierarchies. It also considers the many ways in which art has been represented, mobilized, and defined by popular media. This course is primarily lecture-driven. There is no final exam.

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.

2242G: National Cinemas: Contemporary German Cinema (Nagl)
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.

2243G: National Cinemas: Japanese New Wave 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, and Kurosawa but we will also study 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.

2252G: World Cinema (Raine) - previously known as 2251E
This course surveys the significant movements and expressions of world cinema outside of North America. It traces the development of the medium in Europe and its spread around the world, paying particular attention to Africa and Asia. The course encompasses all forms of cinema, from avant-garde and experimental films to politically-charged critiques of Hollywood as well as entertainment films. The goal is not to cover everything but to raise awareness of the aesthetic and political powers of the medium, in its various contexts.

2254G: American Cinema (Wlodarz) - previously known as 2253E
This course surveys the central industrial, technological, aesthetic, and ideological developments in the history of classical Hollywood 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.

Potential screenings include: The Great Train Robbery, The Birth of a Nation, Within Our Gates, The Jazz Singer, Little Caesar, Blonde Venus, Stagecoach, The Lady Eve, The Best Years of Our Lives, Air Force, Meet Me in St. Louis, Them!, Rebel Without a Cause, Imitation of Life, North by Northwest, A Face in the Crowd.

2256G: Avant-Garde Cinema (Nagl) CANCELLED
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.

2258F: 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.

2275F: Documentary Film (Blankenship)
This course will introduce students to the history and theory of documentary cinema from the earliest actualities of the 1890s to the present. We will consider how the documentary film developed as an aesthetic form, a mode of cultural expression and tool of political propaganda and also study how technological changes had an impact on the development of the form. Topics might include the Lumière Brothers and early newsreel, Robert Flaherty and the ethnographic gaze, montage and the city symphony, the British documentary of the 1930s and 1940s, the poetic documentary, the essay film, Direct Cinema and cinéma vérité, Michael Moore, the postmodern “mockumentary,” the digital image and documentary ethics.

2295G: Directors/Auteurs: The Coen Brothers (Gittings)
Nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, and taking home the statuette twice for best screenplay (Fargo (1996), No Country for Old Men (2007)) and once each for Best Picture and Best Achievement in Directing (No Country for Old Men), Ethan and Joel Coen have long garnered critical praise for their intertextual, self-aware and visually striking brand of cinema. One of their most popular and critical successes, The Big Lebowski (1998), inspired the annual Lebowski Fest and was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 2014.

This course will consider the work of the Coen Brothers in the contexts of auteur theory, genre, gender, parody, myth, ideology, postmodern aesthetics, cinema history and fan culture. Our work will investigate the brothers’ collaboration with each other and the ways in which their creative relationship challenges conventional thinking around the auteur figure in Film Studies. Relatedly, their longstanding collaboration with cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been the DOP on every Coen production beginning with Barton Fink (1996), will also shape how we approach and understand their work. Whilst pilloried for being too derivative by some critics, others praise the extensive knowledge of cinema history, film theory, and American popular culture that characterize their films and facilitate parodic play with Hollywood’s America.

Potential screenings include: Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), No Country for Old Men (2007), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010), Hail Caesar! (2016).

3300 Level

3312F: Special Topics: Service Learning (Negus) CANCELLED
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.

3316F: Special Topics: Hollywood Film and Contemporary Art (Sprengler)
The relationship between film and the visual arts is a long and complex one, stretching back to cinema’s very first years. It is one defined by reciprocity, experimentation, and inspiration. This course will begin with a brief survey of this historical relationship and then consider the myriad ways in which contemporary visual artists have made Hollywood film the subject of their work.

3360F: Film Genres: The Musical (Raine)
This course explores the global range of musical films, from TV shows and music videos to all-singing, all-dancing extravaganzas and the eruption of "musical moments" in popular cinema, art films, and the avant-garde. We will study the sources of musical film in adaptations of musical theatre and operetta, as well as in the broader incorporation of music and popular song into the experience of cinema around the world. We will treat the musical film as a genre, but also as a form that exposes a fundamental aspect of "moving pictures" -- the power to engage our emotions, eliciting joy and desire as well as sadness.

3370G: Advanced Film Aesthetics (Guertin)
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 be provided with notions concerning the different stages of audiovisual production and basic production skills.

3371F: 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 (Gittings)
This course will provide students with a rigorous interrogation of national cinema informed by theories of identity, nation, and globalization developed by such figures as Benedict Anderson, Arjun Appadurai, Etienne Balibar, Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Roland Robertson and Edward Said. Students will trouble notions of nation as an organic, homogeneous, unitary entity before shifting into a study of ideology and cinematic representations of nation, distribution and the political economies that structure the production of national and transnational cinemas. Readings of the ‘national’ will be underpinned by understandings of class, gender, race and sexuality. Films from various colonial, postcolonial, national and diasporic cinemas will be examined in the context of debates about what constitutes the terrain of national cinema. To this end we will read essays by such leading national cinema scholars as Stephen Crofts, Andrew Higson, Susan Hayward, Marasha Kinder, Ella Shohat, Robert Stam, Philip Rosen, Fernando Solanos and Octavio Getino.

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: Cinematic Modernism (Blankenship)
This course will explore the intersection of cinema and modernist aesthetic experimentation in literature, art and dance in the 20th century. We will trace the impact of new cinematic technologies, theories of movement and temporality on a variety of artistic, literary and cinematic styles and practices, ranging from choreographer Loie Fuller’s flickering light-projector performances to László Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic sculpture Light-Space-Modulator and unrealized Bauhaus screenplay Dynamic of a Metropolis to the modernist obsession with magnification in Jean Epstein’s The Fall of the House of Usher or Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Course readings may include literary texts by Mallarmé, Resnais, Scheerbart, T.S. Eliot, Peter Weiss, Julio Cortázar, and Beckett and theoretical readings by Deleuze, Arnheim, Benjamin, Bergson, Simmel, Moholy-Nagy, Paul Souriau, and Peter Wollen.

Summer 2016:

2194A: Special Topics: Cinemas of Disaster (Bruce)
This course provides an introduction to the study of genre, a survey of disaster films, and analyses of films from a number of different perspectives.