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Classical Hollywood Cinema

What was “classical” about Classical Hollywood cinema? This course offers an investigation of Hollywood cinema as an aesthetic and industrial system during the era of studio production between 1929 and 1948, as well as the gradual demise of the system into the early 1960s. We will consider Classical Hollywood as a formal tradition of film art, a business and technological practice of filmmaking, and a cultural institution of film experience that exceeds a single geographic site. As a graduate pro-seminar, this course not only concerns the history of Classical Hollywood, but also historiographic methods of interpretation and research, leading to a final paper of 20-25 pages. Topics will include the following: the relationship between American cinema and American modernity; the development of narrative, visual style, and sound in the classical film text; the studio oligopoly and the effects of its breakup; product standardization, differentiation, and marketing through genres and stars; the Production Code Administration’s regulation of onscreen content; the influence of the Cold War; B-movies and the economization of filmmaking; the rise of television in a period of big screen spectacle; location shooting after World War II; and the shift to overseas and independent production.

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