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ENG-154 Interpretation of Film

Critical study of film from various historical periods. Formal, theoretical, and interpretive issues.

Film was the dominant medium of the last century and yet we have only begun to understand it, especially in the post-celluloid period of digital and convergent screen cultures. What is the “language” of cinema? What are the conventions of style through which films communicate? What are the audiovisual literacy skills necessary to “read” films as texts within aesthetic systems? In this course, we will approach these broad but fundamental questions to the interpretation of film. Based in close analysis, the course will introduce you to how films are composed through mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound. We will then consider the structures of narrative and genre that organize those formal elements, as well as the economic contexts of film promotion, reception, and stardom that determine cinematic meaning. As the semester draws to a close, we will examine film techniques in relation to issues of authorship, including race and ethnicity, gender, sexualities, transnationalism, and intermediality. The films in this course derive from a range of traditions, such as studio filmmaking in the Classical Hollywood era, independent cinema, documentary, the avant-garde, and the Hollywood blockbuster.

ENG-170 American Cinema, Beginnings to Present

History of American cinema from beginnings to present; consideration of the Hollywood studio system and its influence on the cinema.

This course traces the history of American cinema from its emergence as a celluloid-based medium in the late nineteenth-century to its digital development at the intersections of multiple media companies and platforms. We will look at individual films not as ends in themselves, but as products of an industry, mass culture, and national artistic traditions. Our goals will be to understand how to interpret the meanings of films in their historical contexts, as well as how to identify aesthetic, technological, and ideological changes over time. Learning this history will introduce you to various cinematic modes—fiction and non-fiction, narrative and the avant-garde, Hollywood and independent production—and how they function. Course topics will include the following: the rise of cinema as an institution; the standardization of American film genres and storytelling; the classical studio and star systems of Hollywood; the shift to color, widescreen, and location shooting in the late-studio era; the political effects of the Cold War and the counterculture; new waves of film school-trained and independent directors; and recent directions for film style and genre in the early-twenty-first century.

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