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Seminars and Syllabus

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Seminar Topics and Reading*

Autumn Term 1

Dead, White and Male?

course outline and expectations

Read: Hayden White, "Historiography and Historiophoty," AHR (December 1988): 1193-99; Natalie Zemon Davis, " 'Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead': Film and the Challenge of Authenticity," HJFRTV 8: 3 (1988): 269-83; Warren Susman, "Film and History: Artifact and Experience," in Hollywood and the American Historical Film (2012)

in focus: Citizen Kane (1941) and The Thin Blue Line (1988)

key issues: 4 aspects of film and history, documentary vs. feature film, film style and authenticity, gender and history, Citizen Hearst and the biopic; De Havilland libel suit

Additional films: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Rashomon (1950), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Civil War (1989), Feud (2017)


Genre and History

Read: Rick Altman, "A Semantic and Syntactic Approach to Film Genre," Cinema Journal 23:3 (spring 1984): 6-18; see also Robert Warshow, "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," in The Immediate Experience

in focus: Meek's Cutoff (2011) and The Public Enemy (1931)

key issues: ahistoricism and genre studies, politics of history, gendered points of view, workingclass biography

Additional films: The Last of the Mohicans (1920 and 1992), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), Musketeers of Pig Alley (1913), Doorway to Hell (1930), Scarface (1932), Manhattan Melodrama (1934), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Dillinger (1973)


"Classical Hollywood"

Read “John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln: A Collective Text by the Editors of Cahiers du cinéma,” (1970), reprinted by Screen 13: 3 (October 1972): 5-44

in focus: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

key issues: Marxist cultural criticism and historical films, Hollywood ideology, reading a film, classicism and history

Additional films: Stagecoach (1939), Jesse James (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939)



Richard Thompson and Tim Hunter, "Clint Eastwood: Auteur," Film Comment 14:1 (1978): 24-32; Ric Gentry, "Clint Eastwood: Interview," Film Quarterly 42: 3 (1989): 12-23; see also Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-68

in focus: Unforgiven (1992)

key issues: origins of auteurist discourse and their impact on historical films; pres. Dan

Additional films: The Dollars Trilogy (1964-66), Play Misty for Me (1971), Dirty Harry (1971), Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Pale Rider (1985), Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Changeling (2008), Gran Torino (2008)


Editing, Film Language, and Resistance

Sergei Eisenstein, “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form,” Eisenstein: Film Form, ed. Jay Leyda (1977): 45-63 (also in Richard Taylor, The Eisenstein Reader; Béla Balázs, “The Close-Up,” in Early Film Theory; Charles O'Brien, "Rethinking National Cinema: Dreyer's La passion de Jeanne d'Arc and the Academic Aesthetic," Cinema Journal 35: 4 (1996): 3-30

in focus: La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) and October (1928)

key issues: the historical politics of the cut, the editor as author, authenticity and the closeup; national cinemas

Additional films: Intolerance (1916), Strike (1925), Battleship Potemkin (1925), Alexander Nevsky (1938), Day of Wrath (1943), High Noon (1952), The Leopard (1963), Russian Ark (2002)

6 ~ Reading Week: No Seminar ~

Writers' Wars

Duncan Cooper, "Who Killed Spartacus?" Cineaste 18: 3 (1991): 18-27; D. B. Smith, "The (Un)making of a Historical Drama," The Public Historian 25: 3 (2003): 27-44

in focus: Spartacus (1960)

first short essay

key issues: the role of the screenwriter; pres. Sam

Additional films: Tender Comrade (1943), Watch on the Rhine (1943), None Shall Escape (1944), Exodus (1960)


The Western

Suzanne Clark, Cold Warriors (2003); Smyth, "The Western That Got Its Content 'From Elsewhere,'" Quarterly Review of Film and Video (2013): 42-55

in focus: High Noon (1952)

key issues: history, politics, gender, and genre in the Western; fascism and the Western genre tradition; Cold War Westerns; learning from the archive; pres. Angus

Additional films: The Covered Wagon (1923), The Virginian (1929), The Searchers (1956), True Grit (1969)


The Global and Postmodern West

Tassilo Schneider, “Finding a New Heimat in the Old West,” Journal of Film and Video 47, 1-3 (spring 1995): 50- 66; Uta Poiger, "A New 'Western' Hero," Signs, 24:1 (autumn 1998): 147-62; Edward Comentale, "I'll Keep Rolling Along: Some Notes on Singing Cowboys and Bowling Alleys in The Big Lebowski," in The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies (2009), 228-52

in focus: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1965) and The Big Lebowski (1998)

key issues: transnational appraisals of a national genre; what is the postmodern Western?; pres. Isaac

Additional films: The Emperor of California (1936), The Treasure of Silver Lake (1962), Apache Gold (1963), Old Shatterhand (1964), Badlands (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), No Country for Old Men (2007)


Retakes on Remakes: Adaptation, Gender, and Stardom

Ronald Bogle, "De Palma's Postmodern Scarface and the Simulacrum of Class," Criticism 35:1 (winter 1993): 115-29; Linda Hutcheon, “On the Art of Adaptation,” Daedelus 133, 2 (spring 2004): 108-111; see also Robert Sklar on A Star Is Born and Vera Dika on Far From Heaven in Hollywood and the American Historical Film (2012)

in focus: A Star Is Born (1937, 1956, 1976, 2018)

key issues: paratexts, adaptation and history; self-reflexivity; pres. Molly

Additional films: What Price Hollywood? (1932), Chaplin (1992)

~ Christmas Vacation ~
Spring Term 1

Noir Histories

Read: Paul Schrader, "Notes on Film Noir," Film Comment 8:1 (spring 1972): 8-13; Eric Lott, “The Whiteness of Film Noir,” American Literary History 9: 3 (autumn 1997): 542-66; Philippa Gates, “Film Noir With a Female Detective,” Journal of Film and Video 61, 3 (fall 2009): 24-39.

in focus: Phantom Lady (1944) and LA Confidential (1997)

student responses Schrader and neonoir

Additional films: You Only Live Once (1937), Port of Shadows (1937), Daybreak (1939), Rebecca (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Gilda (1946), The Third Man (1949), Rififi (1955), Vertigo (1958), The Hit (1984), The Limey (2000)


War and Resistance

Penny Summerfield, "Public Memory or Public Amnesia?" Journal of British Studies 48:4 (Oct 2009): 935-57; Vincent Guigueno, "Le visage de l'histoire," Vingtieme siecle 72 (Oct-Dec 2001): 79-81; see also Ginette Vincendeau, Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris (2003); Margaret C. Weitz, Sisters in the Resistance (1995)

in focus: Army of Shadows (1969); pres. Chloe

Additional films: Silence of the Sea (1949), Leon Morin, Priest (1961), Odette (1950), Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)


The Holocaust

Miriam Bratu Hansen, "Schindler's List is Not Shoah," Critical Inquiry 22:2 (winter 1996): 292-312; Lawrence Baron, “The First Wave of American Holocaust Films, 1945-59,” AHR 115, 1 (February 2010): 90-114; Griselda Pollock, “Death and the Image: The Responsibility of Aesthetics in Night and Fog and Kapo,” in Concentrationary Cinema (2013)

in focus: Night and Fog (1955), Kapo (1960), The Night Porter (1974), Schindler's List (1994), The Pianist (2002); pres. Andrew

Additional: Shoah (1985)


Prick Flicks

Vivian Sobchack, “Surge and Splendor: A Phenomenology of the Hollywood Historical Epic,” Representations 29 (1990): 24-49; Gloria Steinem, “Women Have Chick Flicks. What About Men?” at flicks-what-about-men.html?mcubz=0; J. E. Smyth, “Anatomy of the Prick Flick,” Cineaste 42, 4 (fall 2017): 20-24

in focus: Napoleon (1927); All the President's Men (1976)

Additional films: Tom Jones (1963), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Godfather (1972), Raging Bull (1980), Malcolm X (1992)



Stephen Caton, Lawrence of Arabia: A Cultural Anthropology (1999)

in focus: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Additional films: Sanders of the River (1935), The Four Feathers (1939, 1955), Zulu (1964), Battle of Algiers (1966), Gladiator (2000)

6 ~ Reading Week: No Seminar ~

Seriality and Television

Patrice Petro, "Mass Culture and the Feminine: The 'Place' of Television in Film Studies," Cinema Journal 25:3 (spring 1986): 5-21; Vivien Ellen Rose and Julie Corley, "A Trademark Approach to the Past," The Public Historian 25: 3 (2003): 49-59; Christopher Sharrett, "Reconciliation and the Politics of Forgetting," Cineaste 36: 4 (2011): 26-31

in focus: The Civil War (1990)

Second short essay: email to tutor by 5pm Monday.; week 7 seminar meets Friday 11-1



Ben Fritz, The Big Picture (2018); see also Jonathan Buchsbaum, Exception Taken (2017)

in focus: Star Wars (1977-83) and Captain America (2011-16); pres. Nicole



D.W. Griffith, "The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America," (1916); Helen Wheatley and Rachel Moseley, "Is Archiving a Feminist Issue?" Cinema Journal 47: 3 (2008): 152-58; Samuel Sieber, "The Politics of the Archives: Media, Power and Identity" in Constructions of Cultural Identity in Newsreel Cinema...(2016); Amelie Hastie, "The Miscellany of Film History," Film History 18: 2 (2006): 222-30; Kay Sloan, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle," Film History 1: 4 (1987): 341-66.


Film and Media Criticism

"Film Criticism in America Today: A Critical Symposium," Cineaste 26:1 (2000): 27-45 and "The Next Generation," Cineaste 38:2 (2013): 35-40; Mattias Frey and Cecilia Sayad, eds., Film Criticism in the Digital Age (2015); Stephane Debenedetti, "The Role of Media Critics in the Culture Industries," International Journal of Arts Management 8: 3 (spring 2006): 30-42.

~ Easter Vacation ~
Summer Term    
2 review sessions

* NB: articles are available via the library's JStor, Project Muse, and Tandf online accounts. Books are in the library; however, you may consider purchasing Caton's book, The Big Picture, The Year's Work in Lebowski Studies, Hollywood and the American Historical Film, and/or Jonathan Stubbs's 2013 Historical Film.