Linda S Watts
Builds on the analytical and methodological skills gained in 300-level cinema studies courses. Focuses on specific topics which examine cinematic texts and institutions and their complex interrelationships within modern culture.
Some have called film "the literature of the twentieth century." Whether or not that is the case, this (twenty-first century) course dedicates itself to promoting visual and critical literacy.
This course aims to engage students in the issues of film reception and audience response. In much the same way that reader-response critics contend that readers help create the literature they read, this course will interrogate the notion that viewers help constitute the meanings they 'find' in the films they view. Students will examine the nature, source, and implications of viewer responses to film's portrayal of ideas (psychological concepts such as guilt), events (historical cross-currents such as McCarthyism and the Cold War), social issues (such as the politics of gender, race, and class), and cultural flashpoints (such as representations of sexuality and desire).
The Spring 2007 offering of this course will offer a case-study in the works of director Alfred Hitchcock. The course is not, however, an appreciation of Hitchcock (although you may find things to appreciate in the films). Neither will it be our chief concern to produce technical 'expertise' in cinema for its own sake. Rather we will attend to the ways in which viewers (the ones we are, the ones we aren't) go about creating meaning with the films. The example of Hitchcock permits us to examine a substantial body of work with viewership, commentary, and controversy over a period measured in decades.
We will also explore the degree to which Hitchcock's films have come to stand for a genre of film experience-- the psychological thriller. In what ways do Hitchcock's films imagine an audience's fears and inner conflicts? How do viewers perceive and assess the entertainment value of fright? How is this terror linked (whether directly or indirectly) to the visual medium? to the extent that characters within the films and viewers of the films are cast as spectators, what are one's responsibilities to what one sees? Is the camera's gaze perceived to operate as a witness, co-conspirator, voyeur, and/or something else? How are we implicated in and through what we observe through the camera's eye?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class sessions will feature multiple formats, including mini-lectures, group presentations, full group discussions, small group activities, active learning exercises, and film screenings.
As with all of my classes, I ask that those students enrolling bring a seriousness of purpose in terms of the experience of learning, a passion for thoughtful and productive dialogue, and an appetite for intellectual risk-taking. Since we will work intensively with a particular director, it's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with at least one Hitchcock film to assess your initial level of interest in the featured case-study.
Class assignments and grading
In addition to readings and viewings, out-of-class assignments are likely to include papers, projects, and presentations.
Class contributions will weigh heavily in course grading. In-class activities (exercises, quizzes, and exams), along with out-of-class assignments (papers, projects, presentations), typically form the rest of the evaluation.