Jennifer M. Bean
C LIT 272
Introduction to study of film genre. Literary, mythic, and historic aspects of film genre. C LIT 270, C LIT 271, C LIT 272 are designed to be taken as a sequence, but may be taken individually.
AMERICAN NIGHTMARES: THE HISTORY OF THE HORROR FILM, 1922-2012 This course examines the development of the horror genre in American cinema from the early 1920s to the early twenty-first century (loosely beginning with the influence of silent German expressionist films like Nosferatu on the explosion of Universal Studio’s infamous horror cycle, following the transition to “talking pictures” in the early 1930s). We will consider how the development of the horror film has been related to economic and structural changes in the film industry, as well as to changes in American culture and society. Since these cultural shifts often go unacknowledged in more general surveys of modern U.S. society, a careful study of this genre is particularly illuminating. As critic Robin Wood aptly notes, “One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses, its re-emergence dramatized, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror.” Put simply, rather than tout variations of the “American Dream,” as in political campaigns and advertising strategies, this cinematic tradition tracks its uncanny double: hence the title of this course, “American Nightmares.”
Sample films to be studied include, for instance: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, The Mummy, Bride of Frankenstein, Invisible Man, Cat People, Invasion of Body Snatchers, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, Videodrome, The Blair Witch Project, Silence of the Lambs, Behind the Mask, and The Ring among others. Approximately 30-40 other films might be touched on in clip form during lecture.
The listing for this class in the time schedule might be confusing. Please know that the M/W sessions are for lecture, and the Friday quiz sections are times you will meet in small groups. These are mandatory. The T/Th times, however, are for film screenings only. I encourage you to watch these films with the larger class, but you are also welcome to watch them on your own time as well, anytime before the respective lecture day. All films for class will be available in DVD format at Odegarrd Media Center, and through on-line streaming.
Student learning goals
Learn the vocabulary for closely analyzing cinematic form and style, re: editing, cinematography, set design, lighting techniques, narrative form, etc.
Learn to think about the relationship between popular culture and its often fantastic aesthetics relative to changing social-historical climate of 20th and early 21st century America.
Learn to communicate ideas clearly, in both oral and written form. This is a "W" course and you will write a series of short analytic papers and an in-class exam to achieve that goal. For additional five credits of a "W" course you may also wish to register in the writing-link connected to this course, offered by the English department.
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading