Jennifer M. Bean
C LIT 310
Film history from its beginnings in the 1890s through the golden era of silent film in the 1920s. Topics include the invention of major film techniques, the creation of Hollywood and the studios, and movements such as expressionism, constructivism, and surrealism.
This course will provide a comprehensive survey of cinema's silent era, a period delineated by the advent of 'moving-picture' technologies such as the cinematographe, chronophotograph and kinetoscope on the one hand and by the advent of the 'talkies' on the other. In order to examine how innovations in technology and technique—parallel editing, the close shot, framing devices, mobile cameras, etc—allow for increasingly longer and more complex narrative forms, you will be required to learn and employ close reading skills. We will, however, view these aesthetic changes in terms that not only acknowledge film's cultural function, but recognize the crucial role that cinema’s emergence played in shaping a modern culture’s fantasies and anxieties attending the social upheavals of a mass cultural modern age. Special foci include the American film industry’s growth and transformation in the 1910s (the migration of companies from the Northeast to the Southwest that created a place now called “Hollywood”), and a survey of the diverse array of international film styles, genres, and theories that flourish in the 1920s.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
This course demands a commitment to collaboration, as we will be working in small groups to make several turn-of-the century silent films in the first part of the quarter. It also demands an adventurous spirit, since students will be expected to learn and practice historiographical skills and will collect relevant primary materials from the rare manuscripts and microfilm collection in our library system. In addition, students should anticipate an in-class mid term essay exam, a final formal project, and regular quizzes on screenings and reading materials.