Michael L. Goldberg
Examines Hollywood cinema as an institution of cultural affirmation and contestation within modern society. Explores the foundational methodology of cinema studies and employs a broad range of contemporary approaches to cultural and textual analysis
Hollywood Cinema and Genres: Romantic Comedies
Winter 2013 This course aims to take Hollywood cinema seriously as an institution of cultural importance. First, we examine how it works to create basic meaning and emotion. Next, we explore how some films support mainstream ideologies and render them "natural" and "common sense" while others offer the possibility of subverting these dominant ideologies. The course focuses on genre films and on genre criticism, specifically on Hollywood films from the 30’s to the current decade. This quarter, we will consider the romantic comedy genre. Although this is not a course in film history, I will provide you with background on both the films and the historical context in order to better understand them. You will spend the first part of the course mastering the analytical tools and language necessary to do formalist film analysis. After assessing your competence in this area, you will then learn to apply formalist film analysis to ideological interpretations of Hollywood cinema. Since learning film language is similar to learning other languages, I would strongly encourage you to stay on top of the reading and learn as you go. Because each week is meant to build on the next, missing one week will mean weakening your learning process for the entire course In the second half of the course, we turn to the theoretical tools needed to examine ideological subtext within a cultural context. We will be looking specifically at the changes and continuities in a genre’s development, and the historical context and its impact on the production and reception of a film. You will have the opportunity to interpret a film from your own "subject position," using your own ideological and cultural assumptions as the basis for understanding the film's ideological subtext. Beyond the issues raised in this course regarding formalist analysis and ideological interpretation, I hope that you will explore the relevance of these critical tools when considering your own relationship to the mass cultural texts that permeate our lives.
Student learning goals
Memorize and comprehend the key terms and concepts in formalist film analysis.
Apply these terms to formalist film analysis, including the identification of the functions and effects of cinematic elements within a scene in an untimed and timed exam setting.
Effectively interpret a scene within the context of the entire film using formalist analysis and key theoretical concepts in an interpretive argumentative essay format.
Effectively interpret a scene within the context of a film combining formalist film analysis and insights from readings on ideological interpretation in a timed exam setting.
Demonstrate a critical awareness of the conventions used in the romantic comedy genre and their ideological meaning.
Demonstrate a critical awareness of the process by which Hollywood cinema supports and/or undermines mainstream ideology.
General method of instruction
Introductory lecture and demonstration of terms, concepts; film viewing; discussion of film using terms, concepts. Additional learning support material will be available at the library and online.
Class assignments and grading
Very short essay, in-class exam (with film clips), short essay, in-class exam (with film clips)
Explicit criteria will be provided.