English 349: Film Theory and Criticism

Spring 2013 |12:00-2:45 | Welles 119

Professor Okada

Office: Welles 224C

Office Hours: WF 2-3:30 p.m. and by appointment

Office Phone: (585) 245-5241

Email: okada@geneseo.edu


Course Description:

This course develops an advanced understanding of film as a complex cultural medium through the discussion of key theoretical and critical approaches. Theoretical and critical approaches discussed may include: realist theory, genre criticism, auteur theory, structuralism, feminist theory, and journalistic criticism.  The course combines weekly feature-length viewings with lectures, group discussions, and written assignments.

 Learning Outcomes:           

Students will:

-build upon their basic knowledge of film as an art form to reach a more complex and sophisticated theoretical and critical perspectives on the film texts studied in classs;

-demonstrate mastery over key historical and theoretical positions in film theory;

-demonstrate effective critical thinking and writing ability as assessed through class discussion and writing critical papers.


Required Texts:

Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen, ed.  Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 5th Edition.  New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Other readings available online and on reserve.


Guidelines and Policies:

ACCOMODATIONS:  SUNY-Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons of documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Students should notify the Director of the Office of Disability Services (Tabitha Buggie -Hunt, 105D Erwin, tbuggieh@geneseo.edu) and their faculty of any needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester. Information on services and campus polices can be found at: http://www.geneseo.edu/~doc/otherareas/disability.shtml

CLASS POLICIES:  Required Work:  To pass this course, students must attempt all assignments. Incompletes will be granted ONLY if the following three conditions are met: documented extenuating circumstances (e.g. severe illness or family crisis); a specific request from the student; AND a plan of action to make up the missing work, including due dates.

Late Paper Policy:  No late papers unless you have specifically arranged with me an alternate due date IN WRITING AT LEAST A FULL WEEK IN ADVANCE OF DUE DATE. I will not accept email submissions of any assignment unless you have been given explicit permission to do so.  If you turn in a paper late, penalties begin to accrue at 5 p.m. the paper is due; up to one day (24 hours) late, penalty is 1/3 letter grade (e.g. A becomes an A-); up to two days late, 2/3; three days, 1 full grade; four days, 1 1/3; five days, 1 2/3; six days, 2 full grades; seven days, 2 2/3; more than seven days late, not accepted for credit without excuse certified by the Dean of Students’ office (this includes Counseling center).  Weekends count in calculating lateness – if you need to hand in a paper late, either have a secretary in Welles 226 initial, on the paper, the date/time it was finally handed in or send a duplicate copy to me by email (hard copy still should be handed in to my box in the English office in Welles) to get credit for the time you turned it in.  Documenting the time a paper was handed in is YOUR responsibility; given a lack of documentation, the penalty will be calculated based on when I receive the paper. 

Please note that I will not accept verbal explanations of illness or other problem as an excuse for lateness.  Without documentation from a doctor or other official documentation that excuses your late work, your work will be penalized for lateness.


Evaluation Procedures:

Class Participation                                     20 %

Midterm Paper                                    25 %

Weekly response papers*                        10 %

Presentations                                                20 %

Final Paper                                                25 %           


*Every Monday, I will collect a ½ page response paper on the film that has been assigned for viewing for the week.  Response papers should connect the film with the readings due for that week.           

**Students will do group presentations (please see attached sheet on rules for presentations) which require you to orally present a summary of the reading and film for the week.

*** Students are required to attend a weekly outside film screening.  Depending on the needs of the students, I will reserve a screening room on campus for a film lab.  However I will also leave the films on reserve at Milne Library Reserves Desk for you to view independently.


 Class Schedule: (Subject to change. I will not answer emails that ask “what did I miss?”)  The following is a schedule of topics we will cover in the class and the corresponding reading assignments.  Additional materials will be supplied in-class or online.  You must complete the reading and viewing prior to class. 

DATE                        TOPIC                                    READING & ASSIGNMENTS


Jan 21                        Introduction                       


Jan 28                        Realist Theory            Kracauer “Basic Concepts” 171-182

                                                            Bazin “De Sica: Metteur-En-Scène” 203-211

                                                            **Umberto D (DeSica, 1952)           

Feb 4                        Formalist Theory            Arnheim “The Complete Film 212-215

                                                            Munsterberg “The Means of the Photoplay” 401-                                                                        407

                                                            Deren “Cinematography: The Creative Use of                                                                         Reality” 216-227.  **GoodFellas (Scorsese, 1990)

Feb 11                        Auteur Theory            Sarris “Notes on the Auteur Theory in                                                                                     1962) 515-518Wollen “The Auteur Theory” 519-                                                                        535.  Haskell “Female Stars of the 1940s” 562-                                                                        566, 571-575  **Bringing Up Baby (Hawks,                                                                         1938)           

Feb 18                        Genre Criticism            Altman “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film.                                                                         Genre” 630-641.   Schatz “Film Genre and the                                                                         Genre Film” 642-653.  Wood “Ideology, Genre,                                                                         Auteur” 668-678.  **Shadow of a Doubt                                                                                     (Hitchcock, 1943)

Feb 25             Ideological Criticism            Comolli and Narboni “Cinema/Ideology/

                        Criticism” 752-759.  Bordwell “The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film                                     Practice.”  **Election (Payne, 1999)


March 3            Narrative                         Gunning “Narrative Discourse and the Narrator                                                                         System” 461-472.  Chatman “The Cinematic                                                                         Narrator” 473-486.  Thompson “The Concept of                                                                         Cinematic Excess” 487-498

                                                            **24 Hour Party People (Winterbottom, 2002)

                                                            FIRST PAPER DUE


March 6-March 21                                    SPRING BREAK 

March 24            Structuralism                        Metz “Some Points in the Semiotics of the                                                                                     Cinema” 68-75.  Metz “Problems of Denotation in                                                             the Fiction Film” 75-89.  Harman “Semiotics and                                                                         the Cinema “ 90-98.  **Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)

March 31            Spectatorship                        Mulvey “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative                                                                         Cinema” 833-844.  Metz “Identification, Mirror”                                                                         800-808.  Browne “The Spectator-in-the Text:                                                                         The Rhetoric of Stagecoach” 148-163.                                                                                      **Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)


April 7                        Feminist Theory            Gledhill “Recent Developments in Feminist                                                                         Criticism” 251-272.  Williams “Film Bodies:                                                                         Gender, Genre, and Excess”.  **Mildred Pierce                                                                         (Curtiz, 1945)


April 14              Group Presentations                        **TBD


April 21            MONDAY SCHEDULE – NO CLASS—Professor gone on conference.

April 28            Race                                    Stam and Spence “Colonialism, Racism and                                                                         Representation” 235-250.  Diawara “Black                                                                         Spectatorship” 845-854. 

                                                            ** Fitzcarraldo (Herzog, 1982)


May 5                                                            Individual Presentations.  Final Paper Due.                                                                                   






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