English 190: Introduction to Film is an introduction to the critical study of film.
This course is designed neither to teach students how to make their own films, nor to provide students with an opportunity simply to enjoy watching films. We will examine the ways in which films provide pleasure for their audiences. Yet our goal will not be simply to (re)experience these pleasures ourselves, describe what they feel like, and then offer merely impressionistic and purely opinionated reactions on top of these descriptions that recount how far we can or cannot personally identify with and relate to what the films depict and what they attempt to make us feel. Instead, our objective will be to seek to understand and explain how and why films produce these pleasures in the ways that they do -- and also to understand and explain what else always happens, simultaneous with the provision of pleasure, as a result of the kinds of pleasures and the ways of providing pleasures films characteristically offer. We will in fact give considerable attention to the many other effects -- other than providing pleasure -- that films can and do achieve, whether deliberately so or not. We will, in short, inquire into films as providing us valuable knowledge about the real historical societies and cultures out of which films emerge and into which films exert their impacts.
It is important that we subject film to critical study because over the course of the past 110 years audio-visual texts, especially audio-visual texts organized around the moving image (i.e. film, television, and video), have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon the shape and substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence. This impact is today prospectively as powerful, if not indeed often considerably more powerful, than that exerted by traditional print media. In fact, film, television, video, and "cyberspace" have become principal sites within our contemporary Western societies for the production and dissemination, as well as the reproduction and reinforcement, of meanings, values, ideas, ideologies, and social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment."
The course will begin with an introduction to critical media literacy, examining the impact of audio-visual and electronic media in contemporary life, as well as the problematics of representation and the history of cinema as institution. From that point you will learn, in turn, about film (and video) makers' use of techniques of cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound to express and communicate meaning. Next, we will inquire in detail, for the rest of the semester, into a series of different ways film makers, working within different types of cinema, construct and convey meaning, as well as how audiences respond to and make sense of meaning.
The films I have selected to screen in this course represent a critically acclaimed and historically influential variety; as I see it, one of my principal responsibilities in teaching this course, as an expert in cinema studies, is to introduce you to titles of films, and kinds of film making - as well as ways of interpreting and evaluating films - that you have not encountered before. Most students in the many English 190: Introduction to Film classes I have now taught to date express considerable gratitude for me providing them with such an "eye-opening" experience. Therefore, just to wrap up, no, this is not a class where we simply watch a lot of popular, contemporary "movies" and then chat casually about them afterwards, focusing on what we "like" or not about them, or about how "cool" or not we find them. If you are interested in learning something new, serious, and substantial about film, this is the right place for you; if not, it isn't.
The following two required texts are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore:
Kasdan, Margo, Christine Saxton, and Susan Tavernetti. The Critical Eye: An Introduction to Looking at Movies. 3rd Edition. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 1998.
Kolker, Robert. Film, Form, and Culture. CD-Rom. 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2001.
I will supply you with all photocopied handouts of supplementary readings used in the course. These will include packets for each film we will screen in class containing a full credits listing, a plot summary, sample reviews and critiques, as well as, occasionally, interviews with film makers and short articles and excerpts on related issues. I strongly recommend you buy a minimum of 3" wide, letter-sized (8" X 11") notebook, as well as a paperpunch, to keep photocopied handouts from the course. This will help you greatly in staying organized. And keep in mind, we use all recycled and recyclable paper here at UWEC; these handouts make readily available to you, for free, information that you would otherwise have to seek out, and often pay for, on your own; and they demonstrate my commitment to making sure that I provide you with a range of materials to help you learn that could not possibly be found in any single published textbook.
I will also periodically post study guides and other learning materials on my UWEC faculty website - https://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan - as well as, potentially, make some resources available to you at an internet classroom I will create for this course, on the UWEC faculty-student shared computer drive, and via electronic reserve through McIntyre Library. I will announce and explain this in class, as I do it, making sure that everyone attending understands how to obtain access.
Finally, I will supply copies of all films screened in class. We will screen these in DVD and VHS formats with large-screen projection and high-fidelity stereo sound reproduction.
W 9/5. Introduction and Orientation.
M 9/10. Screening, The Truman Show.
W 9/12. Screening, The Player.
M 9/17. Introduction to Critical Media Literacy and the Economics of Film.
Read for Class, M 9/17: Packet, The Truman Show; Packet, The Player; The Critical Eye, Chapter 1, "Media Literacy"; Chapter 8, "About the Business"; Kolker, "Image and Reality" (To Be Distributed); and Kochberg, "Cinema as Institution" (To Be Distributed).
Study for Class, M 9/17: Film, Form, and Culture CD-Rom: "Introduction - Film and Representation."
W 9/19. Introduction to Critical Media Literacy and the Economics of Film Continued.
M 9/24. Screening, The Manchurian Candidate.
--> Reflection and Comment Log #1 Due, M 9/24.
W 9/26. The Camera Eye: Cinematography.
Read for Class, W 9/26: The Manchurian Candidate packet; The Critical Eye, Chapter 2, "The Camera Eye"; and Selections from Schroeppel, The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video (To Be Distributed).
Study for Class, W 9/26 : Film, Form, and Culture CD-Rom: Section 7, "Camera - Framing, Placement, and Movement."
M 10/1. The Camera Eye: Cinematography Continued.
W 10/3. Screening, Night of the Hunter.
-> Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report #1 Due, W 10/3.
M 10/8. Mise-en-Scène.
Read for Class, M 10/8: Night of the Hunter packet; The Critical Eye, Chapter 3, "Mise-en-Scène"; and Benedetti, "The Shooting Crew," "Shooting I: Single Camera," and "Shooting II: Multiple Cameras" (To Be Distributed).
Study for Class: Film, Form and Culture CD-Rom: Section 5, "Mise-en-Scène"; Section 6, "Lighting - The Expressive Substance of Film"; and Section 2, "The Long Take - Orson Welles and the Construction of Cinematic Space."
W 10/10. Mise-en-Scène Continued.
M 10/15. Screening, Rear Window.
-> Reflection and Comment Log #2 Due, M 10/15.
W 10/17. Editing.
Read for Class, W 10/17: Rear Window packet; The Critical Eye, Chapter 4, "Editing"; Benedetti, "Post I: Editing" (To Be Distributed).
Study for Class, W 10/17: Film, Form, and Culture CD-Rom: Section 1, "Continuity Editing - the Classical Hollywood Style," and Section 4, "Point of View - the Look and the Gaze."
M 10/22. Editing Continued.
W 10/24. Screening, The Battle of Algiers.
-> Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report #2 Due, W 10/24.
M 10/29. Sound.
Read for Class, M 10/29: The Battle of Algiers packet; The Critical Eye, Chapter 5, "Sound"; and Benedetti, "Post II: Sound" (To Be Distributed).
Study for Class, M 10/29: Film, Form, and Culture CD-Rom: Section 8, "Sound and Music - Sound and Image," and Section 3, "Montage - Sergei Eisenstein and the Dynamics of Editing."
W 10/31. Sound Continued.
M 11/5. Screening, Memento.
-> Reflection and Comment Log #3 Due, M 11/5.
W 11/7. Screening, Urbania.
M 11/12. Making Sense of Film Meaning, One.
Read for Class, M 11/12: Memento packet; Urbania packet; The Critical Eye, Chapter 6, "Elements of Meaning"; and Additional Short Readings to Be Announced.
Study for Class, M 11/12: Film, Form, and Culture CD-Rom: Section 9, "Style, Form, and Content."
W 11/14. Screening, Working Girls.
-> Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Report #3 Due, W 11/14.
M 11/19. Screening, A Question of Silence.
W 11/21. Making Sense of Film Meaning, Two.
Read for Class, W 11/21: Working Girls packet; A Question of Silence packet; and Additional Short Readings to Be Announced.
M 11/26. Screening, The Bicycle Thief.
-> Reflection and Comment Log # 4 Due, M 11/26.
W 11/28. Screening, The Seventh Seal.
M 12/3. Making Sense of Film Meaning, Three.
Read for Class, M 12/3: The Bicycle Thief packet; The Seventh Seal packet; and Additional Short Readings to Be Announced.
W 12/5. Screening, The Thin Blue Line.
M 12/10. Screening, The Interview.
W 12/12. Screening, Making Sense of Film Meaning, Four.
Read for Class, W 12/12: The Thin Blue Line packet; The Interview packet; and Additional Short Readings to Be Announced.
ORGANIZATION AND CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS
When we are not spending time in class watching and listening to films, we will engage in discussion of these films and of issues raised from the required reading for class. I will direct this discussion, and, as useful, combine discussion with some extended comments and short, informal presentations of my own. However, I will always ask you to help out as I introduce and explain positions, concepts, methods, and practices. In other words, I do not plan formally to lecture at any point in this class; I instead plan to combine largely brief and informal presentations with extensive questioning of and discussion with students. This discussion will likely follow a variety of formats. I also expect to screen and re-screen film clips periodically during discussion classes, including from titles we have not previously screened together in class as well as from some where we have done so. We will also refer from time to time in class to passages from the CD-Rom required for this course and, potentially, to other CD-Roms and Internet (World Wide Web) Sites of relevance and use. In addition, Rebecca Immich, senior student mentor for this class, will help out in facilitating and forwarding discussion.
GENERAL EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
I expect students in this course to seek to engage as critical students of film, and not as mere movie "fans" - nor as would-be Hollywood film technicians. Although I expect that students enrolled in this course do appreciate and enjoy watching films (as I most certainly do), and although I also suspect that a number of you may have already had some experience in film production or may wish to pursue this work in the future, as participants within this course students should be sincerely interested in learning about the critical study of film. In short, unless you are interested in going beyond merely (uncritically) appreciating and enjoying films, you should not be taking this course. I expect students in this course to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent. I expect students to strive to bring actively and extensively to bear -- in your writing for class essays and your contributions to class discussion -- insights you gain through your engagement with the films we screen, the required readings, and the topics these films and readings raise for our consideration. Finally, I expect students to let me know right away when and if you have any questions or problems about any aspect of how you are doing in and with the course, so that I can do everything I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE
In evaluating all work done for this course, I will take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts, issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the course and represented by the films we screen, the texts we read, by me, and by each other.
This course cannot contribute effectively to your education as critical students of film if you do not attend class. What happens in class is an indispensable part of this course. I will take note of student attendance and therefore I expect students to adhere to the following attendance policy for this course:
What is This and Why is it Important
If you don't contribute to the work of this class not only will you fail to derive as much gain from it as would be the case if you did contribute, but also you will deprive everyone else of the benefit of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and experience. In fact, to remain passively silent in class exploits the work of others who actively engage.
Quality of participation is more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers as well as with me about the texts and topics subject to discussion. Students should, therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to each other in class discussion, and I will take particular note of how well you do so.
Alternative Forms of Class Contribution
Class contribution can extend beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in which you can bring to bear your insights to help all of us gain from the experience of this course. If you believe that you can make significant contributions to the success of our class in ways other than by speaking in our class meetings, please arrange to talk with me about this in a conference as early in the semester as possible. I will be glad to support these efforts if they seem potentially productive to me, but I need to know about them and to discuss with you what I think about them in order to endorse them. I certainly understand some people enter college better prepared and more confident speaking in class than others, but I would like to engage with what each one of you is thinking and feeling as we proceed through the semester, so if you tend to be somewhat shy in class, make up for this by coming to talk with me outside of class and by sending me questions and comments over e-mail. Participation in our first-year experience program class workshops and outings will also count as positive class contribution.
Class Contribution Summary and Evaluation Reports/The Class Contribution Grades
I will divide your class contribution grade into four parts: one to cover the period from W 9/5 to M 10/1, one to cover the period from W 10/3 through M 10/22, one to cover the period from W 10/24 through M 11/12, and one to cover the period from W 11/14 through W 12/12. At the end of each of the four class contribution periods I will ask you to prepare a brief class contribution summary and evaluation report, assessing your contribution to the class throughout the period in question. I will take what you write into account in determining your class contribution grades. I will give you specific instructions on what I would like you to summarize and evaluate, yet in each case I will ask that you also include some thoughts that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections will help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to the films, the reading, and our class discussions than would be the case if I only had to rely upon what you wrote in your papers and said in class. Each class contribution summary and evaluation report will be due one week after it has been assigned. These reports may be any length you see fit, yet you should try not to write excessively long reports, as these are likely to prove counterproductive, especially if you are overly defensive about your contribution (or lack thereof). The class contribution grade for each of these four periods will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade, for a combined total of 30%.
Reflection and Comment Logs
I will assign you a series of reflection and comment questions over the course of several class periods on topics related to readings, screenings, and class discussions. I will ask that you type out your response to these questions, double-space, on singles sides of standard white letter (8" X 11") paper. Your margins should be standard-length, your name should be at the top of the first page of the combined log, and you should staple the separate pages of the log together before turning this in to me for a grade. You may use any standard font you prefer and your print size may range between 10 and 12 points. Although I am most concerned with the content of your writing here, I do ask that you try to follow rules and conventions of Standard Written English as closely and fully as possible. At the least I expect that you will strive to write clearly, precisely, and coherently. You will receive a higher grade the more cleanly and effectively you communicate your ideas. Also, I would like you to make clear all sources to which you refer in your paper, including film titles, and to fully document any outside sources you use (sources other than those used in and assigned for this class). I recommend following MLA guidelines for proper documentation of outside sources, yet I won't be a stickler for perfection in this regard as long as your documentation is adequately comprehensive and you follow a consistent documentation pattern. You should aim for a target of approximately 750 words, on average (roughly the equivalent of three double-spaced, typed pages), per log entry. Reflection and comment log #1 will be worth 10% of the overall course grade, log #2 12.5%, log #3 15%, and log #4 17.5% - for a combined total of 55% of the overall course grade. Both Rebecca and I will be more than happy to help you as you are preparing your logs; please do come discuss these with us in the process of writing them; you can only benefit - often considerably - from so doing, and it will help your class contribution grade as well.
The final examination will be held in class, in HHH 321, on Thursday December 20, from 3 to 5 p.m. You will write an essay response to a question or series of questions related to the readings and screenings from M 11/26 through W 12/12. You may use any texts, notes, guides, outlines, et. al. you want as you write your final examination. The final examination will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.
FIRST-YEAR EXPERIENCE PROGRAM ACTIVITIES
This section of English 190: Introduction to Film is one of a large number of first-year experience program courses taught across the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The goals of these courses are as follows:
In order to assist us in meeting these goals, first-year experience program courses are limited in enrollment to a relatively much lower maximum number of students than you will encounter in most, if not all, of the other courses in which you will enroll over the course of your first year at this university. This relatively smaller class size will enable more extensive and inclusive discussion in class as well as greater opportunity for me to work with you individually and in small groups outside of class.
At the same time as maximum enrollment is limited to a relatively low number of students, all first-year experience program courses also have senior student mentors who work with course instructors to help you make a successful transition to the life of a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In this section of English 190, your senior student mentor is Rebecca Immich. She will work together with me to help you on diverse matters of curricular and extracurricular interest and concern, and she will be responsible, in consultation with me, for organizing a series of extracurricular class outings and workshops for us to participate in as a class. Further details concerning these activities will be forthcoming as the semester proceeds. Rebecca will also hold regular weekly office hours at times and places where it will prove convenient to meet with you; these will be determined after surveying your schedules early this semester. You are required to attend a minimum of five extracurricular activities and events as part of your participation within this first-year experience program class. Students who do not do so will suffer a full letter-grade debit as a result.
THE PORTFOLIO PROJECT AND THE GOALS OF THE BACCALAUREATE
Finally, another purpose of FYE courses here at UWEC is to introduce you to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire portfolio project. Details will be explained in class, yet at this point you should know that the university administration asks you to keep a portfolio of select papers and/or projects you complete while at UWEC. You will turn these in before you graduate to the University's portfolio assessment committee who will review students' portfolios to assess how well we are doing in providing you with a liberal arts education.
This university is, as many of you know, a liberal arts institution; education in the liberal arts (and sciences) represents the historic and central commitment of what we do together on this UW campus - not vocational training and pre-professional development. The university administration and faculty support this commitment so strongly that they have asked that all syllabi elaborate the official goals of the baccalaureate, as well as identify which ones the course in question will help you achieve. According to the UWEC administration, the baccalaureate degree shall work to develop the following for UWEC students:
UWEC strives to help you meet these objectives in the course of the "higher education" you pursue here. Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout and River Falls. This section of English 190, Introduction to Film will contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.
I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern related to what we are doing in this course. Learning that takes place in conferences can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class. Please do not hesitate to meet with me during office hours or to ask for an appointment at any time you think this might be helpful; I regard making myself available for conferences with you outside of class to be an indispensable part of my responsibility as your teacher. Moreover, I always sincerely do welcome getting to know and working with my students outside as well as inside of class. I am ready to do whatever I can to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in discussions, readings, and screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for and participation in this course. I want to make sure that I do all that I can to help you succeed in this course and I want to help you, as far as I can, to gain as much out of it as possible through your participation in and work for it. You may also feel free to write me via e-mail, and to call me -- or leave a message for me on the answering machine -- at my office. I enjoy meeting and working with students outside as well as inside of class; I really do. I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do anything else, so please do not worry about "disturbing" me in coming to talk with me; my office hours are time that I have set aside to meet, talk, and work with you. PLEASE DO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY! And, remember, once again, taking the time to meet and talk with me periodically in conference is a great way to contribute to the class. Likewise, please keep in mind that Rebecca Immich is joining this class as a senior student mentor to help you; seek her out and take advantage of her assistance.
I strive to be as responsible and as accountable to my students as possible. I believe it is crucial that students become aware of the ideas and the values which shape and direct their education, and I believe students should expect that all of their teachers will be prepared to explain why they teach as they do. Please, therefore, take the time, as early as you can this semester, to read through and think carefully about my "Statement of Teaching Philosophy" that I have posted on my UWEC faculty website:
This statement explains WHY I teach as I do. I think It is extremely important that you know and understand where your teachers are coming from in teaching you as they do. You will find me one who trusts you sufficiently always to be frank and honest about this with you.