ENGLISH 181: INTRODUCTION TO
FILM, VIDEO, AND
MONDAYS 12 NOON TO 3:30 PM (SCREENINGS) AND
WEDNESDAYS, 12 NOON
TO 2:30 PM (DISCUSSIONS), HHH 323
FALL 2008, UWEC
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
Office: HHH 425 Office Phone: (715)
Office Hours: T 2:40-4:30 and
9:50-10:30 pm, W 2:40-3:30 pm, and By Appointment
SENIOR STUDENT MENTORS:
DANI BECKER (email@example.com) and
JUSTIN HOELZEN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
English 181: Introduction to Film, Video, and
Moving-Image Culture is an introduction to the critical study
of film and video: to the interpretation and evaluation of film and
video in cultural
includes everything that we, as human beings, have created in the
course of our entire history, in distinction from what nature itself
has given us. A specific culture
comprises the sum total of the distinct knowledges, capacities, fields
of work and fields of play, customs and habits, traditions, values and
attitudes, social roles and identities, and shared ways of thinking,
feeling, acting, interacting, and behaving that members of a particular social
group (such as a nation, a region, a locale, a neighborhood, a class, a
profession, etc.) share in common. As such, the specific culture
of a particular social group unifies that group and distinguishes it
from other groups of the same kind (such as other nations, regions,
locales, neighborhoods, classes, professions, etc.).
Film and video constitute principal constituents of
three kinds of cultures:
culture (i.e., culture produced, distributed, exchanged, and
consumed in the form of constellations of moving-images),
2.) human culture
in general, and
specific national, regional, local, racial, ethnic, class, gender,
sexual, generational, political, religious, artistic, philosophical,
recreational, and avocational cultures (as well as “subcultures”–which
are partially independent cultures that operate at the margins of
larger cultures, and usually construct their cultural identities in
some kind of at least strongly implicit critical relation with those
(For the sake of simplicity of expression, I will refer from this point
forward in much of the rest of this course explanation statement to
'films' when I am actually describing films, videos, and other kinds of
moving-image cultural productions.)
Throughout the history of world cinema, three
principal objectives have driven forward the production, distribution,
exhibition, and reception of film:
1.) the provision of
entertainment, especially as diversion, distraction, and
expression and communication–concerned with aesthetic issues
such as capturing and conveying the felt experience of the ordinary and
the extraordinary, the everyday and the unusual, the familiar and the
unfamiliar, and, especially, "the beautiful" and "the sublime"–in both
the natural world and human society;
3.) social critique–as
contribution to, and instrument of, social change.
Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of
these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at
least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of
social critique). Yet it is still useful, in beginning to come to
terms with the aims of different kinds of film and cinema, to recognize
these as primarily oriented toward serving one of these three ends.
here refers to a particular institutional form governing the
production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of
films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles,
social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds: e.g., “German
Expressionist Cinema,” “Classical Narrative Realist Hollywood Cinema,”
“Italian Neo-Realist Cinema,” “French New Wave Cinema,” “Dogme 95
Cinema,” “1960s American Underground Cinema,” “British Free Cinema,”
and “The New Queer Cinema.”)
The kinds of pleasures film
can provide us in fact come in many forms, at times quite complicated
and sophisticated, including those that usefully subvert culturally
dominant ways of making sense. Yet Hollywood (along
with other, allied sectors of the multinational conglomerate,
large-scale corporate capitalist, mass media) often encourages us to
approach the pleasure we experience from film primarily, if not
exclusively, as a purely escapist form of
entertainment. In other words, Hollywood frequently encourages us
to retreat from, rather than to confront, understand, and strive to
overcome life's problems and difficulties.
What's more, even when mainstream media productions
do address serious issues, they often do so in reductively simplistic
and sentimentally trivializing ways. Usually they don't extend
messages quite as trite as "everything always turns out for the best,"
"don't worry, be happy," "crime never pays," or "good always triumphs
over evil," yet they still usually embrace, rather than critique,
cultural clichés. For example, a film might suggest that
hard work and a positive outlook on life will overcome all obstacles,
or that the support of a loving family and true friends should be all
we ever need to pick us up when and if we are down and need help, or
that heroic individuals can always defeat even the most brutal (ab)uses
of state and corporate power.
At the same time, another popular current in
contemporary Hollywood film rejects, even mocks, these naive attitudes
but does so only to support a cynical view of contemporary social
existence as an alienated quest for survival in an essentially selfish,
corrupt, and vicious world where might makes right, style (in the sense
of superficial "flash" and "glitter") matters far more than substance,
and maintaining an outward facade of cool, confident control, along
with a pose of proudly defiant self-reliance, always trump
manifestations of fellow feeling, shared concern, and social
solidarity. In addition, other common trends in contemporary
Hollywood involve making films a.) that function as little more than
opportunities to demonstrate the look, sound, and feel of the latest
special effects technology, or b.) that delight in facile forms of
pseudo-comedy–comedy devoid of wit, charm, and even humor–so as to
revel in the gross, the mean, and the cruel.
Contemporary Hollywood films often tend, moreover,
to discourage us not only from questioning, challenging, and critiquing
the social status quo but also from thinking for ourselves as we come
to terms with what they represent to us in the course of our experience
watching (and listening to) them. These films frequently tell
tales that represent "the way things are" as simply "the way they have
to be"–or, even more insidious, as "the only way they can and should
be." They insert us into positions within the illusory worlds
they construct such that we experience no incentive to reflect either
upon the process of construction or the meaning of illusion, where we
are reassuringly protected from having to confront any genuinely
unsettling thoughts or feelings–i.e., thoughts or feelings that linger
to trouble us long after the film has ended. These films flatter
us by providing us with a false sense of our omniscience– false because
these films not only do our seeing and hearing for us but also because
they attempt to take charge as well of our thinking, feeling, reacting,
and responding in relation to virtually everything we encounter from
the beginning to the end of the film's running time.
In this course we will reflect critically upon the
processes of manipulation I have just recounted as well as examine a
number of alternative models of film production and reception that
challenge this interpellation of the film spectator-auditor (i.e.,
viewer-listener) into the position of uncritical, passive
consumer. In fact, the films we screen in class will primarily
represent this–latter–kind of cinema. Yet we will also carefully
consider the contradictions involved in processes of film production,
distribution, exhibition, and reception that spark usefully critical
engagements with even the most "mind-numbing," "desensitizing," and
"trivializing" forms of mainstream Hollywood "blockbuster" film.
Hollywood has been, is, and will continue to be a contradictory site
(that means, in contrast with the kinds of Hollywood films I discussed
above, a good number of Hollywood films–or, as is common today, films
that are partially Hollywood and partially non-Hollywood–have been,
are, and will be themselves genuinely quite innovative, challenging,
critical, and progressive). And it is always possible to “read
against the grain.”
In other words, we will seek to inquire critically
into how and why films, of all kinds,
appeal as they do, to whom, when, where, and in response to what needs
and desires, rather than simply judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, as
‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’, as seemingly “realistic” or “unrealistic,”
or as merely offering us occasions where what we see–and hear–is easy
to identity with or not. That means we have to reflect
critically on our own biases as we approach films–where we are coming
from, how, and why–as well as keep an open mind toward backgrounds,
experiences, perspectives, and outlooks that are very different from
It is important that we subject film to critical
study because, over the course of the past 110+ years, films have come
to exert an extremely powerful impact upon both the shape and the
substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the
conditions of their own existence. This impact is today 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."
This course will begin, first, with an introduction
to the rudiments of “critical media
literacy” and the “elements of meaning” involved
in “reading film.” From that point, we will turn, second, to
learn about film makers' use (to express and communicate meaning) of
techniques of a.) “cinematography,”
and d.) “sound.”
We will here concentrate on influential and innovative uses of these
techniques, including representation from "independent" film makers
working outside of Hollywood and beyond the United States as well as
examples from historically significant Hollywood films. After
this, we will, third, inquire into the art and politics of
representation in (especially) American (primarily Hollywood)
film. In this third section of the course, we will begin with an
introduction to and overview of the study of representation and ideology in film
and related media, turn from there to discuss the structure and
history of Hollywood, as industry and
institution, and then proceed to examine representations of race and ethnicity,
class, gender, and sexuality in (especially American) film.
The films I have selected to screen in this course
represent a critically acclaimed and historically influential
variety. One of my principal responsibilities in teaching
this course is to introduce you to titles of films, and kinds of film
making–as well as ways of interpreting and evaluating films–that you
often have not encountered before. Like past students in the many
Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture classes I have
previously taught, I hope you too will come to appreciate the
opportunity this course provides for an "eye-opening" experience.
The following required books
are available for purchase at the UWEC Bookstore:
1. Kasdan, Margo and Susan Tavernetti. The Critical Eye: An Introduction to
Looking at Movies. 4th Edition. Dubuque, IA:
Kendall/Hunt, 2008. ISBN#: 978-0-7575-5051-5.
2. Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film.
6th Edition. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2007. ISBN#:
3. Turner, Graeme. Film as Social Practice. 4th
Edition. New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN#: 0-415-37514-2.
4. Benshoff, Harry M. and Sean Griffin. America on Film: Representing Race, Class,
Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. Malden, MA:
Blackwell, 2004. ISBN#: 0-431-22583-8.
You may feel free to purchase these books from any other bookstore or
book outlet, including by means of on-line ordering outlets (such as www.amazon.com), as you wish, as long
as you do acquire them in time to use in and for class.
I will supply copies of other required texts used in
this course–photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents posted on our
Desire2Learn electronic classroom, and possibly yet others as
well. At each screening session I will give you a study
packet to use in preparing for our Wednesday discussion as well as to
help guide you in making sense of readings, screenings, and connections
between the two. I will also supply copies of all films we
will screen in class this semester.
Critical Eye; SG=A Short
Guide to Writing About Film;
Social Practice AF=America on
W 9/3: Introduction and Orientation.
M 9/8: Screening, The Science of
Sleep and Lost Highway.
W 9/10: Discussion, Introduction to (Critical) Media Literacy, The Science of Sleep, and Lost Highway.
Class on W 9/10 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 1: Media Literacy,”
1-13; SG: “Chapter 1: Writing About Movies” and “Chapter 2: Beginning
to Think, Preparing to Watch, and Starting to Write,” 1-35.
M 9/15: Screening, Night on Earth and
Me and You and Everyone We Know.
W 9/17: Discussion, Elements of Meaning, Night on Earth and Me and You and Everyone We Know.
Class on W 9/17 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 2, “Elements of
Meaning,” 15-38, and SG, Selections from “Chapter 3–Film Terms and
Topics for Film Analysis and Writing” (“Themes” and “Film and the Other
Arts”), 37-48, and “Chapter 5–Style and Structure in Writing,” 109-126.
M 9/22: Screening, Children of Men
and Pan’s Labyrinth.
W 9/24: Discussion, The Camera Eye–Cinematography, Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Class on W 9/24 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 3: The Camera Eye,”
39-67; SG, From “Chapter 3–Film Terms and Topics for Film
Analysis and Writing,” 58-64 (“The Shot”); and FSP, Selections from
“Chapter 3: Film Languages,” 66-78 (“Culture and Language,” “Film as
Signifying Practice,” and “The Signifying Systems–The Camera”) and
89-92 (“The Signifying Systems–Special Effects”).
* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Assigned. *
M 9/29: Screening, Dogville.
W 10/1: Discussion, Mise-en-Scène and Dogville.
Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/1 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 4:
“Mise-en-Scène,” 69-96; SG, From “Chapter 3–Film Terms and
Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,” 51-57 (“Elements of
Mise-en-Scène”); and FSP, Selections from “Chapter 3: Film
Languages,” 78-80 (“Lighting”) and 85-86 (“Mise-en-Scène”).
* Friday 10/3: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #1 Due
by 12 noon, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405. *
M 10/6: Screening, Bloody Sunday, Night and Fog, and Elephant (Alan Clarke’s film, not
Gus Van Sant’s film).
W 10/8: Discussion, Editing, Bloody
Sunday, Night and Fog,
Read–Completely–Before Class on W 10/8 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 5:
Editing,” 97-112; SG, Selections From “Chapter 3–Film
Terms and Topics for Film Analysis and Writing,”48-51 (“Realism”) and
65-72 (“The Edited Image”); and FSP, From “Chapter 3: Film Languages,”
86-89 (“The Signifying Systems–Editing”).
M 10/13: Screening, Elevator to the
Gallows and Round Midnight.
W 10/15: Discussion, Sound, Elevator
to the Gallows, and Round
Class on W 10/15 at the Latest: CE, “Chapter 6: Sound,” 113-128;
SG, Selections from “Chapter 3: Film Terms and Topics for Film Analysis
and Writing,” 72-80 (“Sound” and “Sample Essay”).
* Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Assigned. *
M 10/20 and W 10/22: Mid-Term
Friday 10/24: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #2 Due by 12
noon, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405. *
M 10/27: Screening, High Noon
and Lone Star.
W 10/29: Discussion, Representation and Ideology, High Noon, and Lone Star.
Class on W 10/29 at the Latest: AF, “Chapter 1: Introduction to
the Study of Film Form and Representation,” 1-22; and FSP, “Chapter 5:
Film Audiences,” 129-175,” and Selections from “Chapter 6: Film,
Culture and Ideology,” 177-187 (Introduction to the Chapter and “Film
as National Culture”) and 197-213 (“Ideology in the Text” and “Issues
in Ideological Analysis”).
M 11/3: Screening, The Player
and Cecil B. Demented.
W 11/5: Discussion, Industry and Institution, The Player, and Cecil B. Demented.
Class on W 11/5 at the Latest: AF, “Chapter 2: The
Structure and History of Hollywood Filmmaking,” 23-46; CE, “Chapter 8:
The American Industry,” 151-168; and FSP, “Chapter 1: The Feature Film
M 11/10: Screening, The Letter: An
American Town and the ‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.
W 11/12: Discussion, Race and Ethnicity, Racism and Ethnocentrism, The Letter: An American Town and the
‘Somali Invasion’, A Dream in
Doubt, and Rabbit in the Moon.
Class on W 11/12 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part II:
What is Race?” and “Chapter 4: African Americans and American Film,”
75-95; “Chapter 3: The Concept of Whiteness and American Film,” 49-74;
and “Chapter 6: Asian Americans and American Film,” 116-134.
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Assigned. *
M 11/17: Screening, Crimson Gold
and Under the Moonlight.
W 11/19: Discussion, Class, Crimson
Gold, and Under the Moonlight.
Class on W 11/19 at the Latest: AF, “Introduction to Part III:
What is Class?,” “Classical Hollywood Cinema and Class,” and “Cinematic
Class Struggle After the Depression,”
Friday 11/21: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #3 Due by 12
noon, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 405. *
M 11/24: Screening, Antonia’s Line
and The Wonder Boys.
W 11/26: Discussion, Gender, Antonia’s
Line, and The Wonder Boys.
Class on W 11/26 at the Latest: AF, “Part IV: Gender and
American Film,” 201-290 ( “Introduction to Part IV: What is Gender?,”
“Chapter 10: Women in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” “Chapter 11:
Exploring the Visual Parameters of Women in Film,” “Chapter 12:
Masculinity in Classical Hollywood Filmmaking,” and “Chapter 13: Gender
in American Film Since the 1960s”).
* Take-Home Final
Examination Assigned. *
M 12/1: Screening, Kinsey and
W 12/3: Discussion, Sexuality, Kinsey,
Class on W 12/3 at the Latest: AF, “Part V: Sexuality and
American Film,” 291-338 (“Introduction to Part V: What is Sexuality?,”
“Chapter 14: Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, and Classical Hollywood,”
and “Chapter 15: Sexualities on Film Since the Sexual Revolution”); and
Nowlan, “Introduction to Critical Theory of Sexuality” (To Be Made
M 12/8: Screening, Far from Heaven
and Y Tu Mama Tambien.
W 12/10: Discussion, Class, Race and Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality,
Far from Heaven and Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #4 Assigned *
W 12/17 By 12 noon: (Take Home) Final
Examination Due, in my English Department Mailbox, HHH 425.
F 12/19, By 12
noon: Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper #4 Due.
[N.b.: we will not meet in class
during final exams week, but will have a class party–at my house,
day/time yet to be determined–instead.]
*** THIS SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE ***
AND CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS
On Mondays we will
screen films. We will take a brief break of no more than five
minutes between each screening on days in which we will screen more
than one film. Students are welcome to bring pillows, blankets,
and folding lounge chairs to use if you find these more comfortable
than the classroom chairs. You may also bring snacks as long as
you take care to eat and drink quietly as well as not to spill anything
on the classroom carpet. Please note well that
occasionally screening sessions will run slightly longer than three and
one-half hours, and occasionally they will run shorter; students are
expected to stay through the end of screening sessions that run late,
yet may leave as soon as screening sessions that run short end–the time
commitment will all balance out.
On Wednesdays we
will discuss topics in film, video, and moving-image culture study
based upon the assigned readings for the week as well as the films
screened the preceding Monday. From time to time, I will show
clips from the films screened the preceding Monday as well as,
occasionally, DVD extras to initiate and stimulate discussion. I
will also, sometimes, show clips from other videos, DVDs, websites,
CD-Roms, and DVD-Roms to help explain and illustrate key
concepts. Dani and Justin, your senior student mentors, and
I will occasionally make use of other kinds of equipment and associated
materials to demonstrate techniques, concepts, and practices as well.
I will direct our discussions, assisted by Dani and
Justin. Often I will combine discussion with some extended
opening comments and relatively short, informal initial presentations
of my own. However, I will also ask you to help out as I
introduce and explain positions, concepts, methods, and
practices. Wednesday classes will in general involve extensive
questioning of and discussion with students, following a variety of
formats, including plenty of work in small groups. I always
prefer to teach by way of discussion as opposed to lecture; students
learn much better through active engagement and dialogue with each
other as well as with me than they do from having me talk the bulk of
the time while you only listen and take notes. But you should
take notes on the short presentations I make, as well as, briefly, and
insofar as you find helpful in advancing your critical thinking, during
the screenings of the films themselves.
In addition, I will repeat here that on Mondays, at
the beginning of screening sessions, I will distribute copies for every
student of a packet
of questions and comments focusing on key issues related to the
readings and screenings for the week; you should use this
packet to prepare for discussion on Wednesday, to help you in thinking
critically about the readings and screenings, and in reviewing ideas we
addressed in class discussion as you work subsequently on writing
papers and taking exams. At times these packets will include
copies of ‘print lectures’ where I will offer you an extensive
introduction to and overview of key concepts and issues in this form
(rather than taking up precious class time to do so). Pay careful
attention to these lectures; they are meant to help your understanding,
and to deepen your awareness and appreciation. Finally, I will
include within each week’s packet for study, discussion, and review
your homework assignment, which will always be due at the beginning of
each Wednesday’s class meeting.
OF THE BACCALAUREATE
These are the five most important,
official goals all
UWEC undergraduate courses are designed to help you meet:
1. Knowledge of Human Culture and the Natural World
2. Creative and Critical Thinking
3. Effective Communication
4. Individual and Social Responsibility
5. Respect for Diversity Among People
These goals require
your striving to meet them. Striving means
learning actively and deliberately, completing assignments in a
thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and
making connections between what we do while meeting in class and what
you do when engaged outside of the classroom. And while I’m
mentioning university goals, I’ll also just throw in here that we are
all now committed toward working to realize the ‘Centennial [Strategic]
Plan’ according to which UWEC aims to become “the premier undergraduate
community in the Upper Midwest, noted for rigorous, integrated,
globally-infused liberal education and distinctive select
graduate programs.” The UWEC administration expects us all to
strive toward making this happen, from here on, and that includes
students, staff, and faculty.
EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
Although I expect that students enrolled in this
course do enjoy watching films for pleasure (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.
This class is not a place for you simply to be entertained or merely to
engage as a fan. This means you need to be
prepared to go far beyond reacting to films, or kinds of films, as
things you personally merely ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. At
the very least this means always being prepared to explain precisely
why you like and/or dislike what you do, how so, and why so, as well as
to take into account how and why others might respond in diametrically
opposing ways–and to take into account, furthermore, how and why films,
and kinds of films, might be significant in ways that have
nothing at all to do with how likeable or unlikeable they happen to be.
I expect students in this course to be consistently
intellectually serious as well as academically diligent. I expect
you to strive to bring actively to bear–in your writing for class 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 you to let me, Dani, or Justin know right away when
and if you have any questions or problems in relation to any aspect of
how you are doing with the course, so that we can do everything we
possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.
I also want to call your attention to the fact that
the English Department aims to provide you with an intellectually
challenging education. This means we often include texts
and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult issues,
including ones that offer representations that may, on occasion, prove
unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.
The higher educational academy is not a "safe space" separate from the
rest of the "real world" where you can expect to be sheltered from
encountering anything you might find disagreeable or
objectionable. On the contrary, we expect you to take
up the challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a
mature, responsible way, and that means bringing directly to
bear your negative reactions–including your reactions of shock, dismay,
and discontent–in class discussions and in your writings and
presentations for class. If you find a position or practice
represented in a text or topic included in the assigned readings or
screenings for class to be objectionable, it is therefore of crucial
importance that you raise your objections openly and honestly, not
simply claim personal exemption from having to see, hear, or talk,
read, and write about these kinds of matters. After all,
disturbing positions and practices exist extensively outside of the
classroom as well as in what we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront
in and for class; what we do confront in class exists in this
institutional space as symptomatic of positions and practices that
operate beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the
university. If and when you find any text or topic genuinely
appalling, you maintain the ethical responsibility, as a mature adult
and as a responsible citizen, not simply to try to hide from these
positions and practices but rather to work to critique and change them.
should expect therefore that you may well on occasion encounter
representations that you will find troubling, in this UWEC course and
in many others as well; within this Department you will receive no
right of exemption from engaging with these and no welcome for simply
complaining (especially to a higher administrative authority) about
their inclusion. Instead you should bring your objections
forthrightly to bear in your contributions to class discussion.
And this does mean we
will as part of this class at times screen films that include
extensive, explicit, even graphic depictions of violence, and of sex; none
of this involves showing violence merely for the sake of showing
violence or sex merely for the sake of showing sex–it is always
included, in the films we will engage, for significant social,
historical, political, and artistic reasons–but it still may indeed be
disturbing, even shocking, at times. You should keep in mind,
whenever you encounter a disturbing, even a shocking, representation in
a film, that film makers, like all serious artists, often deliberately
aim to disturb and shock their audiences as a way of provoking strong
responses and stimulating intense thinking, feeling, discussion–and
don’t need to like what you see, or hear, and you don’t need to agree
with what the film, and its makers, are arguing (implicitly as well as
explicitly); not at all. But you do need to respond in an
intellectually serious and mature adult manner–at all times.
Finally, you should also recognize and respect the
fact that a professor differs from a high school teacher in many
respects, but one key difference is that we maintain a principal
professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most
advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise and to proceed from
there to work toward their further development and dissemination.
In short, we must create, advocate for, and profess these
knowledges; you should expect that your professors may from time to
time take strong and indeed controversial positions on difficult and
challenging issues, eschewing the pretense of disinterested
neutrality. If we fail to assume this responsibility we shirk our
professorial responsibility and render ourselves unworthy of
maintaining our professorial positions. This is another aspect of
higher education you must be ready to deal with; I mention it here
especially for those of you who are still relatively new to being
college students, and who are therefore considerably more familiar with
the model followed by many high school teachers who at least purport
never to take a stand, and never to maintain a position, in relation to
any ‘controversial’ issue that might come up in the classes they teach.
SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR 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, videos, and other electronic texts we screen,
the graphic texts we read, by me, by Dani, by Justin, 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 keep track of student attendance (please note well
that I will do so even though I do not do a roll call or ask people to
sign in–don’t make the mistake of assuming I’m not keeping track of
attendance just because I don’t make a production out of it) and
therefore I expect students to adhere to the following attendance
policy for this course:
1.) Students should not exceed a maximum of two unexcused absences.
2.) Students should provide me with written confirmation of a serious,
individual or family emergency for any further–excused–absences beyond
the maximum of two unexcused absences.
3.) Students who miss more than six classes
total, for whatever reason, should expect that they are unlikely
to pass the course, and therefore should withdraw from
the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester.
4.) Attendance at all
classes in which films will be screened is required as well,
even if and when the films we screen are readily available on video for
you to watch and listen to elsewhere and at another time.
5.) Students are expected to arrive at class on time and to stay
through the end of class. Coming late or leaving
early, unless for emergency reasons, counts as absent.
I will also note well students who leave class after the break during
these screening sessions; not attending the entire screening session
(unless you have made arrangements with me ahead of time to leave
early) will count as an absence from class that day.
6.) Students need to be awake, alert, and attentive while in
class, including throughout screening sessions; this means you can’t
expect to sleep or rest in class. Again, if you do so, this will
count as an absence from class. And the same is true of doing
other schoolwork in class or attending to other–personal–matters
irrelevant to the focus of what we are about in this course (e.g.,
text-messaging). CELL PHONES SHOULD BE
TURNED OFF AND PUT AWAY DURING CLASS, INCLUDING DURING SCREENING
SESSIONS. STUDENTS WHO SPEND TIME PLAYING WITH THESE WHILE THEY
ARE SUPPOSED TO BEING PAYING CLOSE, CAREFUL, CRITICAL ATTENTION TO
FILMS–INCLUDING BY TAKING NOTES AS YOU WATCH AND LISTEN–WILL SUFFER A
GRADE PENALTY EACH TIME I OBSERVE YOU DOING THIS.
7.) Students are responsible for finding out and making up
whatever you miss if and when you do miss
My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help
you to learn something of significance and value. I will judge
you to a significant degree on what you learn, how–and how hard–you
strive to learn, and on how–along with how well–you contribute to the
learning for the rest of the class.
Class participation represents an important
opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you
have learned. By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas,
taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help
others learn a great deal as well. You learn through talking, not
just talk to show what you have learned. Don't hesitate to speak
forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.
At the same time, just talking a great deal does not
necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the
class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish. Quality
of participation is much more important than quantity, although a
sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. Still, I
want to emphasize here that I perceive talking for talking’s
sake–especially talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents,
which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the reading and the
rest of the class, or which effectively silences others–to be negative
participation. 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
about the texts and topics subject to discussion.
Contribution to the class certainly can extend
far beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in
which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as
the rest of us gain from the experience of this course.
Excellent writings for and in response to class homework
assignments, for exams, and as part of learning and contribution
reflection papers are also valuable ways to contribute to class.
At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully
in class discussions is yet another important means of contribution–as
is taking time to meet and talk with me and with Dani and Justin
outside of class. In fact, meeting and talking with us outside of
class can be an excellent way to contribute–as well as to show us how
seriously interested in and engaged with the course material you are.
Learning and contribution will constitute a
significant proportion of your overall course grade. As
part of this grade, you will write four short learning and
contribution reflection papers. For these papers I will ask
you, simply, to assess how, along with how well, you have been learning
and contributing in the class over the course of the preceding three to
four week period of time. As I see it, these short papers
provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe
you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate
your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts
education. As you are assessing your own learning and
contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in
class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel
comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections can
help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how
you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the
readings. I will take into account what you write in determining
your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period;
performance on these papers represents a vital component of your
learning and contribution grade.
I will provide you specific directions in the
assignments I give you for each of these papers. Each learning
and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution
reflection paper) will be worth 7.5% of the
overall course grade, adding up to a total worth 30% of the
overall course grade.
Starting the second week of the semester I will give
you one homework question (or series of short questions) at each Monday
screening session for you to write out your response to prior to our
subsequent Wednesday discussion class. This question (or series
of short questions) will relate primarily to the assigned readings for
that week, but also may ask you to refer to film(s) you will watch, and
listen to, in class that Monday. Homework will always be
collected at the beginning of class on Wednesday–and no later.
For each homework assignment you should type out
your response, double-space, you should make sure to put your name on
what you write, you should number your pages and staple separate pieces
of paper together, and you should aim to cover an average of
approximately two pages (or 500 words). Key here, in evaluating
your work on these homework assignments, will be how accurately,
carefully, and thoughtfully you engage with the question(s) asked of
you, as well as the quality of the insights you offer and the effort
you demonstrate both in preparing well for discussion and in using the
writing out of your response to this homework assignment as itself an
occasion for significant learning. I will not be a stickler for
minute points of writing style, but you should nevertheless try to
express yourself, and communicate to me, clearly and precisely.
Each homework assignment will be worth 2.5% of the
overall course grade, and you should make sure that you do
twelve of these assignments, to complete the total required percentage
of the course grade that homework will constitute: 30% of the overall
course grade. You should note well that you will
receive thirteen homework assignments this semester, which means you
can choose to do any twelve of the thirteen. It also means that
if you do all thirteen you can earn 2.5% extra
and Final Examinations
mid-term examination will take place as follows. On Monday October 20
you will write short critical analyses of a series of four clips from
films screened prior to this point in the semester which I will
re-screen for you at this time, prior to you writing each of these
short critical analyses. In each case you will respond to
specific questions about the clip, the film from which it is excerpted,
and the concepts I have selected it to illustrate. This will
proceed for approximately two hours and constitute part one of the
mid-term examination; it will be worth 10% of the
overall course grade.
After a short break I will then screen a film for
you that we have not previously watched, and listened to, together–for
the remainder of the period. On Wednesday March 22,
I will screen a key clip, or several clips, from this same film at the
beginning of class. After this, you will have the remainder of
the period to write a critical analysis of this film in relation to the
concepts we have been studying and working with up to this point in the
semester. Again, I will give you a specific set of questions to
address in doing this work. This essay will constitute part two of the
mid-term examination; it will also be worth (an additional)
10% of the overall course grade.
is an “open book” examination, meaning you may refer to your
textbooks, photocopied handouts I will have prepared for you, notes,
and any other written materials you think might prove useful in
responding to the questions (both parts of) this examination poses of
The final examination will be a take-home essay
examination, asking you a series of short essay questions directly related
to concepts and films we have addressed in class during the second half
of the semester. As long as you take this exercise seriously and
work on it conscientiously, striving to express yourself and
communicate to me in as clear, accurate, precise, and thoughtful a way
as possible, you should do very well with this assignment. The
final examination will be worth 20% of the
overall course grade.
FIELD TRIP/EXTRA CREDIT
You will have the opportunity to participate, for
extra credit, in a class field trip to Minneapolis on a Saturday yet to
be determined. During this field trip we will attend screening(s)
of films otherwise unavailable in this area, as well as, perhaps, take
advantage of another film-related or non-film-related activity. I
will pay for the bus; you will only need to pay the cost of tickets for
the film(s) you attend–and for any refreshments you wish to purchase
that day while in Minneapolis. Beside the opportunity to attend
screenings of interesting films, we will seek to have a good time
together on this class outing. Students of mine in the past have
greatly enjoyed our class field trips. You are welcome to bring
friends from outside of our class to come along with you as you
may earn 7.5% extra credit simply for coming along on the field
trip. If you absolutely can’t make it, but would
still like to earn an equivalent amount of extra credit, you should
write short critical reflection papers (approximately two typed pages,
or 500 words) average length each, on any five films
screened this semester as part of the UWEC campus film series, and take
time to discuss your reflections, in your papers, with Dani or Justin.
We will also hold a class party (to which your
friends will be again invited) at the end of the semester; I will offer
2.5% extra credit
once again for simply attending this party.
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 that you develop as a student in this
course and as a member of this class. I recognize the value of
learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be
equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important,
than what takes place in class. It also provides you an
opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for
class. So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you
think this might be helpful to you–or whenever you’d just like to talk
further with me. I want to help you in your understanding
of issues addressed in texts (including audio-visual texts) and
discussions, as well as in your writing and participation. And
you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my
campus office) phone as well.
I really do like to get to know my students;
students at this university continually demonstrate impressive ability,
talent, knowledge, experience, insight, vitality, and good
character. I am lucky to get to know you; it enriches
me. And one thing is worth emphasizing from the start, as I
know just the fact that one is a professor can be intimidating, even
when, like me, one never thinks of himself as an intimidating kind of
person, and that is, above all else, I like my students, I always do, I
like you a lot, and I care about not only how you are doing in class
but also about your well-being in general. The more and the
better I get to know you, the more and better I can help you, and, it’s
quite possible, as has been the case with many students I’ve taught
over the years too, that we can even become friends.
In addition to all of that, please keep in mind that
Dani Becker and Justin Hoelzen have signed on as senior student mentors
for this class because they want to work with and help you.
Please do feel free to contact and meet with them outside of class
about any matter of interest or concern; they too will hold regular
office hours and be readily accessible to assist you. Dani and
Justin can be of great help do you; take advantage of the opportunity
to work with them outside as well as inside of class.
Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom
accommodations, please contact the instructor and the Services for
Students with Disabilities Office. *
In the interest of accountability–me to you–I am
here providing you links: 1.) to my statement of philosophy as a
college teacher: https://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/philosophy.htm;
2.) to my autobiographical profile: https://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/PROFILE_.htm
http://www.myspace.com/insurgentseanmurphy (if you too are on
myspace feel free to contact me to become myspace friends); and 3.) to
my professional vita (the academic equivalent of a resume): https://people.uwec.edu/ranowlan/VITA.htm.
I encourage you to check these sites out; it is useful for you to know
who your teacher is, what he’s about, and where he’s coming from–and I
like to be very open, honest, and forthright with you about all of
that. I look forward to a great semester working together with