LT347-6-SP-CO:
American Film Authors

The details
2019/20
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Spring
Undergraduate: Level 6
Current
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
15
20 August 2019

 

Requisites for this module
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(none)
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Key module for

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Module description

If American movies can still be characterised as constructing a dominant image of the United States (not only for the American people themselves but also for much of the rest of the world), then this filmmaking might be counted as one of the most influential and productive forces in the US culture industries. The cinema of the USA has not only reflected but also shaped and anticipated much of the country's history and politics, yet the key figures behind these media products are often far more complex, unpredictable, and even controversial than we might at first imagine. Researching and unpacking the nuances of their relationship to their craft has become a key task of doing film histories and film analysis.

This module aims to consider these ideas through examination of the work of US directors, actors, writers, and other key figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, and Robert de Niro, and of others who partly or largely have worked outside Hollywood such as Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Todd Haynes, and Courtney Hunt. Arguably, many of these figures have had a significant role in mapping the space of America in the popular imagination, while others have provided key alternatives to mainstream views and comprehension of the USA. While critically studying and interrogating the conventions of auteur theory, this module covers a breadth of US film history and genres, including the western, screwball comedy, film noir, thrillers, and horror.

Module Supervisor's Research into Subject Area:
Professor Geiger is a well-known expert on US cinema with a range of publications in the field, including Facing the Pacific: Polynesia and the US Imperial Imagination, and American Documentary Film: Projecting the Nation. He is co-editor of Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, which is used on film and media courses worldwide.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

• To gain insight into how the cinema of the USA has not only reflected but also shaped much of the country's history and politics
• To gain exposure to US cinematic texts ranging from those of the classic studio system to more independent and alternative films
• To examine in some detail select key figures behind US cinema products and engage more deeply with the stories and practices behind their films
• To gain knowledge of US film authors and understand how this knowledge can contribute to the work of doing film histories and film analysis
• To study and interrogate the conventions and limits of auteur theory
• To gain enhanced skills in research and film analysis
• To gain enhanced skills in written and verbal expression

Module learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to have:

• Understanding of how the cinema of the USA has not only reflected but shaped much of the country's history and politics
• Further exposure to US cinematic texts ranging from those of the classic studio system to more independent and alternative films
• Greater knowledge of select key figures in US cinema history and the stories and practices behind their films
• Knowledge of US film authors and understanding of how this knowledge can contribute to the work of doing film histories and film analysis
• Greater understanding of the conventions and limits of auteur theory
• Enhanced skills in research and film analysis
• Enhanced skills in written and verbal expression

Module information

(Indicative filmography)
The Tramp
The Immigrant
Double Indemnity
Sunset Boulevard
Shadow of a Doubt
Vertigo
The Birds
The Wrong Man
Taxi Driver
The Searchers
The Grapes of Wrath
She's Gotta Have It
Do the Right Thing
Frozen River
Certain Women

Learning and teaching methods

One film screening and 2 hour seminar per week

Bibliography

  • Audre Lorde. (2019) 'Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference', in Race, class, and gender: intersections and inequalities, Boston, MA: Cengage.
  • Wilder, Billy; Holden, William; Swanson, Gloria; Von Stroheim, Erich; Olson, Nancy. (2002) Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood: Paramount Pictures. vol. Paramount DVD Collection
  • Dyer, Richard; McDonald, Paul. (1998) Stars: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
  • Girgus, Sam B. (1998) Hollywood renaissance: the cinema of democracy in the era of Ford, Capra, and Kazan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Todd, Janet. (1988) Women and film, New York: Holmes & Meier. vol. new series, v. 4
  • Ford, John; Wayne, John. (c2000) The Searchers, [London?]: Warner Home Video.
  • Fuchs, Cynthia. (2013) 'Taxi Driver: 'I got some bad ideas in my head'', in Film analysis: a Norton reader, New York: W. W. Norton & Company., pp.696-714
  • Todd Haynes. (c2004) Safe, [S.l.]: Prism Leisure.
  • Johnston, Claire. (1978) 'Double Indemnity', in Women in film noir, London: British Film Institute., pp.100-111
  • DiBattista, Maria. (c2001) '“Missing Links: Bringing Up Baby”', in Fast-talking dames, New Haven: Yale University Press., pp.174-201
  • Carter, Matthew. (2014) Myth of the western: new perspectives on Hollywood's frontier narrative, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Lorde, Audre. (1990) 'Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference', in Out there: marginalization and contemporary cultures, London: MIT Press., pp.179-287
  • Dyer, Richard. (1986) Heavenly bodies: film stars and society, New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Place, Janey. (1978) 'Women in Film Noir', in Women in film noir, London: British Film Institute., pp.35-65
  • Schatz, Thomas. (2006) 'Annie Hall the Issue of Modernism', in The films of Woody Allen: critical essays, Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press., pp.123-132
  • Shumway, David. (1995) '“Screwball Comedies: Constructing Romance, Mystifying Marriage”', in Film genre reader II, Austin: University of Texas Press., pp.381-401
  • Wood, Robin. (c1989) 'Vertigo', in Hitchcock's films revisited, New York: Columbia University Press., pp.108-130
  • Matheson, Sue. (2016) Westerns and War Films of John Ford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Hillier, Jim; Wollen, Peter. (1996) Howard Hawks, American artist, London: BFI Publishing.
  • Cowie, Elizabeth. (1993) 'Film Noir and Women', in Shades of noir: a reader, London: Verso., pp.121-165
  • Lorde, Audre. (c2004) 'Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference', in Race, class, and gender: an anthology, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. vol. The Wadsworth sociology reader series
  • Peter Wollen. (2016) 'From Signs and Meaning in the Cinema', in Film theory and criticism: introductory readings, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Leo, Melissa; McDermott, Charlie; Hunt, Courtney. (2013) Frozen River: Sony Pictures Home Ent.
  • Marlaine Glicksman. (1986) 'Lee Way', in Film Comment: Film Society of Lincoln Center. vol. 22, pp.46-49
  • Stoddart, Helen. (c1995) 'Auteurism and Film Authorship Theory', in Approaches to popular film, Manchester: Manchester University Press. vol. Inside popular film
  • Place, J.; Peterson, L. S. (c1976-c1985) 'Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir', in Movies and methods: an anthology, Berkeley: University of California Press. vol. 1, pp.325-338
  • Rawle, Steven. (2018) Transnational Cinema: Macmillan Education UK.
  • Studlar, Gaylyn. (2013) 'Double Indemnity: Hard-Boiled Film Noir', in Film analysis: a Norton reader, New York: W. W. Norton & Company., pp.380-389
  • Schrader, Paul. (1995) 'Notes on Film Noir', in Film genre reader II, Austin: University of Texas Press., pp.213-226
  • Girgus, Sam. (1993) '"Desire and Narrativity in Annie Hall"', in The films of Woody Allen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. Cambridge film classics, pp.44-61
  • Reid, Mark. (c1993) 'Black Comedy on the Verge of a Genre Breakdown', in Redefining Black film, Berkeley: University of California Press., pp.100-109
  • Cameron, Ian; Pye, Douglas. (1996) The movie book of the western, London: Studio Vista.
  • Willis, Sharon. (2013) 'Do The Right Thing: A Theatre of Interruptions', in Film analysis: a Norton reader, New York: W. W. Norton & Company., pp.776-793
  • Mast, Gerald. (1982) '"Comedies of Youth and Age: Bringing Up Baby and Monkey Business"', in Howard Hawks, storyteller, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kaplan, E. Ann. (2000) 'Is the Gaze Male?', in Feminism and film, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. Oxford readings in feminism, pp.119-138
  • (2013) Film analysis: a Norton reader, New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Modleski, Tania. (2005) 'Vertigo: Femininity By Design', in The women who knew too much: Hitchcock and feminist theory, New York: Routledge., pp.87-100
  • Salamensky, S. I. (2013) '"Bringing Up Baby: Screwball and the Con of Modern Culture"', in Film analysis: a Norton reader, New York: W. W. Norton & Company., pp.262-279
  • Thornham, Sue. (1999) Feminist Film Theory, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Baraka, Amiri. (1993) 'Spike Lee at the Movies', in Black American cinema, New York: Routledge. vol. AFI film readers, pp.145-153
  • Baker, Houston. (1993) 'Spike Lee and the Commerce of Culture', in Black American cinema, New York: Routledge. vol. AFI film readers, pp.154-176
  • Gallagher, Tag. (c1986) John Ford: the man and his films, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Scorsese, Martin. (1980) 'Martin Scorsese, Expressions of the Streets', in A cinema of loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, New York: Oxford University Press., pp.176-246
  • Hitchcock, Alfred. (c1995) '“On Style,”', in Hitchcock on Hitchcock: selected writings and interviews, Berkeley: University of California Press., pp.285-302
  • Andrew Sarris. (2016) 'Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962', in Film theory and criticism: introductory readings, New York: Oxford University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Essay (3,000 words) 20/03/2020 92%
Practical Participation mark 8%
Exam 120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main)

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
60% 40%

Reassessment

Coursework Exam
60% 40%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Professor Jeffrey Geiger
LiFTS General Office - email liftstt@essex.ac.uk. Telephone 01206 872626

 

Availability
Yes
No
No

External examiner

Dr Mikel Koven
Senior Lecturer - Film Studies
Resources
Available via Moodle
Of 47 hours, 20 (42.6%) hours available to students:
27 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).

 

Further information

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