Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval

 

 

 

Department or Program English
Course Number Humanities 140
Semester Hours 3
Frequency of Offering every semester (one section, 50 students)
Course Title Approaches to Film
Catalog Description A general introduction to the arts of the film with focus on the non-technical aspects of the art. Offered every semester.
This is an existing course previously approved by A2C2: Yes
This is a new course proposal: No
(If this is a new course proposal, the WSU Curriculum Approval Form must also be completed as in the process prescribed by WSU Regulation 3-4)  
Proposal Category: Arts & Science Core/Humanities
Departmental Contact: J Paul Johnson, Associate Professor
Email Address: pjohnson@winona.edu
Department Approval and Date:  
Dean’s Recommendation and Date:  

 

 

 

Humanities 140

Approaches to Film — 3 s.h.

A General Education/University Studies Arts & Science Core Course

Proposal and Rationale

Catalog Description

A general introduction to the arts of the film with focus on the non-technical aspects of the art. Offered every semester.

 

General Course Information

Humanities 140, Approaches to Film , is an elective course designed for Humanities credit in the Arts and Sciences Core of the WSU University Studies Program. The program is designed to provide a broad base of skills and knowledge to equip students for informed, responsible citizenship in a changing world. The purpose of the Humanities requirement in the University Studies program is to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life by examining its expression in cultural forms and texts, literature and the arts. As a course fulfilling the objectives for the Humanities requirement in the Arts and Science core, Humanities 140 includes requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to…

  1. identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline;
  2. understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influence perceptions and interpretations; and
  3. understand the role of critical analysis (e.g. aesthetic, historical, literary, philosophical, rhetorical) in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

 

Rationale

  1. Students will identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline.
  2. Like courses in literature, art, music, and other interpretive fields, Humanities 140, Approaches to Film, both provides a working vocabulary for the art form and scrutinizes the assumptions underlying its study. Students read textbook chapters, novels, nonfiction books, and criticism, and they study a variety of films illustrating the specific elements of cinema studies. Far more challenging than a simple course in "the movies," Approaches to Film provides students with a detailed introduction to the discipline. The course films—a variety, from different directors, historical eras, national origins, and narrative sources—are chosen for their provocative cinematic techniques as well as their challenging thematic meanings. Students are not only expected to be able to identify the elements of cinema in classroom discourse, quizzes, essays, exams, and other short assignments; they are further required to use the lexicon of film studies in their writing and other projects for the course. These elements of the discipline include, first, the components of narrative (including thematic unity and fictional/dramatic elements); second, the functions of cinematic expression (including mise en scene, design, editing, sound, acting); third, approaches to interpretation (including auteur, psychoanalytical, ideological, genre, formalist/structural, and historical/biographical approaches); and last, sources of cinematic narrative (including literary fiction, fables, factual events, original screenplays). Please see the attached syllabus for a list of the key elements of the course.

    Students are also expected to learn and discuss the specific assumptions of film analysis. In particular, they study films as representatives of (and revisions of) specific genres of cinematic narrative; as dependent upon (and contributing to) technological innovations; as artifacts of (and arguments about) specific social and historical contexts; and as interpretations (and rewritings) of communal or mythical stories. The underlying assumptions vary from approach to approach, of course, but undergirding the assumptions of all of the work of the course is this: that over the course of the 20th century, the narrative film has become one of the most prominent art forms, one which has seen contributions from the century’s most innovative, experimental, and gifted storytellers, and one which engages millions of viewers in its expression.

  3. Students will understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influence perceptions and interpretations.
  4. In order to understand how historical context affects both the production and the reception of film, students view works from across the 20th century—from some of the earliest surviving works of cinema (Georges M�li�s, the Lumi�re Brothers, and D.W. Griffith) to the early experiments with tinting and scoring; to more paradigmatic developments in synchronized sound, full color, and the studio system; to the developing international cinema of the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s; to the contemporary Hollywood and independent cinemas in America. Individual films are presented as carefully contextualized "case studies" in cinema, with lecture and resource material designed to provide a thoughtfully historicized introduction to each work in its social context. For instance, students study such films as M (the spread of the Nazi regime and its paranoia in prewar Germany), Modern Times (economic/cultural depression and the dehumanizing effects of the industrial revolution), The Seventh Seal (20th-century existentialist philosophy and the threat of nuclear armageddon), Do the Right Thing (strained race relations, the contemporary black cinema, and the politics of the movie marketplace), and Boys Don’t Cry (sexual confusion in an era of cultural intolerance)—all as expressions of (and reactions to) cultural values. Finally, students also study the genderedness of the cinema, considering such topics as the feminist approach to interpreting film, popular constructions of the female in the cinema, pioneering female auteurs, and the politics of sex and gender in selected films (e.g., Rear Window, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, The Piano). The results of their study are articulated in online and classroom discussions, exam items and essays, and collaborative projects.

  5. Students will understand the role of critical analysis (e.g. aesthetic, historical, literary, philosophical, rhetorical) in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

The goal of the course is to help students become skilled and sophisticated interpreters of film art — ones who can both enjoy the aesthetic, visceral appeals of narrative film and interpret its themes. But interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience demands knowledge of narrative, of history, of media, and of examples of the art form itself. So throughout the course, students develop a knowledge of technical issues in producing and viewing film; of the various sources of film narrative (especially literary fiction, but also fables, fairy tales, factual events, etc.); and of some important Hollywood, foreign, and independent visions. Their study of theoretical approaches to understanding film, then, is informed by their knowledge of cinematic technique, literary narrative, and specific visions. For a final exam question, for instance, students might be asked to make us of a particular type of critical analysis to articulate and support a statement of thematic meaning about one or more of the films on the course syllabus. For instance, a student might use a feminist approach to critique the portrayal of love triangles in Letter from an Unknown Woman and The Piano, while another student might use a Jungian approach to articulate the archetypal meanings of Cocteau’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast, and a third might use auteur theory to evaluate Do the Right Thing, M, or The Seventh Seal. From this work, students learn to understand, interpret, and articulate the meanings of images they see on screens. And they learn the value of critical analysis in interpreting such expression: carefully informed aesthetic, ideological, historical, and rhetorical analysis not only rewards practitioners with a deeper, more profound understanding of the work and the medium themselves; it also constitutes that most human of abilities—to articulate meaning.

 

Humanities 140

Approaches to Film — 3 s.h.

A General Education/University Studies Arts & Science Core Course

General Course Information

Catalog Description

A general introduction to the arts of the film with focus on the non-technical aspects of the art. Offered every semester.

 

General Course Information

Humanities 140, Approaches to Film , is an elective course designed to count for Humanities credit in the Arts and Sciences Core of the WSU University Studies Program. The program is designed to provide a broad base of skills and knowledge to equip students for informed, responsible citizenship in a changing world. The purpose of the Humanities requirement in the University Studies program is to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life by examining its expression in cultural forms and texts, literature and the arts. As a course fulfilling the objectives for the Humanities requirement in the Arts and Science core, Humanities 140 includes requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to…

  1. identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline;
  2. understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influence perceptions and interpretations; and
  3. understand the role of critical analysis (e.g. aesthetic, historical, literary, philosophical, rhetorical) in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

 

As class requirements and activities are discussed and listed below, they will refer to objectives in the above list by letter.

Texts and Supplies (vary slightly from instructor to instructor) bulletBoggs, The Art of Watching Films, 5e bulletCocteau, Beauty & the Beast: Diary of a Film bulletStevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde bulletand additional reserve readings

 

General Course Introduction

Humanities 140, Approaches to Film, is a three-credit general education humanities elective. The goal of the course is to help students become skilled and sophisticated interpreters of film art — ones who can both enjoy the aesthetic, visceral appeals of narrative film and interpret its themes. Over the course, students study a variety of films from different directors, eras, origins, and sources. What they have in common are not only provocative cinematic techniques, but also challenging thematic meanings.

Throughout the course, students can expect to identify and understand elements of the cinema, from aspects of dramatic narrative to techniques of cinematography and sound to methods of acting and directing. Students can also expect to study narrative film history, so that they can understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influence perceptions and interpretations of cinematic art. Students will study technical issues in producing and viewing film; the various sources of film narrative (especially literary fiction, but also fables, fairy tales, factual events, etc.); and some important Hollywood, foreign, and independent visions. From this work, students can expect to use specific methods of critical analysis to understand, interpret, and articulate the renderings of human experience they see on screens.

 

 

COURSE FILMS (vary by instructor, but often include…)

A Trip to the Moon (France, 1902)

 

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)

Sherlock, Jr (1924)

 

The Blue Angel (Germany, 1930)

 

M (Germany, 1931)

Frankenstein (1931)

 

Modern Times (1936)

 

Stagecoach (1939)

 

Citizen Kane (1941)

Beauty & the Beast (France, 1946)

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

The Bicycle Thief (Italy, 1949)

Rear Window (1954)

On The Waterfront (1954)

The Seventh Seal (Sweden, 1956)

Psycho (1960)

The Graduate (1967)

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Raging Bull (1980)

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Cinema Paradiso (Italy, 1989)

The Dead (1989)

The Piano (New Zealand, 1993)

Il Postino (Italy, 1994)

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

 

 

Humanities 140

Approaches to Film — 3 s.h.

A General Education/University Studies Arts & Science Core Course

Sample Syllabus

 

EXAMS

The exams will test knowledge of the assigned films, readings, and lectures. They will consist of two parts: multiple choice questions that expect students to apply textbook concepts to the films studied in class (focusing particularly on selected, announced scenes), and essay questions that test students’ abilities of critical analysis. They also include questions on the assigned stories, novels, and required reserve reading. (a, b, c)

CLIP TESTS

The clip test gauges students’ ability to demonstrate powers of critical analysis through the in-depth study of a brief segment of film. At the conclusion of each class period, students study a selected scene from the night’s film, and students will write a one-page, single-spaced, sentence-outline-format analysis in response to these two questions:

    1. What kinds of general information (regarding setting, dramatic structure, texture, and thematic meaning) are provided, and how does the scene relate to the whole of the film?
    2. What cinematic techniques (regarding color/light, sound, cinematography, editing, characterization, blocking, etc.) convey meaning in the scene, and to what effect?

Students must make use of the vocabulary of the course in completing this assignment. To earn credit, clip tests must be typed and submitted by 4 p.m. the Monday following the film’s screening: the clip test can be submitted via e-mail or to the instructor’s Minn� 302 mailbox. No credit will be awarded for clip tests delivered after 4 p.m. each Monday (only six clip tests are required during the semester). (a)

COURSE WEB

The course web (http://course1.winona.edu/pjohnson) is a critical component of the course. Students need access to the web to participate in the online forum, to review course materials, and to post and read collaborative projects. Students can access the web from any Internet connection, including the various computer labs across campus.

 

ONLINE FORUM

The purpose of the online forum is to expand the "floor" for conversation beyond the confines of Wednesday evenings. Students should use their real names when submitting their responses, and when responding directly to another’s post, they should quote relevant passages. The instructor reserves the right to delete purposeless (or otherwise unwise) postings. To earn credit for forum participation, students can …

    1. Address the posted questions and/or raise new questions for further discussion.
    2. Make connections between different course texts.
    3. Tactfully and purposefully respond to another’s question.
    4. Nominate and discuss films as candidates for collaborative projects.
    5. Discuss the general concepts of cinematic art and adaptation.

Regular, purposeful, articulate, tactful participation in the online discussion forum will earn the full 50 points allowable. On average, one or two thoughtful, contemplative contributions (those demonstrating close reading of the film and selected scenes) each week will suffice. (a, b)

WEB PAGE PROJECTS

In small groups, students will research and study a film selected from Boggs’ list of "fact-based films" (p. 407). Either Word or FrontPage Express can be used to complete this assignment. On November 15, panel members must submit a folder of all their materials (in a single HTML file and a paper copy), including…

    1. Bulleted release and production data.
    2. A 500-word account of the actual historical events later depicted in the film.
    3. A 500-word discussion of the context surrounding the film, addressing either its production, its reception, or both.
    4. A 500-word interpretive plot summary and critique.
    5. Labeled, formatted images interspersed throughout the text.
    6. A set of working hyperlinks leading to valuable, relevant web resources.
    7. Four or five detailed discussion questions for viewers’ consideration.
    8. (paper only) A typed, single-page, signed memo from each panel member, (1) detailing his or her own contributions to the efforts and (2) summarizing the contributions of the other members.

The materials will be evaluated on the completeness and clarity of the contents as well as on the purposefulness and professionalism of the presentation. A note on the process: the point of working collaboratively is not to isolate each member from the others in order to divide all tasks evenly, but to take advantage of each individual’s skills and work in concert to create strong, carefully considered and presented work. (a, b)

 

 

GRADING bulletthree exams @ 100 points each (multiple choice & essay) bulletreading quizzes (50 points) bulletsix "clip tests" @ 25 points each bulletonline forum participation (50 points) bulletgroup web page construction (50 points) bulletcourse totals: 540-600 = A, 480-539 = B, 420-479 = C, lower than 420 = D or E

 

 

 

 

SAMPLE CALENDAR
 

In class: Syllabus and introductions. Types of films; key issues in interpreting and evaluating film. (c)

Film: On the Waterfront. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Joey Doyle’s death; Terry’s confession; "Contendah"; Victory. (a)

 

Before class: Boggs chs. 1 & 2. Reserve: "Dramatic Elements in On the Waterfront." (a)

In class: Thematic and narrative elements: narrative structure; linear and nonlinear narratives. (a)

Films: The Purple Rose of Cairo; Sherlock Jr. (a)

Scenes for study: Buster enters Hearts & Minds; Tom meets Cecelia. (a)

 

Before class: Boggs ch. 3. Reserve: "The Purple Rose of Keaton." (a, b, c)

In class: Fictional and dramatic elements. Conflicts and resolutions; characterization; symbol, metaphor, allegory. Types of irony. Feminist filmmaking and interpretation. (a, b, c)

Film: The Piano. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Stewart meets Ada; Ada goes under. (a)

 

Before class: Boggs chs. 4 & 5. (a)

In class: Cinematography, design, and mise-en-sc�ne. Setting, location, and set design; lighting and composition; camera angle, distance, and movement; film stock, types, and costs. (a, b)

Film: The Seventh Seal. (a)

Scenes for study: Death comes for the Knight; The "End Game." (a)

 

Before class: Reserve: "Analysis of The Seventh Seal"; excerpts from Chaplin’s Biography. Boggs ch. 6. (a, b, c)

In class: Editing and effects; from silents to talkies. Shots, scenes, sequences; transitions: types of cuts; editing styles; theories/types of montage; special effects. (a, b)

Film: Modern Times. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Life on the Assembly Line; The Tramp Sings. (a)

 

Before class: Study for exam; write take-home essays. (a, b)

In class: first exam. Color: effects, methods, and experiments. (a, b)

Film: Do the Right Thing. (a, b)

Scenes for study: Opening credits; "Name-calling"; The Death of Raheem’s Radio. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Boggs chs. 7-9. Reserve: "Polyphony and Cultural Expression." (a, b)

In class: Sound: effects, dialogue, and music. Dimensionality, emphasis, leitmotif, and commerce. Point-of-view in sound; methods of narration; historical and technological developments. (a, b)

Film: M. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Elsie’s disappearance; The murderer’s plea. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Reserve: "Analysis of M." Boggs chs. 10 & 11. (a, b)

In class: Acting and directing; auteurs, canons, and the indie scene. Marketing and distribution issues. (a, b)

Film: Boys Don’t Cry. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Brandon’s deception; Exposing Brandon’s secret. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Boggs ch. 13. Begin Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. (a, b)

In class: Reflexive cinema; the contemporary foreign cinema. Issues in casting. Screenplays and narrative structure. (a, b, c)

Film: Cinema Paradiso. (a)

Scenes for study: Fire at the Paradiso; Alfredo’s gift (montage). (a)

 

Before class: Finish Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Study for exam; write take-home essays. (a, b, c)

In class: second exam; issues in cinematic adaptation: length, faithfulness, setting, & perspective. (a, b)

Film: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Mary Reilly, other interpretations. (a)

Scenes for study: Meeting Mr. Hyde; (from Mary Reilly) Transformation. (a, b)

 

Before class: Boggs chs. 14 & 16; Reserve: Zweig, "Letter from an Unknown Woman" (a, b)

In class: Genre films: romances and horror films; values, strengths, limitations; the Hays code and censorship. (a, b, c)

Film: Letter from an Unknown Woman. (a)

Scenes for study: Exposition: Stefan’s letter; Stefan’s conquest; Denouement: Stefan’s fate. (a)

 

Before class: Reserve: Woolrich, "It Had to Be Murder." Collaborative projects due. (a, b, c)

In class: Adaptations of stories; visual pleasure and narrative cinema. Manipulating perspective & response.

Film: Rear Window. (a)

Scenes for study: Jeff’s apartment; Jeff’s perspectives. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Boggs ch. 15. Reserve: Beaumont, "Beauty & the Beast" (Cocteau 131). (a, b)

In class: The early cinema: M�li�s & the Lumi�res, Edison & Porter, D.W. Griffith; Myth, fable, and the movies; cinematic composition and the visual arts. (a, b, c)

Films: A Trip to the Moon; Beauty and the Beast. (a, b)

Scenes for study: Beauty meets the Beast; Beauty enters the castle. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Boggs ch. 12. Cocteau, Diary of a Film. (a, b, c)

In class: The art of making films. Interpretive approaches: ideological, humanistic, psychological, structural. (a, b, c)

Film: Citizen Kane. (a, b, c)

Scenes for study: Ma & Pa Kane sign Charlie away; Breakfast Table Montage; Rosebud. (a, b, c)

 

Before class: Study for final exam. Write take-home essays. (a, b, c)

In class: final exam. (a, b, c)

 

Thematic Analysis bullettheme (types and categories) bulletmotifs bulletuniversality bulletcontinuous motion

 

Fictional/Dramatic Elements bulletunified plots bulletlinear (chronological, traditional, expository) narrative structure bulletexposition, complication, climax, denouement bulletin medias res, flashbacks, nonlinear structure bulletconflict (external, internal) bulletcharacterization (through appearance, dialogue, external action, internal action, reactions of others, caricature, name typing, leitmotif) bullettypes of characters (foils, stock characters, stereotypes, static/developing, round/flat) bulletsymbol (and methods of creating symbolic meanings) bulletallegory bulletmetaphor (intrinsic/extrinsic) bullettypes of irony (dramatic, situational, character, setting, tone, cosmic)

 

Visual Design bulletcolor palette bulletcolor vs. black-and-white bulletscreen formats (standard, widescreen, panavision, cinemascope) bulletfilm stock (rough-grain, smooth-grain) bulletsetting (and its effects) bulletperiod piece bulletstudio/location shooting bulletlighting (high-key, low-key)

 

Films

A Trip to the Moon

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Sherlock, Jr

M

Modern Times

Stagecoach

Citizen Kane

Beauty & the Beast

Letter from an Unknown Woman

Rear Window

On The Waterfront

The Seventh Seal

The Graduate

The Purple Rose of Cairo

Do the Right Thing

Cinema Paradiso

The Piano

Boys Don’t Cry

Editing and Effects bulletshot/scene/sequence bullettakes, dailies, rushes bullettransitions: cut, wipe, flip frame, dissolve, fade, form cut bulletestablishing shot, flash cut, parallel cut, jump cut, montage bulletinside/out, outside/in editing bulletrhythm, tempo, time control bulleteffects: blue-screen, CGI

Cinematography bulletpoints of view (objective, subjective, indirect-subjective, director’s interpretive) bulletshot, scene bulletcamera distance (close-up, medium shot, long shot) bulletmotion (fixed-frame, panning, tilting, zooming, steadicam, skycam) bulletdead screen/live screen bulletrack focus, deep focus bulletangle: low, high, bird’s-eye bulletlenses: telephoto, wide-angle, normal, fish-eye bulletslow motion/fast motion bulletfreeze frame, thawed frame, still image

 

Actors

John Barrymore

Buster Keaton

Charlie Chaplin

Paulette Goddard

Fritz Lang

Peter Lorre

John Ford

John Wayne

Clare Trevor

Lionel Barrymore

Orson Welles

Gregg Toland

Bernard Herrman

Jean Marais

Josette Day

Max Ophuls

Joan Fontaine

Louis Jourdan

Alfred Hitchcock

Grace Kelly

Jimmy Stewart

Elia Kazan

Marlon Brando

Rod Steiger

Lee J. Cobb

Ingmar Bergman

Max Von Sydow

Woody Allen

Mia Farrow

Danny Aiello

Jeff Daniels

Spike Lee

Ruby Dee

Ossie Davis

John Turturro

Jane Campion

Holly Hunter

Sam Neill

Anna Paquin

Harvey Keitel

Kimberly Peirce

Hilary Swank

 

Color bullethue, vlaue, tint, shade bulletsaturation/desaturation bulletlocal/atmospheric bulleteffects of color: attention, dimensionality, warmth, transition, expressionism, symbol, surrealism, leitmotif, mood bulletpainterly, ironic, comic effects bulletcolorization bullettinting, toning

Sound and Music bulletdialogue bulletdimensionality bulletdolby/surround sound bulletvisible/invisible bulletsubjective/objective p-o-v bulleteffects, juxtapositions, emphases bulletdead screen, dead track bulletambient sounds bulletplot device, sound links, voice-over, bulletscore bulletgeneralized score, mickey mousing, leitrmotif, peter-wolfing bullettraveling music, titles, soundtracks bulletmelody, harmony, texture, orchestration

Acting & casting bulletfilm/stage acting bulletreaction shot bulletaction actingdrmataic acting bulletmethod acting bulletimpersonators, interpreters, personalities bulletstar system bulletensemble acting bullettypecasting bulletsupporting casts bulletfoils

Interpretive Approaches

Issues in adaptation

film genres

Historical Contexts