Spring 1995
Prof. Marty Norden

This course will provide an overview of the major theoretical and critical approaches to the study of film. During the first third of the semester, we will examine the classic "formalist" and "realist" film theories that constituted the dominant schools of thought in film up to the early 1960s and still have relevance today. The remaining two-thirds of the semester will be devoted to a wide range of critical methods and theoretic perspectives that have emerged since the 1960s, including auteur, feminist, semiological, psychoanalytic, socio-cultural, and political. Though we will be relating the readings and lecture material to films screened in class on a weekly basis, the course is less a pragmatic, "how-to" course than a metatheoretical, metacritical one.


  • J. Dudley Andrew. The Major Film Theories. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1976.
  • Tim Bywater and Thomas Sobchack. Introduction to Film Criticism. New York: Longman, 1989.
  • Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy, eds. Film Theory and Criticism, 4th edition. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1992.


Week #1 (Jan. 31-Feb. 2)
Topics:		Introduction to film theory and criticism / Rudolf Arnheim
Screenings:	Charles Chaplin: The Floorwalker (1917)
		Rene Clair: Entr'acte (1924)		
		Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali: Un chien Andalou (1929)
		Maya Deren: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
		Denis Colomb de Daunant: Dream of the Wild Horses (1960)
Readings:	Andrew, pp. 3-13, Ch. 2; B&S, pp. 162-168; M&C, pp. 48-51, 
			59-70, 268-277

Week #2 (Feb. 7-9)
Topics:		Sergei Eisenstein / V. I. Pudovkin
Screenings:	Alfred Hitchcock: Rear Window (1954)
		Sergei Eisenstein: Excerpt from The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
		Ellen Calmus & Liss Jeffrey: Got to Push (1973)
		Charles Braverman: American Time Capsule (1968)
Readings:	Andrew, Ch. 3; M&C, pp. 121-154, 317-319, 395-402

Week #3 (Feb. 14-16)
Topic:		Bela Balazs	
Screenings:	Carl Dreyer: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
		Robert MacAndrew: Fifth Street (1970)
Readings:	Andrew, Ch. 4; M&C, pp. 260-267

Week #4 (Feb. 22 & 23 only; Monday schedule on Feb. 21)
Topic:		Siegfried Kracauer
Screenings:	Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, & James Agee: In the Street (1952)
		Frederick Wiseman: High School (1968)
Readings:	Andrew, pp. 103-105, Ch. 5; B&S, pp. 168-171; M&C, pp. 9-33, 
			249-259, 403-419

Week #5 (Feb. 28-Mar. 2)
Topic:		Andre Bazin
Screening:	Jean-Luc Godard: Breathless (1959)
Readings:	Andrew, Ch. 6; M&C, pp. 34-47, 155-167, 375-386

Week #6 (Mar. 7-9)
Topic: 		Introduction to film criticism
Screening:	Orson Welles: The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Readings:	B&S, Ch. 1 & 2

Week #7 (Mar. 14-16)
Topic:		Auteur criticism
Screening:	Orson Welles: The Stranger (1946)
Readings:	B&S, Ch. 3; M&C, pp. 579-613

Week #8      	SPRING BREAK

Week #9 (Mar. 28-30)
Topic:		Genre criticism
Screening:	Fred Zinnemann: High Noon (1952)
Readings:	B&S, Ch. 4; M&C, pp. 429-577

Week #10 (Apr. 4-6)
Topic: 		Socio-cultural criticism
Screening:	Frank Capra: Meet John Doe (1941)
Readings:	B&S, Ch. 5 & 6

Week #11 (Apr. 11-13)
Topic:		Political criticism
Screening:	Ousmane Sembene: Xala (1974)
Readings:	B&S, pp. 179-183; M&C, pp. 659-724

Week #12 (Apr. 18 & 20 only; Mon. schedule on Apr. 19)
Topic: 		Feminist criticism
Screenings:	Dorothy Arzner: Christopher Strong (1933)	
		The Art of Film, Vol. XI: The Role of Women in Movies
Readings:	B&S, pp. 183-185; M&C, pp. 93-114, 632-653

Week #13 (Apr. 25-27)
Topic:		Structuralism
Screening:	James Whale: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Reading:	B&S, pp. 176-178

Week #14 (May 2-4)
Topic:		Semiology
Screening:	Howard Hawks: His Girl Friday (1940)
Readings:	Andrew, pp. 179-184, Ch. 8; B&S, pp. 171-176; M&C, pp. 168-209

Week #15 (May 9-11)
Topic:		Psychoanalytic criticism
Screening:	TBA
Readings:	B&S, pp. 185-191; M&C, pp. 730-790

Week #16 (May 16 only; no class on May 17)
Topic:		Phenomenology
Reading:	Andrew, Ch. 9
In addition to these tentatively scheduled films, I plan to show numerous excerpts from other films throughout the semester to help illustrate the readings and lecture material.


Two papers of 5-10 pages each are required for this class. For each paper, you will interpret a film (or TV program or video) of your choice from a theoretical or critical perspective studied in class. The first paper, due Tues., Mar. 14, will be from one of the classic "formalist" or "realist" theoretical perspectives studied in class: Arnheim, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Balazs, Kracauer, or Bazin. The second paper, due Tues., May 2, will employ either a modern theoretical approach or a specific critical method (in other words, one of the theories or methods of criticism studied in class since the formalist and realist theories). Each paper, which MUST be typed and double-spaced with adequate margins, will be worth about a third of your final grade. More on the format and content of these papers later.

A take-home final exam which will cover lecture materials, readings, and screenings since the start of the semester is also required. It will be worth about a third of your final grade.


In addition to the course requirements listed above, I will also take attendance and informed participation into account when I determine your final grade.

I may assign some outside reading during the second half of the semester.

All projects are due at the beginning of class on the due dates. I will accept late projects but for reduced credit and only if you have made arrangements with me in advance.

For your protection, I would advise you to make and keep a copy of each project (whether a photocopy, a computer print-out, or stored as a file on computer disk) until you receive the original back from me.

Please be forewarned that I have a near-pathological aversion to handing out "incompletes." I will give such non-grades only under the most extreme of circumstances (such as illness or your own death) and even then grudgingly. Otherwise, any missing work will be averaged into the final grade.

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