Course Syllabus

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Course Overview

Introduction to Film History and Theory is a survey of the major developments, movements, and critical approaches in international cinema from 1895-1950. The course emphasizes an understanding of the historical, cultural, commercial, and aesthetic contexts that influence film, but also develops the student’s understanding of a film’s narrative and visual structure and its place within established theoretical traditions.

Course Objectives

  • At the conclusion of this course, you should be able to analyze a film according to its narrative content and its visual form; you must understand cinema as both a visual and narrative art form.
  • At the conclusion of this course, you will have a fundamental understanding of film form and technique, including a knowledge of basic film terms.
  • At the conclusion of this course, you will be able to write about film and incorporate appropriate film terminology and film scholarship into your writing. Scholarship implies not only internet resources, but also requires a familiarity with standard printed texts.
  • At the conclusion of this course, you should be more informed about the universality of human experience and human nature; one of the great benefits of watching films, as well as "old movies," is learning that human beings are fundamentally the same, regardless of nationality or social and historical contexts.
  • Finally, as a result of this course, you will develop a better "eye" for films and you will improve your skills of analysis, critical interpretation, and informed argumentation.

Required Textbooks

Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film, 4th ed. New York: Norton, 2004

The best, and most thorough, standard college textbook for film history.

Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen, eds. Film Theory and Criticism, 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004

This essential book is an anthology of classic essays on film form and theory.


Course Requirements

  1. A multiple choice midterm exam. (25%)
  2. A comprehensive multiple choice final exam. (25%)
  3. A viewing journal, consisting of at five brief essays (two-three typed pages) related to at least five other films watched outside of class. The journal should incorporate the student's own ideas and interpretations with the topics discussed in class. Films the student watches should relate to a variety of fundamental topics—a movement, a director, a genre—introduced throughout the course. The film journal is presented as a whole at the end of the term, though at the middle of the semester, you will hand in at least two essays for evaluation and guidance. The journal must evidence breadth; that is, your films must all come from different historical periods. Film lists, from which your films must be chosen, will be provided throughout the semester to aid your selections. (25%)
  4. Study questions for films screened in class and class participation including attendance and discussion. (25%)

Grading Scale

Note that each of the four requirements counts the same toward your final grade.

All assignments are given an exact numerical grade, and adhere to the traditional grading scale used at the University. An assignment graded between 100-90 represents an A; 89-80 a B; 79-70 a C; 69-60 a D; and below 60 an F. Note that any work not submitted receives a grade of zero.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due