Office Hour: W 3-4 or by appointment
This course will examine how film has been used to represent the American past throughout the 20th Century. We will look at how important moments in American history are represented on screen and think through how these celluloid narratives shape our understanding of American culture. We will discuss the rules, codes, and narrative strategies by which the movies we view bring the America past to life on the big screen, and contemplate the effect of these movies on our collective historical consciousness.
There are no required texts for the class. All reading assignments will be posted on the course Angel page (the big brother function which allows the instructor to see who has done the reading will be turned on): cms.psu.edu
This is a reading, viewing and discussion centered course, so students must keep up with the reading and attend class. Our Wednesday meetings will be in the evening so that we can watch the films together and, except for the most extreme circumstances, these are absolutely mandatory. Students who do not view the film as part of the collective will be required to write a 2 page essay on the film, including exegesis of plot and a detailed description of the epistemological stakes of the film’s take on the past. Failure to do so will result in a loss of 5% from the student’s final grade.
For our Friday meetings, students must prepare and hand in 2 questions about the film which will serve as the basis for our discussions. Failure to do so will count against the student’s participation grade.
Since 487W is a writing course, students will be required to write three essays. The first two will be medium length essays (5-8 pages) on assigned topics and will each be worth 25% of the students final grade. The third essay will be slightly longer (10-12 pages) and will be on a film, auteur or historical event chosen by the student and approved by the instructor. This final essay will be worth 30% of the final grade.
The remaining 20% of the final grade will relate to the student’s engagement and participation in class discussion. Obviously, missing class will count against this grade. Students will have two free missed classes, and then each absence will result in 1 point being subtracted from the final participation grade. In order to get the full twenty points, students must attend and participate in discussion. For instance: good participation and three absences = 19 points; average participation and three absences = 17 points; poor participation and three absences = 15 points; good participation and 6 absences = 16 points; average participation and 6 absences = 14 points; poor participation and 6 absences = 12 points; etc.
Course Assignments and Schedule:
W 1/15 Robert Rosenstone, “History in Images/ History in Words”
F 1/17 Hayden White, “Historiography and Historiophoty” & Robert Brent Toplin, “The Filmmaker as Historian”
M 1/20 Thomas Cripps, “Following the Paper Trail”
W 1/22 The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith
F 1/24 Everett Carter, “Cultural History Written with Lightning”