CP 460 SU13 History of American Cinema

Summer 2013           6/10/12-8/2/12

Dr. Michele Leigh


http://www.micheleleigh.net and SIU Online (you will need to check both regularly – bi-weekly discussions, special links and lectures will be posted here, films and quizzes can be found on SIU Online – also, your work must be submitted to the appropriate dropbox on SIU Online)

Contact Information:

The best way to contact me is via email Drleigh@micheleleigh.net or mtorre@siu.edu and I will respond to you within 24 hours weekdays (M-F).

Virtual Office Hours:

via Skype: mileloto

Mondays 9am-11am, Tuesdays 2pm-3pm, Thursdays 7pm-9pm

Required Texts:

American Cinema/American Culture by John Belton, McGraw Hill, 2013

Recommended Texts:

A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Tim Corrigan, Pearson, 2009.

A Short History of Film by Wheeler Winston Dixon & Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Routledge, 2013.

Course Description:

This course will explore the history of American cinema from its inception in the silent period to the present. By screening the masters of American cinema we will trace the evolution of film as an art form in the United States. While the course will focus mainly on mainstream filmmaking in the US, we will interrogate the spaces where mainstream and independent filmmaking intersect and overlap. We will also look at the ways in which economics, politics and technology have affected both mainstream and independent filmmaking in the United States. Along the way, we’ll look at the semiotics, aesthetics, economics, and politics of Hollywood movies and their independent alternatives as art forms and cultural commodities.

Course Goals:

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of American Cinema
  • Demonstrate their knowledge of major industrial, economic and artistic shifts.
  • Demonstrate their skills in film analysis and writing about film.
  • Develop an understanding of their own work in relation to the cinematic history in the US.

Course Format:

  • This course will be taught in a fully online format, which uses computer based learning through the course website on SIU ONLINE (https://online.siu.edu/) and Dr. Leigh’s website at www.micheleleigh.net. During the summer session you will need to have access to a computer with high speed internet access (either your own, or SIUC’s Campus Computer Labs).
  • You MUST check the site regularly!!!
  • The course will be organized into bi-weekly Modules.
  • We will not meet online at set times, with the exception of virtual office hours. Instead, students will be expected to complete assigned material within each week in a timely fashion.
  • All daily assignments for the week MUST be completed by Sunday at midnight of the week they are assigned. Late assignments will not be accepted.

Class Assignments:

Online Discussion /Participation— Students will be required to regularly comment on our class blog. This will be where we informally discuss readings and films screened as part of the class. This will also be the place where students can ask questions and share their knowledge of film, history, literature, culture and art. You will need to post at least twice per Module (minimum of 4 times per week, there is no limit). These are not random posts, but part of an ongoing discussion. Students who do not regularly post will loose points (these CANNOT be made up). Your posts should be unique, well thought out and original.

Lead Online DiscussionStudents will be assigned to a small group, which will be tasked with leading discussion in an assigned Module. This will require thoughtful planning and careful attention to class readings. Each group should work together to decide on how best to lead discussion, which questions to ask, what material to add, and how to keep the conversation going.

Short EssayOnce during the summer session you must watch a film of your own choosing and write a short paper (Undergraduate: 1000-1500 words/Graduate: 1500-3000 words.) Do NOT waste time with unnecessary plot summary, please assume I have seen the movie. Your essays should historically situate and analyze the film you chose in relation class discussions and readings. (You cannot use the same time period, genre, or director that you are using for your final project.) The due dates for this assignment will fluctuate depending on your discussion group assignments.

Short Quizzes — You will have periodic short quizzes based on the reading. These quizzes will be timed and must be completed on the date assigned.

UG Final Curatorial Project and PaperRather than undergraduate students, you are now film archivists. You are tasked with curating a special screening and exhibit for a museum series entitled “Alternate Film Histories.” As such, you will be expected to research and curate an alternate history to the mainstream film history presented in class (i.e. women in cinema, Latin American cinema, Black cinema, Queer Cinema, etc…). You must write a 3-6 page paper outlining your history and your reasons for organizing is thusly. You should provide a detailed discussion on the importance of your history to further our understanding of American Cinema. Your project should include a 6 hour program of films, with annotation (notes on the film and its place in your history). Your project should include detailed analysis of at least one film as an example of your history, its themes, its creators and its place in the history described. Your project should also include a time-line (details to follow) of events, films, people, etc… that are part of your history. Your project should also include a Filmmography of relevant works (not just the films that are part of your screening.) [Total pages to be submitted 6+]

Graduate Final Curatorial Project and Paper See above, however you must write an 5-10 page paper. Your project should include detailed analysis of at least two films. [Total pages to be submitted 10+]

Final Project PresentationAs part of your final project, you will prepare a presentation (the format, ie. video, prezzi, ppt, etc…, is up to you) on the history you researched for your final project. You should cover the overall trajectory of your alternate history, important historical events that may have influenced film production and major film movements/productions, people or other issues prevalent to the history you are discussing. Film clips or stills may be helpful


Discussion/Participation 25%
Lead Online Discussion 10%
Short Essay 15%
Quizzes 10%
Class Presentation 15%
Final Project 25%
Total 100%

Course Readings/Screenings

Week 1 June 10-16

Module 1  Introductions & Cinema as an Institution: Read Chapter 1 in American Cinema

Module 2  Genre – Melodrama: Read Chapter 6

Week 2 June 17-23

Module 1  Classical Hollywood Cinema: Read Chapter 2 & 3

Module 2  Genre — The Musical: Read Chapter 7

Week 3 June 24-30

Module 1  The Studio System: Read Chapter 4

Module 2  Genre- Comedy: Read Chapter 8

Week 4 July 1-7

Module 1  Hollywood & the Cold War: Read Chapter 13

Module 2  Genre – War and Cinema: Read Chapter 9

Week 5 July 8-14

Module 1  Hollywood and TV: Read Chapter 14

Module 2  Genre — Film Noir: Read Chapter 10

Week 6 July 15-21

Module 1  The Counterculture Strikes back: Read Chapter 15

Module 2  Genre – Western: Read Chapter 11

Week 7 July 22-28

Module 1  The Film School Generation: Read Chapter 16

Module 2  Genre — Horror and Science Fiction: Read Chapter 12

Week 8 July 29-Aug 4

Module 1  The Twenty-First Century: Read Chapter 17

Check out the Class Presentations

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