Comp Lit 596, Winter 2014
Film and Opera
This course explores the rich interrelations between film and opera: how opera contributes to the shape, plots, and visual luxury of film, the ambiguous status of both as high and low culture, the competition between image and voice in both media, the relations of time and space in both. In addition to watching videos of operas directed for the camera as well as films based on opera, we will attend two live performances at the Seattle Opera, one Metropolitan live broadcast in HD, and backstage tours at Seattle Opera. We will also reflect on the historical relations of opera, film, and cartoon animation.
Contemporary Film Theory
This course will focus on three key topics in contemporary film and media theory. The first section of the course will examine the recent revival of interest in the relationship between philosophy and cinema. Reading may include work by Stanley Cavell, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Rancière, and Slavoj Zizek. A second section will consider the role of archives and theories of the archive in recent cinema and media studies, with emphasis on both the collection and preservation of film and other images (that is, an archive viewed in the more technical sense of the term) and the documentary quality of moving images (that is, film and media serving as a form of historical object and testimony, as an archive in another sense). A third section will consider the challenges posed by new media to film studies, to philosophy, and to our understanding of the archive. Within all of these sections, the overarching goal of the course will be to study the extremes of film studies, from the abstractions of philosophy to the materiality of the archive and production conditions, and to introduce some of the diverse methods and perspectives at work in the discipline today.
German Documentary in a Global Context
A survey of the genre and the particular forms it has taken in Germany from 1895 to the present, this course will focus on key examples, including cinematic precursors and experimental forms as well as authored films by Walter Ruttmann, Leni Riefenstahl, Romuald Karmakar, Harun Farocki, and Werner Herzog. These examples will in turn be compared with films from Britain, France, Denmark, Japan, Israel, the US, and the USSR. Materials to be discussed will include (but are not restricted to): actualities, travelogues, avant-garde films, Kulturfilme, party-rally films, Holocaust documentaries, long-term studies, observational films (direct cinema and cinema verite), and essay films. While the course is organized as a survey, discussions and assignments will concentrate on developing strategies of formal analysis as well as on framing new research questions. Documentary is not a fiction like (or unlike) any other. It has a history of its own, and one that is worth exploring--especially as documentary forms become increasingly central to media cultures across the board. In English.
Kant and Criticism
Kant and Criticism: This seminar will focus intensively on major works by Immanuel Kant, with particular emphasis on the central role Kant (and Kant studies) have played in the development of modern and contemporary critical theory. We will start with the recognition that Kant, more than any single figure, gave shape to the idea of the Critique as a particular form and project essential to the idea of "criticism"? as a principled and focused intellectual activity. But the seminar will be grounded in what should qualify, by any reasonable standards, as a contemporary revolution in Kant studies.
C LIT 596: The Histories of Cinema in the Age of New Media
The course will examine how films during the past two decades have rethought the history of film and reorganized it in response to new national identities and film's redefinition in relation to new media. We will examine works from many places and in various genres, from Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma to the Chinese TV series Film Legends
Cinema and the Late Twentieth Century
This course examines the relationship between cinema and the late twentieth century. We will, on the one hand, begin to periodize the late twentieth century as a historical era with its own contours, and the reading will include cultural theory produced in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as retrospective accounts of the time. On the other hand, we will examine changes in film aesthetics, production, and industrial structures that unfold in that era. Topics will include (among others): postmodern theory and cinema; the blockbuster and other key transformations in the economic logic of the film industry; the relationship between cultural studies and film scholarship; the heritage and nostalgia film; alternative conceptions of heritage; the influence of video and television; and the rise of digital media. We will also consider the challenge to classical and modern film theory posed by the "aging" of cinema in an era when it no longer represents the vanguard of entertainment and artistic technology.