To register for graduate courses, please contact the Graduate Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to potential Ontario health guidelines regarding COVID-19, times, rooms, and delivery method may be subject to change as the situation changes. Screenings and/or seminars may be online.
Master of Arts Core Courses
FALL: Tuesdays 9-11 (online synchronous), 2 hours of asynchronous screenings online
Organized around a series of issues that have incited ongoing discussion and debate among scholars, cultural critics, and filmmakers, this course takes a topical approach to the study of film theory. In the process it both revisits some of the most canonical texts in the field and attends to more recent attempts to think through our contemporary moment, when digitality and transnationalism are radically changing the nature of film as well as the manner in which it is produced, distributed, exhibited, and viewed. Among those issues to be discussed are medium specificity, spectatorship, narrativity, affect, and the relationship between aesthetics, economics, and politics.
WINTER: Tuesdays 10-12, Wednesdays 10-12 (may move online)
This course will examine a limited number of important developments in the history of cinematic media. It will extend the in-depth study of these developments in technique, technology, and text to include considerations of the sociocultural forces, economics, theories of the cinematic and aesthetics that have played a role in their development, or in the ways in which we have studied them. The course will cover a wide range of distinct time periods, geographical areas, and stylistic tendencies, and will engage with a range of scholarly approaches to key developments in cinematic media. The course aims to ensure that students' knowledge of the history of film and media is enhanced, and that they have the opportunity to engage more critically with the issues surrounding the historical study of cinema and related media that are of interest and importance to them.
SUMMER: CIN1006Y - Major Research Paper in Cinema Studies
This course provides each student with the opportunity to write a major research paper on a topic to be devised in consultation with an individual member of the Cinema Studies core faculty. Students will be encouraged to make use of the special collections housed with the Media Commons as the basis for their research projects.
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SUMMER: CIN1007Y - Internship in Cinema Studies
A variety of placement settings connected to film culture. Each placement will entail some form of film-related research and/or examination of / participation in how organizations use and study film and disseminate it within a broader cultural field. Students will produce a report at the end of their internship outlining the learning experience and the implications for research and film scholarship.
Doctor of Philosophy Core Courses
FALL: Tuesdays 2-4 in person, 2 hours of asynchronous screenings online (may change to online)
This course examines a range of factors that shape and contest the field of cinema studies. It maintains a focus on pressures exerted on our conception of what constitutes “cinema” as they are inflected in current scholarly debates, including institutional pressures on steady and gainful employment in the field. Rapid changes in technology; shifts in modes of delivery; individual, embodied, and communal spectatorial practices, experiences and uses of cinema; globalization and industrial consolidation—all of these forces work to alter both the forms of cinematic media and their place in social, cultural, and political life. This course will study how cinema’s mutable nature remains a central issue in debates about medium specificity, the role and toll of digitalization, and the shapes and purposes of different viewing communities, among other topics.
Mondays 1-3 (in person; may change to online)
This course is required of all second-year PhD students in the Cinema Studies Institute. Structured as a workshop, it aims to develop students' skills for surviving and thriving in the doctoral program, as researchers and teachers in the fields of cinema and media studies, and as professionals in the academy and beyond.
WINTER: Mondays 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (in person)
Inspired by poet laureate Derek Walcott’s phrase “the sea is history,” this seminar will critically explore the visual and material modalities that constitute an oceanic imaginary. Studying visualization of the sea’s watery depths, our inquiry will bring the oceanic as an analytic into prominence for moving image studies. The focus will be on the Atlantic shaped by the forces of imperial conquest and the exchange of commodities, slaves, peoples and ideas, while considering the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas.
While maritime life worlds and beasts from Leviathan to Moby Dick have served as generative metaphors for political imagination, this seminar will consider the political-theoretical themes of empire, slavery, migration and the biosphere through the distinctive spatial lens of the sea. Interdisciplinary inquiry –from philosophy, literary studies, postcolonial studies, black geographies, oceanography, ecocriticism to posthumanist feminist phenomenology ¬ – will aid in the study of moving image works that foreground reciprocal relationships between marine environments and the human. The central emphasis of the seminar will be theoretical, but we will engage with historically specific discourses that inform the “blue humanities” to be read in tandem with an array of feature films, documentaries and artists’ moving image installation works. The sea’s spatial foundation¬¬– voluminous, material, and undergoing continual renovation ¬– constituting what Steinberg and Peters (2015) call a ‘wet ontology,’ one that that can reinvigorate, redirect, and reshape debates restricted by terrestrial limits, will steer our inquiry. In short, this seminar offers the opportunity to “think with water” as a means to formulate novel approaches to aquatic “spacetime mattering” (Barard) beyond Sigmund Freud’s infamous treatise on “oceanic feeling.” Sample authors include: Paul Gilroy, Catherine Hall, Ndei Okorafor, Luce Irigaray, Z.I. Jackson, Sylvia Wynter, Karen Barard, Saidya Hartman, Ellen Gallagher, Elizabeth Povinelli, Epeli Hau’Ofa, Donna Haraway, Olaudah Equiano, Rachel Carson, Marcus Rediker, Édouard Glissant, Edward Braithwaite, Ian Baucom, Hester Blum, Dionne Brand, Rachel Price, Phil Steinberg.
Brian Price, & Eugenie Brinkema (MIT)
WINTER: Tuesdays 4-8 (in person)
In Metaphors on Vision, the American avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage famously asked: “How many colours are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘green?’” In putting things this way, Brakhage raises a question that is germane to a host of complicated relations between colour and language, naming and experience, form and meaning, all of which have a very long and complicated history in the realm of philosophical aesthetics. In this seminar, we will take these complications seriously not as a problem to be solved, especially not if solving implies finding a “correct” language to express the relation between words and things. We will ask instead how colour in film clarifies and enlarges problems about colour and perception that have troubled philosophers for a very long time. How, we will ask, does colour complicate forms of judgement and interpretation? How does colour contribute to the affective dimension of film form? And what does colour in film, specifically—as a matter of style—have to add to discourses about line, figuration, and excess? To do so, we will examine recent work on colour in film studies—a subfield in our discipline, which has grown considerably over the last ten years. Likewise, we will read major works on colour in the history of philosophical aesthetics and critical theory, including J.W. Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gilles Deleuze, Theodor Adorno, Carol Mavor, Alessandra Raengo and Fred Moten, among others.
FALL: Tuesdays 4-8 (synchronous online)
The category of aesthetic form known as melodrama holds a strange distinction: it is defined above all by its excessive relation to most traditional categories of form. To call a film, a play, or even a person melodramatic is to evoke a sense of gendered overindulgence that is emotional, moral, and aesthetic all at once—one that reflects not only on the quality of the work or the person in question, but on the sensibility and judgment of the implicitly reactive, feminized audience that enjoys it. In other words, the term melodrama has often served a pejorative function in western culture, indicating an “over-the-top” display of female artifice, affect, and stylization that exploits only base and irrational people and feelings. This rather unusual aspect of the form has made it notoriously difficult for scholars to define, but it has also positioned the unstable category of entertainment known as melodrama at the center of debates about the politics of popular aesthetic form. While an important body of literary theory ties the politics of melodramatic form to the emergence of modern democracy writ large, and regards it as a medium through which the oppressed have found new modes of expression when silenced, many other traditions of critical thought point to the role the form has played in the historical construction of those very same oppressions, and regard the form as an exploitation of mass sentiment with grave implications for the disenfranchised people whose suffering it so often thematizes. The pivotal role the form plays in the feminist and queer film theory of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the debates around the politics of aesthetic form this moment launched for the field more broadly, only further underscore the intractable nature of this debate. What has never been seriously in question is the political significance of melodrama itself—that it carries some volatile yet fundamental bond with that which exceeds, expands, forms, or contains the very limits of the social and its sufferings.
This course will undertake an intensive exploration of the nature of this bond and its implications for contemporary understandings of the relation between politics, aesthetics, and affect—especially as they delimit the terrain of modern liberal democracy and its values. On the one hand, we will seek to form a more rigorous grasp of the theoretical and philosophical arguments that underpin this relation as it is conceptualized today, taking melodrama as a particularly formative medium for the discourse of aesthetic politics more broadly—one that pushes the very concept of aesthetic form to its limit, allowing it to morph into different configurations over time. On the other hand, however, we will consider what this genealogical examination of the relation between politics and melodrama stands to teach us about a phenomenon of contemporary political culture and media that simultaneously reproduces and transforms the basic coordinates of this relation on the terrain of digital media technology: namely, the rise of what is pejoratively referred to as “cancel culture,” “call-out culture,” “clap-back culture,” and so on, and the equally extreme displays of emotional and moral outrage it elicits in conservative “shock” media. Although a wide range of emergent frameworks for the study of new media technologies insist on the obsolescence of formalistic and subject-oriented approaches, we will take the twisting, ever-transforming limit case of aesthetic form instantiated by melodrama, and the excessive dynamics of affect, form, and morality that define it as such, as an opportunity to explore more fully what it means to talk about the politics of popular form today. Screenings will range from works of classical Hollywood cinema and global art film to YouTube rants and television news broadcasts, but with an emphasis on cinematic texts; readings will likewise move between an array of disciplinary formations, including film studies, critical race theory, continental philosophy, and political theory, but with a steady emphasis on the meeting point of affect and form. Throughout all of it, we will try to make sense of the liminal relation between politics, affect, form that melodrama coordinates across these shifting configurations of popular discourse—and just as importantly, what to do about it now, both as scholars and political actors.
Fall: Mondays 10-12 (online synchronous), 2 hours of asynchronous screenings
In his 2007 volume Mobilities, John Urry defines the “mobility turn” as “a different way of thinking through the character of economic, social and political relationships.” According to the late sociologist, the “mobility turn is post-disciplinary” and “connects the analysis of different forms of travel, transport and communications with the multiple ways in which economic and social life is performed and organized through time and across various spaces.” (6) Connecting the “spatial turn” to the “infrastructural turn” of contemporary humanities and social studies, the mobilities paradigm helps us historicize and interrogate time-based media’s complex and layered relationship with movement and circulation. The theoretical framework employed by this course seeks to illuminate and bring together storied symbioses (cinema and railway, for example) as well as make new connections (location tourism and art photography), revisit classic genres (the road movie, the tourist film), and re-examine classic figures (the flâneur, the driver), vehicles (the automobile, the airplane), actions (running, flying), and affects (wanderlust, vertigo).
WINTER: Mondays 6-8, Wednesdays 1-3
Black Studies is an intentionally undisciplined project that centers Black life as a way to, first, understand the relationship between Blackness and the humanist subject and, second, gather around alternatives ways of living in and knowing the world. This seminar aims to identify the generative possibilities of utilizing this collection of theoretical and analytic tools in cinema studies. We will explore key concepts in Black Studies including black feminist thought, debates between Afro-pessimism and black optimism, black geographies, and the Black Radical Tradition as a way to understand the political potential of film aesthetics and filmmaking as an artistic practice. As we develop a sense of Black Studies as a field with overlapping and diverging methods, objects of study, and aims, this course will consider the critique of disciplinarity that is intrinsic to the project and its implications for cinema studies as a field.
FALL: Tuesdays 11-1
This course will examine stylistic innovations and production practices in contemporary national cinemas of Eastern Europe through the framework of film theory and critical writing concerned with cinema's audiovisual appeal to viewers, as well as questions of nationalism, historical memory, and the transitions to democracy and capitalism in the region. In part, our project will be to determine how contemporary East European films effectively inform understandings of current sociopolitical conditions and historical developments. We will examine how filmmakers position their work concerning the social and political changes in Eastern Europe since 1989. As we consider contemporary film production and reception, we will use theory to investigate the transition of East European national cinemas from state subsidization and control toward the impact of market forces, international film festivals, and hybrid financing models. Another goal of the course will be to study the discursive attempts to define new developments in East European cinemas in terms of "New Wave" rhetoric, which serves international marketing purposes and foregrounds a conceptual framework based on aesthetic unity. We will consider the historiographical and aesthetic implications of periodizing and categorizing contemporary East European cinema as a response to the loss of national and historical cohesion.