To register for graduate courses, please contact the Graduate Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Master of Arts Core Courses
FALL: Thursdays 9-1
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: Wednesdays 10-12, Thursdays 10-12
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 11-1, Wednesdays 10-12
In 1824, the influential German historian Leopold von Ranke described the aim of history as "to show what actually happened," assuming the possibility of an unambiguous access to the past. Today few theorists of history would be as confident. And yet, if an unmediated past is inaccessible – if history is instead inevitably a personal construct, shaped by the historian's perspective as a narrator – how is one to assess the historical enterprise? What can it mean to think historically, and what are the unique characteristics of historical inquiry? And what clues can cinema, as a supposedly "referential" visual form, provide about history, as a similarly (and also supposedly) "referential" discourse? Broadly stated, the class can be defined in terms of three major goals: to investigate the range of hermeneutic perspectives from which film history has been written; to assess and to theorize the kind of archival sources that film historians have conventionally drawn upon; and to confront cinema's status as a technology and the pressures that technological change (in particular, digitization) has placed on history and cultural memory. Rather than deny or avoid these pressures, this course seeks ultimately to suggest ways of running positively with them; ways of "doing history in the postmodern world" – arguably the world we live in.
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.
FALL: Mondays 9-12
This graduate seminar provides a critical context for the rise of gallery-based moving image installations, outlining their distinctive features and their particular relevance in terms of aesthetics and practice. Conceptualizing cinema’s migration into the gallery – to include its multi-screen potential beyond single-screen projection– will entail study of how screen-based installation’s temporal and affective affordances engender unique forms of visuality and spectatorship. We will examine video installation’s capacity to provoke sensory encounters within the architectural space of the gallery through various optics: cinematic, philosophical, and art historical. To this end, we will study installation’s precedents – from early forms of expanded cinema to the essay film, as well as returning to generative heuristics such as montage, assemblage, the interval, the fold, black space, immersion, the archive, temporality, hauntology, simultaneity, in tandem with black aesthetics. Lastly, we will explore how the proliferation of moving images within gallery space coalesces with contemporary art’s “documentary turn.” Beyond information or spectacle—we will consider the claim that installation’s unique charge of the real affords a means to not only rethink moving images’ aesthetic and political potential, but to consider the commonplace that the moving image comprises thought. Contextualizing screenbased installation’s aesthetic, political, and cultural dimensions will help us account for its proliferation within museum and art gallery contexts, with its increasingly global audience and diversified exhibition design. Central to this seminar is sustained engagement with aesthetic practices of black diasporic installation artists/filmmakers, to include John Akomfrah, Stan Douglass, Isaac Julien, Steve McQueen, Kara Walker, as well as critical works by Hito Steyerl and William Kentridge, among others. A chief ambition of the course is to put these moving 2 image works into conversation with primary theoretical texts germane to cultural and political dimensions of visuality and blackness, to include writings by Frederick Douglass, Gilles Deleuze, James Snead, George Didi-Huberman, Alexander Weheliye, Claire Bishop, Raymond Bellour, Okwui Enwezor, Achille Mbembe, Boris Groys, Denise Ferreia da Silva, Christine Ross, Henry Louis Gates, Sylvia Wynter, Kobena Mercer, among others.
WINTER: Tuesdays 1-3, Wednesdays 12-2
This course celebrates the glories of the hot mess. With a focus on the body—from the animal body to the human (animal) body, to the body politic—it examines comedy’s relationship to the abject: that which is cast off, rendered disgusting, too much, wrong, beyond the pale. We will consider the role of comedy in demarcating the abject—the ways in which it is used to exclude or marginalize the other—and its obverse and perverse role in defending the abjected. Case studies may include works by Keaton and/or Chaplin, the Three Stooges, Judy Canova, Ernie Kovacs, Lucille Ball, Monty Python, Paul Mooney, Pee Wee Herman, the Kipper Kids, Paul McCarthy, Richard Pryor, Jon Waters/Divine, Beppo Grillo, Amy Schumer, Tim and Eric, Tiffany Haddish, and others. Theoretical frames will take up Bakhtin, Bergson, Bataille, Kristeva, Freud (of course), Critchley, Carpio, Haggins, Hennefeld, King, Zupancic, and more. Guaranteed, we will laugh till we cry…or vice versa.
FALL: Tuesdays 4-8
Throughout the history of film theory, if not the philosophy of representation more generally, pleasure has largely been regarded with suspicion. That is to say, the pleasures we take from cinematic representation have often been featured, in film theory, as a problem to be solved rather than an experience to be celebrated. The denigration of pleasure has also, and not surprisingly, obviated the moralistic dimension of such much film theory, to the extent that one is often asked to learn to hate what one once loved. Consequently, if pleasure exists within the act of theorization itself, or else its comprehension, it is a pleasure based on categorical assertions—rooted in the affects that follow from conviction, from deciding that something is wholly good or wholly bad. What we enjoy, in other words, is not cinema, but judgement; not art, but categorical logics, or the “knowledge” of where things belong. In this seminar, we will examine the moral discourses around pleasure in both the history of philosophical aesthetics and film theory. But we will do so in an effort to arrive at more robust conception of the relation between film and moral pleasure, by which I mean something rather specific. Cinema, I want to propose, should indeed be understood as a source of moral pleasure, but what that implies is not judgement but its absence. Instead of understanding morality as singular principle by which experience can be sorted and understood—such that judgement reduces rather than enlarges experience--we will consider morality instead as a way of learning to take pleasure in experiences that have very little to do with what we value or how we value it. Cinema can be understood, in this way, as an important medium through which we learn to value what does not include us, define us, or even solicit judgement.
WINTER: Tuesdays 4-8
This course will explore the entanglement of two different but related stories of technology: on the one hand, the technologies of broadcast and digital communication that structure the contemporary cultural phenomenon of reality-TV, and on the other, the “technologies” of social, economic and political representation that structure the political philosophy of modern liberalism and the theories of governance it advances. Part of this undertaking will involve an engagement with existing scholarship on the history and theory of reality television; part of it will involve a genealogical inquiry into the aesthetic, economic, institutional, and yes, technological conditions that have shaped the phenomenon; and part of it will involve an intensive introduction to the thought of Michel Foucault and his successors—whose writings on the genealogy of modern liberalism and neoliberalism, and on the genealogical method of discourse analysis, occupy a pivotal place in the scholarship on reality television—as well as the theories of modern liberalism and governance they discuss. However, the chief concerns and questions of the course will go beyond any one of these three basic strands of its construction to ask: What can this examination of the relation between reality TV, liberalism and neoliberalism teach us about the relation between modern media culture, modern techniques of liberal and neoliberal governance and power, and modern conceptions of political economy and representation more broadly? And how might answers to this question reframe the way we think about the aesthetic, institutional, economic and political underpinnings of the “technologies” they share in common? Accordingly, students can expect to spend as much of the course looking at major texts from the history of reality TV as they do looking at the theatrical, televisual and cinematic genealogies that inform them, and as much time reading television studies scholarship as they do the works of philosophy, political economy and critical theory that take up the history and theory of liberalism and neoliberalism.
Fall: Mondays 12-3*, Fridays 11-1 (*new; extended screening time added 8/25)
The title words of this film-centered seminar index the interventions, encounters, and deployments the course hopes to stage. “Queer” and “Girls” situate our film screenings and readings within the contact zones of queer, feminist, and trans studies; shift the focus away from the gay male subjectivity that dominated New Queer Cinema; put gender and gender nonconformity on the radar; and displace traditional feminist film theory through a focus on youth, generationality, the masculinity of tomboys, and the girliness of women, trans and cis. “Racial Others” signals a commitment to women of color feminism, queer of color critique, and the global reach of work on multicultural minorities and diasporic mobilities that queer ethnicity while also calling attention to what Roderick Ferguson calls racialized sexualities, nonheteronormative racial formations, and “other terrains for the interrogation of sexuality…that do not begin and end with queer studies.” Methodologically, this interdisciplinary course surveys a broad range of approaches: production histories, textual, historical, and formal analyses (visuality, narrative and sound), and reflexive critiques of queer film festivals and academic pedagogy.
WINTER: Wednesdays 2-6
The complex allure of moving images includes (but is by no means limited to) their capacity to activate visceral responses in spectators. Throughout the medium's history, theorists have sought to make sense of both the mechanisms by which this occurs and their socio-psychological implications. This seminar engages the ‘affective turn’ in film/media and cultural studies, in which the preoccupation with an imputed autonomous subject gives way to a focus on the autonomic system. Whereas the epistemologies of post-structuralist and psychoanalytic theories are founded in discourse and in the split subject, and arecent theories of affect since the l990s have devoted renewed attention to the role of material conditions, including visceral, lived experience of the body and the intensities that traverse it. Affects may be said to circulate publicly, or even transmit contagiously; in Brian Massumi’s words, “The skin is faster than the word.” While affect – as distinguished from emotion or feeling—has been theorized as a pre-personal and pre-linguistic phenomenon, this has not hindered scholars and students alike from striving to put into words what exactly transpires before cognition and speech. Our weekly readings, our class discussions, and our writing, will constitute a collective striving to think, write and implement the concept of affect, using the curated screenings as a vehicle for both exteriorizing its immersion in textual narratives and analyzing our own responses to these.
Winter: Mondays 11-3
This Joint French and Film (JFF) seminar will examine key approaches to thinking about media through animals and animals through media, with special attention to the French and Francophone traditions of thought. Our enquiries will be organized around three key themes—animages (or animal images and questions of their epistemic and magical properties), animots (Jacques Derrida’s term for animal-words and the enframing of animal life within anthropocentric representational systems, as well as broader inquiries into the animations of language, metaphor, and figuration), an animotions (or the forms of movement, emotion, and affect expressed by or invested in animals and media). Readings will draw from a wide range of thinkers, including Daniel Arasse, André Bazin, Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, Reymond Bellour, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Vinciane Despret, Georges Didi-Huberman, Emmanuel Lévinas, Akira Mizuta Lippit, Paul Valéry, and Simone Weil. Screenings will include work by Robert Bresson, Pascale Ferran, Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou, Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon, Jacques Perrin, Nicolas Philibert, Nagisa Oshima, Momoko Seto, Pierre Thévenard, and others. Readings will be in French and English translation. Work can be completed in French or English. Seminar in English
FALL: Thursdays 12-2
This seminar will investigate how filmmakers and theorists have related the categories of fact and fiction to the production of films from early cinema to today's digital moving image. At the center of our inquiry will be the history and theory of cinematic authenticity, historical referentiality, and reality effects. We will track how the framing of material reality in moving images produces new aesthetic relations and political implications. We will begin by considering concepts of fiction and nonfiction in early cinema and the later contentious debates over fractography and historical reconstruction, specifically among Soviet Avant-Garde Filmmakers. Then, we will consider the emergence of biographical films and the use of documentary fiction in the service of the nation state. As part of anti-totalitarian and anti-colonial movements, we will examine how filmmakers undermined the distinction between fact and fiction through collage aesthetics and the fictionalization of reality. Our trajectory will take us toward contemporary developments and the continuing experimentation with combining fact and fiction in digital cinema.