This course provides a survey of American cinema as a style, industry, and history of practices and movements. How and why did American movies come into being in the way they did? In what ways did Hollywood condition moviegoers as to what a movie “should” be? What was American moviegoing like throughout the 20th century? How have filmmakers, stars, and alternative film movements tried to challenge and expand American cinema, from both the inside and the outside? How did other media, from television to music videos to toys, change the shape of American filmmaking? What makes American filmmaking “American”? In what ways is “American cinema” actually an unstable, plural concept? Through the combination of film texts, readings, lectures, and discussions, this course teaches students how to “read” an array of films through various contextual lenses.
In offering an introduction to the history of American cinema, this course will: • Introduce students to important historical and recent films produced (largely) inside the United States.
• Provide students with a conceptual overview of key issues raised by American films, including questions about Hollywood’s standardization of film form, cinema’s capacities for representation, the means and conditions for filmmaking outside of Hollywood, and the changes and challenges to the American film industry.
• Utilize required film and media screenings alongside assigned readings as a means to illustrate and explore these key issues, teaching students how to critically dissect a variety of historical films and film styles in the process.
• Require regular writing assignments to help students to come to an understanding of films within their historical, industrial, and political contexts.