ENGL-250 US Film History & Technology
Fall for 2015-2016
This course is an introduction to the history of US film: its technological evolution, economic development, and cultural impact over the past 120 years. We will focus on how different film technologies affect the movies’ social and political significance in the US and examine the role technology plays in the “culture industries.” Specifically, I want us to explore how innovations in film production and exhibition have been used to refresh or redirect the movies’ effects on their audiences. Film and the cinema may seem like well-established phenomena today, but they have been the newest of new media—multiple times! “New media” often seems synonymous with “digital media” in contemporary discourse, but in fact there is nothing inherently digital about newness. This course will study the evolution of film as a new medium, from its birth in the 1890s through its popular and technical reinventions and the (allegedly) spectacular future of digital cinema.
“Introduction to US Film History and Technology” will also acquaint you with the basic vocabulary and methodologies of film studies, including formal analysis, historicism, and ideology critique. We will read famous and foundational articles in the field of film and media studies, analyze how critics have chosen to study motion pictures, and consider what their approaches exclude or overlook. So in addition to studying various incarnations of “newness” in films like Modern Times, Singin' in the Rain, Jaws, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we will read articles by Tom Gunning, Janet Wasko, Douglas Gomery, and Jack Valenti to understand how “new media” have always been with us and how the term is deployed strategically to serve different economic, cultural, and political ends.
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