About the Course

“Each art breeds its fanatics. The love that cinema inspired, however, was special. It was born of the conviction that cinema was an art unlike any other: quintessentially modern; distinctively accessible; poetic and mysterious and erotic and moral — all at the same time.”
— “The Decay of Cinema,” Susan Sontag (February 1996)

This course is motivated by the very love that Sontag describes in her premature eulogy for the quintessentially modern art of the twentieth century, cinema. Much has changed in filmmaking and filmgoing since Sontag bemoaned the “decay of cinema.” Changes in distribution models (from Netflix and Video on Demand to the growing influence of global box office) and changes in production (from the switch to shooting in digital to the increasingly merchandise-driven Hollywood formula) have gone hand in hand with changes in the way audiences consume and interact with cinema. In an age of snap judgments on Twitter, gifs on Tumblr, mash up videos on YouTube and exhaustive running commentary on blogs, it seems we’re living in a renewed age of film commentary akin to the public discourse that first begat film studies curricula in the United States in the ’60s. We will begin by reading recent debates about the changing landscape of film and film criticism. We will then analyze recent examples of innovative film scholarship before engaging in creative ways of practicing film criticism in a digital world. The course will be both an ongoing discussion about what film appreciation and criticism can look like in a digital age as well as a hands-on exercise on producing this very criticism.

Writing will be at the center of our work this semester, and writing assignments will vary in length, formality, and medium. Shorter assignments will likely include reading responses posted to our course WordPress site, Twitter discussions, and workshop-plans for the larger project. For your final project you will complete a critical analysis of a film (or films) of your choosing, modeled and informed by class discussions and readings. You will be required to present this project in a WordPress site of your design that exemplifies your own concept of “cinema appreciation in the 21st century.” Attendance, participation, regular blog posts, and a sense of experimentation will be required.

Note: No specialized technological expertise required for this course.

Course Goal:

Connecting students to the creative and experimental potential of digital technology platforms.

Providing students with a conceptually challenging discursive space to engage with different forms of digital media in a productive manner.

Generate a collaborative learning/working environment where students develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a media consumer/producer in the 21st century.

To provide students the ability to write persuasively and precisely, in scholarly and, optionally, creative forms.

SAS Common Core Curriculum Goal:

Students will engage critically in the process of creative expression.

You can find the full syllabus here.