ENGLISH 3283/4933/5923/5933

This syllabus should be checked regularly during the semester, as it will be periodically updated. No changes, however, will affect the basic schedule; they will generally simply involve added information.


Prof. M. Keith Booker

234 Kimpel Hall, 575-7248

Office Hours: Thursdays, 4-5 pm and by appointment. Please e-mail the instructor for an appointment even during the scheduled office hour.


Textbooks Required:

On-line textbook supplied free of charge. This syllabus provides links to the relevant sections.


This course will examine the phenomenon of film noir, one of the most important developments in the history of American cinema. In addition to viewing a number of important examples of film noir, we will also discuss the social and historical contexts in which film noir arose, seeking to understand why this distinctive form appeared when it did and why the noir mode has had such extensive staying power over time.

Essays, exams, and other major requirements:

There will be a quiz for all students (graduate and undergraduate) at the beginning of many classes, as indicated in the course schedule. Each quiz will cover the material from the previous class, including the relevant assigned reading material from the on-line textbook. Only required readings will be on the quizzes or the exams; the recommended readings are simply intended to enhance your knowledge of film noir; they will not be covered on quizzes or exams. The assignments are arranged to allow students to read on particular films as we view them. You may, of course choose to read the textbook section on each film before the film is shown. On the other hand, you may also wait to read the relevant materials under after we view the film, to avoid spoilers. Only the five highest quiz scores will count toward the final grade for each student. Undergraduate students will write one critical essay (5-10 pages, double-spaced) and have an in-class mid-term exam and an in-class final exam. Prompts for the critical essay are included at the end of this syllabus.

Graduate students will write one critical essay (15-20 pages, double-spaced). This essay will double as a take-home final. They will also make one formal presentation in class, which will consist of presenting one of the films on the syllabus to the class (app. 30 min.).

Grades and Grading for Undergraduate Students

            Quiz Grades: 25%

            Mid-term exam: 25%

            Final exam: 25%

            Critical essay: 25%

Grades and Grading for Graduate Students

            Quiz Grades: 25%

            Formal presentation: 25%

            Critical essay: 50%

Course Schedule:


***Detective Noir***

Thursday, August 29

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Introduction to the Course: Film Noir Basics. Hard-Boiled Noir.

Film viewing: The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941, 100 min.)

Required reading: Film Noir: An Introduction. This overall introduction to film noir also includes the bibliography for all the reading assignments on subgenres of film noir.

Required reading: The Maltese Falcon.

Thursday, September 5

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Quiz 1 for all students, covering the class of August 29.

Film viewing: Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944, 95 min.)

Required reading: “Noir Detective Films.”

Required reading: Murder, My Sweet.”

Recommended reading: “Cop Noir”; “The Noir Heist Film.”

Thursday, September 12

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Mainstream Noir.

Film viewing: The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946, 114 min.).

Required reading: “The Big Sleep.”

Recommended reading: “Psycho Noir.”

***Noir and the Lost Man***

Thursday, September 19

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Quiz 2 for all students, covering the classes of September 5 and 12.

Film viewing: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944, 107 min.).

Required reading: “Lost-Man Noir.”

Required reading: Double Indemnity.”

Thursday, September 26

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Film Viewing: Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945, 102 min.).

Bonus lecture: “How to Write a Critical Essay.”

Required reading: Scarlet Street.”

Thursday, October 3

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Film viewing: Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947, 97 min.).

Quiz 3 for all students, covering the classes of September 19 and 26.

Required reading: Out of the Past.”

Thursday, October 10

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Film viewing: The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956, 105 min.). Presented by Hanna Sellheim.

Required reading: The Wrong Man

Thursday, October 17

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Film viewing: Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945, 67 min.).

Required reading: Detour.

Recommended reading: “Noir Boxing Films.”

***Women in Film Noir***

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Film viewing: Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950, 86 min.).

Quiz 4 for all students, covering the classes of October 3 and 10.

Required reading: Gun Crazy.

Required reading: “Femme Noir”

Thursday, October 24

Film viewing: Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950, 110 min.). Presented by Robert Ellis.

Mid-term exam for undergraduate students only, covering all material through the class of October 17.

Required reading: Sunset Boulevard.

Recommended reading: “Socio-Political Noir.”

***Late Noir***

Thursday, October 31

Late Noir

Film viewing: Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958, 95 min.).

Quiz 5 for all students, covering the class of October 24.

Required reading: Touch of Evil.”

Required reading: “Late Noir”

Recommended reading: “Strange Noir”

***Noir Horror***

Thursday, November 7

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Film viewing: Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942, 73 min.)

Required reading: Cat People.”

Required reading: “Noir Horror.”

Recommended reading: “Exotic Noir.”

Thursday, November 14

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Film viewing: The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955, 92 min.).

Quiz 6 for all students, covering the classes of October 31 and November 7.

Required reading: The Night of the Hunter.

Recommended reading: “The Noir Western.”


Thursday, November 21

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Film viewing: Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974, 130 min.). Presented by Sarah Henry.

Required reading: Chinatown.

Required reading: “Neo-Noir.”

Thursday, November 28—Thanksgiving holiday. No class.

Thursday, December 5

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Film viewing: The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2001, 116 min.).

Required reading: The Man Who Wasn’t There.”

Quiz 7 for all students, covering the classes of November 14 and November 21.

***Tech Noir***

Thursday, December 12

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Film viewing: Blade Runner (Original 1982 theatrical cut, Ridley Scott, 1982, 117 min.). Presented by Hector Saavedra Astudillo.

Multiple choice final exam will be administered at the end of this class, covering all material from the October 24 class forward.

Required reading: Blade Runner.

Required reading: “Tech Noir.”

Thursday, December 19

Critical essays due for all students by noon on this date. Essays should be submitted to the instructor by e-mail as a Word-compatible attachment.

Miscellaneous Relevant University Policies:

Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal antidiscrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities.  Moreover, the University of Arkansas Academic Policy Series 1520.10 requires that students with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodations to ensure their equal access to course content. If you have a documented disability and require accommodations, please contact me privately at the beginning of the semester to make arrangements for necessary classroom adjustments. Please note, you must first verify your eligibility for these through the Center for Educational Access (contact 479–575–3104 or visit for more information on registration procedures).

Discrimination and Sexual Harassment: Anyone experiencing discrimination and/or sexual harassment while at the university may report it to a complaint officer appointed by the Chancellor.  The complaint officer will discuss any situation or event that the complainant considers discriminatory or constitutive of sexual harassment. Reports may be made by the person experiencing the harassment or by a third party, such as a witness to the harassment or someone who is told of the harassment.  For more information and to report allegations of discrimination and/or sexual harassment, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance, 346 N. West Avenue (West Avenue Annex), 479-575-4019 (voice) or 479-575-3646 (tdd).

Academic Integrity: “As a core part of its mission, the University of Arkansas provides students with the opportunity to further their educational goals through programs of study and research in an environment that promotes freedom of inquiry and academic responsibility. Accomplishing this mission is possible only when intellectual honesty and individual integrity prevail.  Each University of Arkansas student is required to be familiar with, and abide by, the University’s ‘Academic Integrity Policy,’ which may be found at

Students with questions about how these policies apply to a particular course or assignment should immediately contact their instructor.”

Attendance:  “Student absences resulting from illness, family crisis, University-sponsored activities involving scholarship or leadership/participation responsibilities, jury duty or subpoena for court appearance, military duty, and religious observances are excusable according to university rules. The instructor has the right to require that the student provide appropriate documentation for any absence for which the student wishes to be excused. Moreover, during the first week of the semester, students must give to the instructor a list of the religious observances that will affect their attendance.”

Emergency Procedures – Many types of emergencies can occur on campus; instructions for specific emergencies such as severe weather, active shooter, or fire can be found at  

Severe Weather (Tornado Warning):

Follow the directions of the instructor or emergency personnel

Seek shelter in the basement or interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, putting as many walls as possible between you and the outside

If you are in a multi-story building, and you cannot get to the lowest floor, pick a hallway in the center of the building

Stay in the center of the room, away from exterior walls, windows, and doors

Violence / Active Shooter (CADD):

  • CALL-  9-1-1
  • AVOID- If possible, self-evacuate to a safe area outside the building.  Follow directions of police officers.
  • DENY- Barricade the door with desk, chairs, bookcases or any items.  Move to a place inside the room where you are not visible.  Turn off the lights and remain quiet.  Remain there until told by police it’s safe.
  • DEFEND- Use chairs, desks, cell phones or whatever is immediately available to distract and/or defend yourself and others from attack.


Below are some suggested topics for your critical essays. You are not, however, limited to these topics. You may write on any topic that is relevant to the course. These topics should, however, give you an idea of the kinds of topics that I feel have a good chance of making a successful essay.

1. Choose any two films from our syllabus. Discuss the ways in which these films comment on the American society in which they were produced. (You might want to choose two films that are similar in this respect, or you might want to choose two films that are different in this respect.) Issues to consider might include such things as capitalism, routinization, alienation, individualism, class, race, and so on.
2. Choose any two films from our syllabus and discuss the ways in which these two films exemplify film noir as a genre, in terms of both style and content. In so doing you will need to lay out a concise, but detailed, explanation of what you see as the key properties of film noir as a genre.
3. Discuss the representation of women in any two films from our syllabus.
4. Choose any two films from our syllabus and discuss the ways in which, as noir films, they differ from mainstream Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s.
5. Discuss the use of the film noir visual style to enhance the thematic content in any two films from our syllabus.