SYLLABUS: SURVEY OF AMERICAN CINEMA, FALL 2021

September 21: Note that there is now a practice test available in Blackboard that you can use to familiarize yourself with the format and style of the exam questions for this course. The questions on this test pertain to some films we haven’t yet covered, so you might want to wait until we cover those films to take the practice exam, though you can take it as many times as you want. Your performance on this practice exam will not affect your grade for the course.

Note that all Facebook discussion sessions are now scheduled to begin at 5 pm, to avoid confusion about times. Anyone in class at that time will obviously not be able to participate immediately, but you will still have until midnight the next day to provide your input.

Instructor:

Prof. M. Keith Booker

234 Kimpel Hall, 575-7248

Office Hours: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no in-person office hours this semester. It should be possible to answer individualized questions by e-mail, or you can e-mail your instructor to arrange a private Zoom meeting.

e-mail: m.keith.booker@gmail.com

Textbooks Required:

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

Description:

This course will examine some of the most important developments in the history of American cinema. In addition to viewing a number of important examples of American film from the 1930s to the present, we will also discuss the social and historical contexts in which these films arose, seeking to understand why these particular films appeared when they did and why American film has maintained such extensive cultural power over time.

Course Resources

Online textbook: Linked to the schedule below. In general the reading assignment for each film is probably best read after viewing the film, to avoid spoilers.

Films: Available for rental from Amazon Prime Video or other streaming platforms.

Facebook Group for Written Class Discussions: Click here to join or access.

Online video lectures: Most of these will be brief introductions to the films, pointing toward the most salient features that are useful to know before viewing. These lectures should also be useful for review and exam preparation.

Face-to-Face Meetings: Face-to-face class meetings will be held to discuss the material that has been assigned for that class date. These meetings are held for the benefit of interested students who desire an opportunity directly to discuss the course material with the instructor and/or their fellow students. Attendance is optional, and participation (or not) in these sessions will not affect your grade in any way. Other than these discussion sessions, all content for this course will be delivered on-line. No material that emerges in the face-to-face meetings but is not in the video lectures on reading assignments will be covered in the exams.

Essays, exams, and other major requirements:

Students will write one critical essay (4-6 pages, double-spaced) and have an on-line mid-term exam and an on-line final exam, delivered via Blackboard.

There will also be a class Facebook page where students may participate in discussions, ask questions, post relevant information, and so on. For each class for which you post or comment on this page, you will be awarded 1-2 points, depending on the quality and substance of your contribution, up to a possible total of 10 points for the semester. Prompts will be posted on the Facebook group page to facilitate participation. Any crucial information posted by the instructor on the Facebook page will also be made available via this syllabus.

Note on participation in discussions on Facebook: To avoid spoilers, you should not discuss the material for a given class before the date of that class.

In general, all assignments listed under a given class should be completed before that class convenes. We will then use our class time for open discussion of the assigned material.

Attendance Policy

Attendance at all face-to-face classes is entirely optional and will not affect your grade in any way. All core course materials will be delivered on-line via this syllabus and via the rental of streaming versions of the films.

There will also be asynchronous discussions on the class Facebook group page, beginning at 8 pm each Thursday night and running through the following Friday. There will be fourteen films and thus fourteen of these discussions. A substantive post will gain 2 points toward a maximum of 10 points, so you need only post on 5 of the 14 films to get full credit. You are, of course, encouraged to monitor and participate in all of these sessions, during which you may also ask questions of the instructor.

Grades and Grading

            Facebook Discussions: 10%

            Mid-term exam: 20%

            Final exam: 20%

            Critical essay: 50%

Course Schedule:

Note on color coding in this schedule.

Items with white backgrounds are routine assignments..

Items with blue backgrounds are special assignments or announcements.

Items in yellow are assignments that are recommended for repetition as preparation for exams.

All reading and viewing assignments should be completed before the class for which they are assigned.

HOLLYWOOD GOES HOLLYWOOD: MONUMENTS FROM THE GOLDEN AGE

Thursday, August 26

Introduction to the Course. Read the on-line support materials: Year-by-Year Chronology; Historical Overview of American Film.

View the introductory lecture: History of American Film

Thursday, September 2

***The Screwball Comedy***

It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934, 105 min.)

Image result for it happened one night

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 8 pm on this date.

Thursday, September 9

***Hollywood Romance***

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942, 102 min.).

Image result for casablanca 1942 laszlo and ilsa kiss

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 8 pm on this date.

Thursday, September 16

***The Western***

Film viewing: The Searchers (John Ford, 1956, 119 min.).

Image result for the searchers movie natalie wood

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 8 pm on this date.

Thursday, September 23

***Dissident Voices***

Film viewing: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941, 119 min.)

Image result for citizen kane

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

FILM NOIR

Thursday, September 30

Special reading assignment: Introduction to Film Noir.

Special introductory lecture on film noir

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

Image result for double indemnity

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, October 7

Film viewing: Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950, 110 min.).

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, October 14

***Neo-Noir***

Suggested (optional) reading: “Neo-Noir.”

Film viewing: Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974, 130 min.).

The men who made 'Chinatown' unforgettable - The Washington Post

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

THE NEW HOLLYWOOD

Thursday, October 21

Mid-term exam for undergraduate students only, covering all material through the class of October 14. The exam will be open book. You may consult the lectures, on-line reading assignments, or other recorded sources. Do not, however, consult other people. The exam will go live on Blackboard at 5 pm. You will have thirty minutes to complete the exam once you start, though it will remain live until in case some people get started late.

Film viewing: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1968, 111 min.).

Image result for bonnie and clyde 1967

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, October 28

Film viewing: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972, 175 min.).

Image result for the godfather

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, November 4

Film viewing: Pulp Fiction(Quentin Tarantino, 1994, 154 min.).

Pulp Fiction Cast Then and Now: Samuel L. Jackson, Travolta, Uma Thurman –  The Hollywood Reporter

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Attend the face-to-face discussion of this film.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, November 11

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY HIGHLIGHTS

Film viewing: There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007, 158 min.).

Image result for there will be blood

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, November 18

Film viewing: Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013, 104 min.).

Image result for llewyn davis

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Optional pre-submission: students who wish may submit the first paragraph of their critical essay to the instructor for feedback prior to submitting the full essay the following week. Paragraphs should be submitted to the instructor by e-mail as a Word-compatible attachment.

Thursday, November 25—Thanksgiving break. No class.

Thursday, December 2

Film viewing: Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017, 104 min.).

Image result for get out

View the introductory lecture.

Optional pre-submission: students who wish may submit the first paragraph of their critical essay to the instructor for feedback prior to submitting the full essay the following week. Paragraphs should be submitted to the instructor by e-mail as a Word-compatible attachment.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Thursday, December 9

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

Film viewing: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020, 113 min.).

Promising Young Woman' Review - What Men Can Learn From Ending

View the introductory lecture.

View the film.

Read the on-line assignment.

Participate in the Facebook discussion, beginning at 5 pm on this date.

Final Exam

Final Exam. The exam will be open book. You may consult the lectures, on-line reading assignments, or other recorded sources. Do not, however, consult other people. The exam will go live on Blackboard at . You will have thirty minutes to complete the exam once you start, though it will remain live until in case some people get started late.

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 http://cea.uark.edu 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 http://provost.uark.edu/academicintegrity/245.php

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 emergency.uark.edu.  

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.

SAMPLE ESSAY TOPICS

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 film from our syllabus and explain why you believe it was particularly important in the evolution of American cinema as a cultural phenomenon.
3. Compare and contrast 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 those films make use of past films as a resource for their own construction.
5. Choose two male and two female performers from the films on our syllabus and explain why you believe their performances were particularly effective.
6. Choose any director from the films on our syllabus. Then watch at least two other films by this same director out of class. Describe, based on these three films, what you see as the most important characteristics of the films of this director.

GRADING RUBRIC FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS

Opening paragraph clearly states a thesis for the essay: 10

Essay shows signs of supporting research: 10

Essay is well-written and uses proper grammar: 10

Proper use of evidence in the argument: 10

Argument is rhetorically effective and convincing: 10