Course Description

Film production shares much of the vocabulary of writing: filmmakers “compose” shots, learn the “grammar” of film, transition between scenes with “film punctuation,” and use “leitmotifs” to convey “characterization.” Film audiences also use some of the language used in responding to writing: comparing an adapted film with its source novel, skimming through a DVD’s “chapters,” or complaining about a narrative film’s “plot.” Considering these strange overlaps between the two rather different media, we can use the concept of “reading film” to hold up a lens to our understanding of the English language, particularly what it means to write and read “texts” in the liberal arts. While our focus throughout will be on developing the fundamentals of college writing, we will take film studies as a model to compare and contrast just what it is we do when we read and write. What overlaps and what diverges between the skills useful in “reading” between the two media? How is writing like and unlike filmmaking?

Rationale for Assignment Sequence

The first assignment gives the students practice making critical arguments about “texts.” While the categories of film and writing are not truly texts, the assignment requires a sort of critical engagement similar to textual analysis and sets the ground for later tasks by requiring the students to engage both categories as forms of composition, while recognizing the specificities of the different media. The second assignment takes a film review as its central text and asks students to base an argument on that text through understanding its methods of argumentation rather than the content of its thesis. This gives the students practice making an argument about a text as well as developing their understanding of the variety of ways of making arguments. The final three assignments are separate stages of one project. They require the students to engage in sustained scholarly analysis and debate, using the methods of analysis and argumentation they have been learning and practicing throughout the semester.

Course Documents

Previous versions of the syllabus (2009):

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