COMP 295
Philosophy of Film and Film Theory
Last Offered Fall 2015
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 295 / PHIL 295
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

Philosophy of film is a relatively young, but very rich and rapidly growing field. Its central question–What is film?–has been approached and framed in many different ways; naturally, the answers to that question, and the theoretical assumptions that underlie the answers, differ as well. This course will offer a selective overview of the debates that characterized philosophy of film since the early 20th century. Starting with early film theorists (such as Munsterberg, Arnheim, Bazin, and Soviet formalists), we will examine how their insights and disagreements influenced later developments in continental and analytic philosophy of film, and in film theory. While looking at film as art, as document, as experiment and as entertainment, we will always keep in sight specific theoretical assumptions that underlie different understandings of film, and different critical approaches to the medium. Some of the questions we will ask are: What is the nature of filmic representation? Does film accurately capture reality, as no other art does? Does it advance our thinking and increase our knowledge of the world? Or is it a supreme illusion, a dream-like escape, the domain in which the viewer’s unconscious wishes are magically fulfilled? How does film generate meaning? Is film a creation of a single artist – the director, the author – or is it a result of a loosely synchronized and not quite coherent collaboration of many different people, each guided by her or his particular vision? Is there a room for the notion of collective intention in filmmaking? What is the nature of audience’s response to film? Why do we seek to experience through film fear and anguish that we avoid in our daily lives? Are there ethical considerations that should govern both film production and spectatorship? Finally, is there a reason for philosophy of film and film theory to exist as a separate field? Is philosophy of film really autonomous, independent from traditional philosophical disciplines which help generate its central questions, such as aesthetics, philosophy of art, epistemology, ontology, semiotics, ethics, social and political philosophy? Is film today really distinct from a number of new, emerging visual media? How should we think about the boundaries and methods of theorizing about film?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1629
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: this is a reading, writing & viewing intensive class; evaluation will be based on class participation, 5 short response papers (about 800 words each), & two 5 pages long papers
Extra Info: the second of which will be due after the end of classes; class attendance and Tuesday evening film screenings are mandatory
Extra Info 2: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: none; open to first year students
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy majors and intended majors; students especially interested in film; and by seniority
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under PHIL; meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under COMP
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 295 Division II PHIL 295 Division II
Attributes: FMST Core Courses
PHIL Contemporary Value Theory Courses

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