ENGL 244
Interpreting Film Fall 2019
Division I Writing Skills

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From the earliest days of narrative film, it was clear that the new medium enjoyed an unparalleled capacity to absorb spectators in the sheer passive enjoyment of the cinematic spectacle, so for many viewers cinema has seemed naturally to be a form of entertainment rather than an art form or a medium for exploring ideas. But not only have entertaining “movies” and artistic “films” always co-existed amicably, but in many cases have coincided: some of the greatest works of cinematic art first billed themselves unassumingly as enjoyable diversions. In order to appreciate the aesthetic and intellectual richness of such films, one must learn to “read” their crucial scenes closely, analyzing their visual and auditory language as well as their dramatic content, and must learn to interpret their surprisingly complex larger patterns of thought. This tutorial offers concrete training in both of these skills. During the first four weeks, students will write and discuss short weekly papers analyzing key sequences of a film, learning to identify diverse cinematic effects in order to illuminate dramatic patterns. During the last six weeks of the semester each student in a tutorial pairing will write a longer interpretive paper in alternate weeks, learning to construct fuller arguments addressing the whole of a film. Most films will be drawn from classical Hollywood cinema of the 1930s and 1940s, but we will also study European, Indian, and Japanese films. Readings during the first part of the semester will concern technical features of cinema; later readings will address larger interpretive issues (e.g., patterns in film genres, such as the nature of the gangster as a tragic hero; or social issues reflected in films, such as the newly empowered roles of women during the early 1940s and their influence in shaping the dangerous heroines of film noir).
The Class: Type: Tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1712
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: six short (2- to 6-page) papers and three short responses to one's partner's paper, totalling 25 pages of writing; active, sustained participation in tutorial discussions
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course, or a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in English Literature or a 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate
Enrollment Preferences: sophomores and first-year students who have satisfied or placed out of the English Department's 100-level prerequisite
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Tutorial--constant writing and critique. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: ENGL Literary Histories C

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