ENGL 367
Documentary Fictions Fall 2019
Division I
Cross-listed ARTH 367 / ENGL 367

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The first movies excited viewers not by telling stories, but by reproducing the world: a dancer’s billowing skirts, the sight of Niagara Falls, the arrival of a train at the station–such vignettes felt viscerally real. Our fascination with documentaries derives, in large part, from the way seemingly transparent images are woven into narratives full of hidden assumptions. Every viewer of the Zapruder film sees the same thing: President Kennedy, struck by a bullet, lurches forward. But what that might mean–whether it points toward a lone gunman or a conspiracy, toward the Soviet Union or the CIA–still remains uncertain. We’ll explore the tensions between image and story, evidence and context, in films ranging from Fred Ott’s “Sneeze” (1894) to Josh Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012), concluding with a look at the effects of contemporary image technologies on our sense of personal and national identity. Readings for the course will be drawn from narrative theory, epistemology, and cultural theory, as framed by writers including Trinh Minh-ha, Christian Metz, and Bill Nichols.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 25
Class#: 1743
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four written and multimedia exercises (1-2 pages each), two essays (six and twelve pages), and a willingness to experiment with formats
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam, or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: English majors; Art and Comparative Literature majors; students with experience making video
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 367 Division I ENGL 367 Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories C
FMST Core Courses

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