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HIST 166
Cold War Films Fall 2020
Division II Writing Skills

Class Details

This history tutorial utilizes popular film as a vehicle to explore American Cold War culture. The Cold War was an intense period of political, ideological, cultural, and military struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union that took place after the Second World War. For every nuclear test, arms sale, or military operation, there was a propaganda ploy, rhetorical barb, or diplomatic ultimatum to match. Amidst this hostile competition between two incompatible ways of life–communism and capitalism; totalitarianism and democracy–an atmosphere marked by panic, secrecy, insecurity, paranoia, surveillance, and conformity pervaded American life. Given the vast cultural influence of movies, film during this era served as a vital ideological battleground. Moreover, cinema offers us a window into the cultural landscape of Cold War America, for film reflects, interprets, and shapes national identity in complex ways. The films examined in this course (for the most part, Hollywood productions from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s) serve as unique historical documents and as cultural texts illuminating the ways filmmakers and audiences negotiated the challenges presented by the Cold War struggle. The films assigned for this course focus on a range of topics, including anticommunism, competing visions of Americanism, religion, the Hollywood Ten, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, the nuclear arms race, brainwashing, gender, race relations, and the eventual unravelling of the Cold War consensus. The historical analysis of film requires not only a close reading of the movies themselves, but also a clear understanding of the historical context in which they appeared. The readings paired with each film will help to clarify this context and offer interpretations of the films with which we will engage.
The Class: Format: tutorial; In general, tutorial sessions will be held via Zoom. Should all students in a tutorial grouping request an in-person meeting, that request will be accommodated pending the availability of an appropriate room. A few larger group meetings will be held throughout the semester, in person for on-campus students and on Zoom for remote students.
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 2837
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will be required to complete formal writing assignments each week, alternating between 4-page reading response papers and 2-page critiques of their peers' work. These writing assignments will be evaluated alongside preparedness for and performance in tutorial discussions.
Prerequisites: None, open to all students.
Enrollment Preferences: First and second year students will be given priority. If the course is overenrolled, students will be asked to complete an enrollment questionnaire.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will be required to complete formal writing assignments each week, alternating between 4-page reading response papers and 2-page critiques of their peers' work. They will receive feedback on each of these papers--in writing and in person--from both the professor and their tutorial partners. Throughout the semester these writing assignments will total 25-30 pages.

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