Communication and Culture | History of European and American Cinema
C393 | 1153 | Amad
By the time the ‘talkies’ arrived in the late twenties, film was
already established as one of the most aesthetically sophisticated,
commercially popular and internationally diverse media of the modern
era. This course surveys the central features of film history before
the coming of sound and aims to familiarize the student with the range
of national and international film cultures and styles which
flourished in this intensely productive period. We will cover the
periods of early and transitional cinema; the development and
consolidation of the narrative and feature-based model of filmmaking
associated with the Hollywood classical style; and the emergence of
alternative modes and styles in the teens and twenties (French
serials; Danish lighting; German expressionism; Soviet montage;
European avant-garde). Particular emphasis will be placed on
comparing American and European schools of filmmaking. Specific weeks
will be focused on the analysis of key directors (Louis Feuillade, D.
W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, F. W. Murnau and Oscar Micheaux),
‘genres’ (actualities, trick films, slapstick, popular scientific
films, ‘race’ films, and ‘bathroom and boudoir’ films), styles of
acting (theatrical, naturalistic, Diva) and often forgotten features
(such as the presence of sound and color in the ‘silent’ era).
Broader contexts crucial to the evolution of cinema will also be
considered (such as the relationship between motion pictures and
amusements parks, popular literature, department stores, urban
migration, science, photography, ‘high culture,’ and vaudeville).
Although the course culminates in a consideration of the international
dominance of the classical Hollywood style, we will be equally
interested in tracing the uneven progress of this particular mode of
filmmaking, ending with a consideration of the ways in which silent
cinema conventions continued into the sound era.
Assessment will be based on the following: attendance and
participation; two exams based on course readings; and two short
papers of 5-7 pages each (including a mini primary research project).
Attendance at a weekly film screening will also be required.