Communication and Culture | Media History (Topic: Histories of American Cinema, 1915-1950)
C594 | 26575 | Waller, G.

Th, 12:50 PM-3:20 PM, Location: TBA

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Gregory Waller
Office: Mottier Hall 106
Phone: 855-5721

This course will examine in detail the range of historical
scholarship on American cinema, 1915-1950.  Our emphasis will be on
a few classic studies and several examples of recent research that
expand and complicate our understanding of the history of American
cinema during the heyday of classical Hollywood. We will think about
the sort of questions these scholars ask, the sources they use, the
arguments they make, the versions of film history they offer.  While
the course will provide an in-depth look at American cinema in this
particular historical period, the issues raised will have broader
applicability to other periods and to histories of other media.
Assignments will include  brief response papers and presentations in
class covering select readings, an essay considering one major
question related to historical research (see below for some sample
questions), and a manageable research project on the history of
American cinema in this period.

So far as it is possible, the first part of the course will be tied
to Film Indiana, the three-day conference on short films/film shorts
to be held on campus in September 2007.

Some questions likely to come up:

Is the history of cinema necessarily a story about individual films,
directors, stars, genres, and studios? What about aspects of this
history that have been largely overlooked or understudied: non-
feature films, educational or “useful” cinema, porn, amateur films,
home movies, commercial films made outside of the Hollywood system,
program filler?

What is the “Classical Hollywood Cinema?” Is the “Classical
Hollywood Cinema” viable  (or does it continue to be viable) as an
explanatory model?

Can or should a history of cinema incorporate non-theatrical as well
as theatrical production, distribution, and exhibition?

Can or should a history of cinema take into account reception and
representation, with particular reference to gender, race, class,
sexual preference, ethnicity, and region?

What’s the relation between textual analysis/interpretation and
historical research?

Where can we find traces of the “foreign,” the global, the
transnational, and/or the international in the history of American

Is the history of cinema necessarily a history of film’s relation
with other media?

How do practices of regulation, censorship, self-censorship, and
state policy figure in the history of cinema?

How does period discourse--including but not limited to the trade
press and fan magazines—construct the film industry, moviegoing,
film audiences, the history of American cinema?