English | British and American Film Studies
L395 | 28832 | DeWitt Kilgore

De Witt Kilgore

28832 – 1:00p-2:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Science Fiction Cinema in the Twentieth-Century”

What does it mean to be human in environments defined by high
technology?  Is science, technology and rationality good or bad?
Will the future be a time of efficient, ruthless oppression or of
plenty and happiness for all?  Over the past century science fiction
films have addressed all of these questions, creating a unique and
powerful expressive form.  In it science is celebrated and
condemned.  Humanity is defined against its others and sometimes
redefined as the other.  Audiences are taken to distant places,
other times and the ordinary is made strange.  At its best cinematic
science fiction allows us to escape from the mundane in ways that
are challenging and pleasurable.

In this course we will define science fiction film as a genre,
explore the story-telling potentials of special effects and their
meaning, and explore the impact of futurist or exotic design on
narrative.  Major narrative themes will be the city of the future;
space travel, its machines and environments; the monster and first
contact with extraterrestrial aliens, the robot and other artificial
intelligences.  Our primary texts will be those American and
European films that have made science fiction a signal expression of
narrative film.

We will also cover scholarship relevant to our inquiries.  This
literature will provide the historical background, explications or
technique, and critical vocabulary necessary to understanding SF as
a visual as well as literary mode.  Films and sections of films will
be screened either in class and/or at the regularly scheduled,
required screening session on [Tuesday] night.  Two exams (one mid-
term and a final), a film journal (composed of five entries), and a
research team report are required to complete the course.
Films such as 2001:  A Space Odyssey, Frankenstein, The Time
Machine, Destination Moon, Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood
Still, and King Kong will be our primary texts.