Communication and Culture | Media Genres (Topic: Film Noir)
C392 | 20907 | Klinger, B.
TuTh, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, C2 100
Required Film Screening: Tu, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, SE 140
Fulfills College A&H Requirement
Instructor: Barbara Klinger
Office: C2 225
Streets are wet and glistening, even when there’s no trace of rain.
Shadows stretch the length of an alley. A neon sign blinks on and
off, perhaps with one letter missing. Oblique camera angles make the
world appear to be tilting. A muted trumpet moans plaintively in the
night. A body lies face down in a pool of blood. A hero spills his
guts in a voice-over narration. There’s a hard-bitten dame named
These are just a few of the characteristics of film noir as it has
been known since the end of WWII, when the French coined the term to
describe a group of Hollywood thrillers and mysteries featuring hard-
boiled private eyes and criminals, femme fatales, twisted families,
and love gone terribly wrong in decaying urban settings and
existentially askew worlds. By 1970s, the term had been adopted by
critics and filmmakers across the globe and it has now become one of
the most amorphous but important categories in movie history.
Virtually every major director, classic and contemporary, has made a
film that could be described as noir. At the same time, noir has
become a pervasive style used across media, including literature,
cinema, and television, a central language of narrative, style, and
theme that is subject to variation and revision, depending on the
artistic sensibilities and social and historical contexts involved.
Through the lens of scholarship on the topic in Film Studies, we
will survey the history of noir since the 1940s, considering its
literary and other origins, key films such as 1940s classics Out of
the Past and Laura, 1980s neo-noirs such as Body Heat, and more
recent noirs such as L.A. Confidential, and key directors, from
Jacques Tourneur and Alfred Hitchcock to the Coen brothers. Along
the way, we will analyze the revisions made to the formula, in forms
that range from outright parody to tongue-in-cheek gender-switching
TV series like Veronica Mars. Since noir is so deeply planted in
American culture, its examination across time will not only reveal
the evolution of a style and the artistic sensibilities and
historical currents that animate it, but also the shifting
definitions of core variables of cultural identity, including
masculinity, femininity, sexuality, race, and the family.
Course assignments will include three essay exams and a paper.