Communication and Culture | Seminar in Media (Topic: From Sheiks to Superheroes: Masculinity in American Cinema)
C793 | 28838 | Klinger, B.

W, 1:00 PM-3:30 PM, WY 111
Required film screening: Tu, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, WY 015

Meets with CULS-C 701 and AMST-G 751
Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Barbara Klinger
Office: C2 225
Phone: 855-1796

In this course, we will explore the manifestations of diverse kinds
of masculinities in Hollywood and independent cinema in the context
of social and historical developments in the United States in the
20th and early 21st centuries. As a foundation, we will examine the
deep cultural roots of one of the most persistent (and one of the
most deconstructed) of masculine ideals—the rugged individualist—as
he is incarnated in the Western cowboy-hero and later embodied by
heroes in other kinds of films. We then study masculine types that
depart from this model, considering how ethnicity, race,
homosexuality, and other kinds of “difference” have figured in male
portrayals, making the depiction of masculinity in American cinema
more complex than it might at first appear. As we explore these
depictions across American film history and culture, we will discuss
a range of other issues as well. These include the way that star
personas affect the audience’s perception of masculinity; the impact
of genres, such as Westerns, melodramas, comedies, martial arts and
action films, interracial buddy movies, and superhero blockbusters—
on notions of race and sexual identity; and how representations of
masculinity have worked in relation to or against conceptions of
national identity at various historical moments. How do images of
men in cinema figure into the creation and transformation of what it
means to be an “American” at different times in the nation’s
history? To address these and other questions, we will read central
works in cultural history and film and gender studies, and analyze
films significant to our discussions. Further, examining how men
appear on screen ultimately sheds light on female images–the nature
of male roles helps to determine the constraints on and
possibilities of female roles, as well as on how the
interrelationship between the sexes is depicted.

Readings potentially include selections from: Richard Slotkin,
Gunfighter Nation; Robert Ray, A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood
Cinema; Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, eds., Screening the Male;
Steven Cohan, Masked Men; Tania Modleski, Feminism Without Women;
Yvonne Tasker, Spectacular Bodies; Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness;
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble; Eve Sedgwick, Between Men; Richard
Dyer, Heavenly Bodies; Richard Dyer, White; Susan Jeffords,
Hardbodies; Gina Marchetti, Romance and the ‘Yellow Peril’; and
essays by Robyn Wiegman, Gaylyn Studlar, Miriam Hansen, and Richard
Meyer. Weekly screenings will show films that range from the silent
period to the present.

Students will be expected to do a series of presentations and to
write a term/research paper on a subject of their interest in gender
and media studies.