Communication And Culture | Topics in Media History
C420 | 1169 | Klinger

TOPIC: American Film, American Culture

Class Meetings: 2:30-3:45 MW BH330

Screenings: Tuesdays 7:00-10:30 p.m. (check schedule of classes for room)

Since the beginning of cinema in the U.S., films have acted as important
registers of major cultural and historical developments. Films have
reflected, distorted, or otherwise mediated significant historical events
in this country, offering their audiences particular ways of understanding
and responding to the changes in American culture. In this course we will
survey the relationship between Hollywood and American history in the
twentieth century.

We begin with the nickelodeon era when films were shown in storefront
theaters to a largely urban, immigrant audience, discussing the impact
that films as a form of public entertainment had on the Americanization of
this audience. We then continue to consider some of the major events in
the twentieth-century, including the Great Depression, World War II,
McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the Civil Rights movement, the
countercultural '60s, Vietnam, and the Reagan years, in relation to films
that vividly embodied or addressed the issues raised by these crucial and
transformative moments in the nation's history. We will view a variety of
film genres produced during these different decades, such as gangster
films, musicals, and Frank Capra comedies (1930s), war films and films
noir (1940), science fiction films and race films (1950s), liberal dramas
and vigilante films (1960s), blaxploitation and women's films (1970s), and
Vietnam war and blockbuster action films (1980s-90s). Through this
historical survey, we will see how Hollywood has responded to momentous
changes in American culture and examine the place that movies have in
presenting and mediating these changes for their audiences.

There will be three exams in this course, including the final.