Communication and Culture | Advanced Seminar in Media: Cinema and the Everyday
C792 | 1105 | Paula Amad


C792 CINEMA AND THE EVERYDAY (Topic: Film History, Film Theory) This
is an upper level undergraduate/graduate course which aims to explore
how the experience and conceptualization of the everyday has been
central to the evolution of cinema.  Although the concept of the
everyday has attracted attention in literary and cultural studies,
particularly through the influence of the work of Henri Lefebvre and
Michel de Certeau, it has only been addressed in an indirect manner in
film studies.  Yet the realm of routine experience and surface
appearances connoted by this category constitutes one of the dominant
aesthetic, social, and discursive horizons against which filmmakers,
reviewers, critics, and audiences have engaged with cinema.  And
although film¹s essential relation to the ³actuality² of lived
experience has been a common trope within film theory from Siegfried
Kracauer to André Bazin, there has so far been no systematic attempt
to account for the historical relation between film and the everyday.
This course thus seeks to accomplish three objectives: to explore
across a range of periods and genres of cinema how the representation
of the realm of ordinary life has been a central formal and narrative
motivation; to read a body of critical and theoretical work on the
everyday in order to determine its relevance to cinema; and finally,
to reinvestigate realist film theory (of Kracauer and Bazin, for
example) and its focus on ³actuality² beyond the hold of an
essentialist and realist interpretation of film.

The course will not presuppose a definition of the everyday but will
instead seek to compare the different ways in which the general
terrain of ordinary culture has been mobilized -- both as an object of
representational and theoretical examination -- within film history.
Nonetheless, we will be concerned with certain clusters of definitions
central to the understanding of the everyday which include: ordinary
or unofficial culture, the mundane and the banal, the repetitive, the
contingent and the ephemeral, popular and marginalized culture,
counter-memory and uneventful history.  We will explore key film
periods and styles focused on everyday life, including early cinema,
ethnographic film, Italian neo-realism, British documentary, and the
French New Wave.  Representative and lesser known films from these
periods will be analyzed alongside a diverse body of critical writings
centered on the everyday in general, or the everyday and cinema in
particular.  Readings range from French film criticism of the teens
(Delluc, Dulac, and Aragon), and realist film theory (Bazin and
Kracauer), to more recent work by film historians (Gunning and
Hansen), cultural historians
(Harootunian) and theorists (Lefebvre).