Communication and Culture | Topics in Media History (Topic: History of Documentary)
C420 | 27177 | Malitsky, J.
TR, 9:05 AM-11:05 AM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 100
This class meets during the second eight weeks of the semester
Note: CMCL-C 420 can be taken twice for credit when the topic
Fulfills College S&H Requirement
Instructor: Josh Malitsky
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 217
Both media critics and everyday viewers have traditionally thought
of documentary in contrast to narrative fiction film. The crudest
divisions categorize documentary as serious, informational,
educational, objective, and, most likely, political (to name just a
few), while narrative fiction film is cast as pleasurable, escapist,
and subjective. But when one examines the history of documentary,
it becomes clear that such divisions rarely hold up. Instead,
documentaries have consistently offered a number of appeals,
mobilized a range of forms, and incorporated subjective elements.
From Robert Flaherty, the surrealists and the Soviets to Chris
Marker, Erroll Morris, and Su Friedrich, documentary film and video
makers have sought to expand the borders of this mode of sound-image
production. In the course of the semester we will look at the work
of those who push the envelope as well as that work that fits more
squarely into the traditionally drawn binary.
This course is a survey of the history of documentary film and
video, with a focus on European and American work. We will examine
a range of purposes (informational, educational, agitational,
propagandistic, entertainment) and forms (poetic, diaristic,
reflexive, expositional, observational, didactic). We will pay
attention to the ways in which documentary is funded, distributed,
and exhibited differently than narrative fiction film. We will read
histories, analyses of particular films, and theories of
documentary. We will see how scholars struggle to define
documentary and how filmmakers continue to challenge documentary’s
limits. Finally, we will see how the explosion of documentary
images and situations in film, television, on the internet, in
journals, in museums, in galleries, and on billboards, requires us
to expand our theoretical and methodological approaches.
* This course is designed to provide students a solid foundation in
documentary history, criticism, and theory as well as sharpen their
* This course is a combination of class lecture and discussion.
Attendance is taken.
* Assignments include a mid-term examination, a final examination,
and a 10-12 pp. research paper.