It has been a surprisingly busy year on the job market, with campus visits to University of Michigan, NYU, and CSU-Fullerton, along with a fair number of other interviews, but for now it looks like I’ll be staying at Berkeley for another semester to a year while I send out another round of applications. At least Irvine’s request for my complete dissertation in December forced me to draft my final chapter (in a bit of a hurry), so now all that’s left is the never-ending process of revising and contemplating the project less as a dissertation than a first book. Another bonus: the Routledge commissioning editor for media and cultural studies contacted me after reading my short piece in ISLE on farm games, and after chatting with her at SCMS I’m now in touch with some great new contacts working in ecocinema and ecomedia, more generally.
Happily, I finally scrounged together enough time to draft a course description for my summer teaching position as the instructor/lecturer for Film and Media 25B: Histories of Sound Film (Summer Session D). This class is one of the lower-division requirements for aspiring film majors at Berkeley, generally completed after taking 25A on early/silent film. My mind still boggles at the idea of covering the history of sound cinema from 1930 to the present in six weeks, but not surprisingly, the course has tended to focus on commercial narrative cinema rather than documentary or experimental film, with Hollywood as a primary site. Perhaps this is where I finally get to indulge my Barbara Stanwyck fandom? Or admit that I actually liked Wings of Desire?
Film and Media 25B: Histories of Sound Film
This introductory course will survey key developments in film history, beginning with the advent of sound cinema in the early 1930s and concluding with film’s transformation in the contemporary digital era. Along the way, we will become conversant with significant movements and genres in commercial narrative film (and to a much lesser extent documentary and experimental or avant-garde film), including classical and post-classical Hollywood cinema (musicals, Westerns, screwball comedies, and so on), Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave, New German Cinema, non-Western world cinema, and film in the age of “new” media.
Beginning with the transition from silent to sound film, we will pay particular attention to the relationship between sound and the moving image. However, crucial to our approach will be the recognition that film history is not simply the history of a medium; neither is there a single film history. Instead, there are histories—and these histories are inextricably tied to contested social and political histories. Our focus will therefore be on those films and texts that illustrate both the development of film styles and forms as well as important changes in the film industry—from censorship and the globalization of markets to radical alterations in the ways that films are shown and consumed.
The course will develop your ability to analyze individual shots (composition and mise-en-scène) and sequences (editing), while situating the films we view in relation to broader sociocultural and political contexts. Alongside general readings on film history primarily provided by David Cook’s A History of Narrative Film, we will also study nuanced secondary criticism from leading film scholars as models for film analysis and writing. A course reader will be made available at Replica Copy (2138 Oxford Street, 510.549.9991) during the first week of class, containing excerpts from the work of Ruth Vasey, Lee Grieveson, Michel Chion, Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, Lynn Spigel, Mary Ann Doane, Kristen Whissel, and others.
I’ve also been offered a couple of the discussion sections for the Fall 2012 Media Studies 102: Effects of Mass Media course taught by Jean Retzinger, and after talking to Jean and looking at the syllabus I’m excited to teach media from a slightly different perspective than my usual one (this course, a requirement for Media Studies majors after taking Introduction to the Mass Media, combines cultural criticism with more social scientific work). Given that videogame criticism almost inevitably runs up against the question of media effects, I’m particularly interested in reading and re-reading the work of Lazarsfeld, Katz, Castells, etc. Here’s Jean’s brief description of the class:
Media Studies 102: Effects of Mass Media
This course will familiarize you with the often contentious history of communication theory concerning media effects. At issue among scholars working within different research traditions are core disagreements about what should be studied (institutions, texts, audiences, technologies), how it should be studied, and even what constitutes an “effect.” Course readings and lectures stress an understanding of these various research traditions by focusing on the social, political, and historical contexts surrounding them, the research models and methods employed, and the findings and conclusions reached.