JOINT PhD/MA SEMINARS 2019-20
FMST 605/805 Topics in English Canadian Cinema – Diasporic Cinema
Wednesdays 1:15 5:15pm
Location: FB 250
This course examines contemporary diasporic voices and imaginaries within English Canadian cinema. Avoiding essentialisms, this course interrogates hegemonic understandings of national film culture by analysing how the current landscape of Canadian film and media production is shaped by diverse im/migration histories. One of our primary goals will be to critically examine the ways in which ‘dominant’ and ‘minority’ screen cultures are mutually informed and negotiated. We will thus investigate how cultural policies and institutions like the National Film Board have directly impacted multicultural screen practices and resulted in ambivalent articulations of national identity. Throughout the course, we will explore how concepts of post/colonialism, multiculturalism, transnationalism, migration, exile, memory, hybridity, race, gender, and class play out in the work of filmmakers like Atom Egoyan, Richard Fung, Julia Kwan, Helen Lee, Deepa Mehta, Winston Washington Moxam, Midi Onodera, Mina Shum, Clement Virgo, and others.
FMST 635/835 Technology and Intimacy
Location: FB 250
This seminar examines contemporary forms of technological intimacy, drawing on approaches from digital media, cultural theory, feminist science and technology studies, and disability studies, among other fields. From “the cultural politics of emotion” (Ahmed), “ugly feelings” (Ngai), and “surplus life” (Cooper) to “emotional capitalism” (Illouz), “habitual new media” (Chun), and the “political economy of intimacies” (Lowe), we will trace a wide range of debates related to changing conceptions of technological and human relations. Of particular interest is the intersection of bio-technologies that now command an increased capacity to extract and harvest, alter and optimize, patent and monetize “life itself.” The course will give specific attention to debates about behavioral economies, data intimacies, algorithmic identity, network aesthetics, smart media, privacy and publicity, enhancement technologies, shifting habits and sociality, and experimental embodiment.
FMST 665/865 Sound, Ecology, Cinema
Location: FB 250
This course situates established approaches to the study of film sound within broader questions about the relationships between sound, society, and the environment central to sound studies across disciplines. The field of acoustic ecology is used to reframe core issues in film sound theory and to provide an interdisciplinary model for how the study of film sound can become part of larger conversations about media and the environment in the humanities. Acoustic ecology has developed a rich set of conceptual tools for thinking about the relationship between sound and human experience within specific geographical locales. Along with these conceptual tools has come an equally rich set of issues and problems pertaining to acoustic ecology’s objects of study and its research practices. In this course we explore how these tools and problems can be made equally productive for charting sonic pathways through the emerging field of ecocinema studies. Screenings across a range of genres, cultural contexts, and historical periods are paired with literature from film studies, cultural studies, communications, musicology, and critical geography. These texts provide an interdisciplinary environment through which to listen for the ways in which films can help us navigate the current state of environmentalist discourse, while also challenging key tenets of acoustic ecology and film sound theory alike.
FMST 665/865 Video Modernity: Media and Cultural Infrastructures
Location: FB 250
This course delineates the multiple lives of video and its cultural, social and political impact through infrastructures created by VHS tapes, VCD and DVD culture, and streaming and mobile platforms. It focuses on issues and forms distinct to each technological apparatus such as the emergence of the video nasties in the global north, local entertainment industries spurred by VCD culture in the global south, and DIY aesthetics and whatsapp videos of the digital age. Through an examination of the poetics of infrastructure, the course will map and traverse the landscape of bootlegging, piracy, local media cultures and the forensic imagination. Deploying the lens of video, the course will address the issues of media infrastructures vis-a- vis the post cinematic imagination. While it is critical that we debate video as a post cinematic apparatus, it is equally necessary that we place front and centre certain discussions from the global south (piracy as access, localized video cultures, doctored videos and the crowd) if only to comprehend infrastructural politics and poetics of the medium(s).
FMST 630/830 Classical Film Theory
Locatio: FB 250
This seminar will focus on some of the major figures of what is now referred to as "Classical Film Theory". The course is addressed first and foremost to students interested in the history of film theory and the development of ideas about film from the silent period to the 1960s.
Classical Film Theory concerns a period in the study of the cinema that pre-dates the full-blown emergence of a discipline of films studies; one that, for the most part, precedes the development of a film studies curriculum in universities, the emergence of specialized academic journals, the rise of professional film studies associations, etc. Thus film theory was left to a group of individual thinkers often initially trained in either philosophy, psychology, art history, sociology, or other disciplines within the Humanities and working in isolation, but whose vision nonetheless introduced some of the most important and lasting debates about the nature of film and its relation to reality and the other arts. In fact, since the digital turn has taken place, those debates have returned to the forefront of film scholarship as academics consider what (if anything) has been gained, what (if anything) has been lost with regards to what cinema does and what our understanding of it is.
The course will center on the writings of 5 important figures of Classical Film Theory: Hugo Münsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim,Sergei M. Eisenstein, André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer. Students will be asked to read the works of these theorists which will then be discussed in detail during class. Lectures will situate the different theories in their intellectual context. And since film theory doesn't develop out of "thin air", but in relation to films, films and film excerpts will be occasionally screened so as to contextualize and/or exemplify the work of each of the theorists considered.
FMST 635/835 Topics in Aesthetics or Cultural Theory: Queer of Colour Film and Media
This seminar explores the formation and circulation of the category of queer of color and its relatives—such as queer diaspora and queer Indigeneity—and their significance for studying film and media. We will consider the separate but related genealogies of these terms, as we historicize the category of “queer” vis-à-vis frameworks such as diaspora, blackness, settler colonialism, indigeneity, and postcolonialism. Of especial interest will be how queer of color audiences and mediamakers have responded to hegemonic constructions of race, gender and sexuality through practices of critical spectatorship and production. Film and media to be examined include works by Kent Monkman, Cheryl Dunye, Dee Rees, Paul Wong, Thirza Cuthand, Isaac Julien, Pratibha Parmar, Aurora Guerrero, Adam Garnet Jones and Vivek Shraya.
FMST 635/835 Postcolonial Theory and Cinema
Location: FB 407
This seminar will introduce students to some key concepts in the field of postcolonial theory in relation to cinema and other media practices. Taking as our starting point Edward Said’s political and ideological renegotiation of the term “Orient”, we will explore this concept in the writings of theorists who have dealt with issues of orientalism and postcoloniality (Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Homi Bhabha, among others). These texts will provide the initial theoretical framework by which we will then critique the orientalist tradition in European and American cinema through the writings of Shohat and Stam, Fatimah Tobing Rony, Homay King, Ray Chow, etc.). We then will turn our attention to both texts and films that speak to the experiences of colonialism and post-colonialism from the point of view of the colonized. Taking off from Latin American Third Cinema’s manifestos, we will look at both the theory and practice of global counter-cinemas. The course will consist of weekly web-posts addressing the reading, occasional additional screenings, and a final research paper.
FMST 665/865: Platforms, Media, and Management
Location FB 250
Management - on the surface it seems marginal to the films, television series and other media we care about. Yet there is no function more crucial to understanding the process of how an idea for a film makes it to the big screen, and to grasping platform-mediated cultural production today. Indeed, the era of platforms is the era of heightened management of media and people – and this is the critical issue that we will focus on in this course. In doing so, this course will range across sites of analysis, from the middle realm of media management, to the management of media franchises and entrepreneurial selves, to the management of users by social media influencers and the gender politics of their labours, to the managing of consumers through increasingly complex and arcane end-user license agreements (EULAs), apps, interfaces and retail environments. Focuses on media in the era of platform capitalism in particular, the course will chart the multiple layers and levels at which media and its consumers are managed, from platforms to hardware to ad agencies and talent agencies. In the process we will screen and analyze the many self-referential films and TV series that stage these management practices and platform mediations for our enjoyment.
PhD students only; SEMINARS 2019-20
ProSeminar I: Transnational Approaches to Media and Migration
This seminar will investigate a broad range of approaches to the topic of media and migration, engaging with various theoretical and methodological paradigms for transnational film and media studies.
The material will be divided into the following sections, each exploring thematic clusters and corresponding methods of analysis:
- Historical legacies (colonialism, slavery, globalization, postsocialism)
- Migration of people (film/media and diaspora; film/media and contemporary “migration crisis”; academic and creative labor migration)
- Migration of media objects and texts (film festival circuits; global media/TV circulation; informal media circulatory networks)
- Migratory processes (film/media and translation; transcultural mediations)
The seminar will also seek to explore these developments through their entanglements with the military-industrial apparatus, logics of neoliberalism, and the impact of anthroposcene.
The broader goal of the course is to gain understanding and critical assessment of disciplinary-appropriate modes of transnational research and the way they intersect with other subfields and problems within the discipline. In addition to the course material, the assignments for the course will be geared towards professional development (such as designing a research bibliography, course syllabi, and working on research presentation and pedagogical skills). The final syllabus for the seminar will be developed in collaboration with the students and based on their contributions, individual and collective.
Cinema of Exploration
“Cinema of Exploration” aims to analyze the implications of exploration filmmaking around the world in relation to the technological, social, cultural, economic, and ecological developments that have marked its emergence and import in different geopolitical contexts. In this class, we will tackle the global tradition of travel films, from early anthropological reportages to different contemporary variations on the theme of the travelogue. These stem from a wide array of different modes of filmmaking: “national geographic”, documentary, experimental, avant-garde, “fakes”, etc. We will also examine film genres contingent on the trope of cinematic exploration (wild-life documentaries, westerns, sci-fi, scientific cinema, etc.). Some of the animating questions for this class include: What is the political import of representing exploration, particularly in light of the critiques of representation purported by postcolonial theory? How does the development of these practices and discourses impact our understanding of the history and geography of moving images? How do they both reflect and impact the actual technological and sociocultural developments of our age? What role have these traditions played in the development of film theory, media epistemology, and concepts of perception, world, and universe? How have exploration films changed now—in an era where human activity is a determinant cause of geological and climatological changes—and how might they provide useful documents for thinking and challenging such global crises? Finally, what roles has the cinema of exploration played in the conceptualization of the world, the planet, and such related phenomena as globalization? The class will be divided in four parts 1) Exploration of Seeing. In this section, we will look at examples of non-fiction cinema that push the human capability of seeing, from the very small (scientific cinema) to the very big (drones, reconnaissance, surveys, etc.). 2) Cinema of Expeditions. This part is devoted to “pith hat” cinema, from early explorers to contemporary big budget nature shows. 3) Narrative of Explorations. Contemporary auteurs that incorporate travel and exploration as a mode of filmmaking. 4) Cinema of Exploitation. This section is devoted to cinema of extraction of primary resources (oil, minerals, etc.)
ProSeminar II: Technologies, Techniques and Sites of Instruction
This seminar considers the ways in which film and media have been made meaningful in a range of disciplinary and institutional contexts. Our primary organizing question will be: How have film and media been conceptualized and put to work to both generate, perform, and instrumentalize distinct forms of knowledge and experience throughout the 20th and 21st Century? Working with theoretical and historical materials, we will address the place of film and media in activities such as researching, learning, training, analyzing, testing, exhibiting, displaying and analyzing a range of phenomena. We will begin with considerations of Film Studies itself as a historically distinct discipline, exploring the dynamics that led to film becoming a object of university based study. We will then expand to include other ways in which science, military, and industry have worked to create, circulate and perform new forms of knowledge and experience using recorded and mediated materials. Topics may include time-motion studies, museum media, industrial fairs, data architectures, immersive training environments, and efforts to expand the human sensorium.
Epistemology of the Film and Media Archive
The objective of this seminar is to explore the changing role of the archive in audio-visual culture, as it intersects with a wide range of media technologies and emergent histories. What kind of knowledge is produced by different kinds of archives, and how does that knowledge shift with changes in media and technologies of storage and access? How have archives served (or not served) different constituencies in Canada and globally? How are archives funded and supported and how does that support influence the kinds of knowledge, research, and historiography thereby produced?
The class will include weekly readings and screenings with which students will be expected to engage critically. Students will be asked to identify an existing archive, and produce a critical analysis of that archive based on research questions developed in class from the assigned readings. An alternative assignment is to produce a work of media archiveology, for those students who have the appropriate media-making skills, in which they will use film extracts in order to analyze a specific archive—again using research questions developed from course readings.
The course will also lead towards a symposium in Spring 2020 involving researchers affiliated with the Archive/Counter Archive Research consortium. Students in the class will be involved in the planning of the conference and will be invited to participate.