MA Course Descriptions 2019-2020
Note: 600-level indicates MA, 800-level indicates PhD. Several courses are offered to both MA and PhD students.
FMST 600 Methods in Film Studies
Instructors: Katie Russell (Fall) and Haidee Wasson (Fall & Winter)
Location: FB 250 & VCR (Visual Collections Repository) Seminar Room
Katie Russell - Fall Term - Mondays 1:15-5:15pm in FB 250 This is a mandatory seminar in the Film Studies MA Program. It is designed to help students develop research, writing and presentation skills appropriate to the discipline of film studies. In addition to technical and practical matters, the course helps students develop productive and original research questions by examining notable issues in the field. Course materials examine the ways that film history, criticism, and textual analysis have been and can be written, encompassing a range of ways of seeing, interpreting and understanding cinema and the moving image. Written and oral assignments are designed to develop research and communication skills appropriate to the field. The course also works to facilitate an esprit de corps within the MA class.
Haidee Wasson - Fall & Winter Terms: FALL: Every Second Monday 10:00-12noon in VCR Seminar Room / WINTER: Times TBD, location likely FB 250 This second portion of the Methods seminar, which runs parallel to Methods 1, will be designed to help students develop basic research, writing, and presentation skills required to successfully complete the program. This course will focus on workshop-style exercises and practical discussions geared towards assisting students with things like digital searching, navigating archives and libraries, building bibliographies, conceptualizing and planning programs of research, understanding difference kinds of evidence and how to use it, presentation skills, and academic writing practices. We will also discuss key survival strategies for graduate school such as developing good reading and writing habits. Time will also be devoted to practices of peer review and the many kinds of publishing and other paths your academic work can lead towards. You will be encouraged to use this class as a resource for the assignments you will be asked to complete in your other classes. In the winter term, we will focus a good deal of time on developing independent research proposals based on student interests. There will be no extended or feature-length screenings associated with this class.
FMST 605/805 Topics in English Canadian Cinema – Diasporic Cinema
Location: FB 250
This seminar 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 seminar 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 seminar 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 seminar 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.