JOINT PhD/MA SEMINARS 2018-19
FMST 635/835 Topics in Aesthetic and Cultural Theory: Nations and Theory
“Nations and Theory” focuses on films and cinematic practices that problematize traditional definitions of national cinemas as coherent systems or discourses. Drawing on a scholarship that had a great impact on contemporary film and media studies, the seminar inquires into the ideological premises of the modern nation. The purpose is to verify if—and how—contemporary films can be identified with the notion of national identity, address national themes or issues, and represent social formations. In stressing the dominant implications of national categories, the course considers anti-state, sub-national, non-Western, and post-colonial positions that challenge the concept of national cinema.
In the first part of the course we will assume the concept of nation itself as our object of inquiry. We will then concentrate on case studies set at the interface of Hollywood and nation-based cinemas, sub- or anti- national movements, as well as local/global circuits of film production and distribution.
FMST 635/835 Digital Media: Theory/Practice
This course combines audiovisual practice with critical approaches to digital media. It will examine digital media practices and technologies, and consider how to use digital media to do media studies (including considering critiques of the "dark side of the digital humanities"). Class meetings will combine seminar style reading, writing, and debate with audiovisual exercises and “crit” style workshops. We will examine research methodologies and interpretive frameworks from Cinema/Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Critical Theory, Sensory Ethnography, Urban Studies, and others, as well as genealogies of experimental media and Net Art. Students will gain basic facility with video shooting, sound recording, editing, and online capture, and have the opportunity to work with the digital film scanner, develop curation projects, and make collaborative video essays and sound recordings. In short, this course is a practice-led introduction to the field of Digital Media Studies—including a focus on forms of emergent media that fall outside of current imaginations of technomodernity.
FMST 640/840 Gender Issues in Film:
Special Topic: “Barbara Stanwyck, Gender and Genre in Hollywood Cinema”
Barbara Stanwyck’s long career, from 1929 to 1986, includes dozens of roles in comedy, westerns, melodrama, and film noir; she also performed in radio and TV. She emerged at the end of her career with her head above water and her bank account intact. As a survivor of a harsh industry, she provides a valuable insight into the challenges of the system for women actors. In this course we will read key texts in star studies, performance studies, genre studies, Hollywood labour history, and women’s studies in order to examine Stanwyck’s intervention and agency through the five and a half decades of her career. This course will present students with a range of methods of analysis for studio-based films, using Stanwyck as a guide and as a means of examining the intersection of gender with genre, race, cultural geography, architecture, and film style. This approach to Hollywood will acquaint students with the heterogeneity of American classical cinema, which will in turn be explored as a site where gender is constantly under construction, deconstruction and reinvention.
FMST 665/865 Animation Ecologies
This course treats animation within its expanded field of practices, applications, and milieus. It takes stock of recent scholarship on animation as performance, animation as industry, and animation as the focal point for an ecology of media practices. It examines animation as metaphor (the bringing-to-life of something inanimate) from which to interrogate planetary ecologies; animation as resistant moving image practice (animated documentary and experimental animation); animation as object of theoretical investigation (animation theory); animation as a set of labour practices pioneering global outsourcing (television animation and special effects); animation as a site of moving image geographies and fandoms (anime); animation as an intellectual property engine and empire (Disney). Through it all, we will pay particular attention to the political nature of animation as an contested set of visual regimes, labour practices, industrial organizations, built architectures, and medial and terrestrial ecologies.
FMST 610/810 Topics in Québécois Cinema
Contemporary Indigenous Media Arts
This course explores contemporary Indigenous media arts (film, video, new media, and audio) from “Québec,” with emphasis placed on the cultural, historical, and political contexts of production, distribution, and reception. To approach such contexts, this course will introduce students to a range of concepts, events, institutions, and media art practices. First, we will examine concepts based in Indigenous epistemologies and experiences (e.g. settler colonialism, decolonisation, visual sovereignty). We will also consider defining moments in the recent history of Indigenous peoples in Québec, including the Oka crisis, the Idle No More movement, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We will further attend to the development of institutions such as Montreal’s First Peoples Festival, the Wapikoni Mobile, and APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) and their impact on the production and circulation of contemporary Indigenous media arts. Through guest lectures, discussions, readings, and coursework (e.g. an interview and a curation project), students will have the opportunity to engage closely with the works of Indigenous artists such as Sonia Bonspille Boileau, Raymond Caplin, Tracey Deer, Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Alanis Obomsawin, Kim O’Bomsawin, Meky Ottawa, and Kevin Papatie. The goal of this course is to provide students with a critical understanding of how the media arts created by and with Indigenous peoples uniquely and crucially partake in the current context of Indigenous resurgence in Québec (and beyond).
FMST 665/865 Cinema Behind Bars: Film and the Prison Industrial Complex
Prison populations continue to rise steeply; most dramatically, the United States has witnessed a 700% increase in numbers since the 1970s. Incarceration therefore figures as not only an ever more widespread human experience, but also a crucial, and troubled, nexus between juridical, biopolitical, economic and human rights concerns. This course will explore the long history of films set in and made within prisons as a means of getting to grips with how these different stakes interact, and of grasping what role cinema plays among them. What, in turn, does knowledge of the penal system offer an understanding of the medium? This class’s engagement with a wide range of movies from around the world is centrally informed by political and theoretical writings on and from prisons.
FMST 655/855 – The Essay Film
This class will engage with the cinematic tradition of the Essay Film, understood widely as a certain kind of non-fiction films, and other media works, which are centered around personal and diaristic forms of expression. The class will move chronologically through both the theory and practice of what has been defined as a personal mode of filmmaking. From Astruc’s caméra-stylo, to Varda’s cinécriture, to first-person camera as theorized by Rascaroli, there exists a scholarly and theoretical corpus that was both inspired by, and alternatively has inspired actual artistic practice. The work of Harun Farocki (Images of the World and the Inscription of War) and Agnes Varda (The Gleaners and I), of Chris Marker (Sans Soleil) and Chantal Akerman (News from Home), to name a few, has challenged current taxonomies and forced viewers and scholars to renegotiate their epistemological parameters vis-à-vis documentary, and, more specifically, non-fiction narratives. While these films can be understood as cinematic variations on the literary essay genre (according to Timothy Corrigan), in the second half of the 20th century they have become a cinematic tradition unto themselves. This seminar will introduce students to the contemporary debates on the narrative forms and spectatorial responses to documentary cinema, take up issues of realism and authenticity in relation to the moving image, and engage with the politics of self and community in the global age. Students will be asked to engage with a short video- or photo-essay project of their own, where they will write with images their own “essay film” about one of the topics discussed in class.
PhD-ONLY SEMINARS 2018-19
FMST 880 - Research Seminar: Women and Archival Film Practices
Women’s relation to the archive is an important, albeit overlooked, aspect of contemporary visual culture and moving image history. This seminar offers a gender-specific approach to the archive as an institution and a concept capable of re-articulating the relationship between women, the moving image, memory, and history.
The seminar situates women’s archival history within an alternative genealogy of archival practices. This counter-lineage includes philosophical (i.e. Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Appadurai), as well as practical (Warburg, Khan, Cornell) critiques of the archive as a physical and metaphorical site of official knowledge, entrenched in Western epistemology and State-based organizations.
After tracing this genealogy, we’ll look at a series of alternative and counter forms of archival practices by women and about women, within the context of the women’s movement as well as the framework of feminist and queer discourse.
Finally, we will consider the work of some female filmmakers and visual artists that use the archival image, selecting examples from different periods, geocultural areas, and modes of production.
FMST 806 - Proseminar I
This course 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.
FMST 804 - Genealogies of the Digital
This course examines key genealogies informing “new” and “digital” media studies, including the ad hoc, offline, and “pirate modernities” that exceed such categorizations. It introduces a range of canonical works as well as influential recent scholarship from a range of disciplines (from cinema and TV to Internet and software/hardware studies). We will examine key historical and conceptual debates ranging from cyberspace and hypertext to networks and participatory cultures, paying close attention to how such issues have transformed understandings of cinema and media studies and critical cultural theories. One through line in the course is digital cinema. We will have regular course screenings and use cinematic examples as a starting point for discussions about a range of technological shifts, social habits, and intermedial ecologies. In addition to key texts related to emergent media, the course will examine how parallel discourses of economic, cultural, and political transformation—such as globalization, biopower, neoliberalism—drive new and old forms of risk and uncertainty, embodiment and mediation, intimacy and aspiration.
FMST 807 - Proseminar II: the Moving Image in the Postcolonial Condition
This course will introduce students to the historical trajectory of debates on geopolitics as a method of analysis in film and media studies from the 1950s to present day. With geopolitics, or the geopolitical, I intend here to define a form of hermeneutics of moving image cultures as seen through emergent political and geographical formations which took shape in and around the decolonization movement. This specific cultural formation has become now urgent due what Sandro Mezzadra defines as our current “postcolonial condition”, conceived here as a reconfiguration of historiography that demonstrates the centrality of colonialism for the epistemic presuppositions of European modernity.
This course will have its starting point precisely in the debates surrounding political cinema during the period of decolonization, focusing specifically on the Fanonian impact on European militant cinema inspired by liberation movements (René Vautier, William Klein, Ansano Giannarelli, the Rive Gauche filmmakers, Sarah Maldoror, etc.). It will continue with an exploration of the debates around such theoretical and methodological formations as Third Cinema, Cinema Novo, the Civil Rights movement in North America, focusing on the LA group specifically. The class will continue with an analysis of contemporary debates triggered by the current geopolitical formations of migrant crisis on the one hand, and neocolonial revanche, focusing in particular on the notion of Transnational and World Cinema, and their limitations as both taxonomy and hermeneutical devices. The class will conclude with the exploration of alternative models of analysis based on the geopolitical as method, by looking at Canclini’s notion of hybridity, and Hard and Negri’s notion of assembly.