MA Course Descriptions 2018-2019
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: Haidee Wasson (Fall) and Masha Salazkina (Winter)
This is a mandatory course 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 M.A. class.
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 665/865 The Art and Practice of Film Criticism
Film criticism can be defined as an activity nurtured through watching, writing, talking and thinking about film, that results in a tangible expression about film. Film criticism has undergone major developments in recent years because the ‘tools of the trade’ are expanding how and where film criticism is ‘written’ and performed (blogs, interactive writing, software editing platforms, streaming sites, podcasts, social media, etc.). This course will be designed to reflect these varying styles of film writing, with an emphasis on contemporary forms of film criticism (blog writing, essayistic writing, cinephile criticism, podcasts, immersive criticism, digital media liner notes, and videographic criticism). Although we will read some exemplary film critics (i.e., Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag, Andre Bazin, Manny Farber) to gain appreciation of the literary qualities and creative possibilities of film criticism, the thrust of the course will be to cultivate your own expressive writing voice, in whatever form you choose. Weekly screenings will be focused around key works of film criticism, while serving as case studies for your own film writing (although you can also write on films seen outside class). Some screenings will be dedicated to documentaries on film criticism, and films that function as meta-criticism. Readings will be culled from a variety of sources and made available digitally. The course will allow for flexibility in the type and grade weight of assignments, including brief written reports or reviews, an in-class presentation and an integrated project which could take one of many forms (an online website, a curatorial project, an audio-visual essay, a think piece on film criticism, or digital media liner notes). Wherever possible, students will be encouraged to collaborate and present their work through digital platform research and analysis (blog entries, videographic essays, web interface work, etc.).
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 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 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.