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: Haidee Wasson (Fall) and Katie Russell (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 605/805 Topics in English Canadian Cinema – Diasporic Cinema
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 665/865 Sound, Ecology, Cinema
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
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
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 Documentary Film: The Essay Film
This class will engage with the cinematic tradition of the Essay Film, understood widely as a kind of non-fiction film, and other media work, which is centered around personal and diaristic forms of expression. The class will move chronologically through both the theory and practice of this 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, 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.
FMST 665/685: Managing Media
Management - on the surface it seems marginal to the films, television series and other media we care about; boring, even. Yet there is nothing more critically essential to understanding the process of how an idea for a film makes it to the big screen, or to grasping platform-mediated cultural production today. This course will examine the mysterious middle realm of media management, from the production processes where film and television and novels get made, to the management of media franchises, star images and brands, 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. It 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 for our enjoyment.