Cinema and Psychoanalysis: Stalkers, Gawkers, Psycho Killers, Media, and the State
ENGL 392-402, Cross Listed with: CINE 392
BFS Sector III
This course will introduce you to the psychoanalytic study of cinema and other media, with a special focus on surveillance. Likely films for study will include Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966), Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), Scott’s Enemy of the State (1998), Wan’s Saw (2004), Haneke’s Caché (2005), Oremland’s Surveillance 24/7 (2008), with additional media from Rebecca Baron, Hanun Farocki, Safaa Fathy, and the state’s mass surveillance apparati.
Readings will include foundational psychoanalytic writings by Freud, Klein, Jung, Lacan, and others, and psychoanalytic film criticism and theory by Copjec, Doane, Metz, Mulvey, Silverman, Zizek, and others.
Advance viewing of the films is required; they will be placed on reserve and also available for purchase just like the required books. Requirements include one short close-reading essay, an in class presentation, and a longer final research essay.
Contemporary European Cinema
ENGL 392-401, Cross Listed with: CINE 392
BFS Sector III
Since World War II, numerous national cinemas have emerged across Europe, offering alternative visions shaped by those different cultures.
This course will examine a spectrum of those cinemas in depth, investigating the cultural and social circumstances that underpin them, the local and global pressures of the film industry at that time, the manifestos that often initiated those film movements, the aesthetic similarities and differences which shaped each, and the evolution that describes the historical paths of each cinema. In the first half of the course, we will examine modern film movements from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, England, and other European countries as they evolve through the second half of the twentieth century.
In the second half of the course, we will concentrate on the most important contemporary films in Europe today. Alongside a specific focus on the movements and their films, we will consider larger questions of nationhood, globalization, new media, and the purported dominance of Hollyworld as these issues become configured through film and media culture.
The Pamela Craze
ENGL 341-301, Cross Listed with: GSOC-341-401
BFS Sector III
In 1740, a successful London printer named Samuel Richardson published what turned out to be one of the most influential and controversial novels ever written, Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded. It tells the story of a servant girl who repeatedly resists the sexual overtures of her powerful “master,” Mr. B., and of the supposedly happy ending – marriage to a wealthy man – that her virtuous behavior eventually earns.
The questions about power, class, gender, virtue, and meaning that Pamela made visible sparked an enormous amount of writing in its day and ever since. Was Pamela really virtuous, or did she manipulate Mr. B’s desire for her in order to gain wealth and social position? Who is the agent of the seduction in Pamela, and who its object? What is the nature of Pamela’s “virtue,” and what is the quality of her “reward?” Is women’s virtue different from men’s? Is marriage necessarily a form of economic exchange, even of prostitution for women? These are some of the questions that Pamela raised for readers of the eighteenth century, and that continue to this day to be debated in writing surrounding this controversial work.
In this advanced seminar, we will examine the universe of writings that have emerged since 1740 in response to Pamela, with emphasis on works by Richardson’s contemporaries in the mid- eighteenth century. Starting with the novel itself and with Richardson’s defenses of it, we’ll look at the multitude of “anti-Pamelas” that crowded 18th- century publication lists, and at voices that have sounded since in the debate, either to praise or to attack the novel. Emphasis will be placed on independent library research and on the recovery and interpretation of eighteenth-century texts. Students will learn to use sophisticated research tools — electronic databases, microfilm collections, and rare book libraries, for example – efficiently and critically. Class meets on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library. Students from disciplines other than English are welcome.
Victorian Action Heroes
Almost every popular fictional genre we consume today – detective novel, spy thriller, ghost story, treasure hunt, imperial romance, invasion scenario, monster tale, science fiction, true crime narrative – has roots in the late Victorian period. During the boom years of 1880-1910, all of these genres took on a recognizably modern form. And those forms have been astonishingly durable; they continue to dominate the popular imagination. This course is designed to investigate several key texts in those emerging blockbuster genres as well as their contemporary adaptations in order to figure out why Victorian Action Heroes still exert so much cultural force. As we go, we will track both the modernization and the Americanization of plots that were conceived and codified in the twilight of Britain’s global influence.
The seminar takes a cue from Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999), and we will begin our inquiry there. What veins of cultural memory and narrative desire are tapped in Moore’s revival of Captain Nemo, Mina Murray, Sherlock Holmes, and Allen Quatermain? With that query in mind, we will then read and discuss the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Bram Stoker, Baroness Orczy, Robert Louis Stevenson, and John Buchan.
In the last third of the semester, we will explore post-1945 (often American) adaptations of Victorian action plots. Students will play an active role in setting the group readings and screenings during this phase; they will also conduct substantial independent research on a cluster of texts, films, or other media with obvious neo-Victorian elements.
During the semester, I plan to use guided critical readings to train participants in the analysis of popular culture, ideally with the same interpretive intensity we apply to writers like Shakespeare or Dickinson. Collectively we will work to a) generate a map of key primary and secondary works in the neo-Victorian field, including steampunk and other contemporary modes; b) broaden the gender base of our primary materials; and c) develop plausible accounts of the political and social meanings that have adhered to pulp fictions drawn from a relatively distant epoch of British popular culture.
Course requirements will include active weekly participation (including reading journals), a short essay (1500 words), and a long independent research paper (5000 words).