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Maymester Courses

HUMN 3104-3: Film Criticism and Theory

Jennifer Peterson

Melodrama has often been dismissed as overwrought with emotion and sensationalism. But when examined more closely, melodrama’s “excessiveness” becomes interesting because it can lead to beautiful film style (and music), and because it suggests how films emotionally affect film audiences. This intensive summer school course will use critical theory to examine how and to what purposes melodrama has been used in cinema. We will look at different aspects of melodrama: its pictorialism, acting style, and music; its staging of victimhood and entrapment, and also fast-paced action. We will look at melodrama in different historical periods and national contexts, asking questions such as: What are the basic components of melodrama? How does melodrama position and affect its spectators? How does it address questions of social justice? How does it allow space for the representation of marginalized voices (women and African Americans, for example), and yet how does it also contain those voices within conventional ideology? How has melodrama been viewed by oppositional audiences and fan cultures? What are the implications of film style for melodrama, and why is music so important to the genre? Where else do we find melodramatic forms the contemporary world, outside of the cinema? Prerequisite FILM 1502.  Same as FILM 3104.

HUMN 3505-3: The Enlightenment
Anne Schmiesing

By questioning long-standing assumptions and traditions, Enlightenment thinkers achieved a reformulation of ideals and values which has been of lasting influence on modern society. In the context of the Enlightenment emphasis on reason and humanity, this course examines eighteenth-century European arguments for (and against) freedom of religion, the abolition of slavery, and the emancipation of women, as well as eighteenth-century views on science, education, and government. Text by Leibniz, Lessing, Kant, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Graffigny, Locke, Hume, Wollstonecraft, and others.  Same as GRMN 3505.  Approved for arts and science core curriculum:ideals and values.

HUMN 3702-3: Dada & Surrealist Literature
Patrick Greaney

Surveys the major theoretical concepts and literary genres of the Dada and Surrealist movements. Topics include Dada performance and cabaret, the manifesto, montage, the readymade, the Surrealist novel, colonialism and the avant-garde, and literary and philosophical precursors to the avant-garde. Taught in English. Same as GRMN 3702.  This course is approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.

HUMN 4010-3: Hitchcock and Freud
Paul Gordon

This class will apply Freud’s psychoanalytic method of interpreting works of art to the films of Alfred Hitchcock.  Although Hitchcock is often self-consciously Freudian in his art (eg. in VertigoSpellbound, etc.), the true “latent content” of the films is only to be revealed by an application of Freud’s theories of narcissism, the Oedipus-complex, the uncanny, etc. “against the grain” of the manifest content of Hitchcock’s works themselves.  For example, we will seek to explain Hitchcock’s recurrent and complicated use of “maternal super-egos” (as in Psycho), of male narcissism (as in Rear Window), of a violent “male protest” (Shadow of a Doubt) and of a female and trans-gendered violence of nature and the unconscious (MarnieThe Birds).  And above all, we will examine the persistence figure of “Mother” in Hitchcock’s films as it informs all of his leading female characters.

Requirements: Weekly viewing of the films will be accompanied by class presentations and discussions, culminating in a final research project involving the psychoanalytical interpretation of at least one of Hitchcock’s films.

HUMN 4130-3: Greek & Roman Comedy
Andrew Cain

Studies Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence in English translation.  No Greek or Latin required.  Same as CLAS 4130.  Approved for arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.


Term A Courses

HUMN 3093-3: Topics in the Humanities: The Landscape of Modernity: Nature, Imagination, Art

Anthony Abiragi

“Postmodernism is what you have when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good.” Fredric Jameson’s claim regarding the consolidation of postmodernism with the end of nature is relatively recent (it dates from 1992), but he is hardly the first theorist to register the potentially permanent disappearance of nature from human experience. Thus Karl Marx in the 1840s: “The nature which preceded human history no longer exists anywhere (except perhaps on a few Australian coral-islands of recent origin).”

This course will examine various artistic and theoretical works that have attempted, from Romanticism to Postmodernism, to come to terms with (a) the end of nature and (b) the nihilistic threat of living in a world measured to exclusively human interests. In addition to reading literary works from Wordsworth to Cormac MacCarthy, we will survey the history of European and North American landscape painting over the last 200 years in order to examine visual representations that exult nature and chart its ruin at the hands of industrialization and environmental exploitation. From landscape, we will turn to the rise of abstraction in twentieth-century painting, at which point we will examine Adorno’s powerful conception of modern art as the last preserve of nature – or, at least, as the medium that allows us to mourn its disappearance. Before closing with an examination of various artists in the earth-art tradition, we will view three films: Truffaut’s Wild Child, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Penn’s Into the Wild.


Term B Courses

HUMN 4004-3: Topics in Film Theory: The Cinema of Desire: Luis Buñuel & Pedro Almodóvar

Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz

Description to follow.