LMC 2500 – Introduction to Film
School of Literature, Media, and Communication • Georgia Institute of Technology
Classes: T/Th 1:30-2:45pm, Skiles 371
Screenings: Tuesdays: 3pm, Skiles 002 [note the change in venue]
*While you are strongly encouraged to attend weekly screenings, you are not required to do so. You are nevertheless responsible for seeing any and all screened material.
Prerequisite: ENGL 1102
Course Attributes: Humanities Requirement
Professor Gregory Zinman
Office Hours: T/Th, 12:30-1:30pm, and by appointment, Skiles 324
This course provides students with a number of approaches—formal, historical, and theoretical—with which to analyze cinematic form and to understand how moving images make meaning. The class begins by examining cinema’s formal elements (cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène, sound) in order to establish the necessary terminology required for the analysis of film. We then turn to the conventions and critiques of Hollywood narrative filmmaking, considering issues of genre, authorship, and ideology, before considering some alternatives (avant-garde, art cinema, other national cinemas, documentary) to dominant Western film styles. The class concludes by interrogating the quickly shifting status of the moving image in the digital age, and asking what these technological changes might indicate for cinema’s future.
By the conclusion of this course, students should learn to:
- Recognize and understand cinema’s formal attributes.
- Build a critical vocabulary for analyzing the formal construction of film.
- Utilize that critical vocabulary to articulate issues (e.g., social, cultural, economic, technical, and aesthetic) related to the study of film.
- Recognize and be able to analyze cinema’s aesthetic, narrative, thematic, and generic conventions.
- Explore the relationships between past and present film forms and practices.
The textbook for this course is available at the GaTech Barnes & Noble and via your favorite online bookseller:
Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White, The Film Experience, 5th ed. (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017).
All other reading will be available as .pdf files or web links on the course website’s SYLLABUS.
Attendance, Punctuality, and Late/Incomplete Assignments:
You need to be on time to class every week and stay the entire period.
Attendance to all lectures is mandatory. We will take attendance in each class. Absences and tardiness will be penalized, so make attendance a top priority.
You are allowed three excused absences. Beginning with the fourth absence, your overall course grade will be lowered by a full letter grade (e.g. A to B) for each unexcused absence. This means that if you miss more than six classes, you will fail the course.
Please be respectful to your fellow students and arrive on time. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late, you will be considered absent for that class. If you absolutely must miss a class meeting, please contact me at least 24 hours in advance in order to make alternate arrangements.
All written work must be handed in/posted on time except in the case of serious illness, medical emergency, or some other compelling mitigating circumstance.
Should you submit an assignment after the due date, your grade for that assignment will decrease by a full letter grade for each day that it is late. Should you fail to submit an assignment entirely, you will receive an F on that assignment and, consequently, you will receive a lower grade for the course.
Lectures, Screenings, and Discussions:
Please silence your phone. Please do not text, IM, tweet, or read the internet during lectures or screenings.
People who text or receive calls during class will be asked to leave, and will require permission to re-enter the course. Laptops are for note-taking only; those found using their laptop for any other reason will have their privilege revoked for the duration of the semester and will not be permitted to bring a laptop to the class.
- In addition to the weekly feature screenings, many screenings will take place in class and/or will be posted online. You are responsible for seeing all of these materials (meaning you may be tested on any clips or screenings that occur in class or online).
- You are also responsible for seeing all of the feature films in this course. If you cannot attend a class screening, you must see the film on your own time before class on Thursday. The feature films will be placed on reserve at the library, unless otherwise noted.
- Discussions of the weekly feature screenings will occur on Thursdays.
- Some of the films and clips screened in this course contain violence, sex, coarse language, “mature” themes and/or challenging social issues. You are expected to watch and engage with all work, whether or not you derive immediate enjoyment from watching it. If, for any reason, you have an aversion to studying and discussing the content of these films, I will assist you in the selection of other courses. Special accommodations cannot be made later in the semester.
Because of the rapid pace of the schedule, it is absolutely essential that you stay on top of the reading assignments and complete them before the start of each class. Unless otherwise noted, reading should be completed before class on Tuesday. Reading assignments are assessed through classroom participation, as well as the occasional quiz.
Questions to ask yourself as you are reading:
- What are some running themes or recurring concerns in these pieces?
- What is the central argument?
- How is that argument constructed? What is the methodology/approach is employed?
- Who/what is cited frequently—books, people, presses, and journals?
- Are there particular passages that stand out to you? Can you offer a reading of one or more of these passages?
- Can you articulate questions for further class discussion?
- Can you offer an application of the reading to current cinematic or online projects/objects, whether it’s yours or someone else’s? (Provide links if/when applicable).
Remember the “three yeses,” an approach to reading that comes from literary theorist and feminist critic Gayatri Spivak. The idea is that a proper critique consists in saying yes to the text three times. The first yes is to reading the text carefully and in full; the second yes is to reconstructing the argument on its own terms (without criticizing it for what you think it doesn’t do, or what it silences, or what you think it is wrong about); the third yes is the hardest, and it is to taking the argument, on its own terms, as far as you can go with it, considering what it can do and what you can do with it (again, before and without attacking it for what it can’t do). Spivak says that only after you have said yes to the text these three times, can you say a properly critical no to it, which is to say only then can you fully and rigorously elaborate the text’s limits.
Participation + Quizzes (15%)
Reading should be completed before class on Tuesday. Reading assignments are assessed through classroom participation, as well as the occasional quiz.
In addition, I will be suggesting additional reading every week on the class blog.
“Participation” means: thoughtful contributions to the discussions in the classroom. You do not have to talk all of the time in class (nor should you), but you absolutely must speak up on a regular basis in order to receive an excellent participation grade. This goes for your participation online as well. Be a good colleague and engage with your fellow students—the idea is to learn from one another.
Blog Posts (20%): You will be completing a number of blog posts of approximately 300-400 words throughout the semester, in response to prompts provided by the professor. A blogging schedule will be established in the first week of the course, and students’ first posts will be due the second week of the course.
Sequence Analysis (15%): This assignment will consist of two parts. The first will consist of a shot list, and the second, an analytical essay. You must complete the shot list in order to receive credit for the assignment.
Shot List: Due before class on Tuesday, February 6.
Analytical Essay: Due before class on Tuesday, February 13.
Midterm Exam (20%): The midterm exam will be held in class on Thursday, March 1. The midterm exam will consist of short answer questions covering films, lectures, discussions, and readings up to and including the unit on narrative. You will also be asked to write a short essay analyzing a film sequence screened during the exam.
Final Exam (30%): The final exam will held on Monday, April 30, 2:50-5:40pm. The final exam will be a cumulative exam covering all lectures, screenings, readings and discussions from the first day of the quarter to the last. It will consist of short answer questions and one or two essays that will demonstrate your ability to analyze and compare the films shown in the class.
Your grade for the course will therefore be calculated as follows:
- Participation and quizzes: 15%
- Blog posts: 20%
- Formal analysis: 15% (5% shot list, 10% sequence analysis)
- Midterm exam: 20%
- Final exam: 30%
All assignments will be graded on an A-F scale.
Each week, blogging will be structured by roles:
Readers: These students are responsible for posting initial questions and insights about the week’s reading material. These must be posted to the class blog by 5pm on Monday afternoon.
Viewers: Students in this group will pose initial questions and insights into the week’s screening materials. These must be posted to the class blog by noon on Wednesday.
Responders: Students in this group will build upon, disagree with, or clarify the viewer’s posts. Responders must respond to two Viewer posts. Responders respond to posts in the comments section. These must be posted to the class blog by 5pm on Wednesday afternoon.
Searchers: Students in this group find and share at least one relevant online resource (an article, a video, an interview, etc.). In addition to linking to or embedding the resource, the searchers provide a short evaluation of the resource, highlighting what makes it worthwhile, unusual, or, if appropriate, problematic. These must be posted to the class blog by 5pm on Wednesday afternoon.
Relaxers: Students in this group will have the week off from blogging.
You are expected to take your blog posts seriously. Pick interesting clips and topics, and be creative, insightful, nuanced, and clear in your thinking and writing. You are encouraged to post more often than is required for your grade. Such additional participation will be duly noted and factored into your final grade.
If you are curious about the criteria I employ when grading blog posts, please refer to this chart developed by Professor Mark Sample of Davidson College:
|A||Exceptional. The blog entry is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The entry demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.|
|B||Satisfactory. The blog entry is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The entry reflects moderate engagement with the topic.|
|C||Underdeveloped. The blog entry is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The entry reflects passing engagement with the topic.|
|D||Limited. The blog entry is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.|
|F||No Credit. The blog entry is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentence.|
HOW TO DO WELL IN THIS CLASS
Do the readings before we discuss them. Otherwise, you will not be able to follow conversations in class, let alone the lectures. Plus, demonstrating you’ve read the book means no quizzes.
Write while you read AND while you watch. For me this means annotating a text as I read it. You can annotate print and digital texts.
Come to class with ideas and questions. Be curious. Seek connections between texts (films are texts, too) and between this course and others, even in other disciplines.
Take notes during class meetings. A good portion of the final exam will cover what we talk about in class. Students who take good notes understand and retain the material better—and then do better on the exam—than students who do not.
Let me know when you don’t follow what I’m saying. I am not aware of what you do not know or do not understand, and I may assume more contextual knowledge on your part than you have. I find this stuff fascinating, but I will not always known what you want to investigate or know more about—so please tell me.
Persuasive writing takes time. Before you submit a blog entry, and most certainly before you submit your analytical essay, consider writing and circulating drafts. Ask your friends and peers to take a look at what you have written. Come chat with me during office hours. Consider how your writing can extend and even complicate our in-class discussions.
Use the blog to share ideas and discuss the readings and screenings outside of class. If you have a question, then ask your classmates. If you hear/see something you want to remember, then blog about it for later reference. Comment on posts, even when you are not assigned to do so that particular week.
(“How to Do Well in this Course” adapted from syllabi written by Christopher Douglas, University of Victoria Department of English, and Jentery Sayers, University of Victoria Department of English.)
Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated. Academic dishonesty is not allowed in any form. Plagiarism (quoting, presenting, or paraphrasing someone else’s ideas as if they were your own without appropriate footnote and bibliographic citation) is a serious academic offence and will result in a grade of F. Do not submit material found on websites or from online sources as your own – you will receive an F. Discussing and sharing your ideas with your classmates, peers, friends, etc. (IRL or online) is highly recommended; the work you turn in, however, must be of your own creation. If you do not know how to properly cite sources in an academic paper, speak with your professor and/or a college librarian. In addition, any identified case of academic dishonesty will immediately be reported to the University.
For more information, please refer to the definition of “academic misconduct” included in the Georgia Tech honor code, available online at: http://www.honor.gatech.edu/
The Georgia Tech communication center, CommLab, is open for undergraduate use. At CommLab, professional and peer tutors are available to work with you to improve your writing skills. More information, including instructions for how to set up an appointment via the website, is available here:
Clough Commons, Suite 447
Phone: (404) 894-3805
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Students with disabilities should self-report to the Office of Disability Services:
Smithgall Student Services Building | Suite 123
353 Ferst Drive