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This course explores theoretical approaches to fiction and nonfiction film, television, video and other media. After discussing theories of documentary we will make short videos. We then consider "ists" and "isms," including realism and reality TV; modernism; postmodernism; materialism and the digital; and Freudianism and gender theory. Students have the option to make a longer video as a final project. Likely films: Drive, Exit through the Gift Shop, Man with the Movie Camera, Modern Times, No Country for Old Men, March of the Penguins , Gates of Heaven, Un Chien Andalou, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
Originally a means of market differentiation, film genres now are sets of conventions with emotional payoffs, that is, formal devices that promise "repetitive reaffirmation of certain ritualistic experiences" (Gehring). In other words, film genres are about business, art, and technology. But they seem to me also about ways of creating or recreating emotions. In this course we'll look at the formal and psychological markers as well as cultural consequences of a number of film genres that create, recreate, and thus keep certain emotions in circulation.
This is not a course in which we parade our pain or give advice to the lovelorn. But it is an immodest and wholly foolish undertaking. And an ambitious one, too: though it's mostly literary analysis it is also part philosophy, part psychology, part history, part film theory, part creative writing and filmmaking. For to begin to speak of love is to speak of desire, beauty, goodness, creation, immortality (Plato), psychic anatomy and anatomical memory, prophetic dreams, conscious irrationality, obsession, transgression, suffering, repression, sublimation (Freud), selfhood, otherness, will to power, slavery, mastery, surrender (Hegel, Sartre, De Beauvoir), prostitution (Marx and Engels), male conspiracy (Firestone), Lines between eros, philia, nomos, agape, and theoria grow faint and not only because they happen to be Greek words and thus equally strange. Appetites sometimes merge and sometimes squabble with reason and spirit. Loving oneself, loving others, loving God, loving God in others, passion, intimacy, commitment, these states bring up only the first questions: Who/what should be loved? How does a lover choose a/the beloved? What causes love? What does love cause? Egotism? Idealism? Self-knowledge? Marriage? Companionate marriage? Partnership? The sense that the lovers are heroes/heroines of their own stories which they can finally tell? If one's love is a story, or becomes a story, what is the genre of that story? Does love become a story only in love's absence? Is love good? Is love a good? Is there a hierarchy of loves and lovers? What connects love to sexual desire? Do causes and connections differ among cultures and historical periods? What differentiates falling in love from being or staying in love? All of these are good philosophical questions and psychological categories, but talking about love philosophically or treating it as something amenable to psychologizing invariably causes us, as the philosopher Arthur Danto said in the Chambers Gallery, "to lose touch with the reality everyone cherishes."