History of Film: Silent Era
25A | CCN: 15002
This course walks students through the history of cinema from an examination of the earliest proto-cinematic optical devices to the first experiments with sound film. As students learn the history of these technological, aesthetic, and narrative developments, they will practice approaching film texts not only formally but also as cultural objects that have much to tell us about the world that produced them and the audiences whose ever-evolving interests and tastes profoundly shaped this evolving art form. What were audiences looking at – and for – when they turned with wonder to the stereoscope, the zoopraxiscope, the kinematograph, the kinetoscope, the nickelodeon? What did they hope to see, and what did they find that fascinated them? How did these media extend and refine early 20th-century thinking about vision, about mechanization, about the human body, and about the world? How did cinema become a narrative form? How and when did film genres develop? When did it become possible to talk about actors as “movie stars”? How did national and international film industries and economies develop? How did filmmakers and thinkers across the world conceive of the cinema as a quintessentially modern form? Course readings and screenings will explore these and other issues, examining the complex ways in which the profound cultural changes of the late 19th and early 20th century birthed, refined, and challenged the medium.