Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2022

  • Intermediate Film Writing

    193 001 | CCN: 33028

    Emily West, Lida Zeitlin-Wu

    Location: Dwinelle 188

    Date and Time: W, F 12:30pm - 1:59pm

    4 Units

    Moving-image media are compelling sites of cultural work. Writing about motion pictures
    poses peculiar challenges – and offers distinct pleasures – for students in disciplines across
    the university. Yet it is unusual for a course that analyzes the moving image to teach students
    how to do so with clarity and confidence. What vocabularies do students writing about film,
    television, YouTube, or TikTok need to know? How do we engage texts in these mediums on
    their own terms, as visual objects of analysis? How do we do so in a way that is academically
    rigorous, drawing on scholarly interlocutors to contribute to a broader intellectual conversation?
    This writing-intensive course will use weekly writing assignments of 750 to 2000 words as a
    space to explore and find answers to these questions, each of which corresponds to a type of
    essay we will read and write together. We will start with the basics: examining the attitudes and
    practices we bring to the process of academic writing, including how we perceive our academic
    voices, assess the assignments we receive, and plan and complete our writing projects. As a
    community of practice, we will engage in real conversations about the challenges of academic
    writing, including time management and how to confront writer’s block. From here, the course
    will move to identify the specific skills and processes that facilitate positive – even pleasurable
    – academic writing experiences. As we read and write together, we will build the skills and
    confidence that make writing as a process of intellectual exploration satisfying for its own sake.

    More specifically, this course focuses on helping students cultivate the skills to write the
    three types of essay that form the basic unit structure of the semester: sequence analysis,
    analytical essay, and critical essay. No matter their major, students with an interest in writing
    about moving-image media will find these essay types familiar, interesting, and relevant to their
    course of study. A sequence analysis focuses on a single film sequence: presenting and
    interpreting evidence of this sequence’s cinematography, mise-en-scène, editing, and sound in
    order to make an argument about what the sequence means or what cultural work it is
    accomplishing. An analytical essay does the same thing, but at a larger scale: bringing together
    evidence from different parts of a single film in order to make an argument about what the film is
    doing formally and culturally. A critical essay also engages the film as a whole, but uses a piece
    of scholarship as critical framework or lens through which to view the film. In a critical essay,
    we explain what our critical framework is arguing, apply it to the film as a new object of
    analysis, and extend the original scholarship’s ideas by identifying what the film can show us
    about these ideas that we haven’t seen before. This last essay type, as Emily explains in the
    Writing Guide that will form the basis of our work in the final unit of the course, performs the
    gesture at the heart of academic writing: it engages and refines the work of a scholarly
    interlocutor, thereby contributing to a broad conversation about shared intellectual concerns.

    The class structure will cultivate students’ sense of sharing in this conversation by fostering
    collaborations between students and by inviting faculty to share their experiences as
    writers. Students will join together in writing pods where they will share their work and support
    each other in extending and revising their writing assignments throughout the semester. With the
    support of their peers and instructors, they will workshop their own writing at different stages of
    the process and engage in multi-stage revision designed to improve clarity, rigor, and
    persuasiveness rather than simply correct errors. Faculty visitors will share their experience
    with the types of writing we are working on; students and faculty will meet as colleagues who
    share the pleasures of an intellectual path and the challenges of clear and persuasive expression.
    Not only will students craft their own sequence analyses, analytical and critical essays; they will
    also author a personal paper development and self-revision guide. In this document, each student
    will identify their personal areas of challenge and success, note which parts of the process
    require significant investment of time and effort, and outline self-revision strategies that will help
    the student prepare and submit outstanding essays in future coursework. Students can take this
    document into future classes knowing that they have a strong sense of themselves as writers and
    a roadmap for essay-writing that works for them. At the end of the semester, students will walk
    away with a portfolio of polished work that includes final drafts of their sequence analysis,
    analytical essay, critical essay, and personal writing guide.

    Students must have completed R1A and R1B to enroll in this course. We welcome sophomore,
    junior, and senior students from any major who have a special interest in writing about the
    moving image. Students in Film & Media who wish to write an honors thesis should take this
    course followed by Film & Media 194: Advanced Film Writing.