Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2024

  • Special Topics in Film – DIVA: The Female Voice Onscreen

    170 005 | CCN: 33339

    Dolores McElroy

    Location: Dwinelle 188

    Date and Time: TU, TH 2:00pm - 3:29pm

    4 Units

    If we look to popular media, “diva” can mean just about anyone whose manner of self-presentation puts them on some imagined scale between self-confidence and out-and-out vanity. But there is a history to the term “diva,” beginning with certain female opera singers of the 19th century, and continuing to the present day. This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the idea of “diva” and its formal and theoretical consequences for moving image media. We will explore the history and permutations of “diva” as a cultural type, particularly as anchored in the history of thought surrounding the female voice and technology.

    In this course, students contend with a wide range of theories of the voice and the image, including, but not limited to, feminist film and spectatorship theory, music studies, queer theory, critical race theory, aesthetics, and politics. Students will view and listen to various media featuring the work of selected divas from the beginning of recorded sound to the present day, including operatic video recordings, silent era Italian and Hollywood stars, avant-garde cinema, the self-reflexive “dark” backstage musicals of the 1950s-1970s, show business documentaries, and video work of contemporary pop stars.

    Questions we will address include: How does the history of thought about the female voice influence the depiction of women onscreen? How do “divas” differ from other cultural types, such as the femme fatale? How do theories of the voice interact with theories of technology? How are ideas of the voice gendered and racialized, and how do they circulate in a global, consumerist market?