Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2024

  • Special Topics in Film – Cinema and the Anthropocene

    170 002 | CCN: 31233

    Emily West

    Location: Dwinelle 188

    Date and Time: TU, TH 9:30am - 10:59am

    4 Units

    What is “The Anthropocene?” What do we do with it? How do we live through it? How do we use this concept to expand our understanding of deep time and human agency? To expand our awareness of interspecies relational entanglements? To intensify our commitments to social and environmental justice? How have filmmakers of the late 20th and early 21stcenturies begun to work through these questions – and what might we learn from their attempts to imagine human impacts on our planet? In this course, we’ll begin by reading a few texts that define “the anthropocene” and explore its geological and cultural dimensions. We won’t engage much with debates about when it starts or how to attribute its effects; this is an enormous field of scholarship covered in courses in other departments! Our interest, as film and media scholars, is in tracing how films formally and narratively represent concepts that have emerged within and alongside scholarship in the ecological humanities and social sciences: critiques of the extractive logics of racial capitalism, of the slow violence effected by environmental exploitation and degradation, of the stories “we” tell about the landscapes of particular geographic regions. We will trace the effects and politics of films that image landscapes defined, at least in part, by their place in stories of extraction, contamination, and ruin.

    A note on the course format: This course will run as a seminar. Emily will teach for the first 5 weeks, while the rest of the course forms research and presentation groups focused on particular topics within the scholarly literature – and specific films with which they pair. After week 5, these groups will run the course every week: presenting the main claims of course texts and leading discussion of stimulating passages, introducing the film during our screening period, and leading discussion on the film, including close formal analysis of specific sequences, in the next course period. This will be, after a certain point, a student-led course. Please enroll only if you are prepared to fully participate in this environment: to lead and to collaborate as your best self.