Special Topics in Film: The Film Essay – Cinema, the Minoritized Subject, and the Practice of Writing
140 - 001 | CCN: 44724
Damon Young and Stephen Best
Taking as a point of departure James Baldwin’s dazzling work of film criticism, The Devil Finds Work, this course introduces students to some of the best writing on film that describes the encounter with cinema—and with particular films—as formative of the minority subject. How are our experiences of race, gender, and sexuality informed by our encounters with cinema? How do those encounters generate a writing practice that gives an account of those films and speaks about and in some cases back to them? We will read great essays about cinema, by writers including Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, Stanley Cavell, Roland Barthes, Tisa Bryant, D.A. Miller, and Kaja Silverman. We will consider how these authors make their arguments, what their close attention to film language allows us to see that we didn’t see before, and—especially—how they interrogate the relationship between film aesthetics and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality. We will approach the essay as a form in its own right, one that rewards close formal analysis. In the last part of the course, we will look at film works that themselves function like essays, offering critical perspectives on race, gender, sexuality, and the phenomenology of cinema. The course includes a weekly screening, held at the Pacific Film Archive on Center St., or in 142 Dwinelle, as indicated.