Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2016

  • The Craft of Writing: “Feeling Media”

    R1A - 001 | CCN: 31603

    Renée Pastel and Eliot Bessette

    4 Units

    Why do we watch film and television? Ingmar Bergman said, “No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” Despite the road that film and television have to our emotions–or perhaps because of it–it is extremely difficult to write about our internal, private reactions to a work in a scholarly fashion that is intelligible and compelling to others. Even within films, good characters seem conflicted about the relation between thinking and feeling. In the Star Wars series, Qui-Gon Jinn said: “Feel. Don’t think. Use your instincts.”; in another context, Obi-Wan Kenobi counseled: “Patience. Use the force. Think.” If Jedi knights can’t agree, what hope is there for the rest of us?

    This course will challenge the widespread belief that thinking and feeling are naturally opposed, and will explore why and how fictional media can elicit strong emotional responses. We will approach the theme of feeling in visual media in a variety of ways: by defining emotion as such (as well as individual emotions), examining the codification of certain genres by emotion, asking whether feelings elicited by fictional texts can be "real," questioning the shelf life and universality of emotions and cinematic techniques of eliciting emotion, and dealing with the difficulties posed by the inherent subjectivity of emotional experience. This course introduces students to college-level analytical writing, reading, and viewing. Students will come away from the course having learned how to write persuasive, interpretive arguments, supported by critical engagement with various texts–films, television shows, short stories, and humanistic scholarship. By performing close, analytical readings of our visual texts and the emotions they portray and evoke, we will craft academic arguments about the nature of cinematic emotion and reflect cogently on our own responses to visual media.