Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2021

  • The Craft of Writing – Film Focus

    R1A 001 | CCN: 31220

    Jessica Ruffin, Jonathan Daniel Mackris

    Location: Internet/Online

    Date and Time: M, W 5:00pm - 6:29pm

    4 Units

    The shutdown and shelter-in-place orders issued around the globe to stem the tide of Covid-19 forced a reckoning in how we think about space. Spaces of labor, rest, community, and learning collapsed and intermingled. Even as the distinction between private and public spaces has become blurred, political and institutional clocks continue to click, calling on us to separate classroom and bedroom in the span of seconds. For some, the movement between spaces became only virtual or imaginary, while essential laborers continued to move within and between spaces charged with risk. In addition to human bodies at work, this collapse of spaces has been facilitated by digital and networked media, allowing a screen to become a room and an Amazon warehouse, a virtual cart. The summer of 2020 also demonstrated that digital media afford the formation of new communities online and in the streets, even as they trouble what it means to share space, leaving many isolated and unseen. Most of these spatial relations are not new. Indeed, the pandemic has only expedited transformations in the organization of labor and everyday life already underway in the wake of colonialism, slavery, and the rationalization of space and time.

    This course considers the role that photography, cinema, and other media play in this process of rationalization and alienation, from the nineteenth century to the present. We consider the impact the standardization of time has on perceptions of and relations between spaces, peoples, and nature. We ask how the clock and calendar facilitate political and economic arrangements; to what extent temporal media (cinema, social media) contribute to the obliteration of spatial difference; and in what ways they create new spaces of capture, pleasure, and control? We also address the environment as a space on the brink of collapse and seek to develop critical methods of investigating how climate mediates our sense of world and community. We will consider these and other questions through close readings of philosophy, media theory, economic theories, manifestos, current-day news articles, and of course cinema and new media.

    This course fulfills the first part of the Reading and Composition requirement, with an emphasis on writing, revision, close reading, and critical analysis. Students will learn to craft strong claims, supported by evidence, and present their original ideas clearly and effectively. Students will base their writings on analysis of texts and media objects. In addition to encouraging critical and analytical engagement, this course aims to develop student fluency in composing compelling prose in a variety of styles. Because learning to write cannot be done outside of a context of reading, the development of critical reading and re-reading practices is also a key objective and will be emphasized and encouraged throughout the semester.