The Craft of Writing – Film Focus – Trans Cinema’s Oppositional Practices
R1A 003 | CCN: 25411
Isaac Arland Preiss
Location: Dwinelle 134
Date and Time: M, W 5:00pm - 6:29pm
The term “transgender tipping point” has been used to describe the upswell, in the twenty-tens, of gender variance in mainstream media. But visibility, for transgender people and other subjugated groups, has never been unproblematically associated with political progress or livable worlds. Grounded in the insights produced at the intersections of transgender studies and film theory, this course focuses on narrative and documentary films which grapple with such a contradiction. Resisting conventions of representation, the inventive and experimental dispositions of these films characterize what what film scholar Eliza Steinbock has called “the riotous state of trans visual culture.” While the category “transgender” is central, course materials generate insight into gendered systems and social practices in which we are all enmeshed, through which we all make sense of our worlds and experiences. As the theorist Eva Hayward reminds us, “[t]o some degree, being trapped in a body is an existential crisis for all of us, trans or not.”
This course fulfills the first component of Berkeley’s Reading and Composition requirement. It is designed to introduce students to the practice of college-level writing in the humanities, with a focus on the particular skill sets required for writing about visual media. Students should come away with an ability to use the vocabulary of film production and scholarship to compose clear and robust descriptions of the medium’s narratological and formal elements, and to compose original, critical, and persuasive analytic responses to film texts. The work we do in our writing is not only that of making and defending an argument, but of drawing out and taking seriously that which, in film texts and spectatorial experience, is ambiguous, opaque, or unstable. The course encourages students to make use of their own critical impulses – how, when we attend closely to texts, they take on unfamiliar and intriguing qualities. Through rigorous writing exercises and guided class discussions, we will develop these impulses into creative and dexterous movement between query, observation, analysis, and critique.