The Craft of Writing: Genres, Major and Minor
R1B - 003 | CCN: 31630
Patrick Ellis and Eliot Bessette
Any system we use for organizing things tells us much about ourselves and our things. Genres are one useful way of organizing films. Like any organizational system, genres can group items by shared features, help us make decisions, and reveal to us what we care about. When assigning genres, we can accept the wisdom of common practice or propose new genre divisions, and we can supply good reasons to defend our groupings. This course will approach film genres in two ways. In the first, we will ask wide-ranging questions about how we assign genres and how genres develop. In the second, we will examine half a dozen film genres to see what characterizes each and how closely those groupings hang together. The class will begin with multi-week explorations of two major American genres, the film noir and the Western, and then transition to briefer overviews of minor genres such as the mind-game film and the time travel film. Our course will be structured around weekly screenings of old and new genre films as well as readings that traverse film history, formalism, and philosophy, though no prior experience in any of those approaches is expected.
This course will guide students through the composition of two research papers on film genre. Students will learn how to access primary historical materials (contemporary film reviews, production materials, etc.) and weave them with secondary sources (scholarly papers, archival materials) to make their own cogent arguments.