The Craft of Writing: ‘I Saw the Devil’: One Hundred Years of the Thriller in a Global Context
R1B - 001 | CCN: 15683
Justin Vaccaro and Fareed Ben-Youssef
Thrillers have long been a part of world cinema. From the silent era (Louis Feuillade’s 1915 Les Vampires) to the present day (Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 Sicario), filmmakers and audiences cannot get enough of the suspenseful form. Yet, fundamental questions remain: what exactly is a thriller? What are its defining hallmarks? Is it even a genre or is it just a mood? Is there, in fact, such a thing as a thriller or is it always mixed with something else: action thriller, psychological thriller, sci-fi thriller, spy thriller?
These questions have not been probed in detail by scholars, and the thriller stands as a ubiquitous but understudied form. Our Reading and Composition course will attempt to fill in these conceptual gaps.
Our investigations into the thriller with take us through time and across world cinema. Viewings will be paired with articles on media and genre theory. Scholars like Janet Staiger—who argues that Hollywood films are never pure but always a pastiche of genres—will encourage us to see these films in ambiguous terms, bleeding across film types. The thriller’s myriad forms and sub-genres enable it to engage with all manner of cultural concerns and anxieties. But we then must ask, why do we incessantly turn to the thriller no matter what the issue or subject matter?
The thriller as a topic, like the thriller as a form, poses questions but withholds answers. Constructing answers, and finding new questions will be the tasks of this course. Students will focus in on the specific audio-visual details of cinematic thrillers, connecting this evidence to the world outside of the film. In so doing, students will learn the essentials of performing academic research so that they grow comfortable synthesizing a wide range of theoretical lenses and conducting original research across venues, be they libraries, databases, the Internet, or in archives.
Our course about the inscrutable but ever-intriguing thriller will give students the tools necessary to craft nuanced arguments which embrace ambiguity, ultimately allowing them to thrive within an academic setting and beyond.