The Craft of Writing – Mediating History: The Stories Archives (Don’t) Tell
R1B - 003 | CCN: 15149
Alex Bush and Diana Ruiz
This course will examine the relationship between film, history, and archive. Starting with early cinema and the formation of film archives that accompanied it, we will proceed to investigate such sites of historical collection as museums, personal and family archives, institutional archives, libraries, radical and alternative archival projects, and digital repositories like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Throughout, we will attend to questions of power and identity, always asking who is included in, or excluded from, the construction and representational practices of collecting.
As part of this class, you will complete two substantial research projects. The first will be a profile of a local archive that examines its collections, categorization practices, access, and approach to historical record keeping. In the second, we will ask you to develop a research paper on a topic of your choosing that draws on archival sources. Our screenings will cover a wide range of material, but will all have in common the use of archival footage. This will allow us to examine how collections are shaped into narratives in the construction of history from material resources. Readings, while not always voluminous, will be challenging (but rewarding!), and we will use class time to help you work through the ideas in your own written and spoken words with the support of your classmates.
In their focus on archival theory, our texts raise the question of how stories emerge from material evidence, a critical component of research writing. To construct—or understand—a compelling argument, you first need to consider the foundations of that argument in textual or other evidence. These ideas will be central to our discussion and homework. Both class time and assignments will be dedicated to learning how to write effectively using appropriate media vocabulary in multiple assignments of varying format and length. Working frequently with archival sources, and discussing research with your fellow students, will help you learn how to do it confidently and well. Moving forward, we encourage you to think consistently about the relationship between argument and archive as you approach writing during your career at Berkeley. The writing techniques you will acquire in this course will be useful in any academic discipline and beyond the academy.