The History of Film – Sound Era
25B | CCN: 28206
“Cinema gestated in Sight, and was born into Sound.”
– Walter Murch, Foreword to Audio-Vision
Why study the history of cinema, and how has contemporary cinema developed out of that history? Walter Benjamin claimed that “every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.” Using this as a framework for reconsidering the history of cinema from the advent of sound to the present, this course will give an introductory, whirlwind tour of technological and aesthetic developments over the past eighty years. We will survey major film movements and technological developments of the sound era, placing them in historical context and considering their social and political impact—both for the time in which they arose and their lasting influence for the present. Topics will be framed with an interest in how technological developments have shaped industry, and in how cinema can be self-reflexive with its own history. Potential topics include the rise of national cinemas, the rise and fall of the studio system, the establishment of generic norms, “classical” and post-classical Hollywood, globalization, transmedia, and the digital turn.
Students will learn how to ask historically inflected research questions, and approaches to using archival research, in addition to gaining a chronology of events. By the end of the course, students will be comfortable with a rigorous historical approach, as well as being attuned to the fusion of historical context and theoretical and popular reception of film as both art form and social and political commentary.