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    six methods for five films

    I've been spending much of this weekend watching films and thinking about my syllabus—I go back to teaching next week, and am writing a new syllabus from scratch instead of repurposing one of my older ones.

    I'll be teaching three sections of Composition this fall, and the thematic center of the course is "writing about film." With that in mind, I'm using Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide To Writing About Film as the class text (thanks to BB-A for the recommendation).

    The real "meat" of this book, as far as I'm concerned, is Chapter Four, "Six Approaches to Writing About Film." I'm spending four weeks in the center of the semester focusing pretty intently on these six methods, and the rest of the semester is basically going to involve the students trying out these methods for themselves.

    The six approaches are as follows:

    • historical analysis (putting the film in the context of film history or other historical narratives)

    • national analysis (thinking of the film as a product of its culture)

    • genre-based analysis (looking at how the film conforms to / defies / subverts genre conventions)

    • auteur-based analysis (putting the film in the context of other works by the same creator(s))

    • formalist analysis (looking at the technical features of the film, mise-en-scene, etc)

    • ideological analysis (analyzing the underlying values of the film; looking at it in terms of how it approaches race, class, gender, etc)

    I've been trying to come up with films that are reasonably accessible to college freshmen but which can also be "read" interestingly through any of these six approaches. I've narrowed it down to a list of five finalists:

    (Semi-finalists? David Lynch's underrated The Straight Story (1999) and Paul Thomas Anderson's underrated Punch-Drunk Love (2002), both a little too off-beat for my students, I fear.)

    The dilemma is this: there's really only room in the semester to screen two films, so I need to narrow it down further before the end of the weekend. If anyone wants to argue for or against any of these films, well, that's what the comments area is for. I'm also taking suggestions for any other films that might also be interestingly read through these six lenses for the next time I teach this course...

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    Friday, January 12, 2007
    10:06 PM


    So, what did you end up choosing? I would lean toward Adaptation and Three Kings, but then again, I haven't taught a comp class since 1999.
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