Spring 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
This course is devoted to considering American film comedy as a genre, as an industrial product, and as an art form. We will focus on the film comedy's historical development, narrative structure and formal features, modes of performance, and the meanings it seemed to produce for its audiences across the past hundred-plus years. We will trace the ways in which such films represented race, class, gender and sexual difference, age, ethnicity, and nationality, and how Hollywood's products interact(ed) with other film genres, with other kinds of theatrical performances, and with other entertainment industries such as vaudeville, burlesque, radio, and television (both network and cable and its offshoots). After introductory sessions on genre theory, the histories of comedy and humor in U.S. popular culture, and the contexts of Hollywood and commercial filmmaking, each week will be devoted to a specific topic or issue (among them silent comedy, pre-Code comedy, screwball comedy, comedian comedy, parody/animal/gross-out comedy, comedy and stereotypes, comedy and spectatorship). We will see a few complete films during class, but most weeks full-length films will be required viewing on your own, whether you choose to watch them in the library or to rent them yourself. Generally, class sessions will consist of some lecture (augmented by brief screenings of relevant material) but will primarily be devoted to discussion of the reading and screening for the week.
Most of the weekly readings will be posted for downloading or printing on eLearning or electronic reserve. Chapters will also be assigned from books available online (ebooks) through McDermott Library. As described, weekly out-of-class screenings are required as well.
The only required textbook is Noel Carroll, HUMOUR: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION (Oxford University Press), ISBN 987-0-19-955222-1.
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
Attendance and participation (20%), two in-class exams (40% total), two papers of 4-5 pages in length (40% total).