Undergraduate Course Descriptions
SPRING 2006

COML 057.401 Great Books of Judaism
TR 12-1:30 Carasik
Cross listed with JWST 151, NELC 156

The study of four paradigmatic and classic Jewish texts so as to introduce students to the literature of classic Judaism. Each text will be studied historically — "excavated" for its sources and roots — and holistically, as a canonical document in Jewish tradition. While each text will inevitably raise its own set of issues, we will deal throughout the semester with two basic questions: What makes a "Jewish" text? And how do these texts represent different aspects of Jewish identity? All readings will be in translation.


COML 062.401 Twentieth-Century Poetry
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MW 2-3:30 Bernstein
Cross listed with ENGL 062

This "reading workshop" is an introduction to the unprecedented range of language exploration in the poetry that emerged in the 20th century from Europe, Latin America and others parts of the world. The basic course text will be Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris. The anthology features poets such as Mallarmé, Rilke, Tzara, Mayakovsky,Vallejo, Artaud, and Césaire, along with a sampling of some of the most significant movements in poetry and the other arts: Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, "Objectivism," Negritude. We will also look at sound and visual poetry and also the new digital poetry that is emerging on the Intenet. In addition, there will be a few poets visiting the class — reading and discussing their work with the seminar.

The "reading workshop" is less concerned with analysis or explanation of individual poems than with finding ways to intensify the experience of poetry, of the poetic, through a consideration of how the different styles and structures and forms of contemporary poetry can affect the way we see and understand the world. No previous experience with poetry is necessary. More important is a willingness to consider the implausible, to try out alternative ways of thinking, to listen to the way language sounds before trying to figure out what it means, to lose yourself in a flurry of syllables and regain your bearings in dimensions otherwise imagined as out-of-reach.

The basic requirement for the class is a weekly response to the assigned readings - usually a notebook entry, imitation, or experiment. These responses are open-ended and can be in whatever form you choose - they are meant to encourage interaction with the poems and also serve as a record of your reading. The experiments are based on list of exercises (something like laboratory work!) aimed at getting inside the styles of the various poets studied. The responses and experiments will form the basis of workshop discussions.

The readings for this workshop are extensive and cannot all be discussed in class. The concept is for you to saturate yourself in 20th-century poetry. Works will be presented from well-known poets but there will be equal attention to a range of lesser known poets as well as on younger poets now actively working to delight, inform, redress, lament, extol, oppose, renew, rhapsodize, imagine, foment...

This class complements English 88, 20th Century American Poetry. Full syllabus (subject to change).


COML 090.401 Gender, Sexuality, Literature
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 3-4:30 Bowers
Cross listed with ENGL 090, WSTD 090

Careful consideration of works produced by and about British women between 1660 and 1800, including genres such as these: novels, letters, drama, poetry, and expository writing. Emphasis will be on the embeddedness of women's imaginative writing in relation to contemporary political and social events. Requirements: primary reading, library research, oral reports, class participation, and essays. Students in disciplines other than English are welcome.


COML 093.401 Introduction to Postcolonial Literature
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MWF 1-2 Port
Cross listed with ENGL 093

The disintegration of European empires was of crucial political and cultural significance in the twentieth century, and its consequences continue to reverberate in innumerable ways throughout contemporary culture. In this course we will study the work of writers from former British colonies including southern Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean. Their works tell stories rooted in local experience and history, revise imperial narratives, challenge assumptions about identity and otherness, and scrutinize the politics of language. Authors from southern Africa (J.M. Coetzee, Tsitsi Dangarembga), South Asia (Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy), and the Caribbean (Jean Rhys, Jamaica Kincaid) will be among those whose work we'll discuss. We will also read some theoretical essays (by, for example, Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Benedict Anderson, and Paul Gilroy), investigate the lively contemporary debates within the diverse and contentious field known as postcolonial studies, and discuss the implications of an increasingly globalized social order. Requirements include lively class participation, an in-class presentation, two papers (6-8 pages), and a final exam.


COML 096.401 Theories of Gender and Sexuality
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MW 2-3:30 Love
Cross listed with ENGL 096, WSTD 096

What is sexuality? Does it exist in the body or in the mind? Is it a collection of actions, desires, and fantasies, or is it rather a disposition, a way of seeing oneself, an identity? Does what we want depend on who we are? Does what we do define who we are? This course will address such questions by introducing students to several classic texts in the history and theory of sexuality. We will consider the politics and meaning of non-normative sexualities across time and in different cultural locations. After working through several key texts in the field, we will turn to contemporary debates about the limits of transgender identity, gay pride and gay shame, the commodification of identity, the meaning of “queer,” and responses to HIV/AIDS. Readings by Freud, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Adrienne Rich, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gayle Rubin, Michael Warner, Cherríe Moraga, Leo Bersani, and others; we will also look at some contemporary queer cultural production (music, film, zines). Requirements: two short papers; one longer paper; a final exam.


COML 104.401 The Twentieth Century and War
General Req. III Arts and Letters
TR 9-10:30 Barnard
Cross listed with ENGL 104

In this course we will investigate the experience of war in the 20th century. We will read texts that deal with World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and other anti-colonial wars (such as the Algerian struggle for independence and the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya), and possibly also the Bosnian conflict. Though our reading list will include some books that deal with the experience of combat, this is far from the sole focus of the course. We will also consider questions of resistance, complicity, conscience, and ethics; civilians’ struggle to survive in, or elude the violence of war; and the traumatic aftermath of conflict. Most importantly, since this is a literature course, we will consider the experimental and innovative narrative forms (including graphic novels and cinematic forms) that evolved over the course of the century to represent these catastrophes. Readings may include: Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory; Marianna Torgovnick, The War Complex: World War II in Our Time; poetry by Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Guillaume Appolinaire, Bertolt Brecht, and John Dos Passos; Pat Barker, The Ghost Road; Hemingway, In Our Time and other selected stories; selected stories by Christopher Isherwood; Rachel Seiffert, The Dark Room; Elise Blackwell, Hunger; Art Spiegelman, Mauss, Ian McEwan, Atonement, W. B. Sebald, Austerlitz and On the Natural History of Destruction; Joseph Heller, Catch-22; Graham Greene, The Quiet American; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato; Ngugi wa Thiong’O, A Grain of Wheat; J. M. Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K, Joe Sacco, Safe Area Gorazde. Films may include: Forbidden Art; Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, The Fog of War.


COML 115.401 Kalidasa’s India: Sanskrit Lit in Translation
MW 2-3:30 Cox
Cross listed with SAST 004

This course will be a general overview of classical Indic literature, religious life, political
institutions, court society, art history (etc.), as organized through the works and what little is known of the life of the poet and playwright Kalidasa, generally acknowledged as the greatest author in the Sanskritic tradition.


COML 119.401 Middle Eastern Cinema: Law and Society
MW 2-3:30 Minuchehr
Cross listed with NELC 119, FILM 119

In the past two decades, films from the Middle East have gained exceptional international reception. This course is designed to explore the reasons behind this reception through a study of the prevalent social, political, and historical themes and issues in Middle Eastern cinemas.
Questions such as women’s laws, literature and its function, familial issues and gender roles, historical legacies and political tensions, and religions, will be discussed. This course assumes no previous knowledge of film studies or languages of the region. Films from Israel, the Arab World, Turkey, and Iran will be shown in subtitled versions.


COML 125.401 Narrative Across Cultures
General Req. III Arts and Letters
WATU Fulfills ½ College writing requirement
TR 10:30-12 Allen
Cross listed with ENGL 103, NELC 180

The purpose of this course is to present a variety of narrative genres and to discuss and illustrate the modes whereby they can be analyzed. We will be looking at some shorter types of narrative: short story, novella, and fable, but also extracts from longer works such as autobiography. While some the works will be from the Anglo-American tradition, a large number of others will be from European and non-Western cultural traditions and from earlier time-periods. The course will thus offer ample opportunity for the exploration of the translation of cultural values in a comparative perspective. Among (familiar) authors to be read: Aesop, Borges, Chopin, Conde, Douglass, Gogol, Joseph's story (Bible and Qur'an), Joyce, Kafka, Marquez, Solzenitszyn, Twain, and Vonnegut, but there will also be many other writers from non-Western cultures. Once you have registered for the course, you can find a lot more detail about the course and its readings on the BLACKBOARD website.


COML 187.401 Possessing Women
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MW 10:30-12 Chance
Cross listed with EALC 017

A man from Tennessee writes Memoirs of a Geisha. A Japanese novelist tells the story of the "comfort women" who served the Japanese army. A tenth century courtier poses as a woman writing the first woman's diary. Poets from Byron to Robert Lowell, through Ezra Pound to Li Po, have written as though they were women, decrying their painful situations. Is something wrong with this picture, or is "woman" such a fascinating position from which to speak that writers can hardly help trying it on for size? In this course we will look at male literary impersonators of women as well as women writers. Our questions will include who speaks in literature for prostitutes—whose bodies are in some sense the property of men—and what happens when women inhabit the bodies of other women via spirit possession. Readings will draw on the Japanese tradition, which is especially rich in such cases, and will also include Western and Chinese literature, anthropological work on possession, legal treatments of prostitution, and film. Participants will keep a reading journal and write a paper of their own choosing.


COML 192.601 Classics of the Western World II
General Req. III Arts and Letters
W 6:30-9:30 Gursel
This course is an introduction to selected major works of Western literature from the Renaissance to the present. Topics examined in the course will include the development of modern literary genres, such as the novel, as well as transformations in drama and poetry. We will also examine the rise of important literary movements, such as Romanticism, realism, modernism, and postmodernism. Texts may include works by Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Eliot, Woolf, and Borges. In addition to primary texts, we will also read selected criticism to aid our interpretations. The course is primarily designed to foster an understanding of the texts that are considered important to modern Western literature and society. At the same time, however, we will examine issues related to their status as classics: Why are they considered classics, and what function do they perform in today?s world?


COML 200.401 Greek and Roman Mythology
Registration required for LEC and REC
General Req. III Arts and Letters
LEC MW 11 Struck
REC 402 through 409
Cross listed with CLST 200

Myths are traditional stories that have endured many years. Some of them have to do with events of great importance, such as the founding of a nation. Others tell the stories of great heroes and heroines and their exploits and courage in the face of adversity. Still others are simple tales about otherwise unremarkable people who get into trouble or do some great deed. What are we to make of all these tales, and why do people seem to like to hear them? This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as a few contemporary American ones, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Are they entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? Are they a set of cultural blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? We will investigate these questions through a variety of topics including: the creation of the universe and the structure of the cosmos, relations between gods and mortals, religion and divination, justice, society, family, sex, love, madness, and death.


COML 220.401 Russia and the West
Distribution II History and Tradition
All readings and lectures in English
MW 2-3:30 Vinitsky
Cross listed with HIST 220, RUSS 220

This course will explore the representations of the West in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth- century Russian literature and philosophy. We will consider the Russian visions of various events and aspects of Western political and social life - Revolutions, educational system, public executions, resorts, etc. - within the context of Russian intellectual history. We will examine how the images of the West reflect Russia's own cultural concerns, anticipations, and biases, as well as aesthetic preoccupations and interests of Russian writers. The discussion will include literary works by Karamzin, Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Leskov, and Tolstoy, as well as non-fictional documents, such as travelers' letters, diaries, and historiosophical treatises of Russian Freemasons, Romantic and Positivist thinkers, and Russian social philosophers of the late Nineteenth century. A basic knowledge of Nineteenth- century European history is desirable. The class will consist of lecture, discussion, short writing assignments, and two in-class tests.


COML 235.401 Literary and Cultural History of Medieval Rus’
Distribution II History and Tradition
All readings and lectures in English
TR 1:30-3 Verkholantsev
Cross listed with HIST 219, RUSS 234, SLAV 517

This course offers an overview of the literary and cultural history of Medieval Rus' from its origins through the Late Middle Ages, a period which laid the foundation for the emergence of the Russian Empire. Three modern-day nation-states – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – share and dispute the cultural heritage of Medieval Rus’, and their political relationships even today revolve around questions of national and cultural identity. The focus of the course will be on the Kievan and Muscovite traditions but we will also note the differences (and their causes) of the Ukrainian and Belarusian cultural histories. The course takes a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the evolution of the main cultural paradigms of Russian Orthodoxy viewed in a broader European context. Students will explore the worldview of medieval Orthodox Slavs by delving into such topics as religion, spirituality, art, literature, education, music, ritual and popular culture.

The legacy of the Rus’ Middle Ages has a continuing cultural influence in modern Russia. This legacy is still referenced, often allegorically, in contemporary social and cultural discourse as the society attempts to reconstruct and reinterpret its history. Similarly, the study of the medieval cultural history of Rus’ explains many aspects of modern Russian society, and, in particular, the roots of its Imperial political mentality. Those interested in the intellectual and cultural history of Russia, and Eastern Europe in general, will find that this course greatly enhances their understanding of the region and its people.


COML 241.401 The Devil’s Pact in Literature
Registration required for LEC and REC
General Req. III Arts and Letters
LEC MW 12-1 Richter
REC 402 through 407
Cross listed with GRMN 256, RELS 236, CINE 352

Welcome to a devil of a course. For centuries, but especially since the dawn of modernity, the legend of the devil's pact has served as a metaphor for the desire to surpass the limits of human knowledge and power at any cost. Starting with the sixteenth-century Faust Book which recounts the story of a scholar, alchemist and necromancer who sold his soul to the devil, and extending to the most recent cinematic, musical and literary versions of the devil's pact, this course offers an exploration of our enduring fascination with the forbidden. Should you decide to accept this bargain you will be assured of discussing the following issues: the meaning of evil and history of the devil; the infernal logic of political systems and ideology (Nazism and Stalinism); witchcraft, magic, and sexuality; the purported link between the devil and music the devil as cultural interloper; the devil and self-knowledge. Throughout the semester we will move at a leisurely pace—no need to rush at a breakneck speed. It's my conviction that knowledge is more tempting when you give yourself time. We'll want to linger over the issues that intrigue us, spend time with the films, music, and literary works that we encounter. Among the course's real temptations are: a (ma)lingering reading of Goethe's Faust, one of the classics of world literature; discussion of six outstanding films involving a devil's pact including Angel Heart and Rosemary's Baby; an unpublished feminist adaptation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus that is set in Harvard and the halls of Congress; discussion of the novel Mephisto, which links the legend of the devil's pact with Hitler and the Nazi regime; a reading of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, another classic of world literature set in Stalinist Russia; a session devoted to blues legend Robert Johnson who supposedly sold his soul to the devil; an encounter between the devil, coyote, and rock and roll in American Indian writer Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues; clips from other films and popular culture such as The Simpsons, South Park, and Bedazzled. The victim, I mean student, who signs up for this course is guaranteed an enticing blend of intellectual and cultural titillation, a substantial acquaintance with the wide-ranging popular legends of the devil's pact, and an opportunity to explore some of the burning questions of our time. All readings in English.


COML 242.401 Religion and Literature
General Req. III Arts and Letters
TR 10:30-12 Matter
Cross listed with RELS 003
This course explores some ways in which religious ideas and practices appear in works of literature from different cultures. Although we will read representative works from various centuries, the focus will be on modernity, since it is the last several centuries that have presented the greatest challenges to traditional religious systems, and therefore the most complex translation of religiosity into literary forms. Most of the reading selections will be from the Christian tradition, but there will also be works that deal with issues in Judaism and modernity. No specialized knowledge of these traditions is presumed; the necessary background will be presented in the lectures.


COML 253.401 Freud: The Invention of Psychoanalysis
Registration required for LEC and REC
General Req. VII Science Studies
LEC TR 10:30-12 Weissberg
REC 402 through 407, and 415
Cross listed with GRMN 253, HSOC 253, HSSC 253, WSTD 252

Probably no other person of the twentieth century has influenced scientific thought, humanistic scholarship, medical therapy, and popular culture as much as Sigmund Freud. This seminar will try to study his work, its cultural background, and its impact on us today. In the first part of the course, we will learn about Freud's life and the Viennese culture of his time. We will then move to a discussion of seminal texts, such as excerpts from his Interpretation of Dreams, case studies, as well as essays on psychoanalytic practice, human development, neuroses, and culture in general. In the final part of the course, we will discuss the impact of Freud's work. Guest lecturers from the medical field, history of science, psychology, and the humanities will offer insights into the reception of Freud's work, and its consequences for various fields of study and therapy.


COML 267.401 Advanced Topics in Theatre: King Kong, Monsters, and Their Brides
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MW 2-3:30 Lafferty
Cross listed with THAR 275, ASAM 275, WSTD 275


This course will incorporate a historical overview of gender, sexuality, race, and religion in monster images of literature, theatre, and cinema. Vampires, werewolves, and the Golem are precursors to modernist figures like Dracula, Mr. Hyde/Wolf Man, and Frankenstein. Students will also look at contemporary adaptations, including The Phantom of the Opera, Metamorphosis, and Godzilla. Ironically, these manifestations of resistance against dominant social orders often die in the end of their tales, thus confirming existing hierarchies of power. A centerpiece of this course will be the character of King Kong. Students will participate in presenting a production of Chinese American Ping Chong's play Kind Ness, in which a gorilla named Buzz immigrates from Africa to the U.S. Perceived as a model minority, Buzz assimilates so fully into human culture that he cannot recognize a zoo gorilla as his relative. Students may participate in the production as actors, backstage workers, and even filmmakers: each student will contribute his or her own unique skills to this exciting project (so don't worry if you don't want to act or make a film-we have plenty of other areas in which you can help out). The play will be accompanied by the screening of a film by an Indonesian American of Muslim heritage, Fatimah Tobing Rony. Her short video On Cannibalism deconstructs the original King Kong movie as evidence of how the West has configured Africans and Asians as barbaric and uncivilized, as well as how stereotypes of race and gender are linked through the Sumatran Bride of Kong offered as a sacrifice and the white woman Kong carries to the top of the Empire State Building. In addition to screening Rony's film, our multimedia production of Chong's Kind Ness will also incorporate original short films by interested students. With the latest remake of King Kong being released in December 2005, this course will be a timely look at how monsters express social and cultural anxieties. To successfully complete this course, students will actively prepare for and take part in class discussions, read and/or view selected plays and films, write shorter and longer critical writing assignments, participate in the production of Kind Ness and related film screenings, and compile a final portfolio of their course work.


COML 269.401 Nazi Cinema
Distribution III Arts and Letters
MW 2-3:30 MacLeod
Cross listed with GRMN 257

This course explores the world of Nazi cinema ranging from infamous propaganda pieces such as "The Triumph of the Will" and "The Eternal Jew" to entertainments by important directors such as Pabst and Douglas Sirk. More than sixty years later, Nazi Cinema challenges us to grapple with issues of more subtle ideological insinuation than we might think. The course also includes film responses to developments in Germany by exiled German directors (Pabst, Wilder). Weekly screenings with subtitles.


COML 282.401 Israeli Literature and Film
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 1:30-3 Gold
Cross listed with ENGL 279, JWST 154, NELC 159

This course examines literary and cinematic portrayals of childhood images and memories. While Israeli works constitute more then half of the course's material, American & European film and fiction play comparative roles.

The works are placed against a backdrop of national or historical conflicts, yet the foci of many stories is individual trauma (such as loss or abuse) or longing for an idealized time. We look at how authors and directors strugglewith their desire to retrieve fragments of past events and penetrate a child's psyche. We study how they use symbols, metaphors, color, light, close-ups and flashbacks to reconstruct memory. There will be 5-6 film screenings.


CWSTD 294-601: Biopower and Gender in a Global Perspective
R 5:30-8:30 Tracy
Cross listed with ANTH 294 and WSTD 294

This course examines contemporary issues of biopower from a global perspective and how they are shaped by gender. Biopower is a set of diverse techniques intended to manage bodies and control populations. The concept of biopower focuses our attention on the governing of human bodies and biological and social processes such as reproduction, aging, illness and health. We will consider questions and issues being played out in the media and across the globe today, including: the role of gender in biopolitical debates such as stem cell research and the function of women in the military; the transnational circulation of bodies as commodities through prostitution, slavery, organ transplants, fertility treatments, etc.; how feminist writings on science address emerging debates on biotechnology, genetic engineering and cloning; how moral and ethical judgments made in the West influence health care agendas in other areas of the world.


COML 348.401 Folklore and Literature
T 1:30-4:30 Ben-Amos
Cross listed with FOLK 348

The purpose of this course is to explore the mutual relationship between oral and written literatures as they manifest themselves historically in different societies, cultures and languages. Under certain circumstances both modes of literary creativity occurs and have social and literary impacts upon each other. The course will examine the situations and the ways in which literary authors resort to their respective traditional oral literatures and the literary representations of orality in literacy. We will consider the historical, ideological, cultural, and literary aspects of the interrelationship between the spoken and the written word. Students of the ancient civilzations, classical and medieval as well as modern literatures will be able to conduct research related to their special interests, and at the same time will gain comparative perspectives on oral and written literatures.


COML 359.401 Rebel Children: The Statehood Generation in Hebrew Literature
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 10:30-12 Gold
Cross listed with HEBR 359, HEBR 659, JWST 359, JWST 556

Dramatic changes in the undercurrents of Israeli society have often been foreshadowed in the writings of the period. "I Want to Die in my Bed", a young Yehuda Amichai's anti-war poem, led the rebellion of Israeli authors who rejected their predecessors' ideological focus in the 1950s and 60s. In order to gain distance from their Zionist father-figures, the short stories of A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz turned to anti-heroic and absurdist modes. We will study this "Statehood Generation," whose members have become the central pillars of Israeli literature (Amichai, Oz etc.), and will compare them to the 'rebels' of today. The class will be conducted in Hebrew and the texts read in the original. There will be 3-4 short papers and a final exam.


COML 360.401 Introduction to Literary Theory
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 12-1:30 Kazanjian
Cross listed with ENGL 094

Literary historian Cathy Davidson has said that literature is not simply fictional writing, beautiful writing, or profound writing, but rather "a complex social, political, and material process of cultural production." In this course we will seek to understand what this claim about literature might mean and how we might study such a complex process. We will approach this task by surveying the history of literary theory, from Plato and Aristotle to the present, paying particular attention to contemporary critical theory. We will address questions such as: What is literature? How do we determine the meanings of a text? What are the relationships among an author, a text, a reader, and a context? What role does a text play in representing or even producing ideas of race, class, nation, and gender? Students will learn to read texts closely and carefully—that is, to read for a text's figures, themes, meanings, contexts, and structures. In addition, students will learn to ask and write about a text's social, political, and material aspects. We will read literature as well as critical studies of literature, examining the insights of New Criticism; Formalism, Structuralism and Post-structuralism; Marxism; Psychoanalysis; Deconstruction; Feminism and Queer Theory; Cultural Studies; Post-colonial Studies; and Critical Race Theory.


COML 380.401 Bible in Translation: Genesis
Benjamin Franklin Seminar
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 4:30-6 Tigay
Cross listed with JWST 255, NELC 250, RELS 224

Careful textual study of a book of the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") as a literary and religious work in the light of modern scholarship, ancient Near Eastern documents, and comparative literature and religion. The book varies from year to year.


COML 381.401 Crime Cinema
Distribution III Arts and Letters
TR 3-4:30; T 4:30-7 Met
Cross listed FREN 380, CINE 345

In the spirit of last year’s horror cinema class (NOT a prerequisite), this course will focus once again on two national cinemas, France and Italy, but looking this time at a different type of filmic output and genre: crime, and its various avatars (noir, thriller, renegade or vigilante cop film, mob movie, police detective film, etc.).

France is the only country outside the US to have built up a large and consistent body of crime films which frequently garner critical recognition while generating popular appeal. Key historical phases and subgenres will be examined: psychological thrillers (Clouzot) and gangster flicks (Becker, Dassin) in the 50s; the stylized, male-dominated microcosm of Melville and the social commentaries of Chabrol’s films in the 70s; neo-noir in the 80s (Corneau) and the current polar revival (Nicloux). Trend-conscious and on the look-out for the next big genre in the cycle of popular cinema, the Italian film industry eagerly turned to the crime format in the late 60s and the 70s when the peplum and spaghetti western markets started to show signs of saturation. The polizieschi and gialli of that period are heavily influenced by such American models as Dirty Harry and The French Connection, but may also be seen as a response to the troubled political climate of the “Lead Years”. Ideological sensibilities run the gamut from right wing to left wing; motifs and themes vary from cool action, car chases, fetishistic violence or sexploitation to power and corruption, the Mafia and terrorism, or conspiracy and paranoia. In addition to the illustrious (and distant) precedent of Visconti (Ossessione, 1943), filmmakers considered might include: Petri, Rosi, Di Leo, Argento, Sollima, Lenzi, or Martino.

Issues of ethics, ideology, gender, sexuality, violence, spectatorship will be discussed through a variety of critical lenses (psychoanalysis, socio-historical and cultural context, aesthetics, politics, gender…). The class will be conducted in English.


Last modified October 30, 2005
Maintained by Peter Gaffney
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania