Culture, Meaning, and Film
December 16: Further discussion of term projects, which are due January 19. Our last seminar meeting of the academic year will be January 13.
Homework: the final two chapters of Sturken and Cartwright, “Scientific Looking, Looking at Science” and “The Global Flow of Visual Culture,” pp. 279~348.
December 9: Discussion of term projects, which will be due in January, date to be decided in seminar next week, followed by discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapters 5 and 6.
Homework: Sturken and Cartwright chapter 7, “Postmodernism and Popular Culture,” pp. 237~278.
December 2: Class unavoidably cancelled. Apologies. Students may collect reading for the homework, Sturken and Cartwright chapter 6, “Consumer Culture and the Manufacturing of Desire” (pp. 189~236) either in my office Friday December 3 or at the Anne Waldman talk at Korakuen Saturday evening December 4.
November 25: Discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapter 4, “Reproduction and Visual Technologies.”
Homework: Sturken and Cartwright chapter 5, “The Mass Media and the Public Sphere,” pp. 151~88.
November 18: Brief discussion of seminar projects followed by discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapter 3,“Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge,” with particular emphasis on Michel Foucault’s concept of power / knowledge and its relation to visual culture.
Homework: Sturken and Cartwright chapter 4,“Reproduction and Visual technologies,” pp. 109~50.
Image from www.colostate.edu.
November 11: Discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapter 2, “Viewers Make Meaning,” with particular emphasis on Antonio Gramsci’s understanding of hegemony and counter-hegemony, Louis Althusser’s reformulations of Marxist understandings of ideology, Stuart Hall’s understanding of dominant, negotiated, and oppositional reading practices, and what all these have to do with the study of visual culture.
Discussion and agreement about the timing of seminar projects: they will be due in January. We’ll settle specific dates as the term progresses.
Homework: Sturken and Cartwright chapter 3,“Spectatorship, Power, and Knowledge,” pp. 72~108.
As always, students are invited to this week’s Korakuen lectures, John Clammer, “Cultural Policy and Cultural Change in East Asia: A Comparative Perspective” (Policy Studies Forum, Tuesday evening the 16th) and Tin Tin Htun, “Cultural Mandate and Motherhood in Japan” (Cultural Studies Open Seminar, Saturday evening the 20th).
November 4: Further discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapter 1 and related matters.
October 28: Brief discussion of projects followed by informal discussion of Sturken and Cartwright chapter 1.
Homework: Sturken and Cartwright chapter 2, “Viewers Make Meaning,” pp. 45~71.
In regard specifically to Kojin’s project: the excellent Japan Media Review maintained at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication has recently added two lengthy excerpts from Takesato Watanabe and Adam Gamble’s new A Public Betrayed: An Inside Look at Japanese Media Atrocities and Their Warnings to the West (Regency Publishing, 2004). The first of these excerpts, The Power of Japan’s Scandal-Breaking Weeklies, might provide important contextualization for the project on advertisements in the shukanshi. I’ll have A Public Betrayed in my office in a week or so should anyone care to consult it beyond what is excerpted at JMR.
October 21: Discussion of projects and data sets. Screening of Monsoon Wedding. Fwiw, I have copies of Walter Benjamin’s “A Little History of Photography” and Peter Davis’s Of Hearts and Minds (link to IMDb) in my office.
Homework: Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford University Press, 2001), chapter 1, “Practices of Looking: Images, Power, and Politics,” pp. 10~44.
October 14: Continued discussion of projects and the data sets required to complete them successfully. More of same next week, followed by a screening of Monsoon Wedding.
October 7: Brief discussion of two project proposals, Shinya on the unconscious, Candice on the films of Imamura Shohei. Discussion and brief demonstration of the NACSIS Webcat, OCLC (accessible in my office or in the main library from this page, Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, and Project Muse. Appointments for searches of the databases in my office: Shiho and Shinya Wednesday Oct. 13 at 2:50, Candice Thursday Oct. 14 at 2:00.
Screening of Cinema Paradiso.
September 3o: Discussion of projects for the term, and two excellent proposals.
Saori Kitamoto will work on representations of Asia / Asians in musical film. Titles and sources we discussed are (in no particular order) The King and I (versions at IMDb here, here, and here); Miss Saigon (good site here); Madame Butterfly; Madame Chrysanthéme; The Mikado (great site here); Edward Said, Orientalism (1978), Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar, Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film (1997); a standard history of film musicals.
Shiho Takasou will continue work from an earlier course on the “absence of the subject” in photographs. More difficult to think immediately of sources here. We discussed John Berger, Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag. Next step will be to identify avant-garde photography theorists who may be of help. We’ll also need to identify and locate the standard histories of photography.
We’ll hear other proposals in the October 7 seminar meeting. October 15 will be spent searching for materials via OCLC, NACSIS WebCat, Academic Search Premiere, JSTOR, and Project Muse.
A brief page is up for Cinema Paradiso, which we’ll screen following the October 7 seminar.
September 23: Welcome back. The first seminar session of the second term was spent in informal discussion of the work of the term.
Homework: Prepare for the September 30 seminar meeting a written proposal for a project for the term. This may be on a topic of your interest based on any of the material or discussions from the first half of the seminar.
I would like to call the seminar’s attention to the lecture series that will be taking place at the Korakuen campus this term, Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Please have a look at this announcement page and consider attending one or more. I would be particularly pleased to see any of you at Akira Iriye’s lecture on “Cultural Globalization in East Asia” next Tuesday, October 5, 6:10 ~ 7:40.
I’m also, as always, soliciting recommendations for films for our autumn screenings. The first screening will be October 7, Guiseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, a beautiful film about film, and memory, and longing. I’ll have a page up with details and links as soon as possible.
July 5: Apologies for not updating this page for several weeks. The screening this week is Being There. Our discussions have been on Susan Sontag’s On Photography and John Berger’s About Looking.
June 10: Discussion of Peeping Tom and of Turner chapter 6, “Film, Culture, and Ideology.” Screening of part 3 of Berger’s Ways of Seeing.
Homework / new reading (for the June 17 seminar): Turner chapter 7, “Applications”; Stuart Hall, “The Rediscovery of ‘Ideology,’” 1982, in Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, eds., Literary Theory: An Anthology, rev. ed., Blackwell, 1998; material linked on the Divine Intervention page, in preparation for the June 17 screening.
June 3: Discussion of chapter 5 of Turner, “Film Audiences,” with particular attention to the concept of “the gaze” and Laura Mulvey’s feminist and psychoanalytic understanding of “scopophilia” and related matters. Screening and discussion of the opening sequences of the Criterion Collection Peeping Tom with Laura Mulvey’s voice-over commentary. Screening of Peeping Tom. Apologies once again about the sound. I’ll try once again to have that sorted out by the next screening, of Elia Suleiman’s Divine Intervention on June 17.
Homework: 1) Prepare a 500-word reaction paper to Peeping Tom, drawing as much as possible from the texts we have discussed in the seminar; 2) read and be prepared to discuss Turner chapter 6, “Film, Culture, and Ideology”; Edward Said’s brief discussion of John Berger, “Bursts of Meaning” (Reflections on Exile and Other Essays [Harvard UP, 2000], 148-52); and the twelve brief sections of Daniel Chandler’s “Notes on the Gaze,” which includes discussion of Berger and Mulvey, here.
Note to Shiho and Yoko: I forgot to return your Aguirre reaction papers. You may collect them in my office or in the June 10 seminar.
May 27: Discussion of Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Homework: read and be prepared to discuss chapter 5 of Turner, “Film Audiences”; look through the links on the Peeping Tom page in preparation for the screening.
May 20: Discussion of Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto’s “The University, Disciplines, National Identity: Why is there no Film Studies in Japan?” and beginning of a discussion of chapters 3 and 4, “Film Languages” and “Film Narrative,” in Graeme Turner’s Film as Social Practice, 2nd ed. I’m particularly interested in returning to Turner’s categorization of the “signifying practices” of film in chapter 3, particularly the concept of mise-en-scène.
Screening of Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Apologies about the sound, which seems to be a problem with the machinery in 11400. I'll try to reserve a different room or different machinery for future screenings.
Homework: 1) Prepare a 500-word reaction paper to Aguirre, if possible drawing upon the definition of culture that emerged in Geertz, the understandings of semiotics outlined by Chandler, or the signifying practices of cinema identified by Turner. 2) Read Phillip Rosen, “The Saussurian Impulse and Cinema Semiotics” (in Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader [Columbia UP, 1990], edited by Rosen).
Following the May 28 class we’ll screen the second short segment of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. Following the June 4 seminar we’ll screen Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom.
May 13: Discussion of Amarcord, and of the distinction between a question such as “what does a film (for example) mean?” and “how does it mean?” We shall focus to the greatest degree possible on the second of these.
We did not have the chance to discuss the Turner or the Yoshimoto. I hope particularly to get to Yoshimoto next week, since several students have expressed a strongly negative reaction to his “The University, Disciplines, National Identity.”
Homework: 1) Prepare for our May 20 screening of Aguirre, the Wrath of God by looking through material linked from this page or any other material you can find; 2) continue reading Turner, through chapter 4.
I would appreciate suggestions from students about films to follow Aguirre; in the absence of suggestions I have no shortage of ideas, but I would welcome student recommendations.
Homework: 1) Write an Amarcord reaction paper, minimum 300 words, typed, standard manuscript form, if possible drawing upon concepts addressed by Geertz and Chandler; 2) read and be prepared to discuss Graeme Turner’s “From the Seventh Art to Social Practice: A History of Film Studies” (Film as Social Practice, 2nd ed., Routledge, 1993) and Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto’s “The University, Disciplines, National Identity: Why is there no Film Studies in Japan?” (South Atlantic Quarterly 99.4, 2000).
Please note: The screening of the second film of the course, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, will follow the May 20 seminar, not as previously announced the May 13 seminar.
April 22: Discussion of Geertz’s “interpretive [and semiotic] theory of culture” and questions 1-8 on the attendant worksheet. Contextualization of the essay in terms of its relation to positivist understandings of the social sciences, Tylorian anthropology, and the multiple and unruly understandings of culture (current even today) in a work such as Clyde Kluckhohn’s Mirror for Man: A Survey of Human Behavior and Social Attitudes (1944).
My sense was that students were making Geertz more difficult than he is. Here are the passages I want to focus upon, which will provide part of the theoretical frame for our turn to semiotics and film in the remainder of the seminar:
Homework: 1) read and be prepared to discuss Daniel Chandler’s Modality and Representation, and anything else that looks interesting at Chandler’s marvelous Semiotics for Beginners web site; 2) explore some of the links on this Amarcord page.
Please note: our screening of Fellini’s Amarcord will follow the May 6 seminar, 6:00-8:10 p.m. The room number has not yet been decided but will soon be posted here.
April 15: Introduction to the seminar. Homework: read sections I and II of Clifford Geertz’s “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” and prepare written answers to questions on this worksheet.