Undergraduate - Winter - 2019

History of Cinema: The Rise of International Sound Film


Winter - 2019
  • MW 11:00am-1:30pm
    Pollock Theater
  • TR 11:00am-12:15pm
    Buchanan 1940


Film and Media Studies 101B surveys international film history from the transition to “talkies” in the mid-1920s through innovations in widescreen formats in the 1950s. We study cinema during these years from a variety of perspectives, including as a technological apparatus, an economic institution, an aesthetic form, and a social force.

A recurring theme of the course is how the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures have been shaped by national, international, and transnational industries, policies, and cultures. We also locate styles of filmmaking and modes of film viewing in relation to developments in other aesthetic practices, including theater, phonography, photography, graphic design, radio, and television.

As with other courses in the 101 series, 101B is also designed to introduce participants to the concept of historiography: the process of selection, arrangement, and interpretation through which art works, technologies, institutions, people, events, and discourses are shaped into the bodies of knowledge that constitute our current understanding of “media history.” This entails considering larger questions about what it means to understand any phenomenon from a historical perspective, and how historical interpretations are constructed, verified, tested, contested, sustained, and revised.

By engaging fully in the work of this course, students develop a capacity to identify and analyze patterns of continuity and change in the production and circulation of motion pictures in different parts of the world, and to bring knowledge of these long-range patterns to bear on an understanding of the art, industry, and politics of contemporary cinema. Participants also gain experience in evaluating historical arguments, including competing or conflicting explanations for the same phenomenon.